When depression deprives you of sadness

For the past couple of years, I haven’t cried very much. This is notable only in that before the past couple of years, I was a big crier. Good things, bad things. When I was seven I cried of happiness at my parents’ wedding. Everyone was like, what? Aren’t you seven?

I would hear some bad news and I would even WANT to cry and I’d be trying to squeeze it out of my eyes and nothing happened. I just felt the little tug in my cheeks and that’s it. I noticed the change over time and eventually I just decided, you know what, it’s probably because of testosterone! I looked it up and a few other trans men have expressed the same thing. So that must be it!

Well, since the second week of January, my grandma died, a family friend died in a fire, and today happened (the anniversary of my good friend killing himself). These are all very sad things. And you know what? I have cried. A lot. I watched that episode of Friends where Ross becomes a father and I teared up. That hasn’t happened in YEARS.

What has changed since the second week of January? I started taking my new medication.

It makes me wonder, you know, if I couldn’t cry just because I was so depressed.

I have noted to several people that I’m feeling sadness for the first time in my life without feeling depression. Whenever something bad happened BEFORE, I would just internalize it and consider it a reason to die or at LEAST a reason to hide in my bed all day. But my grandma died and I saw my grandfather crying (which by the way is the greatest heartbreak–they were together for 70 years) and I wasn’t even thinking of myself. I was finally, at long last, able to give and feel freely.

So many people who’ve never had depression just kind of think of depression as being sad all the time. This could not be further from the truth. It is an emptiness. Sure, a symptom of mild depression is crying spells, but that is definitely not the only experience. Depression is calling in to work because even going pee sounds impossible. Depression is not drinking water because you hope you’ll die from dehydration. On the other hand, sadness is expression–it’s life.

Depression is ceasing. Sadness is spilling. 

I feel so lucky I’ve found the medicine I did. It sucks it took two decades but it’s worth it now, to feel for others and give and give as much as I can.

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What they don’t tell you about depression recovery

Being wildly depressed and actively suicidal for such a long period of time as I had leaves the road behind you smoldering.

Anyone I’ve interacted with in that time and was honest with about how poorly I was doing has been affected by me and my actions. Anyone I’d leaned on for support or desperately clung to has taken on some of my burden. The aftermath is war-torn.

Some of my friends are no longer my friends. Relationships have been severely damaged. People are tired of me. Some people aren’t, and some people don’t really seem to bothered. But I feel like almost everyone I care for deeply has grown tired of me.

I think of all the desperate calls for help I’ve left on my shapchat story or all the people I’ve canceled on our plans with. I think of how as far as give-and-take goes, all I could do was TAKE TAKE TAKE because I had nothing to give to anyone. The exchange was all one-sided.

What they don’t tell you about depression recovery is that if you were bad at existing with depression (even if it wasn’t entirely in your control), you have to now live with your actions and you don’t even have the convenience of killing yourself. Now it’s like, how many times can I apologize to the people I love before it sounds like a tired buzz? How many people do I just cut ties with because the damage is so severe it just doesn’t matter? How many realizations do I have to go through about the next three months and yet ALSO try to practice enough self care to not hate myself in the process?

For the first time in over a decade, suicide is not an option. It’s a victory. But now I miss it because it’s easier than dealing with all the unsightly holes in my personality.

It sounds selfish and that’s the root of it all. Depression has made me selfish. It’s made me self-serving. And yes I’m self-aware more than most people I know, but that means NOTHING if I can’t/don’t change anything or make significant progress in doing so.

This is what I’ve been struggling with today. Before I’d stay in my bed all day because I didn’t want to live. Now I’ve stayed in bed all day because I don’t want to live with myself. I feel like the worst person who’s existed. That can’t be true, because I’m not Trump (#BriefComicRelief), but it’s a really hard thing to justify why I’m not dead in the first place. This recovery so far has only manifested in literal survival. “Tip of the iceberg” comes to mind. I thought the entire battle was just overcoming my drive to end myself, but I think that was actually only 8% of the problem.

If you’re reading this and you agree with me, even if it’s just a small part of you, I beg that you have patience with me. I don’t even know where to fucking start.

Here are some action items, though, because I have to turn this post around somehow:

  • Delete my snapchat (which only serves the purpose of self-torture)
  • Stop engaging in political discussions for now (I find them draining and also they make me very angry and I don’t like who I am when I’m angry) (I realize not everyone has this luxury to stop engaging and I’m sorry for that, but I need to step back)
  • Give everyone in my life some healing space (this must be done without bitterness for it to work)
  • Give more of my text-replies a full 60 seconds before I respond (I’ve done a lot of responding fully informed by my immediate reaction-feeling and not very much on anything else)
  • Feel a little more grateful, a little less sorry (I’ve started doing this some more already, but thanking people for their patience instead of apologizing for my existence is probably a better way to go about it)
  • Initiate contact with people with the focus on them, now that I don’t need to come with desperation and crisis (thanks Lamictal)
  • Offer favors outside of myself (trying to push some good into the world to counteract the black hole sponge effect)
  • Gently ask for what I need instead of demanding it (when suicide is always on the line, people felt pressure to cave into my needs)
  • Forgive myself (this is going to be the hardest one, as I feel like I’ve ruined everything with everyone)

If I dare ask for one more thing from anyone who’s listening and cares, it’s that you understand I was ill. And now I’m getting better. And I want to do better and be better and be as good of a person in your life as you were for me.

Being unwilling to kill myself is not enough to be truly living. Now the real work begins.

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Change the course of Februaries

Last Sunday, I think I dipped to my lowest low. A week ago I had conviction for dying in a way I hadn’t before. I won’t go into it in any more detail than that. But it was a wild day. I cannot believe it was only a week ago.

Since that Sunday, I’ve felt pretty great. Of the 168 hours that have passed since last Sunday, I was probably only suffering for 24 of them total. What joy! This is compared to a 160/168 hours of suffering ratio that I’ve had pretty consistently since like October or so. Twenty-four is a dream.

Now that I’m (cautiously) feeling optimistic about the future of my mood and my mortality, it’s time to catch up. It’s time to clean up all the spilled milk of the last three months. Now that I’m capable, it’s time for unabashed self-care, and one of the ways is to prepare for the month of February, it its entirety.

If you love me and your birthday is in February–fear not. I am happy you exist. But the month itself is a black hole, no offense.

As you’ve heard time and time again, two of my friends died in the same month in the same year from suicide. One of those people was a trans brother, a dear friend from high school. Both friends were shining lights of the universe, and now they’ve both ceased to exist in my world. February brings very difficult anniversaries and memories.

It’s not just suicide; it’s about how February is the shortest month of the year and yet perseveres as the longest-feeling month of the year. In Minnesota it is dark and dreary–there are typically few days of temperatures over a solid 15 degrees. It’s a time for vitamin D3-deprived Minnesotans to walk around like hungry zombies, for single-and-also-miserable people to cry on the 14th, for rent to be the same amount but fewer days are lived in your space. It’s basically just a bogus 4 weeks, tbh.

On the 20th, the anniversary of the day my trans brother took his life, it hits the heart too much. Last year around that time I was just starting to date my current girlfriend. I texted like six of my friends and asked them to hang out with me so I wouldn’t be alone on the arguably worst day of the year for me. All six, for reasons that are probably very innocent, bailed. My now-girlfriend came over and held me close and it held me together.

In the past couple of years I’ve just kind of braced myself for the month but done little to try to actually set myself up for success. This year I want to do it differently.

Just because these lives ended in this month doesn’t mean mine has to.

I mean that figuratively and literally both. I don’t have to stop in my tracks and dive so far into sadness. Being sad won’t bring him back–it won’t even bring me closer to him, unless I’m trying to just connect with his final hours. Fuck that. I’ve always seen so much of myself in him, but I am not the same. Sometimes it takes a lot of reminders. But I gotta show up for myself, you know?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s normal and healthy (in moderation) to be sad about the deaths of those we have loved dearly. As long as I’m moving forward, whether it’s a downward slope or upward slope, sadness is appropriate. What gets dicey is feeling like my world is ending just because it ended for someone else.

For February version 2017, I made two very intentional, thoughtful goals for myself (taken from that linked post):

  • Do something for Aidan. February 20th is my friend Aidan’s anniversary of his passing and I happen to have the day off from work for President’s Day (??). I think that’s a good opportunity to try and volunteer or at least write about him. Something like that.
  • Express daily gratitude in some way. I want to do something like make a FB post or write a blog or send a grateful message to someone every single day in February. It’s the shortest month of the year, so I think I can manage.

How can I turn this grief into something productive–not in the capitalistic sense but in the sense that I must turn this energy into something that will not destroy me. I must take extra care of myself. What am I going to do for him? I don’t know yet. But it will be something I prioritize.

As for the second goal, I think this might be hard since this isn’t my normal habit, to intentionally express gratitude this way (my current version is pretty intermittent), but I hope I make this a thing. I hope I realize even in the bowels of February that this is good for me, and I can only benefit from that kind of act. Maybe if I make a clever hashtag out of it, it will work.

(That was simultaneously a jab at myself, a facetious statement and also a stroke of inspiration. We’ll see what happens).

PREPARE for February. I once wrote this poem about Februaries, which is the inspiration for this blog post’s title. It’s from my first little book of poems, and even though I wrote it “so long ago” I still think it’s among my favorite I’ve written:

 

Februaries

we’d write poems with shoulders touching
with long hair we didn’t want
it’d be years before we’d cut it
in another life.

the last word you said to me was indeed
I’d made vague plans to meet you in three weekends
your invitation declined
in favor of getting laid in St. Paul
I said I was sick and I was.

under a February moon
someone told me of your ended life
and later they asked if I wanted to know
how you did it–
and I said no.

if forgiveness is found in a casket let me know
if I had just said yes
if I had come when you said come
I could have changed the course of Februaries.

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There’s Trump, and then there’s focus on personal projects for survival

In honor of “President” Trump, I really needed to focus on something I can do right now. Part of why I made this blog in November is because the election happened and I felt powerless. I felt there was no hope. I still feel that way, tbh, but there’s also this duty in which I MUST persevere.

One of the best ways I feel better during hard times (when I’m not also overcome by debilitating mental illness) is to focus on a project. That’s why I created #180to180, and that’s why for January I made a goal to start a new writing project.

  • Kick off a new writing project. I haven’t written a poem in a while. I think it’s time to end this break and get going again.

The outcomes are unclear, but I know there will be a good one. Do I want to do the exact same thing I’ve done three times—make and self-publish a chapbook? Do I want to try and get my work published by someone else? Do I want to write a full-length book and spend three years editing it? Not sure yet.

But I’ve started writing poems again. I have a folder called Old Stuff and my previous projects are in it. My Poems folder has five new poems. Are they good? Not yet. But we are on our way, people! It feels good.

I will work on this project becoming my default when I have nothing to do in the evenings (right now my default is eating too many snacks and going to bed). I want this thing to be on my mind at least once a day, becoming part of me as I navigate spaces and interact with others. I want to be writing poems on napkins again—interrupting people’s stories (including my own) to say, “Sorry, I gotta write that down.” I want to be frustrated when I’m doing something because I’d rather be writing instead. I miss that shit.

I don’t know if five poems counts as a ~started project~ but I’m calling the shots in my own life and this is what I’m doing. I am starting a project.

I’ve been pretty good this week. From Monday night to Thursday night I was actually supreme. I wasn’t high or manic or anything, but it felt ENLIVENING to be legitimately present again. Everything from my relationship to my bowling scores benefited.

Then Thursday night I took a bit of a turn. Friday morning I remained sad. By the afternoon, I felt a whole lot better. It’s a bummer I was a bummer, but this bounce-back action I’m witnessing is much more important to me than three days of mental peace. Yes, I still experience the downfalls of humanity. Trump is indeed President (for example). I may even dive because of them. But I’m able to not dive so deep, and I’m able to bounce back into normalcy after a little time-out and a little self-care. This was not possible 4, 2 or even 1 week ago. I don’t care what they say—just because chocolate or exercise exists does not mean it cures you from your own mind.

This upswing and upcoming mood balance has been brought to you by magnesium glycinate, Lamictal, 10,000 IU of vitamin D3, and a whole lot of tireless love from J, B, A, M, and M. (and others) (I’m going to start referring to my care team as JBAMM)

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Hang up your bow ties

I told my (now ex-) therapist it feels weird to go to work after a night of feeling like hell. I said it feels disrespectful almost, like it feels like I’m not honoring my needs or something. (This is not a ploy to get out of work; I like my job quite a bit, and that’s significant because I don’t like many things right now). (By the way this therapist laughed at me and that’s part of why I’m moving on).

I know it sounds weird. But imagine this: You have a life-threatening illness but you don’t know when you’ll die. You are lying there one night and you feel like everything in your life is about to end right at this moment. It’s not even a suspicion it may happen–you feel you know it to be true.

You start preparing. You start thinking of things that will suck after you die for the ones who love you, so you do things like clean your room a little bit or write down your cell phone/computer passwords so it’s easier to access your contacts. Throw in a load of laundry. Quickly text a couple people you love them. Dump and soak days-old coffee mugs. Hang up your bow ties.

You’re prepped. You’ve felt this many times before but this is the real time. This is when it’s actually going to happen and you’re ready.

.

Then you wake up to your alarm. It’s 7:03 and you should have gotten up already if you want to get to work on time.

That’s what it feels like for me, every day. When I say it’s disrespectful, I really just mean it’s a fucking whirlwind. I go to work, I sit at my cube, I get visitors who want to hear I’m well because they care about me. My boss wants to hear I’m gonna do well not only because she’s a manager but also because she cares about my life. I go through some motions. I can have like up to 3 hours of feeling pretty good. I get in the zone. But then sometimes the fatigue of constantly dying sets in. And you know what? It feels a little insane to be at work.

But as long as I still wake up when it’s 7:03 and as long as I continue to perform at least most as well as I normally do, then I’m kind of expected to be chill about things. If I were in crisis of course I could go the the hospital–but wait, I’m often in crisis, lol. What’s the crisis of crises?

If you’re wondering what you can do to help, I thought of two things:

  1. Do not expect me to perform for you. Create a space where I can be good or bad or whatever I am, but don’t make me talk about wherever I’m at if I don’t want to (which I sometimes don’t). My job cannot be to take care of you or reassure you because I’m exhausted already. 🙂
  2. If you think of me, text me. (Or leave a comment, or PM me, or whatever). It doesn’t have to be anything substantial.  It can just be “Hey I thought of you when I was on Timehop today” or “I saw a ginger and I thought of the Weasleys first but then I thought of you next.” Even if I don’t reply right away or like ever, being thought of is pretty nice when I feel isolated.

Cool News Tidbit To Cut The Bite: I’ve lost 4 pounds already which is p cool. #180to180

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Does mental stability = maturity?

Cw: suicide stuff

While I’m in between therapists and while I’m transitioning to a new mood stabilizer (TMI yet?), I am struggling to stay afloat sometimes. The good news is, unlike the past two months almost, I’m not sad every waking moment! Yes! It’s awesome. I can actually function most of the time. Incredible.

But then I get triggered by something (triggered in like a legit way, like something that triggers a traumatic experience/memory), or I become upset by something, or I become moderately offended. And then what happens? I lose my fucking shit. I have no ability to process. I can’t calm down my emotions. I dive.

It got me thinking, because it seems like I’m a kid again. When I get sad, I get very dependent. I rely on my girlfriend (bless her heart) or my friends to help hold me upright. I become incorrigible. Those same friends will offer actually very good advice, and I’ll be stubborn and act like a literal 5-year-old about it.

It’s like I’ve aged backwards in maturity. I don’t even remember feeling this way as a kid—I’ve always considered myself pretty mature for whatever age I was at for a long time. But my depression has made it harder to cope with everyday things, and unlike childhood, where things can be put on pause kinda, adulthood demands you pretty much keep up the pace regardless of your invisible-but-very-real mental illness.

But like, I used to have coping mechanisms, didn’t I? I used to be moody but stable? Like things would trigger me and it would get me down, but I would respond to help (right?). I would respond to people who’ve graciously given me their time and energy. Now it just seems like I want to quit all the time. A thing goes wrong, and instead of calmly being like, “Okay, this thing went wrong, and that’s unfortunate; let’s move forward,” I’m like “I can’t wait to go home so I can hang myself.” And it’s not really ironic. I go from 0 to -100 in the span of a moment.

I think the dependency is the hardest part though. I have this weird compulsion when I’m sad to tell everyone about how sad I am. I’m typically extremely open on the internet, and I used to post sad things on Twitter and stuff, but I literally always regret when I do that. I mean, employers check your Twitter. It’s not a secret. I probs shouldn’t post hella scary-sad things in a public place. It doesn’t make me look very ~employable~ even if I’m actually kind of an asset ;).

Anyway, to replace Sad Tweeting, I’ve taken up Sad Snapping on Snapchat. I’ll take a series of dramatic (but genuine) snaps and post them on my story. I watch who looks at them. I’m a mess. I overthink everything. I feel like a teenager. This is what a teenager would do. Again with the lack of maturity.

Here’s what I think when I’m stable:

Maturity and dependence are not related.

Sure, a child is immature (by nature) and they are also dependent on their guardians. But they just happen at the same time—they are not intertwined in the way I often think of them.

I’m dependent because I have a mental illness—a thing I cannot magically remove. I can work on things to improve my symptoms, but this seems like a pretty chronic thing and I may have it forever, amen. But that doesn’t mean I’m immature my whole life. It just means I need help and I usually ask for it.

The way in which I ask, though, can probably improve. The people I call upon can be more selective. I should spread the wealth. I don’t think that Sad Snapping really hurts anything, but maybe I could try reaching out to three people who are emotionally available instead of hoping someone will take pity on my pathetic plea for attention? My girlfriend is not on call to save my life every other night?

Maturity is something else entirely. I just tried to define it but I don’t think I can. Do you have a definition for maturity? It’s really hard to talk about without being able-ist. Lmk if you have thoughts on that.

Tl;dr: no.

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On postponing death

When I resurface from my depression for a few hours or a day or something, I try to blog because it shows hey, I’m ok, things are good, and they will continue being good, right? It’s much easier to read a depressed person’s perspective when they can talk about it in the past tense. “I WAS suicidal but I’m good now and here’s how I survived my mind” is a bit easier to stomach than “I don’t think there’s hope for me, and I probably will die from this.”

It’s isolating, because people in my life have offered to talk with me, or they’ve given up evenings to come spend time with me while at my worst. People have let me reach out to them when I’m incorrigible. It’s amazing. But to tell  you exactly how bad it is is probably pretty alarming, and often the one I reach out to ends up feeling uncomfortable–not just because they are untrained in psychology but also because I sound pretty scary.

And I get that. So I sometimes try to water it down a little bit, so I can still get some support but maybe not be such a scary ticking bomb.

Whenever I feel good, I am so relieved because I assume it means I will never feel bad again. It’s actually very similar to how I feel when I’m down. I feel like I’ll never feel good again, even if I KNOW I will, but it sounds impossible.

At the end of 2016, my girlfriend lost someone close to her and this funeral was yesterday. It’s been of utmost importance to me that I show up for that, that I be present, in the moment, fantastically supportive. No matter how my brain is feeling, I must go to this funeral, and I must be there for her and her family. I was able to attend and even though I was kinda sad (other than for the fact it was a sad event), I pushed with all my might to be there for my girlfriend as she is so often there for me.

As a suicidal person, it’s weird to be at a funeral. Every funeral I’ve thought of lately has been one for me. To be in the presence of death and the family who’s lost someone, it puts a different perspective on death. It’s sobering. Just Friday morning I felt like I was choosing between suicide and going to work (Note: going to work has nothing to do with my depression–my job is actually really great. It’s just brought up here because it was the morning of a business day). I literally sat on my bed half-clothed wondering what I should do next.

But then I went to this funeral and suddenly the selfishness of suicide seems laughable. Why would I ever consider doing that? This man we celebrated on Saturday was so accomplished. He lived a full life, climbed mountains (literally), spent a ton of time outdoors, loved his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren to a full extent, making an everlasting impression on them. I only met him once and I’ll never forget him. He asked me some questions since I am dating his granddaughter, and what could have felt interrogating actually felt welcoming. He hugged me goodbye when I left his house.

I feel like I’ve just been postponing my inevitable suicide. That’s how it feels sometimes. And it still comes in waves but I MUST stick around. I must. I keep forgetting but I need to keep re-remembering. It’s not all better and I’m not magically cured. But it’s okay because I can be fueled by the times I feel good again. I can coast for the bad parts, that’s fine, but dying is not an option. There’s nothing like a funeral outside of your imagination to remind you of that.

I’ve been reflecting about this and I think I need to do two things:

  1. Start exercising
  2. Start and continue a large writing project

I’m not going to get into the fat thing in this post, but all I know is that I hate my body and what I’m currently doing (nothing) is not working. Capitalistic industry or not, I guess I just have to live in this society too, and even though I know it’s fucked up, I can’t outsmart it.

As for the writing project, I need to write poems, a book’s worth. I need to write good poems and bad poems and collect them. I want to be able to write something other than poetry but I also don’t want to, so like, w/e.

Thanks.

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