3-4 Oct 2017
I think the best way to sum up my progress so far would be to say that I’ve been questioning a lot. The added medication has helped me to sleep, albeit with me talking a lot in my sleep, and disturbing my poor wife. But I never sound intelligible, so she usually goes right back to sleep, and I never really remember what I dream about anyway. Hopefully it’s nothing important.
Mood-wise, I don’t have any major improvements. On 3rd Oct, I went out with my wife on what I should call a date, but I think was more of her putting time aside to spend time with me so I can recover faster. It ended up being a shopping date, where we spent some time in an arcade, at Daiso buying 2 dollar items including a stack of origami paper, visiting Art Friends for fake grass and buying a flat sheet with a picture of grass printed on it among other paper supplies, and then having beancurd at Clementi hawker center. All in all it was a fun day. But why I mention this day particularly is because I actually felt pain when I was enjoying myself.
My heart basically felt painful whenever I was having fun. I knew that it’s psychosomatic, as I experienced no other strange symptoms. I enjoyed myself with my wife, most of the time, but when I was really happy, my heart hurt. I felt like I could burst. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I need to examine this feeling more.
Energy, and emotions, become the two most important things to a depressive sufferer during recovery. It’s always a question of either – do I have the energy to do something? How do I feel doing it? Of course, feelings are complex, but the point to make is that these two things matter most, above all. The reason why I am not able to work is always linked to one, the other, or both. When people ask how I am today, the answer almost always revolves either topic as well. Energy is a surprisingly limiting factor that most people don’t think of. When someone wakes up in the morning, they may be sleepy and reluctant, but once they’ve gotten into the shower and rinsed off their sleep, they have no problems from then on. The best example of an energy dip would be in the middle of the day, about 3pm, what Douglas Adams rightly calls the long dark teatime of the soul. Imagine always being in that state of low energy. Nothing can get done without effort, even a shower.
So lasting through Bible study last night without falling asleep, and being able to contribute, was nothing short of a miracle. After waking up today and cleaning the pigs’ cage, I am again lapsing into tiredness and every motion requires me to think through the steps of my actions so I can do it.
Depression is a daily fight. Every day becomes different, even as routine becomes even more important. New things and new habits are shunned, as they require effort and energy. Eating needs energy, so eating becomes selective, or indiscriminate (I tend to the former, so I tend to go without food). Mind you, this is during the recovery phase, where my moods are no longer as drastically low where even thinking requires energy. Sometimes I stay in bed now, moving my hand rather than my head since my neck needs more energy to move, to view my phone and so on. Having the guinea pigs gives me incentive to move to the sofa in the living room, with my laptop, to blog or to read. Housework is difficult at times, and I do it largely to help my wife, not simply because it needs to be done and I should do it.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I told my doctors that I eat for my wife and best friend. I take photos for them to see that I’m eating when I’m away from them. I live for my boys. They are the ones who need me the most. I’m still not ready to live for the sake of living, enjoying for the sake of enjoying. My joy receptors, or happiness tanks are still rusty from lack of use.
I recently told my wife that I’m back to baseline minus. Baseline for me used to be a constant state of tension and worry. Joy and happiness were hard to find. I worked, lived, ate, slept, out of responsibility, not out of sheer joy of living. I spent time with my wife or our friend, or our friends, or our boys, out of responsibility. A responsibility to rest. A duty to teach. An answered need to be around for someone. A task to complete. A thing to check off on the list. A job to do. So that was my baseline. I still could enjoy certain things, so that was baseline plus. Now I’m at best, back to that tension of duty, and my moods swing below that. Thus I’m baseline minus. Minus minus maybe.
So when do I consider myself recovered? I discussed this with my wife, and we both agree that the baseline isn’t and hasn’t been the right level of quality of life that I should be living. Dysthymia could have resulted in or resulted from that level of living, and I need to be above that level, being able to enjoy life and not keep at it as a duty alone, to prevent myself from falling down this hole again. This means that my recovery could take even longer than expected, but it may mean that I may be able to return to light duties at some point. But that remains to be seen, and again I have to remind myself to start living each day for itself first, with God’s help.
The heart of my problem remains the inability to love myself. Even the dutiful life I led stemmed from the perspective that nothing I do should be for myself since I don’t deserve it. There may be a deeper root cause that’s too personal to share on a public blog, but this particular issue is definitely something that needs to be worked on. I don’t take compliments well. I know I do affect some people positively as much as I affect others negatively, but I only focus on the negatives, not the positives. It remains difficult for me to see the positives.
My wife worries about this, fairly. I may end up hurting myself so that others can feel better. In that aspect, I have often told others hurtful truths, tactfully, as I know that I would rather sacrifice my friendship with them, than to avoid telling them the truth. I know that I am not worthy as a friend anyway.
Somehow that always turns out the other way, where my friends hold me tighter for telling them the truth.
In the light of my extended recovery period, I have spoken to my director, and there is a high chance that I may have to submit my resignation. The company I work for has already been really accommodating, and my boss and director, really kind. We’ll work out the best compromise, and for now my recovery is to be of paramount importance.
In related news, there are some positive aspects to me that have changed since my depression. My Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and my food allergies have cleared up since I stopped working. I used to get very bad stomach cramps right after I eat undercooked egg yolk, but that has stopped, so I can start taking some soft boiled egg now with no issue. My patience has also gone up, interestingly, unless I am extremely exhausted, or when I am overwhelmed emotionally.
Prayer also has been an issue, when I am caught in one of my depressive moods. A close brother asked me to pray when I’m in one of the moods, but I had to say that I can’t. He could not understand why, and I shall repeat my reply here – when I’m in the pit of that darkness, there are no words that I can articulate other than negative ones. The mind is shackled to the mood, and I am stuck in a whirlpool of thought and emotion that is hard to get out of. At that time, even the vaunted Romans 8:26 verse doesn’t seem to apply. Depression sufferers need prayer from others more than ever before, to break out of that fear, darkness and non-stop guilt and blame that comes with the illness, before they can pray for themselves.
On an interesting note, I may be attempting to talk about depression and mental illness before I leave my workplace for real. Please pray for opportunity in this area, as I pray that God’s prompting me to serve in this huge area is the direction He wishes me to take.
And as my emotions remain unstable and tiring, please pray, for energy, stability and healing for me, and for strength and provision for my family.