Outrunning the Beast

Previous posts go into the history of my discovering that I suffered from depression and anxiety, so I won’t go into it here. What I want to focus on, instead, is the daily struggle.

It’s open for discussion, but for me personally, the greatest struggle is not the illness itself, but how I am unable to communicate my feelings to other people. I was talking with a family member today and trying to explain that it’s just not a good day for me today. It doesn’t matter that the sun is shining, or that I love my job, or that I have people who are very dear to me. When you’re hanging over the abyss much of what normally makes you happy just doesn’t. It’s not for lack of appreciation, but more that you’re missing some core component.

I was trying to explain to this family member that despite the many blessings I count, today was going to end the same as the last two. I am going to finish my work shift, go home, walk my dog, take a bath, and curl up on the futon downstairs in the finished basement. I will either read, put on a movie, or read a book. The response I was looking for was something along the lines of how sometimes you just have to take care of yourself.

Instead, she tried to comfort me by telling me how she was feeling and what she was going through. What it did was actually make me feel like not speaking up at all. Without meaning to, she had started up a “Who is Sicker?” competition. I said depression and anxiety. She saw that and raised it by a stroke. I told her I had a nervous breakdown. She told me she had one in her late 30s.

I understand how callous this can sound, but hear me out. I just wanted her to listen. I am aware of her conditions, but she’s always saying how she wants to help me. When I try to open up and speak, the conversation always goes back to her somehow. I explained this, and she understood. It seemed like we were getting to a place of understanding, but as it turns out, we weren’t really because my anxiety derailed that pretty quickly.

Immediately when she began to understand I fought not to backtrack. Whenever I speak up and fight for understanding, there’s always this voice (that sounds an awful lot like the one that tells me I’m worthless in the beginning) that starts telling me I’ve been too strong. Too bossy. I’ve trampled someone else and am guilty of what I was accusing them of doing.

I’d say that’s a slippery slope, but in truth, it’s more like being kicked into the abyss. Before I can stop it, I’m running through everything else that I do wrong. All the ways I hurt the people I love. All the things say and do that are wrong. Then, just for good measure, I circle back to what I should have said and done but didn’t. From there, I find myself drowning in the things I’ve done days, months, and even years ago. All the damning evidence piling up to prove what I already know in my secret heart: I’m a flawed human being and it’s unbelievable how lucky I am to have people that look past that and find something in me worth loving, and it’s not going to last.

I used to let it end there. I would stay in that lightless oubliette, all of my successes and all the love I give forgotten. Cancelled out by the twisted monster I was. The knowledge that I would never get better anchoring me in the mire and filth of my self-hate.

At my lowest point, something happens. It’s like I hit the bottom and then bounce. I’m not going to lie and tell you that I become fully operational again. But usually it’s enough of a bounce for me to be vertical. To get the laundry done. Or answer a phone call. Then I start thinking of how bad things used to get when I would stumble, and I know that I’ve made progress.

From there it’s not too much of a stretch to remember the good moments that I’ve been a part of. I think of something Dipper told me, which is that the anxiety is loud, I just have to make sure the love is louder. Usually around this time I start swimming up from my cocoon in the covers, and I find Tkout ready to give me a kiss. Provided he can push Zelda out of the way long enough. A quick glance at my phone shows me previous messages between Dipper and I, and if he’s awake, sometimes I’ll reach out. I’ll start looking around the room (any room of my house, actually) and seeing the momentos of happy times from Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe. Most of the time that will bring me out of it, with a little more help from my Ride or Die Family.

Today is one of those rough days, where I feel like I can’t outrun the beast fast enough. I’ve managed to stay for most of my shift, and in 47 minutes I will be able to say that I stayed for the whole shift. I can cross that accomplishment off in my daily journal-list. Then I can go home and start to convalesce, and within a few hours I should be feeling better.

What I’m getting at is that it doesn’t do any good to push everyone away. Or to wallow in self-hate. (When I figure out how to consistently do those things and never fall into the trap, you can bet there will be a post on that!) But until then, I’m going to keep practicing not giving up on myself, and being kinder to myself. If my Family doesn’t see me as a monster, then I’m sure I can find something worthwhile to hold onto until I’m able to properly see myself again when the clouds lift.

 

 

Katamari-what-the-hell?!

In my last post, I referenced Katamari. I’m pretty sure that most of you were wondering what the hell I was talking about. Katamari, in short, is a ridiculously fun game where you are a little character named Prince (or one of his cousins, after you’ve unlocked them) who rolls around with what is essentially an over-sized Bumble Ball and roll up everything you can. Eventually the ball gets big enough that you can roll up sea monsters, buildings, and international monuments. For those of you wondering why in the hell you’d want to do that, I’m going to give you three answers.

  1. Hella catchy soundtrack.
  2. Bright colors and weird sounds.
  3. Your dad, the King of the Cosmos, got drunk and obliterated the universe. Now you have to go and fix it by making planets out of whatever you roll up. (Shit. You. Not.)

I’m going to take a moment here for a disclaimer. I found this game in college, when I got my first video game system, a PlayStation 2. I was not, nor am I, a person that favors recreational drugs. My boyfriend at the time held other views. He was the one that introduced me to Katamari, naturally. The King of the Cosmos, I suspect, is poorly translated because he’s always saying gibberish lines that don’t make much real sense. Although I like to keep with the lore of the game and just assume he’s drunk most of the time and that’s why nobody knows what the hell he’s saying. Not to mention when he appears and disappears it’s like a rainbow-colored acid trip. The King is subtitled, so if you want to puzzle out that mystery for yourself, well, go ahead!

Anyway, you can literally play for hours because this game is addictive. Especially when you’re trying to run down and catch one of the cousins! Each cousin has their own wacky backstory and name. They’re found in different levels and it’s fun to try and figure out who the cousin is for each level. Lalala is not my favorite cousin by any stretch, but I thought her description was too funny to pass up including in this post.

If Katamari looks like something you’d like to enjoy, it’s available on several platforms and a little digging will most likely give you a version for the system you own.

Now, what does all of this have to do with mental illness? I promise, there’s a point. Here’s the deal. My husband, brother, and niece have all told me that they see me as a superhero. Because even on my crushing days, I’m able to get my ass in gear and do (what I consider to be) the minimum. I still manage to take care of them, and most of the time I even manage to hang out and have a great time. I like the idea of the superhero and have adopted (with Dipper’s suggestion) Jessica Cruz as my personal superhero. She’s the new Green Lantern, and she deals with anxiety of her own. It’s really wonderful and empowering. I freaking love her! My favorite picture of her is currently my phone wallpaper, and my badge lanyard for work is Green Lantern themed. So is a hoodie I purchased recently. (Of course now that I’m working on this post I can’t find the picture I have as my background! But this one works really well anyway, and shows part of her personality. So all is well.)

But what about the other days? The days where I’m in a good mood, or where I’m just sort of rolling with it and seeing where my day goes? Who am I then? I like to think of Jessica as my alter ego, the me when I’m fighting the anxiety. She’s the warrior. The protector. The one who gets shit done no matter what. But who am I when I’m not her?

That’s where Katamari comes in. Dipper and I became friends because I basically just kept following him around and talking to him. Tkout, Dipper, and I joke often that my glittery personality just sort of comes along, steam rolls people, and they can’t help but go along with whatever is going on. That’s why I think most of the time I more resemble one of the cousins in Katamari. (Also, when you are on the screen choosing levels and which cousin you want to play, you can make them dance and whistle along with you and it becomes a really cute conga line.

I’m not graceful by any stretch. I’m loud. I can swear with the best of them. And I usually spring into action when I get an idea well before the logistics of it catch up with me. It’s very reminiscent of a huge Katamari rolling through a city and grabbing whatever unsuspecting person, animal, object, or building is in the way.

(If you’re wondering where all this is coming from, I’m rediscovering gaming and am itching to play on my PlayStation 2. I’m planning on hooking it up tonight and playing Katamari with Phoebe when they come over. I don’t remember if she’s played it before or not, but I think she’ll love it. I know I miss playing it!

 

The Echoes

Battling an invisible illness day in and day out can make work a struggle. Especially if you find some days it’s harder to be around people than others. Sometimes the type of interaction with these people matters most. Others it’s the degree to which I’m familiar that dictates what I can handle. The worst days are the days that don’t seem to have a pattern. The days where I can’t figure out the magic combination to make it through comfortably. Those are also the days I find hardest to explain to people who don’t fully understand what’s going on with me. That’s because on those days, like today, I can’t answer their questions. “What caused it?” “What if you did x, y, and z?” “Gee, I wonder why that trick didn’t work this time. Do you think it won’t work anymore?” Days like today, I hate to say it, but “I have no fcking idea…” is the best I can do in terms of an answer. And really, I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I’m not analyzing the situation, it doesn’t mean I’m not trying, it doesn’t mean I’m not absolutely fighting for every moment of peace.

I work as a computer installation technician in a local hospital system. Tkout works in the same department of the same system as well, though at another hospital. My days range. Some days I stay totally behind the curtain, a high-tech Wizard of Oz. Other days I’m working with staff, and some days I’m even in front of patients while setting up or supporting the equipment. It’s always a rewarding job, and I leave feeling accomplished. The amount of contact I have with people varies, which is also good.

Today has been one of the days where I feel adrift. But it didn’t start out this way. I woke up feeling rested and happy. I wasn’t anxious that I had somehow lost anyone in my circle to the symptoms of my depression. The weekend was exhausting, but fulfilling. I achieved things I didn’t think were possible, given how I struggled the past few days. The thought of going to work made me feel strong and competent. I was ready to meet the challenge with both feet on the floor.

I got to work early, settled in, and when I clocked in I immediately began working on a user’s problem that was a carryover from Friday. I had to head to the children’s dental clinic in a neighboring building. One of the dental patients was afraid, and kept crying and screaming. Generally speaking, I get anxious and sad when the patients are so scared. It’s impossible not to feel for them.

While I waited for the computer I was working on to re-image, I took a brief call from Dipper. All was well. The conversation went well. We talked and nothing was wrong. I mentioned that if he heard wailing in the background, it was the patient. I wasn’t sure if the sound would carry to the phone or not.

Shortly after that call, I think the mix of the amount of people in the clinic, the issue I was working on, and exhaustion from the previous weekend got to me. I started sliding. Worrying that I had annoyed Dipper by asking what time he was planning on sleeping (he works the night shift). I knew it wasn’t a valid worry since I KNEW everything was fine. I tried to stop the slide. I reached out to Dipper and Tkout, both of whom were more than willing to help me get vertical. It worked, for the most part.

Which leads me to the topic of this post. After an anxiety attack or a depressive swing, often there are Echoes. That’s my collective term for the shame and embarrassment that follows. I don’t struggle long term so much with the attacks or the swings as I do with the echoes. More than not, they hurt worse than the attack or swing. I had my attack around 11 am. In a minute it will be 1 pm. I’ve been dealing with the echoes for literally 2 hours. I’ve been biting back tears because there is no safe, quiet, and secluded place where I can go to fully break down and cry. I don’t want my coworkers to think I’m a flake, so I don’t want them to see it either.

I know in my mind that there shouldn’t be shame or embarrassment. But there is. The shame is that I fell apart on a good day, when I’ve been doing so well up until. When I got out of bed with no problems going to work. The embarrassment is part of what I call the domino slide. The domino slide is where I start thinking I’ve done something wrong, reach out to apologize, get reinforcement that everything is ok, and then start worrying that I’ve done something wrong by reaching out (even when I KNOW that it is what my circle wants me to do), and more worries pile on. They become stifling. Until I start to believe them just for the sheer fact that there’s so many. Hence the name domino slide.

Once the domino slide starts, my self-image plunges. I start to wonder how people can deal with my shit, when I can barely deal with it myself. My thoughts turn dark. I start imagining that my circle is getting tired of this, just as I am. I hear my husband and brother in my head, telling me that it’s alright. That they still love me and there’s nothing to be ashamed or sorry about. That everyone slides. That they’d rather me reach out over and over than suffer quietly. That they want the chance to reassure me. To make everything right.

Then I start thinking that I don’t deserve this love and devotion. That I haven’t done enough to balance out the shit they put up with when I flounder. Both of them have told me countless times that it’s not a matter of balancing out. The good always outweighs the bad. That I need to stop thinking about it like that. I believe them. I really do. I know I’m loved and needed. Not just by my humans, but by my fuzzies too. Even the snakes and bearded dragon.

But the anxiety and the depression lie. And because it’s my own mind, they know just what to tell me to make me feel worthless. To make me feel afraid. To make me want to keep asking if everything is alright, and then fearing that just by asking, I’ve shattered everything. They make me feel like everything is fragile. Even though I know it’s not.

I’m writing this post while biting back the tears. I know I’m loved. I know that there’s nothing to ask forgiveness for. I know that I don’t need to ask them to hang in there, because they will. I’m Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. That doesn’t change, no matter how hard the anxiety and depression are whaling at me.

Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe always tell me that they think I’m a superhero because I still fight. Even when I don’t feel like it. I still fight to go to work. To stay the whole shift. And even if I’m not feeling well, I still come and see Phoebe and Dipper. Still hang with Tkout. I try to make sure they don’t suffer when I’m struggling. And if they need me, I’ll come running. Even if it’s a day where I struggle to get out of bed.

I’ve had trouble reconciling the way they see me, because most of the time I certainly don’t see this myself. When I’m struggling, I tend to only see the bad. But I have always appreciated that they see me in this way. A little while ago, Dipper sent me a YouTube video about the newest Green Lanter, Jessica Cruz. In her, I’ve found my superhero. Take a look at this series of panels, where she fights anxiety. I almost fell over when I first read them. They’re so true to life in terms of showing the anxiety. But they also show her in the moment where she pushes through it. Not surprisingly, it’s because she knows people are counting on her. I almost cried when Dipper sent this to me. For the first time ever, I saw myself as Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe have seen me the whole time. All those times I was too busy hitting myself over the head to see what they saw. The whole time they saw my will to persevere. The fact that just reaching out and asking for the love and reinforcement was an act of defiance against the mental illness.

For the first time in the last year, since all hell broke loose, I finally saw in myself what they’ve seen the whole time. I understand why they say the good outweighs the bad. Why they say they love me, no matter what. Why they’ve chosen me to be Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. Why they have faith in me, and say that it’s never misplaced. Why they’re always willing to catch me when I fall. What they mean when they say they won’t leave me, because it’s not an option.

For the first time, I see myself as the fighter and superhero that they see. I may get knocked down. But it’s not for always. And every time I come back up, I’m stronger than I was before.

 

Self Care Saturday – Success!

From time to time, I detail my battles with anxiety and depression here. Maybe that’s your bag. Then again, maybe it isn’t. If it’s not, I’ll totally understand if you want to go and scope out a different post. It’s not for everyone.

A little while back, I started what I call “Self Care Saturday”, and I usually declare it after a particularly difficult week. This past week definitely qualified. Tuesday night, I thought I was straight up losing my shit. It was one of the worst anxiety nights I’ve had in awhile. Back to back crying jags, needy button-mashing, all kinds of things. I’m still trying to learn how to forgive myself when that happens, but as I’ve been told by a few people, it’s a process. A war. Not a single battle.

Today I needed to hunker down and take care of myself. Recharge after a rough week. It started out with a trip to Tops for groceries. I needed to restock the meat in the house, and also grab some things for Valentine’s Day. I have a plan of what I want to make us for dinner. Not to mention, I had to snag some Tension Tamer tea by Celestial Seasonings. Suzanne said it’s an absolute miracle tea for anxiety. I plan on drinking that tonight. That went surprisingly well, but probably because there were only a few bluehairs roving the aisles. On the way home, I talked to my parents. They wanted to stop by, but I asked if they would hold off. It’s hard explaining to someone what it’s like when you need to preserve the sanctity of your bubble.

While I put groceries away I got breakfast ready. I made scrambled eggs, bacon, and sliced up potatoes. My dad used to put butter in a skillet and cook them, but I am more inclined to improvisation. I looked up a recipe on homemade homefries, and then did my own thing. Which was vegetable oil, paprika, chopped onions, salt, and pepper, and thickly sliced potatoes. I also served the orange juice that my parents brought us last weekend. Tkout was overjoyed. I was pissed about burning the bacon. I can do many things, but apparently making bacon without burning the shit out of it is not one. Oh well. Tkout took down the smoke alarm, since it was enthusiastically cheering me on.

My parents had also brought us carrots, onions, and potatoes last week because they were on sale. Buy one, get x amount free, to be exact. Which means that we’ve been living with 4 full bags of carrots, a whole bag of celery, two bags of potatoes, and two bags of onions with no idea what to do with them. I wound up cutting them up so that I could freeze them. I hate wasting food. It seems that I never have the veggies when I need them, so this seemed the perfect middle ground. Waste not, want not. Hassle not.

I was tired and debating a nap, but Tkout and I have wanted to see John Wick: Chapter 2 ever since we heard it was confirmed. We aren’t big on going out for Valentine’s Day, so we will probably stay home and have dinner. Something nice and quiet. I consider the movie our pre-Valentine’s Day date. It was a really great movie, and I was pleased to see returning characters from the first. There were laughs, scares, tons of action, and even some really sad moments. The downside was that I wound up having an anxiety attack during the movie. I’m not really dsure what set it off, except the fact that there were people sitting in our row, maybe. I don’t know. I don’t always have a noticeable trigger. That’s something that baffles many people, including my parents. Tkout and Dipper get it. So does Phoebe. Shit just happens sometimes, you know? Anyway, I got out of my seat, headed to the bathroom, and spent a few minutes crying it out and messaging Dipper. I was able to finish the movie.

When we got home, Tkout and I were both tired. I changed the sheets on our bed and put on the new green leaf comforter Dipper gave us for Christmas. We snagged Zelda, I read for a bit, and then we took a nap. It was great. I woke up and messaged a bit with Dipper while getting dinner ready.

Earlier in the day I marinated chicken in balsamic dressing. I also took the potatoes and made mashed potatoes from scratch. I not only didn’t use a recipe, but I totally judged the amount wrong. Which means we will have enough mashed potatoes to have with Polish kielbasa tomorrow for dinner. Score! Tkout was pretty excited. I boiled the carrots down to nothing so that was a waste. But otherwise everything worked out well.

After dinner, I decided it was time to rest. I curled up with the fuzzies on the futon and Tkout put on The Mist. Dipper and I talked for a bit on the phone and then I put on Suicide Squad. It’s still on, and I’m sitting here on my computer typing this up. Before I began, I took my daily journal and made sure to finish the list of things I accomplished today. It may seem superfluous, but it helps me get by. It helps me take stock of the day I had and look at it with honest eyes. It keeps the anxiety down. Reminds me of the good times. Shows me that I can do what I need to, and that the anxiety and depression haven’t taken me down. I also use it to log information about what kind of day it was in terms of mental health. I’m hoping to track any patterns, or even more simply, see that the days aren’t as bad as I sometimes think they are. That I’m winning. Battle by battle. Yes, I cried today when I was out in public. But you know what? I have groceries in the house. And I saw an amazing movie all the way to the end, minus the time when I stepped out to get my shit together. Today, the battle was won. Tomorrow is another battle, and I’m ready.

If you’re wondering what kinds of things go in the list, I will do that as a separate post. While writing this, I’ve decided that I’m going to make part of this blog about my journey with mental health. There for those who need it, but not necessarily in the way for those that don’t.

I wish you all well.