I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was a child. There have been times when it’s been really bad, and times where it’s been less so. For the past year or two, though, I’ve been having some bad relapses. I’m in the midst of one right now and it’s fucking hideous.
I did go through a period of time thinking maybe it was in some kind of ‘remission’ because I’ve put so much time and effort into changing my life and making it better and learning about myself to the point where I can cope with my feelings better. I’ve had five years of weekly psychotherapy, damn it! Surely I’m better by now? But no. Don’t get me wrong – the stuff I’ve done to help myself hasn’t been in vain. It’s definitely helped. But with mental health issues, it’s unfortunately not as black and white as that. You don’t just get better, especially if your issues are deep-rooted and formed in childhood like mine were. They’re essentially a part of my personality now, and while the brain is relatively plastic and you can change your mental wiring over time, you can’t completely re-do it.
It’s so frustrating — I am extremely aware that I have nothing to feel sad/ bad/ mad about right now. This is one of the most annoying things for many people who suffer with depression and anxiety. Objectively speaking, my life is great! I have an amazing partner who I’ve been with for four years and who treats me incredibly well; I have a home; I have a job; I don’t have to worry TOO much about money (at the moment); and I am probably going to be doing an MA in Graphic Arts in September (studying art has been my dream since forever). So why do I feel so crappy? Fucked if I know.
On a daily basis I am consumed by self-loathing, apathy, lethargy, exhaustion, cynicism, anger, sadness, resentfulness and hopelessness. I find it extremely hard to motivate myself to get out of bed. I feel resentful that I have to get out of bed and go to work when all I want to do is… nothing. Nothing feels worth doing. I can’t even motivate myself to do my job well. I just sit at my desk and stare at the screen and feel angry that I’m not asleep. I occasionally dose myself up on caffeine, run on adrenaline (complete with palpitations, shaking, nausea, etc.) and hope for the best. I do seem to get some stuff done, sometimes (usually in a reckless caffeine-fuelled manic state), but not in the time frame or to the standard I and others expect of me.
My head is foggy, and I can’t work through basic ideas. Just the idea of making decisions is paralysing. I’m constantly confused. I jumble my words. I have no short-term memory, and not much of a long-term memory either.
I have a permanent lump in my throat where I am on the edge of tears (about nothing in particular – my heart just hurts). My body feels leaden – in particular my torso. I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.
I’ve recently been told at work by my managers that they have concerns about my performance. Unsurprising, given that the most I seem to be able to manage at the moment is physically getting myself to work and resentfully sitting at my desk from 9-5.30, wishing I was just about anywhere else. They are concerned that my time management and organisational skills are not good. Well, no shit. Anyone in the midst of a depressive episode will know that organisation and time management feel near-on impossible. It all feels too overwhelming. My head is full of stuff. How do I cope with it all? It’s so heavy and messy. I write down all the stuff in my head, and then I lose the piece of paper. I write it in a Word document and save it on the computer so I won’t physically lose it, and then I forget where I’ve saved it. I write where I saved it on a piece of paper and lose that piece of paper too. I write a to-do list and forget to update it. I look at the to-do list and can’t fathom for the life of me how to do even the most basic tasks on it. They feel impossible. My brain won’t engage. I answer the phone and two seconds after the person on the other end tells me who they are and where they’re calling from, I’ve forgotten already. I try and ask again but can’t get the words out without mangling them and stuttering. Have I remembered that X person has an event in their calendar that I need to sort? No. How am I supposed to remember that when I’m on another planet? I try and separate my tasks into short-term and long-term, urgent and non-urgent. I consciously know all of the habits you should employ for good organisation and time management, and yet they all feel so futile. I employ so many of said habits that they all overlap and cancel each other out. My list of tasks and priorities gets thwarted by the fact that I can’t face most of them, or can’t make the necessary decisions required, or can’t understand how to do anything because my brain resembles a slug. Oh god, I’ve forgotten to check the office resources. We’ve run out of paper. Shit. Now I’ve got to order some more. Wait, the phone’s ringing, got to deal with that. Oh, I’ve just got an urgent email that needs my attention. Wait, what was I doing before? How do I deal with this email that involves three decisions? Phone’s ringing again. Ok, I need to take a message. Shit, who was the message for and what was the message? Fuck. That is basically my internal dialogue for the entire day, every single day. I’ve tried to come up with a daily/ weekly schedule for myself that I stick to, with repeating tasks and one-off tasks but my job is so hectic and reactive that it never works. I’ve also ended up with so many bits of paper with visual timetables, lists etc. to try and help myself get organised that the amount of bits of paper I have (or documents saved on the computer) actually creates more chaos.
Some people are just born organised. I was born scatty and forgetful, which is made infinitely worse by my mental health problems. I was not cut out to be an administrator, but given that my History degree is fundamentally useless, it’s all I’m qualified for right now.
Unfortunately, I also don’t care about admin. I can pretend, and I can care just enough to get the job done well when I’m feeling mentally well, but I can’t even pretend when I’m feeling depressed. I just don’t have the energy. I literally give no fucks whether I have reconciled the petty cash, booked someone train tickets, or organised their calendar. Can’t everyone see that everything is pointless anyway?
After the meeting I had with my managers yesterday, I was feeling extremely angry and upset at myself. The lump in my throat was very much there and I was fighting the urge to cry. I felt so stupid. My partner very sweetly met up with me at lunchtime to try and cheer me up. He took me for lunch. I couldn’t eat. I felt too sad. I sat there and cried all lunch time. I even turned down a flat white and pecan pie – two things I normally love. He force-fed me some pecan pie. I didn’t enjoy it. He tried to pick out all the things that I can do to help myself. Why am I finding X task impossible? How about I break it down into manageable chunks? No, you don’t understand. NONE of it is manageable. I can’t even identify the chunks in the first place because my head is so foggy I can’t see anything. I don’t know what I need to do and I don’t know how to do it. It’s all insurmountable. It’s all too hard.
I’m convinced my partner is going to leave me because he’s sick of my persistent misery and moaning. He could do better. Why waste your life with someone who sucks the joy out of it?
He’s trying to do what he can. He’s trying to fix things. “Have you tried X? Have you tried Y? Ah, but have you tried Y like this instead of this? Maybe you just need to try Z approach.” He’s especially keen on doing this when it comes to the issues I’m having at work. Maybe I’m just organising myself wrong! If I could just have a few little victories at work, I would feel better about myself and get into a more positive thought cycle!
… Not that simple.
The urge to fix things is understandable. When someone you love is in pain, your first instinct is to fix it for them. Focus on the fixable things and sort those out. That will make the rest of it more bearable, and then you can work on that stuff after. But it’s not that easy. It’s just not.
I hate that the stigma around depression and anxiety just makes everything so much worse. I have had such a hard time talking to my employers about it, because I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I can’t think of any reason I should feel embarrassed and ashamed – I just do. I feel like people think I’m weak and making myself this way. That I should just cheer up and try harder to be positive. That maybe if I push myself a bit harder, I’ll get through it. Or, conversely, that I’m beyond repair and so fucked up I’m not worth their time or energy. I’m mentally ill, therefore I’m clearly unreliable. Not good for business continuity, am I?
Right now, I’m even feeling hopeless about the one thing I’ve been striving towards – my MA in Graphic Arts. Even that feels pointless. Why bother? What happens when I have the MA and then have to look for a job and no one’s interested because an MA in an arts subject doesn’t qualify me for anything in particular and doesn’t magically create a reliable employee? I’m still going to need skills like time management and organisation and I’m still going to need to have a functioning memory. What happens when my mental health goes to shit and I can’t function again? What happens when I run out of money? What job am I realistically going to get? I bet everyone else is more talented than me so all the jobs I apply for are going to end up being given to other people. There’s not enough time in the day to up-skill myself enough to be a competitive candidate. I’m not good enough at drawing. I’m not imaginative enough. I can’t compare.
I don’t know if that gives an insight into my head right now, but I hope it does. I’m exhausted, and sad, and hopeless. And I can’t even motivate myself to eat pecan pie.
I’m making an appointment with a GP tomorrow to discuss sick leave.
I don’t like my brain. 😦