Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Update: Still Not Totally Okay, But Also Not Not Okay?

I've been having a lot of bad days. I mean, healing will take time, and it's kinda hard to cope with a lot of scary feelings that just don't want to go away. On top of that, I'm having a bad flare up of pain from whatever it is that causes it. And sleep is still difficult a lot of the time. So, the more tired and hurty I get, the harder it is to keep distracted from the scary emotions and that's when the bad days happen.

But I also have days that are pretty okay? I've been trying to keep up with my Stats class for uni this semester (I'm a tiny bit behind but I'm doing what I can so I think it'll be fine), and I've managed to keep myself busy with working on some art, which is a thing I haven't done in literally yonks. (I dunno how long a yonk is but I imagine it's pretty long.) And when I feel okay, I start wondering why I felt so terrible so much anyway. It's like I forget and go, you dummy! Lying around being miserable is dumb, don't do that anymore.

I realise that I don't really have in between moods. When I'm up, I'm like yeah, I can do this!  Let's fix up the mess that is my life a bit at a time, and I get stuff done which only makes me feel even better. But when I'm down, it's waaaay down. Crying, angry, scary thoughts, and fighting hard not to self-harm down. I'm not sure I even know what those middle emotions even are. I don't know if I have always been this extreme or if all the craziness and stress of the past year has got me in a weird cycle. Or it could be the meds I'm currently on. I don't really remember what 'normal' for me is at the moment. I'm not sure I have a 'normal'.

I've been wondering quite a lot lately if there isn't something a bit more going on than simply depression and anxiety. I feel weird being like.. those are such garden variety mental illnesses, I'm not sure that's all there is to what makes me sick. Obviously, it's not to say that dealing with 'just' depression and anxiety isn't really difficult. But it's not like my therapist has ever really given me a diagnosis or anything, though obviously we talk about how those two things affect me a lot. I've always known I don't experience true mania the way those with Bipolar I do (I've seen its effects in both friends and family growing up), but I definitely have experienced hypomanic episodes. It's a milder form of mania, and actually looks a lot like functioning highly. It's a hallmark of Bipolar II on the bipolar spectrum, which is not really a 'lesser' form of being bipolar, just one that manifests differently than type I. And it's very hard to diagnose. Anyway, I have been meaning to talk to my psychologist about it, but I spent last session catching her up on everything that's been going on... but yeah. It wouldn't really surprise me, since manic depression runs in my family and that ups your chances of being on the spectrum pretty significantly. It's mostly important because it changes how my treatment might go. So yes, that is a thing to talk to my many lovely doctors about at some point soon.

Anyway, I realised something pretty important tonight... that despite how difficult things are right now and how terrible things have been this year, I'm actually still happier with who I am as a person more than I have been in, I dunno... forever. I don't... hate myself? Especially after the insane spiral down into guilt and self-destruction that happened while my friend was abusing me, it's a pretty noticeable difference now that I feel more free and less weighed down by really intense negative thinking. Yeah, I still deal with it on the bad days. It's a feature of my mental illness so it's not just going to go away. But even when things like "It's somehow my fault" or "I deserved it to happen to me" or whatever try to sneak into my head, I know that's my brain just being irrational. I can kinda talk myself out of it getting too bad, because I know realistically that I've done nothing wrong. A person treated me really badly and it still feels pretty awful a lot of the time, but that guilt I felt for SO long... well, that's mostly gone.

And I'm also kind of proud of myself overall. Not just for staying clean this long (which IS a pretty big deal of course), but that I have stood up for myself. That I recognised that something was wrong with my friendship (even though I didn't know what at the time) and that I told him enough was enough. That I have had the courage to speak out about the mistreatment, consequences be damned. (I knew it was a losing proposition from the beginning, though I didn't predict the extent he'd go to keep his reputation intact... even if now that I think back on it I should have realised.) That I had the strength to cut out a lot of people who think my abuser has done nothing wrong, because they don't deserve space in my life. That even though I acted rashly in my anger and frustration, I'm not beating myself about it. And, most importantly, that I'm still moving forward.. each tiny step at a time.

On the better days, like tonight where I'm feeling pretty okay, I realise that I'm actually tough as shit. Like really strong. I have every reason to break down into a crying blob of sadness and despair (and it happens), but it doesn't last. Every time there's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, I grab onto it and start fighting again to get there. I've spent some time wallowing and the depression makes it a lot harder sometimes to see that the feelings will ever end. But they do, every time. I mean, I guess I've been at this a pretty long time. It's been a fact of my life that I've always had to push myself pretty hard to get anywhere. So, even on the worst days there's a tiny, tiny voice at the back of my mind that tells me, 'This too will pass.' I actually make a deal with myself not to act impulsively if I'm feeling really bad, if I want to self-harm or I have suicidal thoughts. I say, if I still feel this way in 24 hours, then I can act on these feelings. Y'know, in case this is the one time they finally don't go away. But obviously, the worst of it always passes. Always.

It's hard not to think about how scary a lot of this must sound to people who don't live this way. But this is just how things work for me? I guess? I haven't known anything else. But I'm still here. I'm still trying. I hold on to the smidgen of hope that someday this will actually get easier.

It's funny that for someone often so sad and hopeless, at my core I'm still an optimist and a bit of a dreamer. For a while, in my early 20s after my first trip to Australia where everything went kind of horribly wrong, I felt as if that part of me died... that my innocence had been forcibly stripped from me and I'd never be able to look at the world around me in the same way. As I struggled with my depression and it kept worsening, before I got into treatment, that continued to feel true, that I'd lost something I'd never get back. Slowly, slowly I've realised that isn't true. The positive, honest, passionate, and wide-eyed girl is still in there somewhere, deep beneath mental illness and the stressful struggles of my adulthood. I want to believe that the world and humanity are essentially good, that the bad ones among us are there but a minority, that if we all just try hard enough, we can accomplish nearly anything... that on a whole, karma balances everything out and tips the scales in favour of those of us just trying to get by and find some happiness in this weird existence of ours.

Obviously, it feels naive to me now, but I'm glad to know that not all of that is gone, destroyed by a world that's a lot more cruel and unfair than I ever wanted to believe it could be. Because I think hanging onto the part of me that wants to believe in fairy tales and happy endings is the source of my strength and resilience, not a weakness or vulnerability. Yeah, it makes me a bit of a target for people like my abuser, those who view people as things or a means to an end. But I also think he ultimately misjudged me, too. And now I've learned that much more about protecting myself from the predators, and I know what red flags to look for. I won't be taken in so easily next time.

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