FishDreamer scribbles, one page at a time

Saturday, 3 January 2004

How do I explain?

It's been snowing since the day after Christmas. It's snowing now, has been since 9 this morning. We dropped my parents off at the train station early, because we were afraid we wouldn't be able to get there if we delayed. And then we came home, and I ate, and had coffee, and read a bunch of stuff, and then I went insane.

It's thirty degrees Fahrenheit out there, and it's snowing. Has been snowing for four hours. What do I do? I put on my brand new running tights & shirt, a hat, mittens, fleece vest, and jacket, and go for a run. I did about two and a half miles of running and walking. My legs and face got really cold, but it felt so good. I haven't been able to work out for like two weeks now, from being run down and ill sometimes. I was going to ease back into it by doing one of my half hour workout videos, but no. I got the bug, I love when snow falls and I had to go out.

And it did feel great. I want to get back to my normal workout routine, and seriously want (and need) to sleep more on a regular basis. I know part of why I got sick is because I've been shorting myself on sleep for months. Mr D and I agree we need to get to bed earlier, but it somehow just doesn't happen until one of us goes to bed at 7:30 because we're so wiped out. That's my goal for January, get back to regular workouts and a good sleep schedule.

I've been mired in introspection and reflection lately, and I know my writing has been pretty nondescript. I'm processing, and that takes all my energy. I have so many things I'm dealing with and trying to integrate, while figuring out what isn't serving me well and working those things out of my life. My mom said something while she was here about how hard it is for her to understand (in my words, wrap her head around) depression. Both my brother and I have suffered depression, I think he still does. I think he's got a chemical imbalance, although his life isn't exactly roses and butterflies right now either (nor has it been, for years). He knows I've been there too, but he is unwilling to get the help he needs to sort it all out. I wish he would, it's just unbearable to watch him go through this and know at least some of what he's going through. And that it's not a weakness or a failure on his part, it's an illness and they have ways to fix it.

But I hadn't really thought about it. I don't remember much of my year of depression, because I didn't do anything. I got up in the morning when Mr D went to work, and I alternated sitting at the computer and smoking in the back yard until he got home. I stopped answering the phone, I stopped working out, I ate only when I had to and never anything healthy. I was so afraid to even open my email, I never wrote people back. I deleted messages without reading them. It was unbearable. And then it would come up on CT scan time, or we'd be unable to pay a bill, or something would happen that pushed me again, and I would explode. Some of my friends, inevitably, gave up on me. I don't blame them at all. It was hell, and I was trapped in my head. I didn't exactly go insane, but my body and my mind were playing tricks on me, and lying to me. I started to come out of it a few times, but then something else would happen to send me back down. The attacks in September 2001 happened during that time, which not only destroyed a piece of my childhood and any sense of security I had, but also cost me a job that I'd just landed.

I still find it ironic that I went to the doctor for a check up and to ask about anti-depressants, and when she heard all I was going through she brought the subject up. So I went on Wellbutrin for a year and a half, and it worked. It didn't change my personality, it didn't make me mindlessly happy, but it slowed down the demons so I could see them for what they were and deal with them.

I am trying to think of a way to explain all of this to someone who has never suffered depression. I've been through it repeatedly, without realizing what the problem was. I specifically remember my senior year of high school, episodes in my sophomore and junior years of college, the year my grandfather died, and this last one. Usually it didn't last long, and never did I think I wanted to die until this last time. I just couldn't handle the world, couldn't face anyone or anything. Hypersensitivity and complete lack of filters or objectivity, and a mind that can't stop spinning. I still have problems sleeping because my mind will not shut up. I always have.

I lie down to go to sleep, whether it's 9:30 or 1 a.m., and my mind starts. It's the main time of day that I don't have anything else to distract myself with, and the conjectures and tangents and fears all seep in to rob me of any peace or composure. I panic about something that I did six years ago. I start to fear that something bad is going to happen. I imagine stupid negative scenarios to play out any of the things I've got going on in my life. This is why I rely on Hyland's Calms Forte (aka the Magic Green Pills), and why I used to drink myself fairly insensible during bad patches. The hangover was always better than facing the fucking my mind was doing to me.

I still do this, but I'm better at telling it to stop. I don't believe in the worst all the time. I still picture what could go wrong, but I'm learning to use that as a tool to avert the crises. My dad is a worrier too, but I don't think he's taken it as far (been taken as far?) as I have. I don't know how I came to be unable to handle my own mind, but that's what it feels like. Absolutely miserable.

How do I evoke for someone else how that loss of control feels? I wanted to sleep until it all went away, with no qualifiers on what "it" was. I was unable to face responsibility or decisions or myself. When I think back on it now, I see black swirls like ink in water, obscuring whatever was going on in the world. I see me in the back yard, long faced with blind eyes, smoking cigarette after cigarette and reading magazines. I wished then we had wireless and a laptop so I could sit outside and smoke while I read online journals. I also remember sitting in front of my computer, beads of sweat dripping down my body during the heat of that summer. I did the Danskin that summer, and I got my part of the first book written. So I did have some outside stimuli, but not much. I avoided it as much as I could. We went to the East Coast that summer, to my family reunion. We drove back in Mr D's new car that his stepdad gave him. Apparently I perked up on the trip and acted like me, and I remember it being really fun. That was the first time I went to Iowa, and the first time I got to meet most of his family. Also the first time he met many of mine. It was fun.

But then we hit the state line on the way home, and the darkness enveloped me and I was overcome. Apparently the transformation was visible and almost palpable.

Can you see it, when it happens to someone near you? Do you know it? Have you flirted with the mad demons? I really don't have much memory of that, only of how unremittingly miserable I was. My world alternated between black and grey; between a pinched, cramped, tight box and being naked and exposed in the howling winds on a stone plateau. There was no happy place, there was no refuge, there was no respite.

With an unbelievable amount of help from Mr D and my doctor and my friends, I pulled through. I don't ever ever ever want to go back there, but since I have a history of this I know it could happen. And there are things I need to do. I catch myself sometimes being moody and miserable, or drinking too much, or having no energy, and I have to ask if it's happening again. So far, I've not succumbed. Mr D knows too, now, how to tell when it's getting beyond my control, and he helps me recognize it and deal with it. I don't know even still what causes it, but I know what it does. With experience does come some clarity.

I don't talk about this much, because it's so hard to talk about. Either you've experienced it and you know, or you haven't and don't know what to say. Sympathy is fine, even asking questions is fine. But it's like when I tell people I had cancer: no one knows how to react. We don't have the tools for that.

Because I want to share, I have fixed up one of the pictures from our trip last September. This is one of those things we saw in South Dakota that made us look at each other and laugh. It was a big "Cows!" moment. I have no idea why this is there (anyone?), but I'm glad it is. Kind of like the T. Rex sculpture on a leash. I posted that one, didn't I?

Here you go: One Longhorn. Bonus: Actual cows in the picture. Cows! Moooo!

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