Monday, March 24, 2014

On Friends, Depression and Futility

I am writing this as a particularly awful episode of depression is petering out. Slowly. My guts are still in a knot, my limbs like lead, I have lost a kilo in less than two days, but my mind at least isn’t in as much of a fog of agony and despair anymore. For now. I can't promise this won't be confusing and contradictory and downright messy and insane because my mind isn't working very well at the moment.

I’m really only feeling safe on here, partly because I am less likely to be heard, partly because probably the people who read it are only people who care. But I could be wrong even about that. That’s a fun fact about depression. It makes you question the most fundamental securities of yourself. Which I have never had much to speak of, anyways.
It’s not that these securities return. It’s just when the depression recedes – more a dirty oil slick than a wave of water, viscously retreating, rather leaving traces, than washing off clean – these insecurities are less painful, less prominent. I am a little bit more able to fool myself convincingly, I am a tad more able to live with the uncertainty, or ignore it. Pretend I’m fine to not scare or bore people off with my tedious mood swings. They come out of the blue; I can be fine one minute, and the next minute I’m on the floor, screaming, because someone has torn the shades off my eyes and I finally see things as they are.

And I can see how frustrating it must be for others to constantly have to reassure me, to not get through to me, to have to deal with the same shit over and over again.  I’m not the only one in my circle of friends with depression; I know what it’s like to feel helpless and paralysed because all you want is to give them advice, a tool, something to make those feelings go away, but nothing seems to work, there is nothing you can do to fix it. You can’t grasp why they feel a certain way, why they have those awful thoughts about themselves, because you love them and all you see is a wonderful human being... surely it should be obvious to them, too? It is unbearable to watch them suffer, and you feel angry at yourself for being unable to help and, foolishly, angry at them for giving you such a futile task. And then guilty for feeling angry. But that still doesn’t mean you don’t want to help them;  that still doesn’t mean you wish they hadn’t asked you for help.
And knowing about what it's like from the carer's perspective, I should know better when I’m down. But once I am there, I don’t feel like I’m lovable enough to be worth the trouble.

It is odd; somehow you’re not equipped for the job when you know nothing about depression, but when you do, when you suffer from it, which enables you to empathise, you’re weak and prone to get dragged into it, like two drowning people trying to save each other.

Last night it was almost too much. After crying for hours, my mind went cold, somehow, calm and sober (hah) and I went through my options. I considered for a moment to hand myself in, get myself “sectioned”, as they say. But the long term implications of that were too terrifying. What it would mean for my future, my ability to take care of myself even after I was “released”. My employability. Going “inside” would take away the last bits of life that I still enjoyed. Going in would mean losing my liberty, my rights to decide for myself. Is there anything worse? Even at my worst the only comfort I have is that I have the liberty to decide what’s best for myself, despite what the law says. How much liberty do you have strapped to a hospital bed? How much worse is it to still feel the same way, but unable to do anything about it, and even if it is just that final step?

A couple of years ago, when work stress brought me to the brink of a breakdown, I went to see my GP for help. I tried to describe to her what I felt, but I had phrased it badly; instead of saying that I have powerful intrusive thoughts of wanting to kill myself, thoughts that felt like entities that were covering my “true” mind like a blanket, suffocating, arresting, but still controllable and separate from me, I called them “voices”. I didn’t mean audible hallucinations, but boy, did my doc perk up. “You hear voices?” she asked, worried, and I quickly corrected that. Bless her, she was lovely and supportive, but in the end, she is a doctor with duties. And she told me that if she thought I was a danger to myself, she’d have to report it. I still feel a hot surge of adrenaline, of true terror, just remembering this.

So I ditched the idea of getting myself sectioned pretty quickly.

Instead,  I made plans to end it. I tried to figure out where the best spot would be to hang myself effectively from without suffocating slowly. When you’re in a particularly deep pocket of depression, you almost think about suicide methods as a sort of reward – which one would “feel” best, if that makes sense. I don’t know where it comes from, whether it stems from self-loathing, and wanting to inflict pain upon oneself. It’s not that I would want the most painful one. It’s not “want”, like you’d choose a peach off a supermarket shelf. It’s an urge. An ache. I ached for the most...forceful, final one. The one you would do the same way you’d angrily kick a wall, to tell whoever to fuck off. As if death itself isn’t forceful and final enough, the method needs to release the anger, too. Or be an extra kick in the face of the person you hate so much - you. So it’s always been hanging or guns to me (availability not considered). But then you need to balance it against which one would leave the smallest “aftermath”.
I wondered, after reading books about crime scene cleaning, what would be the cleanest and most effective way, least troublesome for T. to  clean up, or whether I should do it in the house or go off somewhere else. You know, if you sit in the bath and slit your wrists, it all sort of just drains away. Easy. I’d have to pack up my shit first, though.
And then I thought about how T. would have to tell my Dad. And how he would have to find a German speaker to write that email for him, or make that phone call.
And this is where it normally stops, my not wanting to put Dad through it. But this time I was cold, and I wanted to be scared about that, but the only thing that scared me was that I wasn't. Is that a sentence? Does that make sense?
And I would feel bad now, but I am still not in my right mind to truly regret it.

Last night I just wanted the slightest sign that somehow I was still loved enough to stick around. I know that sounds pathetic and like a massive pity party. But the thing with depression is that, once in its grip, you cannot feel or absorb love. You cannot imagine why anyone would love you; even if they do, it’s not real to you. Other people almost become an illusion. It’s not meant to demean them, it’s just how it is. And yet you need them to kick you awake, to become louder and more real than that hurricane of gloom in your head. When you’re overcome by that dark wave, your knowledge, your memories, your emotional assertiveness have as much weight and substance as spiderwebs. It takes NOTHING to shred them. This is why people keep crying for help even though they “should know better”, even though they have been reassured a million times before.

Which is why I feel so bad when I finally come out of it and see what I did to others. When they grow back into solid beings, and I see myself as a fool to not have taken or appreciated their affection, or ever even doubted it.

When the wave hits, my first instinct is to go on social media and cry for help. Because my friends are there. The problem is, everyone else is, too. And something like this will inevitably come across as attention-seeking. And then I am disgusted with myself for even thinking of going there. 

Of course you may argue, I could just call a friend. And I know many have offered. But again, as soon as I do that, isolate one particular person, I am giving them a burden they may not want, or it might be a bad time for it, but it’s not exactly something they can or would want to ignore. It’s like I am obliging them... and I am terrified they will resent me for it. Or become distant. Or leave. But I hate being like that. I HATE being needy. I know how it drives people away, frustrates, annoys, and it’s that hate that fuels the depression and self-loathing even more.
Putting it on here feels like I’m putting it out there without “recruiting” someone to help me. It’s all on a voluntary basis. People can pretend they have never seen it. And that's ok. And even if they've seen it, they can stay anonymous. I don't want anyone to feel obliged to help or love me. I'd rather have nothing; it would be an insult.

Then there is the other problem of “crying wolf”.
Now here’s another home truth about depression. No matter how often you cry out, and feel better the next morning, it is never is “crying wolf”. Depression isn’t a solid state of existence, it comes in waves. And coming out of each wave without having drowned is just another time you have survived. And just because it passes doesn’t mean it feels less acute the next time around. And each time it happens, it feels all over again like it will never end. It does because it feels like you have seen things as they really are. And no matter whether you manage to get a grip on the despair, that reality won’t change, so it makes no difference. What creates the agony is not the emotion itself, it’s that you’re convinced you see unalterable reality, something outside yourself you can’t change, no matter how you feel about it. Depression ceases to be a feeling, rather, it becomes a reality. I may feel better the next day, but I know that’s just because I managed to delude myself. And when I'm truly better, I forget that I delude myself. Which is nice. I don't mind that.

Yes, I may come out the other end. And whether I delude myself into happiness or non-depressiveness, I’d rather have the illusion of happiness, and I hang on to it as long as I can. But every time I come out the other end ALONE, the less I will be armed the next time around.

Another thing with depression is that, even though you might become more and more familiar with its pattern and should theoretically be “armed and ready”,  it wears down your resistance at the same rate. It’s like rust that weakens your mental structure and stability.

There is something about crying out when you’re in the deepest pit. The closest I can come to that is that film, The Ring, when they think they have broken the curse, only to realise that it will continue. Because all that girl wants is to be heard. She doesn’t want to inflict pain. She just wants to be understood. She wants to be FULLY understood. Because in utter joy and utter agony, you’re totally alone, and it’s that what’s so terrifying about it.
 And writing this, I come to a realisation. That’s what I wanted. That’s why I write this. That’s why I cry out even though I know it is pointless, I can never communicate what’s going on inside me fully, until someone understands how I feel, but again, that’s exactly what I DON'T want.

When I’m down in the hole, I just want to be taken seriously. I am not a drama queen, or an attention seeker, or a wuss, or having a self-pity party. I don’t CHOOSE to go down there. I don’t LIKE being this way. I’m in genuine pain that I cannot relieve myself.

Maybe this urge is just an echo of the time when I was told over and over again to just pull myself together, when being upset or distressed in the face of violence and abuse I was told to not be a drama queen. When being crippled with depression, I was just considered a Zicke. When being terrified of going back to school because of the amount of bullying I got from students and teachers, I was just told to not make a big deal of it. Like it was my fault to be upset. It’s my default reaction now, to worry that I will be brushed off and not considered worth the time and help. Intellectually I know I am... but the rest of me doesn't.
Of course I want to stop reacting this way. But I don’t know how. It's like trying to stop your hand from flinching from a hot surface.

I can only ask, forgive me for sometimes being needy or difficult.
Yet it makes me angry because I shouldn't have to apologise for that.

I have no final sentence, or clean paragraph, to tie the loose ends of this post. I'm just throwing it out there. Dealing with depression is an open-ended battle, with no answers, with eternal repetition of the same shit, that it seems futile for all involved. Anyone know any answers, I'm all ears.


Anonymous said...

I recommend reading some Buddhism. By the way you can't die so don't bother one thing I have learnt is where you are now is miles better than where you end up by continuing to degrade yourself and your situation. Therefore learn the words to always look on the bright side of life and sing it really badly to yourself or in a way that makes you laugh at your own cheesiness. Or just read some Buddhism. You can't die! Sorry Patty. Your body can die, but your poor body what did it ever do to you apart from carry you around and let you eat delicious food and smell flowers and see beauty. I think you would be better off spending more time taking photographs than wriling in depression. Apparently wannabe artists would die for this pain, imagine! They say this pain is the source of creativity, of authenticity of real expression from the depths of our soul. When you feel like a barrel that's had it's bottom scraped out, know that you are even deeper than you were before. Read some Buddhism. Proposer ones by proper Buddhists, not books about Buddhism. Snow lion is a good publisher. We love you Patty X

Anonymous said...

Let me add that you are most definitely not alone in feeling awful, and that it is great to see the cycle as we know it ends so we can endure it. It's just chemicals in the body. Make sure you eat really clean foods.. ie mainly veggie organic diet with some meat when you really need it. If you really need it. Try to sleep before midnight every hour before is worth double. If u like music then listen to a song and nothing else be immersed in it totally. That is as good as a meditation. Remember all the suffering in he world too. We have it pretty easy in the West. Yes this too can be a source of regret, and if so, pray for others - that they feel joy in their hearts or that they get to feel love before they die. Many orphans in war torn nations never ever feel love, not even a concept of it so send them love pray that they feel joy. Next time u feel really bad read these two messages and then you can tell me to F off! ;) take more photos what do u find freaky? Take photos of it.

Patty said...

I don't know who wrote this, but I want to thank you for your kindness anyway! X

Patty said...

I feel I need to add this. When I write about depression on here, it's a cathartic act. It's a - perhaps futile - attempt to make people understand what it's like ... and I hope no one will have to experience it for real. What it isn't is "wallowing". I don't enjoy suffering from depression. I would choose not to have it, and choose so while I'm equipped for it. It's stolen a lot from my life, I have no benefits from it. True depression is not the melancholy artists "require" to be productive. True depression is crippling, paralyzing, suffocating, numbing, it takes away the ability to feel any form of joy or pleasure. I enjoy it as much as holding my hand into an open flame. But part if releasing is spitting it out, on here, reaching out while I can. If I could control it, I would. If it was controllable in a snap out of it way, it wouldn't be an illness. I do what I can to relieve it, when I can, but sometimes it takes me by surprise. Sometimes something hits a bad button and it flies off the handle. I'm learning slowly about my triggers and try to counteract when I can, but sometimes it's just too much.
Knowing about people worse off than me doesn't help me, other than making me feel guilty over an illness that I have little control over. I appreciate the kind response, but I just needed to point that out. X