52. Inner Criticism

22 Jan 2018

It’s been a surreal weekend, after therapy day.

Therapy day was last Friday, 19th Jan. I’ve had to take this long just to process through the mess that is in my head. It didn’t help that I had to explain some things to my parents about my illness, though it was completely necessary. Don’t say my parents lah… I think there’re still misunderstandings about depression that need to be cleared up.

First, my depression won’t get better with me simply talking to someone about the issues in my head. If that was the case, I won’t have needed to be warded – maybe just a beer and a close friend would do the trick. (Yes I’m allergic to alcohol, but I’m verbose when I’m drunk. Maybe just an alcoholic tiramisu would be enough) So when I’m struggling, trust me when I say that I don’t need a listening ear. Most of the time, what I really need is space and time to work through the mess that keeps appearing in my head. Talking won’t solve anything, and will probably make me more tired, especially if the listener tries to solve my problem.

There’s a reason why I need to go for therapy. The issues I’m struggling with are so deep set and ingrained that I need professional help to even figure out what the issue is. I’ve done well in hiding and shelving away some emotions and issues in my past, and it’s helped me, most of the time. As I started to get hit with the issues I faced at work, however, it turned out that the defensive mechanisms I used were simply insufficient to protect me any more. My world was slowly turned on its head, and these hidden issues slowly started to leak out. When the depression hit, they came out full force.

Essentially, these issues lumped together to form my dark side and my inner critic. Where nothing is ever good enough, where the constant message is that I suck, I can’t meet my own standards, and I hate myself.

My therapist and I discussed this last Friday, and I told her that for the past week – and even now – my critic just wants me to know that I hate myself. We talked about the root cause issues, and she asked if I was ready to face up to my inner critic, to see what messages there were. For once, I told her that I didn’t dare to.

My inner critic is overbearing, loud, and fierce. It’s angry, and yet full of grief (read about that here). I didn’t dare to face it yet, as I simply wasn’t ready. I also admitted to my therapist that I had chickened out the week before, and hadn’t pushed myself to talk to the more difficult side of me, and she reassured me that it’s okay. She says it’s definitely hard to face up to something so fierce.

So when I speak of it here, or with anyone, I’m not looking for a solution. Please don’t try to solve me. I’m not a problem to be solved, and even my therapist doesn’t take that approach. She has noted before that I’m the one doing the work of trying to get into my own mind, but with her guidance and help. I’m really really blessed to have her as my therapist!

Right now, therapy is lancing my wound. It’s a huge, old wound, deep and dirty. It needs to be lanced, washed, bandaged, and then it will heal. We’re not even at the stage of letting the poisons out yet, less say healing it. It takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes space. It’s tiring, but it’s hopeful because even a little progress is better than nothing. It’s also important to note that I can’t silence my inner critic. In fact, my inner critic has a certain stubbornness and rebelliousness that I’m proud of, that should be harnessed rather than killed. My therapist says that I need to learn to manage it, and live with it, and I fully agree. I need to set limits on it, rather than get rid of it.

Ouchie. If only this was sufficient.

Throughout all this, I still see the hand of God and His faithfulness. He’s still guiding and protecting, and also raising friends who love my wife and me, and giving encouragement at random times when it’s so hard to go on. He gives me chances to feel useful by serving Him, and I’m thankful for that. He’s the reason I don’t worry about some things, and why I don’t have anxiety alongside depression which is actually quite common. And it really really helps me to be able to focus then on my recovery rather than to have to worry over too many things at one time. If I worry about anything, I pass it to Him and wait for His instruction.

Whenever I pray, or read His word, the message is always to wait. So I wait, and I pray for patience to wait for healing, to wait for opportunities to serve Him, to wait for things to return back to normal. If there’s anything that I need to emphasize about depression, it’s that it takes time and space to fully recover. There just isn’t a magic pill or formula. I need this reminder much as I also remind others about this fact as they recover.

Having said that, patience really isn’t my strong suit. Praying for patience, and for continued hope. And maybe for joy. I still struggle with joy.

Yesterday though, I experienced yet another episode. I walked down Orchard Road, fighting tears, all the way to Tanglin Mall alone. I felt better when I had a bowl of soup in front of me, but it was bad. The good thing is that along the way, I found myself visualizing a lock, and locking away the suicidality. I have promised to keep myself safe, and I intend to, but the critic in its darkness likes to toy with the idea. With the lock firmly in place, I find that I access that aspect of it a lot less. I still hate myself. But I don’t feel so strongly that I need to harm myself.

Annnd I didn’t sleep a wink last night. Managed a couple of hours after seeing the boys off, but somehow I’m still alert enough to blog.

Sleep, sleep, wherefore art thou?

After this, I shall do my bedtime routine, and prepare for bed. I hope I can sleep tonight. But the fight to live in the face of depression goes on.

P.S. What do courage and strength look like? I don’t think I have either, but people keep saying it like it’s a thing.

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