We’re now most of the way through March and, if I’m honest, my depression is still not a lot better. My anxiety has ebbed slightly, though it’s still at a much higher level than it was at the end of last year, but it’s the depression that is now really kicking my arse.
I’ve talked a lot on here about how recovery isn’t an upward line, or a straight line. There are probably dozens of both articles and poetry here dedicated to trying to make people (and myself) feel at peace with that. And for myself, I do feel at peace with that. I know I’ll be better some days and worse others, and as long as I’m vaguely going upwards that’s what matters.
But the thing is, if you put all your focus on being at peace with the non-linear nature of recovery, you can miss or shy away from a really important point.
It still feels like complete and utter shit even when you’re okay with it.
This has hit me a lot over the past few weeks. Last week, I really felt like I was making some marked improvements. I was managing a lot more, I did full normal days of work, everything felt so much better. I wasn’t waking up with a crushing sense of impending doom. More and more, I was able to function.
I’m writing this on Thursday (you’re going to read it on the following Monday). Thus far this week, I’ve had 0 full days of work. In fact most days I’ve struggled to succeed at hitting my Todoist goal of 5 tasks a day. Bear in mind that my Todoist isn’t just work tasks, either. That’s me struggling to do 5 of anything in an entire day.
Mostly, what’s happened is this: I’ve woken up. I’ve gotten up. And I’ve immediately been hit by the bone-deep belief that I am a horrible, awful, terrible person. That I am ugly and worthless and untalented and unskilled. That I am not worthy of the love that the people in my life give me.
Now I want to stress that I, logically, know this to be untrue. But I still feel it. And it’s horrible.
I am at peace with the fact that depression comes and goes. That doesn’t always help.
The main problem is that when I feel like this, I really need help from people. Not people in general. When I feel like this I don’t have a huge amount of capacity to deal with people who trigger my anxiety. But I really really need those who feel like an extension of my own self.
But when you need to ask them for help every day? That sucks. And I feel like a stuck record.
It’s hard. Really, really hard. It’s hard because I know that I am sick of being a stuck record. I’m incredibly tired of waking up every day feeling so awful about myself that I can’t achieve as much as I want. I am exhausted by the fact that almost every day this week my depression has paraded thoughts of self-harm in my brain.
(Note: I am comfortable and confident that these are thoughts that I am not going to act upon; they are just incredibly unpleasant to experience).
But I still desperately want to not be alone when I am feeling this awful, so I need to talk about it. Honestly, the method I end up using a lot is probably a bit manipulative and selfish. Because what I do is: I ask people how they are. And I wait for them to ask in return.
I don’t want to suggest that I don’t care how my loved ones are, because I truly do, I genuinely want to hear their answer. But I also desperately need them to ask me, so that I can tell them that I’m not okay.
Being asked how I am by others outside of that is also its own kind of problem.
Because when I’m not fishing for it, I’ve got to find a balance between venting that soul-sucking feeling of worthlessness and lying. I’ve done a lot of “today is not great, but I am still here” style answers. It means if people want to ask more they can, but I’m not overwhelming the question with my response.
This honesty is important because then other people have the opportunity to help me, and I have a tendency to do a great impression of a turtle when I feel truly traumatised. No, I can’t always accept their help, but sometimes even the generic feeling of support is a help in itself.
This honesty also means it is easier for me to say no to things. I have a tendency, when people ask me to help with things, to always say yes. After all, I need to prove that I am worthy! (I don’t. But I feel that way. I’m trying to be more Carol Danvers about it).
If I’ve established with people upfront that I’m not doing well, I feel more confident in saying no, which in turn will help me to recover.
Mostly, I’m trying to be better at owning my anger.
Because a lot of that guilt about being a stuck record? It’s my anger.
I’m not good with anger. I don’t know how to feel it or express it. For decades I buried it because I thought it was wrong to be angry. Wrong because I’m female, wrong because it’s a bad emotion, wrong because it meant I was a terrible person for feeling that way about other people.
But I am so, so angry that I have this illness. I am so angry with it. It is unfair and horrible. I only get one life and so much of it has been taken up by feeling like I don’t deserve it. Depression has done that to me, and I am more angry at it than I can express. Literally.
It’s what that tiredness is. When I’m tired of being like this, I really mean that I’m so angry that I’m still like this. And when I feel like that it’s incredibly hard not to direct that anger at myself. That’s why I feel like being ‘a stuck record’ is a terrible thing. It’s the misdirection of the anger I should be hurling at my brain chemistry.
I don’t have a strong takeaway from this about what you should do.
I’m floundering a bit. I’m trying to be patient with myself – to be kind, and generous. To let myself feel the things I feel. It’s really hard.
But at some point, that floundering and flailing I’m doing is going to alight upon something that works. And that is what I’m at peace with. I haven’t lost all my progress. No, I haven’t managed “full days” of work. But on Monday I did some tasks I’ve been putting off for months. This week I’ve pushed forward on a scary and big project.
I’m not a failure just because I’m failing with some things. I’m not a failure because I feel like one. And if you’re in this same boat with me – the boat that is full of holes and sinking faster than we can bail it out – you’re not a failure either.
It’s just really shit.
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