Depression Just Sucks

Depression sucks. Big time. It sucks so very much. Seriously, I feel like I can’t stress this enough. It is a torturous nightmare. Every single day. And it hurts. Depression hurts a lot and it hurts everything. I mean everything. It hurts emotionally, mentally, and emotionally. It permeates into every cell of my being and sucks the life from them.

It feels like everything is dark and will never see the light of day again. It feels like I am drowning. My ankles are chained from below keeping me underwater. My arms are caught up in seaweed and nets so that I can’t break free to tread water or swim away. My head is barely above water. I fight to be able to breathe but it’s hard. I get tired very fast from trying to just detangle myself. If I am able to untangle the seaweed and the nets I am still left to fight the chains below from pulling me under.

I am often tempted to just sink and let myself drown. It’s such a hard battle and takes so much energy I don’t know if I will have enough energy left to make it. I’m still not sure. We’ll see.

The day starts with pain. Pain in my head, pain in my heart, and pain in my body. Getting out of bed is a monumental task (if I even get out of bed), every muscle I move feels like torture. My bones ache and I pray my body will be able to carry me. I first hope it will be able to carry me to start the day. I will have to deal with what happens after getting out of bed once I get out of bed.

If I have things to do I will have to work on the strength for those later, when it’s necessary. There’s no point in working on them now because I still have to work on getting out of bed and get moving. It all depends on whether I can gather the strength and keep the pain at bay enough to get things done.

Depression sucks the life out of absolutely everything. Nothing is sacred from depression. Everything is fair game to be crapped on; friends, family, work, home, socializing, interests, hobbies, goals, dreams, plans, attention, focus, concern, care, moving, thinking, feeling, blinking, eating, and even living.

If I was lucky, and I use the term loosely, I might be able to maintain a modicum of functionality. In fact, I was able to maintain this functionality for years. Giving off the illusion that everything in my life was just hunky dory when really it was anything but.

The balance of outside me and inside me overlapped at times but for the most part there was the me that the world saw, and then there was the me that hardly anyone saw. The me that the world saw was capable, attentive, working, engaging, on top of things, and maybe even at times, happy. The me that hardly anyone saw, cried a lot, had dark, upsetting thoughts, uncontrollable, overwhelming emotions, and believed that life just sucked.

I was able to eke out some outside interests for a while but it took a lot of work to maintain them. A lot of things got ignored, avoided, cancelled, and forgotten. I did just enough to make it look good and like I was functioning.

I no longer have two mes. Now it is just the one me, stuck in depression, among other things, and trying to make it through the day.

The depth of depression is astounding. It is sporadic and temperamental. It is tenuous and fragile. It is dysfunctional and destructive. It is traumatic and remorseless. It is relentless and pervasive. It is scarring and fatal. I can wake up feeling okay and on a good path, and mere hours later I could be feeling like suicide is the only way out.

I would say that I hate depression. I hate what it is and what it does. I hate what it takes and what it gives. I hate how it feels and how it lasts. I hate how it changes my thoughts and my moods. I hate that it takes me down. I hate that it feels like it will break me. I hate that it is a part of my life. And I really hate that there is a possibility that it always will be a part of my life. I hate it. I hate all of it.

I think depression can go jump off a cliff, without me.

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It Turns Out I Have Limits

It wasn’t that long ago that I was able to put in a full day at work. I was able to work 5 days a week, every week for a number of years. And after work and on weekends, I ran errands, hung out with friends, went shopping, went to the movies, and basically just went on with life. I’m not sure if life was moving forward or not but it was moving.

I struggled a lot outside of work in my personal life, but I chalked it up to anything and everything that wasn’t mental health or well-being. I gave excuses that it was something wrong or broken with me that I needed to somehow fix. I figured there was some flaw in how I was living life and only “righting” myself would I be able to fully function without issues.

For the most part I was silent about what I was struggling with, unless it got very bad, which it did once or twice. I even took a few months of leave of absence from work at one point. But overall I kept what was going on to myself. I didn’t want to burden anyone. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a freak or look at me differently. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was so bad at life I was struggling with even wanting to live. I assumed that no one could really help me and that no one would understand even if they wanted to help. Whatever was wrong with me, I would have to fix, and I would have to do it quickly and quietly.

Overall though, I kept functioning, and for the most part, I was able to cope. At least I told myself I was coping and that things were under control. My coping methods however were not at all healthy, and led to extremely destructive habits. I turned to eating, suppressing, avoiding, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and several suicide attempts. But I told myself I was coping. I believed I was handling everything.

I wasn’t stupid or blind. I knew that how I was coping was not the best way but it got me out of bed and to work and doing things that constituted “living life”, so as far as I was concerned things were handled. At first I just went about my day, doing the best that I could with what I knew. It took years, decades, for me to realize that I wasn’t really handling things at all. I was coping in ways that were slowly killing me, and if I kept it up, one way or another, I would end up dead.

I don’t remember when I realized things were not going well. I just know that over time I found myself in a very dark place more and more and more often. I was avoiding, suppressing, eating, and self-harming all the time. Suicidal thoughts were like a nagging memory that I couldn’t shake and kept playing over and over in my mind as an idea I should really look into. The darkness that enveloped me was keeping me down longer and longer with each passing year. Until finally I was only in darkness.

I no longer remembered what the light looked like or felt like. I wasn’t even sure if I could go back to the light. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to. The trajectory of my path was all over the place and most of the time I had no idea what was going to happen next. The only thing I clearly saw happening was that things were not getting better. They only got worse. And worse. And worse. And for every step forward I felt like I took ten steps back.

The last year or so has been challenging to say the least. After reaching out for help, and fortunately getting it, I have had some of the darkness peeled away. Things are looking towards getting better, and being more manageable. It’s been hard. Very, very hard. There are some days where I’m not sure things will really get better. Some days I feel like it will always suck and every day will just be a battle that I may or may not win. Some days I feel more optimistic about things, and am successful at keeping things relatively managed.

As time goes on and I learn how to manage my thoughts and emotions, I am also learning how to manage myself too. It may seem like a no-brainer that with one thing managed the others would follow suit and start to be managed as well, but not really. Not for me anyway.

I thought I could just go about things as I always had. I thought I could continue to function at almost full capacity. I thought I could work on myself and rebuild things on the inside and still go about my day like nothing had changed. I thought I could put all my mental capacity towards rebuilding things and also put all my mental capacity towards going about my day too without interruption. I thought I could put my efforts to myself and to the rest of life, including working, and everything would be fine. I assumed that I could handle it. I had no doubts that I could handle it. I had no reason to believe otherwise. After all, I had worked for years with keeping work and everything else separate.

Turns out, I was wrong.

I was very wrong, in fact. And I was genuinely shocked to discover that I was wrong.

Functioning at full capacity is hard. Functioning at half-capacity is hard. Going to work and trying to rebuild my life, at the same time, was so hard for me, that I failed at it. Actually, failed is the wrong word. I’m going to say that it was so hard for me it wasn’t effective. Going to work and trying to figure things out with my mental health at the same time was so hard that work slowly fell off the radar because I just couldn’t handle both. No matter how much I thought I could, and how much I expected myself to, I just couldn’t do it. Not both, and not at the same time.

With my mental capacity taken up by trying to sort things out, tease things apart, rethink, relearn, rebuild, recuperate, and retry, there really isn’t a lot left for almost anything else. Even living day-to-day stuff like cooking, eating, and showering, can feel like monumental tasks that don’t always make the cut on the to-do list for the day. Keeping up with myself and what needs to be done is a crap shoot every day. Some days I can take care of the basics and then work on other stuff too. Some days I have to trade off what basics I can handle and what can wait especially if I want to take care of other stuff too. And then there are days where there are no basics, it is only about taking care of things mentally, and the basics will just have to wait until tomorrow when they may be able to get taken care of then.

All of my efforts nowadays go towards my mental illness.

It has taken me a while to realize that there are limits to what I can handle. It has taken me a lot longer than I thought it would to realize this. I knew this before, sort of. I knew of having limits, and that others might need to recognize them, and to work within them. I was well aware that other people had limits and I respected that. It made total sense that others might need to recognize their own limits. I, however, was able to handle everything, and believed that I didn’t really have limits. And any limits I did have were high enough that I could work with and push past them if I needed to.

Despite evidence to the contrary, I believed I could handle things, and that I was handling things. No problem.

Every time I reached my limit I would try to push past it, conveniently forgetting or ignoring that it was a limit. I would lie to myself, that it wasn’t really a limit. I would lie to myself, that even if it was a limit it’s not set in stone and I can totally do this. I would tell myself I hadn’t reached my limit, I was just not trying hard enough. I wasn’t giving the effort that I should be giving to the situation. I was being lazy or I was going about it wrong. I was totally ignoring the signals, or I was attributing the signals to something else, instead of realizing that I was hitting my limit.

I was wrong.

There is only so much I can do each day. As much as I hate to admit it to myself, every day, I have limits to what I can accomplish, and no matter how hard I try to ignore them, they are there. They change as to how far I can go and how far I can push myself, but they are there, and they are limits. I need to realize that. I need to realize that do I have limits. I need to realize that whatever my limits are, they are there for a reason, and they serve a purpose. They help me to keep myself balanced and manageable. They help to take rest when I need to. They help me to recuperate when I need to. They help me to address when something is pushing against my best interests and I need to take action. I need to respect my limits. I need to honour myself and what I can and cannot do. I need to accept that I have limits.

There is a point at which I can no longer function. There is a limit. There is a point at which I will hit my limit and trying to push past it is probably not a good idea, if I am even able to push past it at all.

And those limits are typically not flexible. They are limits for a reason.

I may need a break. I may need an hour. I may need a day. Or four days. I may need to stop much earlier than I had originally planned. I may need to not even start what I had planned. I may need to ease up on what I want to accomplish and realize instead what I can accomplish. And what I can do today, may or may not be what I can do tomorrow.

Every day is different. The factors that come into play as to what I can and cannot do change every day too. The factors change, the limits change, the accomplishments vary, but the acknowledgement and adhering to remains the same. It’s a lot to track but it’s important to realize and take whatever action I need to, even if that means no action at all.

My limits before may have been higher, or maybe I always ignored them. Maybe I was able to push past them easier before. Who knows. All I know is that I do have limits and I need to respect that. As hard as it is for me to accept, I may do less because of my limits but that does not make me less. I have to remember that.

 

When Thoughts Become the Enemy

I have always been a thinker. Not in a philosophical, “let-me-contemplate-life” kind of way but more in a “I-don’t-want-to-sound-like-an-idiot-and-what-is-wrong-with-me” kind of way. At times this has been a blessing; fueling fantastic ideas, helping me better understand situations or emotions by thinking before I speak, and giving me better perspectives and patience for others as well as for myself. But sometimes it can be a curse. Sometimes it can be a life-threatening, violent curse.

And thinking is the last thing I should be doing. Thinking is the first step for me towards things spiraling out of control. Because sometimes my thoughts have turned against me, and have now become my enemy.

I understand that thoughts don’t necessarily mean anything. I understand that thoughts are usually not factual, and are most often influenced by the mood of the moment and/or the current environment I’m in. I understand that thoughts are not made of cement and are subject to change at a moment’s notice. I understand that just because a thought pops into my head doesn’t mean I have to entertain it, or believe it, and the thoughts don’t have to turn bad. I understand that I am not my thoughts.

I understand all of that, logically. But emotionally… emotionally, I’m not so on board with this theory. And as much as I know logically that my thoughts can be harmless and don’t have to make or break who I am, sometimes they do. Sometimes they really, really do.

In DBT, one of the things that is taught (I really should get back to my weekly progress on that here too by the way) is that our thoughts are not who we are. They are just thoughts. They don’t need to take over everything, and they don’t need to even be entertained for a moment. Because they are just thoughts.

A practice to help realize this is to think of our thoughts like they are leaves on a river. Each leaf on the river is one thought, and they just float on down the river as leaves, doing nothing, going wherever. They don’t have to be addressed or picked up. They don’t have to be noted or talked about. They just float down the river and away.

Now, I am actually a fan of this idea. I really like the leaf and river theory because first of all, I like watching leaves on a river and leaving them to just float, but the bigger reason I like this idea is because it allows me to see the thoughts as something separate from myself. It helps me to see that the thoughts are just thoughts, and don’t have to have any power. They kind of lose their power when they are made into something harmless and benign like a leaf can be.

There have been times where I am successful at doing this, but unfortunately not as often as I’d like, and not nearly as often as it would help me. A lot of the time my thoughts take me over and take me down so fast that I feel like I don’t even get the chance to turn them into something else, let alone to turn them into leaves on a river and just watch them float by.

A thought comes into my head and before I realize that my thinking has turned to a dark place, I am already caught up in the race of thoughts now taking place in my mind. Like a speeding roller coaster with a broken control lever, I am taken for a ride that picks me up and pulls me down, throws me all over the place, and is getting very close to making me feel sick.

My thoughts can determine whether I end up having a bad day or a good day. They can start out so innocent and passive and within moments they can keep me paralyzed to going anywhere or doing anything. My thoughts can come pretty close to killing me.

My thoughts can go from compassionate and kind to degrading and insulting in a heartbeat. I’ll think that I am okay, I’ll believe that I’m okay, and that I can handle things without resorting to more negative thinking and destructive coping methods. I’ll think that my thoughts are manageable and won’t hurt my feelings or leave me feeling suicidal. And then BOOM! just like that, I am thinking that I am the worst person in the world. I am a horrible person who no one likes and that I will always be hopeless and worthless. I am useless and don’t deserve to be alive. My thoughts will become harsh, mean, degrading, and abusive.

I’ll try to stop the negative thinking by challenging if the negative thoughts are true (another thing I learned from DBT and “Checking the Facts”). And I’ll ask myself if it’s really true that I am a horrible person, and if so, then where is the proof? I’ll challenge if I should really be dead, or if that’s just my thinking being a bully. And depending on whether I am able to divert the thoughts back to something positive, or at the very least, less negative and abusive, and change the thoughts, I will again fall prey to all the bad stuff I think of myself. This may or may not lead to anxiety, depression, and/or suicide, or all of the above. Sometimes I am able to change the tide and save myself from spinning into darkness. But a lot of the time, I can’t. A lot of the time the thoughts are more powerful than I am. A lot of the time I am able to find all the proof I need to show how horrible I am. I can find all the proof I need to prove that I should be dead. And I can prove with the best of them my worthlessness and the millions of reasons that no one likes me. And no one ever will.

I used to fall prey to these bad thoughts so easily that it could take weeks or months for me to come back from how much I would hurt and insult myself. And even then, it would take almost constant reinforcement from others for me to believe that what I think of myself is not true. It would take almost constant reassurance from others (because there’s no point in me saying it because it’s only true if others say it), that I am not worthless, that I am not hopeless, and that I am not unlikeable, and that I shouldn’t be dead.

If I have hurt myself deeply enough I may not even believe what others say. If I have insulted myself enough into a deep, dark, desperate, weeping puddle on the ground, then there are few people who could make things better, and even fewer people that I would believe if they try to make me feel better. If they try to tell me that I am worthwhile and likeable I would scoff and tell them that they have obviously missed the memo that I am a horrible, unlikeable person. They obviously are lying to me and to themselves, and they are wasting their time with me. And because people have jobs and families and lives, it is very rare for me to get the constant reassurance I need in order to turn the tide of negative thoughts in my mind. This a fraction of how powerful my thoughts can be.

I am working as hard as I can to challenge all of this, and keep my thoughts from taking me over. It’s hard. It’s not always successful. It’s a work in progress.

The power of our thoughts can be debilitating and hold enough force that we believe them to be true. Why would I think it, if it wasn’t true? How can it not be true, it’s such a frequent and powerful thought? All of my thoughts are telling me this, so why wouldn’t it be true? Would my thoughts lie to me? Why would my own thoughts lie to me?

Our thinking can lead us to personal beliefs, of ourselves, and others, that may or not be true. They can lead us to behaviours that can reinforce our thoughts and strengthen our beliefs. To the point that everywhere we look we find proof that what we thought was true. What we thought was a fact. Even when it isn’t.

Our thinking can spawn any number of scripts that run through our minds at any given moment, particularly when we need it the least, and despite knowledge that contradicts the information, can leave us a complete and total mess. Our self-esteem a puddle on the floor, and our beliefs stronger than ever of things that aren’t true.

The scripts tell us how everything we are is wrong, and everything we do is wrong. It tells us how much we deserve all of our flaws and tribulations because we are that awful. It tells us that we will never change and shouldn’t even try. It tells us that we will only have bad things happen to us, and proves it by providing the thoughts of all the bad things we have endured so far, conveniently omitting any of the positive things, because the script knows how to break us. The script knows what to say and what not to say. The script will run so often and so loud we feel we are forever stuck with it.

The scripts may change over the years, growing or shrinking as we add new thoughts and take away old ones, but the lies will remain the same. The lies become bigger and brighter with each run of the script. Until finally it is so ingrained in us that we lose sight that we even have the script, and we could possibly think any differently. We feel it becomes us because its automatic for us now. We barely need the prompt before the thoughts are up and running. It’s as close to automatic as breathing, and just as difficult to change. So we resign ourselves to our thoughts and the script it plays, and hope that maybe this time will be different.

For many, many years I have hated my thoughts. I have hated thinking and was convinced that it could only, ever be bad and mean. I was convinced that my thoughts would never be able to change and one day they would definitely kill me. I was convinced my thoughts were me. My thoughts were absolutely who I was. I was convinced that everyone and everything else outside me, contradicting or challenging my thoughts, were the ones who were wrong. All my thoughts were true and factual. Everyone and everything else was false. I was convinced that my thoughts would never lie to me. That they couldn’t.

The scripts that I run have been hard and I hate that, until recently, I have believed them so fiercely for so long. My scripts have reinforced my anxiety, depression, and several disorders. I considered them as gospel, to me and to my life. I considered them as everything I was.

It is only recently that I have finally realized that my thoughts are not me. And A LOT of the time, they are in fact, untrue and misleading. My scripts are not written in stone, and not only can they be changed, they can be removed. And they should be. I still sometimes forget that my thoughts are not me, and they don’t have to be my enemy. They might not necessarily be my friend either, and that’s okay. Thoughts are just thoughts. That’s all. Not bad. Not good. Just thoughts. If they are anything, they are either useful or not. They don’t have to be followed, entertained, believed, repeated, hated, liked, ignored, or accepted. They are just thoughts.

I hope of all the thoughts I have, that’s the one I remember.