Learning Love

The battle is ongoing.  Every minute of wakefulness is spent fighting this disease, and still I worry that I should be fighting harder.  I tell myself that I should be walking every day.  Exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication in some studies, but how do I get myself out the door? I have to fight my brain to stand up and walk from one room to another.  My body is filled with sand.  My limbs are so heavy.  Movement is painful.

I spend most of my day in seated or fetal position. If I manage to get myself into the shower, I sit in the tub the entire time. Standing to brush my teeth takes an eternity.  Getting dressed is a formidable project.  I put everything I have into taking care of the pets. Sometimes it takes me hours of lying in bed before I can find the energy to feed them in the mornings.  They have become so patient that it makes me cry.  I tell myself that at least I can almost always give them the love and attention they need. I sit while I do so.

I do try to push through the exhaustion.  I tell myself over and over that I can do it. I tell myself how important it is to push through the pain, and still I am an immovable object.  Stuck.

The thoughts in my head are constantly critical, always pushing me to do more.  Be better.  But as hard as I am on myself, I’m actually a lot nicer than I used to be. Ironically, I started to be kinder to myself when I was granted disability benefits.  I thought that if the government recognized how disabled I was, then it must be real.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying hard enough; I was physically unable to function. I came to have more compassion for myself.  Still, the depression creates negative, self-critical thoughts, and society encourages them.

Depression is still seen by many, if not most, as a weakness.  We are taught that we should be able to control our minds with…our minds. Please explain this to me. I realize that the healthy brain has a positive voice with which to combat the negative thoughts that pass through. There is no such voice in the depressed brain.  There are only these unruly thoughts flitting about, and there is no central authority governing them.

Depression is a disease.  As such, criticism is counterproductive.  It raises cortisol levels and feeds into the illness both chemically and cognitively.  Compassion is the path to mental health.  The depressed need encouragement to be kind to themselves.  When we learn to care for ourselves, we will do what we can to get well.

I am still struggling to care for myself.  I am certainly not kind.  I push myself to my limits every day.  I want so desperately to get better. I do not want this life.  Nobody does. We all desperately want to be healthy.  I want to feel pleasure when I see my loved ones. I want to find joy in the small things, as I did when the depression was less severe.  I loved to sing in the rain when I was a kid.  A beautiful song would give me chills. The sun made me feel warm to my core. I felt a physical thrill when I climbed a mountain and was able to  see the miles stretch out all around me.  Memory of the difficult climb behind me faded with every breath. The world was filled with such wonders, and its cruelties seemed proportionate to its joys.

I want that life again, but I need to remember that will not get there by impersonating a drill sergeant.  I don’t need to push myself to the limits.  I don’t need to fight all the time. I need to be kind to myself.  I will do what I can, when I can.  We all do. 

Paralyzed Prisoner

I am fear’s captive. A child again, I am paralyzed as the terror has its way with me.  I feel it traveling across my skin and down my spine. My mind is screaming, but the thoughts make no sense.  They are of explosions and tornadoes, flames and floods. I am assaulted by visions of gunfire and bombs, crashing planes, wayward drivers smashing through buildings. Homelessness and the freezing cold. Drought and extreme thirst. Rape. Torture. A person imprisoned in an oil drum in the hot African sun. Bodies on the street, their lives taken by a typhoon.

 

Fear robs a person of words, and I am struggling now to find my own.  How do I move? How do I function? These cascading images of horror keep me frozen. I cannot march forward with the assumption of my own safety.  Childhood trauma has broken my brain.

Nothing

This ache is a hound at my heart

This weight is a fierce compression

Where are the words? How do I start?

I am nothing but depression.

The Battle Begins

It is 3:51 AM.  I cannot sleep. I cannot leave this page alone. I am petrified of my own words.

Somehow I was able to find the moments of clarity necessary to string these words into sentences, but these are not just any words. They are dragged from the depths of me.

A million fears have surfaced since I made my first post. I fear my own inadequacy as a writer. I fear the impact my thoughts might have on others. The most horrifying of all, though, is the reality of what I am doing. With each sentence, I am attempting to translate my inner world into something comprehensible to others. I am rendering myself naked in these passages.

Years of self-hatred have led me to hide myself, buried in fear that the ugly truths about me would be revealed. If I was completely myself in the presence of others, they would discover the worst truth of all: I am a bad person. I have always thought myself fundamentally bad. Worthless to the core. A drain on society and on the ones I love.

I have been working in therapy to convince myself that this belief is merely a symptom of my disease and of the traumatic experiences that triggered it. I do know, intellectually at least, that self-blame is a symptom. Still, I have believed that I am shit my entire life. Can I really be wrong?

This project flies in the face of all of my instincts. I would much prefer to hide.  But this is the battle in front of me, and I can’t possibly run away now. I have to confront my beliefs. I have to keep screaming to the world that I have something to offer, so that someday I might actually hear it and believe it myself.

My journey is a human one, and as such there are parts of it that are universal.  There are also parts that are particular to my culture, my gender, my age, and my disability. I don’t know which pieces of my journey are worth capturing in writing, and my tendency is to think that none of it is worth reading. Still, there is a seed of sorts that was planted in me years ago by a very kind psychologist. I have been watering the damn thing for years, and I think it has finally begun to grow. I think this because today, even after examining all of my fears, I am writing. I am opening myself to you so that we both might gain something in the process. If you are reading this, you are bound up in this healing process with me. Expression is only half the interaction; reception and interpretation will always be individualized. The reader will always be a part of the story. And maybe, just maybe, it’s a good story.