Warning – this post has some bits of ranting, a bit of update, a bit of explanation about depression, and a few little secrets of what my life looks like.
The second session with my new therapist has gone ahead, and we’ve agreed on very specific items that she’ll try to help me with. She’s pretty much confirmed that she’d prefer to hand me back to C, my original therapist, and not because she feels she can’t work with me – but she’d rather not disturb the very effective and tight relationship I had with C. I’m ok with that – provided C is willing to take me back when she’s back at work. Only time will tell. H tried to work with me to understand my pain better, but without going into the very intense EFT that C used to do with me, she’s not confident she can help much with it.
But that also means there’s no real relief to my pain, even as we work on my specific targets. The first is to learn to deal with rejection better, so that I don’t fear the pain that comes with it. The second, is to help to manage the IC (inner critic) through mindfulness. Hopefully these two things will tide me over through this period.
So what do I do for pain relief? A few things help – pig therapy, soft toy therapy, and wife therapy.
A more secret pain relief method started from the claw machines at the arcade. Before I got warded, I got Stormie – who helped me through some of my most painful times. My wife almost brought Stormie to the ward to accompany me, but I was afraid of losing him or leaving him in my bed unprotected from other patients.
And now Dumbo fulfills the same purpose!
I’m not including pictures of my wife to protect her privacy for the sake of the blog. But when the tears come, and I’m sobbing, her embrace always soothes, and the pain lessens. And it’s kind of strange, but we seldom hug standing up because, well, we’re married and we hug the most when we’re lying next to each other. But her hugs always help the pain.
How does such pain relief work? Have you ever had a bad scrape? It’s not a cut – scrapes are worse because it radiates pain from a large area and the edges sometimes hurt more than the center. My pain relief acts like balm for my heart – my heart is totally scraped, bloodied and bruised. The piggies, the toys, and my wife’s embrace all help by radiating healing to the edges of that large scrape. It doesn’t totally take away the pain, but for that moment, as I hurt, the pain is more bearable. I envision little tendrils of care knitting together all the red and sore ends of my heart, as I enjoy the warmth of the healing.
But pain isn’t just the only thing I have to manage. I have to manage my suicidal thoughts as well. Being suicidal is different from wanting to commit suicide. Being suicidal is a constant sense of feeling that the world will be better off without me. It’s a constant hate for myself. Have you ever lived with someone you didn’t like? At least once you close the door, or leave the house, you can put that person away in some part of your mind. I can’t. I’m facing myself all the time, and I hate myself. But I know that for the sake of others, I should stay alive, and not hurt them any more than I already have, especially my direct family members. So that’s why I struggle to stay alive, to do things which help me to feel better. So if you’ve ever felt like something made you want to kill yourself – such as seeing Trump and Kim shake hands in Singapore – that’s not being suicidal. It’s completely different.
But at the same time, not everything helps. Some people have seemed to insinuate in private conversations with my wife and myself, that while I express hopelessness and pain, I don’t seem to be doing my best to get better. Why am I not trying out new environments? Why am I not trying new diets, or aromatherapy, things that aren’t accepted by science, but have good track records in helping depression?
Because, in actual fact, what these things do are to lift a person’s spirits. I don’t deny their efficacy in doing this, but for someone with major depressive disorder, having my spirits lifted for a short period of time can in fact do more damage than allowing the feelings to sit and stay. So first of all, these things don’t actually solve any problems to do with the disorder. They don’t allow me to learn to see more facts about myself. They can cheer me up for a short while, but that’s it. And depression isn’t just about feeling down. If only it was! What’s more, and what’s more harmful, is by giving me a short term high, it works like drugs – the crash that comes when reality returns is even more painful because I know this is the reality, not the one with good smells in the air that make me feel calmer.
What then works? Therapy methods that involve me using my mind to help me deal with the pain, the image issues etc. Therapy that involves actual healing, rather than temporary fixes – my pigs, my wife, my toys all work as real and quick methods to remind me that I can heal even as I deal with the pain. Medication that allows me to be in a state where therapy can take effect.
But conversely, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough to get better, even within what makes sense. I’m aware that this is the disorder talking, but I strongly feel it. And sometimes I wish it would make more sense to grasp at those meaningless straws, which is why sometimes I end up at the arcade even though I shouldn’t.
I’m also getting a little tired of seeing motivational messages and positive threads, especially from wellness groups that are meant to help people with mental illness. If jolliness and having a positive mindframe would heal depression, I wouldn’t need therapy. I would already be better. But I can’t be positive because I can’t believe it.
Edit: positivity as in all those trite messages about how being positive is the first step to becoming a better person! Or success! Messages of reality that point to positive notes are fine – such as I can recover, or trust in the Lord for He watches over us. Those are factual and true.
Jolliness makes me want to run away because it creates a physical nausea and reaction in me. Can I help that? I don’t think so. It takes everything I can to stay still, to not move, when faced with jolliness because that jolliness speaks a lie into my situation. I can’t be jolly. I live with someone I hate. Can jolliness help that? Can positivity help that?
A much loved and well meaning sister in Christ, for example, asked me to thank God for everything. My only reply was that I do. And that the depression doesn’t go away just because I’m thankful. I love you, my beloved sister, but if you’re reading this, you can’t believe how much pressure that put on me. It required a lot of reflection to stop feeling guilty that thankfulness doesn’t heal me.
In that same light, I’ve switched the time I attend church, from Sunday morning to Saturday evening. Since I’m usually awake in the evening, I can’t skip church now. But it’s stressful. I’m not sure if this is what they call social anxiety but it feels terrible to go to church now, and keep avoiding people. I wear a mask because I don’t want to talk, and the mask helps me so much because it keeps people at bay unless they’re close enough. Which means that I can actually tell them if I’m not feeling well, or talk when I can. But I don’t stand when called upon to, I try not to do friendship time because I just don’t feel like meeting new people, and I always play minesweeper on my phone while listening to the sermon, feeling like a very rude jerk.
But you know what? Minesweeper actually occupies about 20% of my brain. But by playing it, my thoughts don’t fly all over the place, and I end up listening closely to the sermon, with the 80% of my brain that’s left, and I can usually hold a pretty decent conversation about it after service.
Which goes to show. Please, if you don’t understand depression, please please, don’t make assumptions, don’t tell me what to do and how to do it.
I’ll let you in on another secret about my depression. C, my old therapist, and I, just figured out before she left, that part of my problem is that I’ve been growing up trying to live out the values of others because I don’t like disappointing them. I don’t like having others unhappy because of me. I don’t like the rejection that comes from standing up for my own values – which aren’t bad values. They just aren’t values that people generally agree with because “the world doesn’t work like that”.
Things like standing up for what’s right. Speaking up for the voiceless. Doing what’s right for those who can’t, even if it means I have a price to pay. Running up against the reality of “You need to earn enough for your children.” And “why are you doing these stupid things?” “Why are you not trying your best?” “Why are you not living out your full potential?”
The rejections have hurt for a very very long time. And I struggle to put that pain down.
Please don’t make it any worse.