And How Does That Make You Feel?…

It’s a weird situation shaking hands with someone for the first time and then immediately vomiting every bit of knowledge of what’s wrong with yourself at them.  Seeking psychotherapy is like some weird reverse dating situation.  You know how when most people date, they try their best to hide all their annoying quirks and glaring issues at the beginning, in the hopes that the gradual release method will soften the blow and succeed in convincing some sucker to spend the rest of their lives with them?  Well, therapy is the opposite in the sense that you purposely expose all your flaws since you’re not worried about scaring away or losing the person.

You’ve gone out of your way to pay someone not to run away when they find out what a monster you are.  They’ve even got a master’s or doctorate degree on their wall that says they won’t lose their poker face and make you feel like an irredeemable mess, no matter how many steaming piles have hit your psychological fan.  It’s an interesting dynamic.   

“Hi, my name is Lady. I’m slightly suicidal and prone to flights of delusionality that I like to write down and call fiction. Can you help me be a tad more functional in society without yanking out all my word-spewing bits? Thanks.”

I have to admit, when I made the decision to seek professional help several months ago, a little part of me expected to walk out of that room with a brand that read “crazy” on my forehead. Not that I’m opposed to therapy. I mean, heck, I wanted to be a psychologist at one point, so I hate the stigma that’s attached to receiving psychological/psychiatric treatment. If it’s publicly acceptable to heal our bodies, why isn’t it publicly acceptable to heal our minds?  But in all honesty, a part of me was still laughing at myself for having reached the point I had to walk into some room and talk to a stranger for an allotted amount of time, just because I couldn’t handle the weight of my issues on my own.  

It takes guts to admit that to yourself.  In an ideal world, everyone would have close enough friends and family members to talk to on the regular basis and not need a stranger to talk to.  In an ideal world, I would just have a stable enough head on my shoulders in the first place.  But this is not an ideal world, and speaking to a loved one is not quite the same as talking to a qualified professional.  So to a therapist I went.  

I ended up seeing my therapist roughly once a week for two months and it was a great experience.  Not in the sense that I walked out of there a renewed and completely whole person, entirely devoid of the thoughts that had plagued me before, but it helped.  It definitely helped.  I felt and still feel somewhat rejuvenated as a result of having a better grasp on myself.  This more intimate knowing of yourself, or just assurance that you’re not completely nuts, inevitably translates into having a better grasp on life in general.    

Therapy is not just some silly thing people who have a lot of money and time on their hands choose to engage in so that a person can ask them how they feel constantly.  It can sincerely be a big help and you might be surprised at how accessible a therapist may be to you, even if you don’t have insurance.  There are such things as free clinics and there might be one near enough you if you do some digging.  Another alternative is online counseling which tends to be more affordable or using the variety of free phone mental health services.  

Don’t ever let the stigma of getting psychological assistance get in the way of you receiving the help you need.  It’s not something to be ashamed of.  In fact, there are plenty of people who say they’re fine, but could use psychological attention and are much worse for the wear.  Don’t be those silly people.  Throw away your ego if you have to so you can get a better quality of life.  Seriously, which is better?  Some ridiculous sap who has his thumbs up but is dying on the inside, or a person whose insides match their outsides, even if that does mean grinning a little less because at the moment you’re not particularly happy.  At times, even people who have a stable support system can use a stranger to whisper all their dark, secret thoughts to.  

Sometimes, you grow so tired of ignoring your problems or questioning yourself about how you’re doing, that you just need someone else to do it for you for a while.  

And that’s okay.  

~LDA

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Building Walls

I’ve been battling with mild depression for a while. Mild, because I’m still functional and able to hide it. I find one of the toughest parts is making sure I keep a balanced life. Little things like getting up early, vitamin supplements, exercise and staying on top of work & hobbies become paramount to my ability to keep it together. A declaration that if I am able to manage the little things in my life that add up to big things, then I can certainly handle the huge demons lurking in the back (and sometimes the front) of my psyche, that in the end really add up to little things.

Depression, or at least my experience with it (after all, everyone’s mental health journey is as different as our fingerprints), can blow things massively out of proportion. There are many times I’m left grappling with this giant weight that becomes so suffocating I feel I might be better off offed. It becomes such a burden to even deal with the mental/emotional/spiritual turmoil that often stems from nowhere in particular, that I’d rather not deal with myself.

But of course,

I have to deal with myself.

I’m the only one who can take up the task to do so.

I can not escape myself.

Or at least not without going to some very dark places.

And this is the part where I start to feel guilty because it’s against my code of ethics to travel to such dark places. I hold the belief that I do not fully belong to myself. That the only life worth living is one where you live your life in service of others. (Which is completely different, mind you, than living your life for others, as in trying to be a people-pleaser.) You will never find true happiness wrapped up in the pursuit of yourself. Loving others, even those you don’t know, by showing that you care, is the root of fulfillment. Of course, if I’m all stuck in my head traveling to dark places or entertaining the thought of really going to even darker ones, then I can’t live the life I was meant to live.

When you feel like I have lately, you get in the habit of building walls to block out the noise of your chaotic brain. The static can get to be too much so it’s important to hone this coping mechanism in order to keep from losing it completely. The ability to quiet the unproductive negative hum that threatens to drown out all desire to accomplish anything in life is vital, but I find that the most damaging thing I end up doing is blocking out the important along with the static. Things like family, friends, hobbies, and passionate pursuits. This of course only digs you into a deeper hole. You have to be careful, otherwise if you ever even crawl out of The Pits, there will be no one left to come back to and you’ll end up having to do a lot of damage control.

Honestly, the most difficult part of dealing with depression is trying to keep myself from the counterproductive construction of walls that separate me from the people around me. The actual temptation of silencing all static once and for all is not painful. It can actually bring forth a sort of catharsis that is very dangerous when fully fleshed. The static has a way of turning into seductive melodies that enchant and cajole when left unchecked. While it’s difficult to climb out of that hole, there’s a sick part of me that enjoys the darkness, and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to fully remove myself from the slump I’m in . Some selfish part of me doesn’t really want to succeed and have to continue fighting my way through life. It wants to let myself be taken down this road of destruction. The key to not actually hitting the self destruct button is keeping an eye on all the walls I’m building, and that’s the difficult part.

It’s easy to alienate people when you don’t even want to keep yourself company, never mind other people. It can start to feel like it’s some big production to be around people since if you acted how you truly felt, they’d either be concerned or walk away because it’s not fun to have you around anymore. Sulking and simmering in solitude starts to wax real attractive.

“Why deal with people anyway? I hate people,” is a common excuse I mumble to myself.

But the truth is I don’t really hate people. I hate the shady, shallow things they often do which make me want to give up on the human race sometimes. But I don’t really hate people, at least not when I’m examining and interacting with them on an individual basis. I can see the sad and stupid reasons for why they do the things they do and empathize with them most days.

The trouble is when you have no empathy left for yourself and the unreasonably gloomy way you’re feeling, that means no empathy left for anyone else either. The thing is, if you surround yourself with the right people, none of this should matter. You shouldn’t feel like you have to hide your dark side from people who truly care about you. They will understand that you are not at your best and give you the support you need in the meantime. It’s important not to weed everyone out as an unsympathetic other. The walls we build must be to deflect static and toxic people only.

Otherwise, when the coast is finally clear to knock most of those walls down, and your face muscles remember how to execute an upward turn at long last, there will be no one left standing on the other side of them to smile at.

~LDA

If you or someone you love is dealing with thoughts of suicide please don’t hesitate to reach out to resources such as:

U.S. National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

United Kingdom Hotline: 08457909090

Canada: 5147234000

Australia: 131114

South Africa: 0514445691

International Online Help: http://www.suicidestop.com/suicide_prevention_chat_online.html

Even if you feel like you already pushed away all the close people in your life (or that they’ve pushed you away), there is always someone willing to help pull you out of that pit you might be in. There’s always hope of reconnection with people, as long as you give yourself a chance to have a future.

Radio Silence? Try Phone Silence

I never thought I’d become one of those people who get itchy when their phone doesn’t plonk with a message notification often enough. I’m largely a loner, both in person and online so I’ve never really cared whether I was talking to enough people, whether that meant I was part of a chat thread or keeping a texting conversation going.

But in the last year I think I’ve become way more aware of the silence of my phone than I would like.

Part of that is just because I’ve been really taking the time to analyze my relationships or lack thereof in the last year. Part of it is because I’ve increased my online presence and have gotten used to a certain amount of pings and dings coming from my phone. (That probably says something about my generation, but that’s another topic entirely.)

A sort of static has formed in my brain. A creeping, hovering sort of white noise that throws a pall over all my interactions. I haven’t exactly been the most mental/emotionally healthy these past several months. This constant hum, nagging in the background of all my thoughts, taunts me on the regular basis, and when phone silence ensues it sometimes can reach a fever pitch.

It’s not an actual audible sound.  

I’ll just notice “Huh, I haven’t gotten a reply on a thread or received a message from so and so in a while,” and the static rises from its subconscious slumber.

“Huh, there’s this sort of hollow feeling in my chest I can’t find the name for.”

I’ve been working out my relationships with people and trying to decide how much is too much interaction, and more importantly in my case, how little is not enough. For most of my life this hasn’t been much of a concern, but I guess I’ve reached quarter life crisis and am re-evaluating my path in life.  Hardly anybody ever talks about the dissonance that comes in your early to mid-twenties where you’re no longer a goofy college kid so you can’t act out in irresponsible ways, but you don’t quite feel like an adult either, so you feel like a fraud donning your shiny suit to work.

Like,

“Hahaha, everyone.  Not to worry.  I have my adult name-tag on, therefore I must know what I’m doing…mustn’t I?  I mean, that’s how it works, right?  Guys?…”

Everyone is obsessed with adolescence and how hard the poor teenagers have it because they suddenly want to nail everything that moves.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.  How about us poor saps, who maybe have our degrees, and if we’re lucky a job to match, but we’ve been stuck in our books or between someone’s bosoms so long we forgot to learn how to actually connect with people?   You know, like on an actual meaningful level.

Not just high-fiving about the killer time we had at the bar last night, or feigning pleasant small talk whilst casting lusty glances at each other’s resumes.

If you’re lucky you come out of college with a few lifelong friends and maybe even a significant other.  But even then, things happen, people move away.  And if you’re not lucky, well, good luck with that one buddy.  Now you have to go about the sticky business of creating a new inner circle of friends from scratch.  It’s like you’re neither here nor there.  You’re not really so connected to your family anymore because you’re supposed to be your own person by now.  But you don’t really have time and/or energy to go socialize after work so you get that pack animal quality time in either.

Externally, I’m quite successful. I’ve hit all the major milestones when it comes to education and career. But internally, it’s a bit of a wasteland. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I’m very spiritually grounded and I have a great relationship with my family so those are solid things. However, life in your twenties makes you come face to face with your interpersonal skills like nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m functional.  My work relationships are cordial, my volunteer connections friendly, but a depth of connection is lacking that suddenly feels very pressing.

Some people choose to worry about finding a significant other right away.  They immediately start to preen and paint their feathers to try and snag the first sucker that comes along.  The goal is to convince them to spend inordinate amounts of time with them, if not the rest of their lives.  Me, I’m just trying to figure out humans in general.  

It seems there are few people worth really connecting with, or at least that they’re really hard to find.  I’d like my intimate circle of friends to do some expanding, but people can be really shallow and there’s not a large pool to pick and choose from.  I have a feeling a lot of the worthwhile people are busy nursing their own static, so we keep missing each other.  

You have to be so intentional at this point in life if you want to forge new relationships, because if you don’t get lucky at work, you have to plan excursions where you’ll run into new people.  Most times I’d rather stay at home and read, firmly glued to a cup of hot cocoa.  I guess I’m being an idiot because I want to have my cake and eat it too (while sipping hot cocoa).

I need people in order to feel fulfilled in life, but I’d really rather do without them if I could help it.  They come along with so many disappointments and unnecessary detours.

So much effort is required, so much re-positioning, so much pain.

I’m told it’s worth it.

Nah, actually, I’m bluffing.  I know from experience it’s worth it too.  It’s just hard to work up the courage to get on the confounded phone.

But my phone won’t start pinging on it’s own, now will it?

~LDA