Ok, so I have these things in my head. Most people would call it depression and anxiety. I don't call it anything since I'm more concerned with dealing with it than naming it.
I don't like saying I "struggle with depression" because it's cliche'd and to be honest, I'm not struggling, I'm accepting. This crap is part of my head, and it's probably not going to do away anytime soon. So I had better come up with some sort of plan.
But first, some meta. This is why I blog irregularly, this is why I don't make as much craft (or art) as I want to...this is what gets in the way of my happiness, libido, and even my general calmness.
This is for real, actually. All these issues are based on real, legitimate worries.
Most of my worries revolve around my day job, doing well at it, and keeping it longer than a few months. Before I got the present one, I did the same with the previous. Before I was working again, this crap sort of went on hiatus because I had grad school then a wedding to keep me busy. But now I get to be all alone with my head and sometimes that's painful.
The part that gets to me is that every one of my "irrational" worries is tied to a real life, legitimate thing. Surely you've read the news lately - jobs are hard to come by and hard to hang onto, even if you're good at them. You can be fired whenever, and up shit creek at any moment. The fact that I have a grad degree and attendant debt means I've got that much more going against me. I did a lot of caregiving in the years I "should" have been interning and building my networks to construct a career. But I couldn't because who else would take care of my dying mother and elderly grandmother. I started out in a family dependent on welfare and food stamps. I've been struggling for a long time, but I considered this normal.
But here's where it goes off the deep end:
The degree. I'm not proud of it. I've often fantasized about tearing it to bits or burning it. I'm ashamed that I thought I could rise above my station, that I could do anything academic or intellectual. And yet I'm ashamed that I let my family down - they struggled to make sure I got into good schools and did well. They prepared me to go to college, get my degrees, and never have to do what they did. And here I am, having done that, and I have nothing to show for it.
I'm working someplace I like, doing something I didn't plan on but could be happy with. It's the most stability I've ever had, and the most money I've ever seen. I have a lot riding on this. I want to prove I can keep my rent and bills paid, and be responsible with my student debt. I'm doing all the right things, and I'm terrified this arrangement will be broken.
This leads to a tremendous amount of anxiety and depressive periods. All these worries, even if they have a kernel of legitimacy, grow and grow until they become overwhelming and I can't do much more than fold myself into a corner of my couch. It's like I have a script running in my head, a popup ad that won't go away:
- I am stupid and unemployable: sure, everyone screws up at work, but I'm clearly incompetent.
- I have no talent and nothing to offer the world: anything I think I can do well (when thinking clearly) turns into silliness and self delusion.
- I am unable to perform simple tasks: that kind of falls under #1 - I feel like I'm pretty much stupid and unable to learn. Full stop.
Try having sex with this going through your head. Yeah, not fun. Try creating something that used to excite you, try going somewhere you like. Try reading, eating, talking to friends. This takes over everything and the effort involved in ignoring it wipes me out some days. And you may not know it.
There are genuinely good days in the middle of all this. There are days the script doesn't activate and I can feel good. But there are more days than you know when I have this running in the background (notice all the Windows metaphors? :P) and I'm too tired to even call a friend. Then, the thing compounds and I get angry at myself for "whining", and I think I shouldn't burden my friends because they have it worse. So a few days go by, then a few weeks. And I realize I haven't had any substantial contact with my circle in a month or more, save for breezy Facebook updates.
And I do keep those breezy because I give FB a select set of facts and that is all. Of course, these I'm handing over to Google, so I can't wait for all the antidepressant ads to show up everywhere (Hi Google!). But I don't want anyone who is on a social network with me worried that every cheery post is cause for alarm. I'm not that unstable - I'm not interested in harming myself. I'm just generally averse to airing all this in public.
So why talk about this now?
I'm out of depression. Seriously. I've reached a point, after almost a month of serious pop-ups, that I can no longer flip out. It's not that I don't have these worries - I do - but I am worn out from the cascading scripts in my head, the despair, the feeling of helplessness. I'm worn out from yelling at my spouse and crying on the couch. I'm worn out from hiding from all the fun shit in life.
A friend told me not to be sad, but to get angry. So I am. I'm angry that shit has to be so hard for my loved ones that barely any of us can set up a home and start families (whatever shape those families take). I'm angry that the cost of higher ed in our country is so inflated and the obsession with corporate-ization and assessment over education is so rampant that our degrees are basically worthless, and jobs (of any caliber, in our out of our fields) are this hard to come by. I'm angry about many many things on a broad scale, and Im angry on a personal scale. I'm an adult, I have the intellectual capacity and work ethic to really do something. I'm neither asking for my name in lights or for a million dollars. I'm asking for stability so my future kids never have to go through what I did at the hands of an abusive aid system and the entrenched misogyny that punishes single mothers and their families for existing.* I'm hard working, I pay off my debts, I live in my means - I should not have to prove myself to anyone.
So, what to do now?
I make my own defense mechanisms and they (often) help:
Finding plan C
I'm at my plan B right now. I always pursue two lines of work when I job-hunt, plan A is something with writing (content writing, editing, etc) and plan B is pretty much clerical. B is solid, B is (or used to feel) safe. I like it, and I am dedicated, and I want to keep it, but it is my job. This is not my passion. I am afraid to have those. But as I think I might be running out of options, I think I have to find some way to make those things I love result in some manner of income. This will be plan C. Plan C can be a sideline while I have a day job, and if I can nurture it sufficiently, it can hold body and (heh) soul together if I don't have a day job for a while.
Trying to come up with the worst case scenario and see what I should do
I'm a bit of a prepper here. I have and I am making contingency plans. I'd feel better if those contingencies had money in them, but for so long I haven't been able to save nearly as much as I want to because of the simple cost of living. If I can, during my really stable and safe days, calmly think "what would happen if", and and literally draw up a plan, I would feel better.
Spouse refuses to entertain this idea, and he tells me to think positive. I am deeply suspicious of positive thinking, as it feels an awful lot like faith. And I find faith useless - hopes sent off to an imaginary father figure whose whims are inscrutable and method of "love" is abuse. No, thank you.
No, we only have this life, and ourselves to rely on. So this is simply prudent! I quite literally want to have small cases housing my plans with "break glass in case of emergency" on them. My mother tried to look out for me the best she could, as did my grandmother, but we never had that ace in the hole. It was always desperation. And I can't take desperation anymore.
My thinking here is that if the unthinkable happens, I'll have something to guide me when I'm least likely to be thinking clearly. And if nothing happens, then I have that feeling of security I've never had.
In the meantime....
Looking at all this I've written, I would not blame you if you said to get my ass to therapy :) I still might, but I don't know if I have it in me at the moment to therapist-shop. For short term relief, I've been doing really deep breathing (pretend it's a cigarette!), long walks with the dogs (so much poo, so little time), and playing with white noise apps on my phone. Yes, I am a giant infant and I apparently am soothed by white noise, storm sounds, and wind chimes. I embrace this totally. Later edits will include links to the tracks/apps I have because they are so nice.
Other things are as much physical activity as possible, scheduling time in the week to hit the library and work on projects, and seeing friends as much as I can. This last one is one of the best things to do. I genuinely love being home, but I run the risk of being alone with my thoughts too much if I do that every night. Or I run the risk of hiding in my couch-cradle (yes, infant, I know). A balance between staying in and putting some miles on my car or metro-card is apparently necessary for my well being.
The real reason for this.
I'm working on this headcrap, so I thought I'd write it all out instead of hiding. If I don't show up online for a bit, it's usually because of all this,or it's because I'm actually busy with a project.
I'm trying to reframe my own head, and the rhetoric of depression. This is not something I can "beat". It'll never "go away", and I'll never "just be ok", and I'll never "just cheer up". I'll always worry and have dark thoughts, but that doesn't mean I have to live by them. And the whole point of this post, beyond my own unburdening, is to put that out there in case you are feeling it too. It doesn't have to be this bad - it's a lot of work to manage it, but it can be done.
If you're a friend or stranger who has gone or is going through this, feel free to comment or email. Talking let this out of your head and makes things more manageable. I'm obviously no therapist, but I have plenty of empathy :) So don't hesitate if any of this rings a bell.
*For those who don't know my origin story, yes Mom was single.