Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dealing with Depression

I am writing what I believe will be my most personal and serious blog entry to date. I know from past poetry and stories you can tell a lot about me, but here I am really going to open up as much as I can without hurting anyone.

Since I was about 16 I have suffered on and off depression and general anxiety disorder, but I suppose about five years ago it got extremely severe. Without going into the causes it really was a mixture of nature and nurture that led to this. While I had experienced major depressive bouts previously - one causing me to drop out of a uni course (I would get the train, get halfway there, and turn around and go to a friend's house as I couldn't be around people), it was five years ago that I started experiencing severe panic attacks, disassociative episodes, and began regularly self harming. A few of the worse things that happened were a Xanax overdose, severe cuts, and multiple broken knuckles from hitting walls. I couldn't drive on freeways and major intersections; even at times I couldn't walk on concrete as I would have a panic attack. Elevators, tunnels, planes, loud noises, and bridges were especially scary. It appeared to be any situation when I wasn't in total control. Serving customers at work could even cause an attack, as I was unable to just walk away if I needed. I felt stuck there. I remember on my jogs - at traffic lights I used to press the button, then run further up the road when the green man was flashing. If I crossed where the green man was I would have a panic attack, as I felt I was being controlled. Even when panic attacks weren't occurring the anxiety was constant (it often still is). I would not know the cause or reasoning for it, I just knew that I couldn't breathe properly, and was constantly in a state of dread. Night-times were the worse, and they still are. My defence mechanisms drop at night, and all my fears kick in at once just before I fall asleep.When I got really sick though, life became unbearable. Here is an example of some diary entries I wrote during the middle of this period (some parts are censored to protect names):

15/9/2008

I’m such a complete fuck’n failure sometimes. I cant focus on this. can’t focus on that. how can I be a teacher when I can’t even be organised within my school work. I feel like a child again, incapable. like I can’t do anything right for myself. and I get so down. so fuck’n angry about it. it’s like the uni expects so much from me, but I feel that I can’t give it. and they will say it’s laziness. but I don’t feel it is. I can’t focus. I can’t stick with anything. my head just gets so jumbled and disorganised, and I hate disorganised. but I don’t know how to do it any other way. I’m so trapped between who I want to be and who I am. can I be who I want if I am who I am? because who I am isn’t cut out for this shit. and who I want to be won’t let me fail. arrghhhh!!!!!! someone bring me a cup of tea. 

17/9/2008

I had a panic attack in class today. was I foolish to think I had totally cured it? I don’t even know what brought it on, and I was too scared to even ask to leave the class. focused on my hand. I’m so disappointed. maybe I am crazy after all. I thought I was ok. maybe I create this all in my head. I have been reading lots of things on depression and suicide lately. I identify so well with the people who are depressed. like it is reading my mind. then I wonder, am I creating this all in my head from reading all about it. is it possible to do that? become so enriched in reading about something that you create it within yourself. the amount of self-diagnosis I make about myself. some learning disability. depression. anxiety! what the fuck else can I possibly have? maybe I don’t have any of them. I wonder if any of this stems from ____________. It’s weird when I get like this my head is really sore. like it feels like something is pounding inside it. and I start to zone out. I think the pounding of the head is what causes the panic attacks. I get the thumping and think I am having a brain aneurysm. then I think, it’s all probably from the anxiety that I get this pain in my head. maybe it is a symptom of anxiety. and then when it happens it brings on the attack. so really it’s a vicious cycle.
I just realised I have been writing entries for nearly a week now. I need to get my mind clear again. I might have a drink. that will clear it. I know I shouldn’t. but I have to do something. it’s still hurting. it’s hard to explain…it feels like there is a brick sitting on the top of my head. 

6/10/2008

the feeling connected to when I am about to snap – I feel really tight in my chest. I can not focus and am trying to distract myself from things I need to be doing. I need something to escape into. every little thing is making me angry. something so irrational I will flip about. these are the feelings ____ told me to pay attention to. I’m scared I’m going to flip out. and then when I do I need to cry. I need to be angry and have an outburst and cry and then everything will be ok again and the feeling in my chest will be gone. is that why I flip out at partners. I get this feeling and need to release it. 

10/10/2008

this hurts so bad. I want to cut myself up or do something to make the pain go away. it always comes back. I always fuck up. I always think I’ll be ok one day but I’m not. I’m not ok. I will never seem to be ok. I’m so sad. I just want to cry and cry and I hope I can cry it all out because it just all hurts so much. I need to get it out of me because I can’t keep doing it. this life doesn’t make sense. nothing makes sense. I want something to be real to me. to keep me settled and not fuck me up. nothing feels real. I’m just walking through the motions and I don’t think I know how to do it properly. what the fuck do I do??? 

                                   

Those entries kind of show some of the places my mind went. I know that what was going on with me was quite complex. There was a lot from my past I needed to face and deal with. I'm writing this entry though, to tell people what I did to help myself. I'm not totally better, I don't think I ever will be. I know I was 'wired' certain ways as a kid, and now I have to learn to live with mental illness, but there are things that helped. Firstly, let me say, this is just my opinion. It's just what worked and didn't work for me. There is no specific right or wrong answer and we're all different. 

Hope - I think the main thing that has kept me going and allowed me to get through the worst of it was hope. I always kept going, and felt like I could never give up no matter how hard things got. I don't know why I felt like this, but I just knew that each day I had to keep trying. Of course, there were days I couldn't get out of bed. Days when I would leave places after being there for 5 minutes. Days when I thought life would never get better... but throughout all that I kept holding on and trying. This was vital. 

Therapy - My therapist was my saviour through all of this. I pushed her a lot, and really tested her. It took me a year to even look her in the eye, and I grew extremely obsessed with her. I suppose I was reborn with her, so to speak. We would often talk on the phone out of session, and I would keep a journal where I would write to her. Some people worried about my relationship with her, but I always trusted her and built a strong attachment to her. This was very important to me, as I have always had great trouble attaching to and trusting people. Beyond the normal standards of trust I believe. I am still seeing her, it has been about 4 years now. I know I will be ready to stop in time, but she really showed me that I can be worthy of being loved, and she never abandoned me. I know that may sound like an obvious thing, but for some people simply not being abandoned can mean so much. It took me to see four other therapists until I found her. I owe her my life really. 

Working through the past - I don't want to go into details, but there was a lot of painful things I needed to face from my past. I was walking around repressed, scared, and scarred. Some of my past I don't think I will ever fully heal from. Some of it I will never fully remember, but I went through a lot of hard work facing and learning what I could. It was excruciatingly painful, but I wouldn't take back what I have learnt from it. It has made me who I am (as much as I hate that cliche), and I kind of like the person I have become. 

Exercise - I always kept exercising no matter how much I hated life. I had to force myself most of the time, but I would always feel a little bit better afterwards. 

Writing - Writing has always been something I have enjoyed, and it was really the safest outlet I had during this time. I have pieces (some of them are on this blog) that I have no recollection writing. Some people may find this in drawing, singing, playing an instrument, etc. I found it in writing. During my worst periods though, I could not write very well. Sometimes even all I got was scribbles across a page, but still, it was better than nothing. 

Family and Friends - Firstly let me explain how my depression affected my ability to see and accept help from others. I could have had a million hands reaching out to me, but I could not see them. I was so trapped in my own world, that words from others became empty to me. Despite this, I think somewhere it stuck to me, and it did help me with recovery. 

Working on the relationships with people in my family was vital for my recovery. Things got rocky at times, but I always made sure I would work through it. I have some amazing people in my immediate family, who while they didn't always understand, stood by me. I really do have great friends, and I think I know the reason why. Most of my best mates now had known me throughout my bad periods, and they have stuck around. So, they really get me. A lot of people struggle with me and my lack of social skills, but my friends that are around get why I'm like this. 

Medication - I don't really know if this has helped or not, but I have been on anti-depressants (and everything else in between) for the past few years. I am in the process of coming off them at the moment. Of course, the meds didn't fix me, but I think they helped alleviate the pain when I was dealing with some pretty heavy stuff from the past. 

*It has been 4 weeks since I wrote this post, and I want to do an update on medication. I went off my meds, and fell into a very depressive state just after this entry. My mood has improved a bit since I have gone back on meds, but my anxiety has worsened. I want to say now that I do believe medication has helped me. That it is partially about genetics for myself, and not taking meds for me, is like an asthmatic not taking ventalin. Like everything in life though, this is just what I need. Every person needs to work out what treatment is best for them. 

Music - Music at times was the only thing I felt really understood me and related to me. Usually the songs were nothing about what I was going through or feeling, but I could connect to them and relate them to my experience. I still have a list of songs I go to to help me feel, I mean really feel. Feeling is hard for me. It's either all or nothing. 

Routine - This was really hard while I was at uni. So hard to have a regular routine when your work and uni timetable is all over the place. I did the best I could, and when I was keeping busy in a routine was when I was strongest. I always had to have a shower right away too, to help get me up for the day. If I didn't force myself into the shower and having breakfast right away, I would be in bed all day. 

Computer Games - Believe it or not, these helped a lot. I could totally escape into another world and take my mind off the shit that was flooding in from the filing cabinets (that's what I call my brain). Furthermore, studies have shown that computer games activate the same addiction in your brain that self harming does, so it ended up being a much safer outlet for this addiction.

Learning - The more I learnt about history, literature, philosophy, psychology, etc, the more self satisfied I would become. This was also vital in helping me to understand how I am, why I am that way, and how others are. I now know a lot of random information about things that I may never need again due to this. 

Understanding others - When I began to understand others, their limitations, and their strengths, I began to expect less. Part of my healing was accepting that things are how they are, and learning how I can live and work around that.

Eating Well - This was something I found very hard to maintain, especially when I want to eat chocolate when I'm sad. Making sure I woke up and had breakfast was really important. It kind of helped to start a routine to get me out of bed. Trying to get the right nutrition's was (and still is) essential to me, and if I didn't eat the food, I would try take vitamins. 

This will do for now. Some things that many therapies deal with just didn't seem to fit with me. Things like meditation (trust me, I tried yoga and pretty much got kicked out of the class for not being able to sit still, be quiet, or pay attention. I don't think she liked me playing on my phone either), mindfulness, and breathing. While they didn't help me, I know that they do help others. 

Please ask any questions or comment. Would love to know what does and doesn't work for others. I'm going to leave with you the two songs that I played on repeat the most during my worst days. 

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