TW: Suicide. Like if you feel uncomfortable about suicide, or you have suicidal tendencies, DO NOT READ. Seek help. Talk to someone. Please.
Too often, you’ll hear me say. “I’m tired.”
What’s there to be tired about though? I don’t work. I don’t have a regular schedule that is grueling in any way. With Covid, some days I don’t even step out of the house. I wake up relatively late, and some days I sleep for 10 hours at a go. So what’s there to be tired about?
Work is tiring. Getting out of the house is indeed tiring. Having to deal with people, having to bear responsibilities, tiring. So many things are tiring. So you can look at my life, in my depression, and think, fairly. Why am I always tired?
Because. It literally is all in my mind.
When we prepare to cross a road, there is little need for thought. We just make sure the cars don’t run us over, or have a chance to. When we eat our food, it simply is nutrition to tide us over so we can do more, unless you’re cooking with or for Gordon Ramsay. When we go out to the public rubbish chute to dump our garbage, we have the freedom and option to take in the view from so many floors up, the bright, beautiful sunset, and maybe worry about how much garbage we generate and how much more the earth can take. And then we walk back to our flats. Job done, good job.
Me, life is a little different. When I cross the road, there are temptations I have to watch for. Once, I quickly moved to go home, because coming off an escalator, near to the road, I had thoughts. So I quickly moved home.
I’ve had to avoid bodies of running water. Lately, I tested that by walking near the reservoir near my home – and my mind didn’t try to play tricks on me, so that’s safe. I still can’t stare at the water for too long, and on bad days, I just don’t go. I take out the garbage daily, but I keep away from the parapets.
Every day, I wake up, and I think through my plan for the day. There are days I can – or have to because of events out of my control – plan for more than one event. Events include things like drawing a picture. Drawing a comic. Writing a post. Going somewhere specific to do something specific, like eat a meal. I have to think about my meal. I have to imagine the food and if my brain thinks of sandpaper in my throat, that means I can’t eat that choice, and I have to think of something I can swallow.
I then have to make sure I assess myself. In therapy, there’re things I learn about myself, and things that make me upset, things that make me question my worth, and my right to breathe. For example, interactions with my children that made me super frustrated in the past. Now, I handle every frustrating incident as well as I can. I watch my mood, my words, my emotions, my physical sensations. I need to react accordingly. I need to understand why I react a certain way – and be fair about it, or at least be coherent about it. Walk away if I have to. Breathe. Correct false assumptions – for myself and for the kids. Breathe. Watch the words that come out. Stop myself. Breathe. Rephrase. Reform. Then I walk away after such an incident to decompress. Explode if I have to. Earlier today, I walked into the kitchen after such a talk and then I wailed like a baby. Because I couldn’t cope.
But I actually had coped. Or at least tried to.
Everything is a challenge now, that starts from the moment I open my eyes. I have to assess, watch, and guard. Change course as needed. Direct my moods and my emotions, if needed, curl up if needed. Talk to myself – I am my own therapist first and foremost, by taking lessons from my therapist who points out the big factors and the general directions. I have to fine-tune that for myself, and adjust accordingly.
Everything can be a potential threat. Until the day that the thought doesn’t pass my mind that the world would be better off without me, and I can safely dismiss it, everything IS a potential threat. I don’t travel, and I have been misunderstood for it before (This was pre-Covid). I want to travel but I know that without my safety nets and safety routines, I am a huge risk to myself. Can you second guess me on that? Do you dare to take the responsibility for it? Because I don’t dare to.
Socials stress me. I hate seeing myself in Zoom meetings. I hate my face. I hate my body. I cringe and I recoil. So I try not to look at myself. And it stresses me like crazy to have to try to be normal. It stresses me when my expectations of how others expect to see me, overcome me and I run and hide. If someone knows that I have depression, and doesn’t expect to see anything special, I’m alright, maybe. That’s why I can do talks about depression. But sometimes, I feel like more is expected of myself – and I then struggle. I have to assess. Watch. Measure. Decide. Can I push? Can I not?
Food is a challenge. A toss up between finances and actually eating. I can eat bread and water every day if I could stomach it, but I have to be healthy. Some days, the mouth only wants certain things and it’s give in, or don’t eat. Exercise was good for a bit, but I pushed too hard and hit the pain threshold one time too many and then I got scared. I’m still scared, so now I try to walk for exercise, which I still enjoy despite the pain. I just have to make sure I don’t hit the threshold too often. Watch watch watch, measure, adjust, watch.
Finances. Oh finances. How much is too much. What is needed spending. What is healthy spending. We don’t earn, so we must spend as little as possible – but I need to spend to do things that help with healing. Heart and Soul. our guinea pigs, help me so much, but they cost money. Someone said only the richer people can afford pets, and when I said I have them, they went, oh. I went, oh. And in my head, I was strangling myself a little. Wife helps to measure, to assess. But in the end, I struggle every time I spend. Whatever I spend on. Unless it’s for the wife and kids and even then, I wonder if one day the kids will turn back and see that I earned none of what I have spent on them.
My inner critic is alive and well. My new therapist spends 5-10 minutes each call scolding my critic but he still does pop up now and then. I handle him better – marginally – but I need to recognise when he IS appearing. Sometimes, I bash myself up and I think it’s me. And then I realise I’m being too hard on myself and that it’s the critic trying to pretend that it’s me. Adjust. Watch. Adjust. Scream a little. Watch.
I know what makes me feel productive even a little. When I can’t do them, I feel bad. Guilty. That’s the inner critic talking but it’s also kind of valid this time, so I need to help myself to make things easier to do those productive things. So I make little schedules to try to do those things. And then sometimes I still fail, and then I stay in bed and try to scream down the critic and just rest. And that’s not really rest, either is it?
There’re many other little things that work against me. I’m sharing what I go through – and I’m sure many others struggle differently from me. But in the end, these pictures sum it up – I posted them on my Instagram and FB accounts before, and I post them here.
These are all pictures I took on a walk one day. What do you see? Or more importantly, what don’t you see?
You might see that the path is wet. But you don’t see the raindrops that were falling that day. You don’t see the parka that despite being water resistant, was soaked due to the rain. You don’t see the before picture, as I sat in my living room, near the door, geared up, trying to persuade myself to walk. You couldn’t have seen the struggle in my head, as I told myself not to feel guilty if I didn’t walk, even as I knew that I was feeling guilty as muck for not being able to walk. So I walked that day. I took these photos. I zipped up against the wind and the rain, and I trudged, even though it was cold. And you may think, I’m well enough to take a walk and take these nice photos. So I’m probably not that unwell after all.
I had a follow up survey interview about my mental health and its effects on my daily life over the phone today. The interviewer asked, innocently, what I did during the day. I told her. Her reply was “So you’re taking more time out for yourself. Am I right?” I was silent for a while. No you’re wrong. I don’t want to take time out for myself. I do these things for my recovery. “So you’re engaging in more leisure activities?” Silence again. No. I can’t work. But this isn’t leisure. I do them because I have no choice but to do it or feel worse about myself. She apologised. We moved on.
Why am I always tired?
It’s all, in my head.