Detachment

I’m having one of those days today where I have become more and more detached as the day has gone on. Although I wasn’t fully with it this morning, it was nothing I couldn’t handle – just a little slice of what I knew could be a lot worse. But then, a trigger set me off. Not so much a trigger really as a thought pattern that will not be surprising to those of you who suffer from depression and anxiety. 

Since I graduated from university a couple of months ago, I have done a J1 visa and returned just over 2 weeks ago to Ireland. Throughout my stay in the States, I was working part-time and trying not to think about what would happen when I returned to the Emerald Isle. I knew that, especially considering the degree I did, it would be tough to find a job but I figured it would all work itself out. 

After 2 weeks of sitting around, in bed all day watching episode after episode of Orange is the New Black, True Blood and Pretty Little Liars, I finally decided today was the day to get off my backside and at least try to be productive. I have been applying for jobs online for a few months and I decided it was time to tackle any potential places of employment in person. My mom, god bless her, kind of got me going by going and sorting out the printing of CV’s early in the morning and even stapling them together for me. It really helps sometimes when you’re feeling disinterested in something to have someone give you a gentle nudge – ever so slight mind you – to get you a bit active. So off I went into town and began calling into shops. 

Irritation built a little at the reactions of some of the workers in shops who claimed that managers were not accepting CV’s at the moment (I’m nearly sure one of them was outright lying but, that being said, is mere speculation on my part). Finally two places accepted a CV – one was hiring, one was not. After this, I started to head towards the local social welfare office, something I genuinely never envisioned myself having to do. I’d been putting it off and off but for anyone, especially someone with depression and anxiety, literally having nothing to do and no means to do it with can be devastating to an already dodgy situation. As I walking there, I got a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach…

I reached into my bag, pulled out a CV and took in a sharp breath of air. There it was. Right in front of me. The WRONG CV. First, I panicked a little, then I just got really angry. There was no way that shop was even going to consider me for employment now, I thought, this CV looks awful. After a while my anger faded and something else kicked in. That voice that will tell you how worthless and stupid and terrible you are. “Of course the wrong CV printed out,” the voice said, “it’s YOU. Everything goes wrong for you. You will NEVER catch a break. You have NO luck. Why are so surprised that happened? Life hates you. Someone up there must be having a fine time messing things up for you. They just want you to have a long, hard, cruel existence where things will forever keep going wrong for you.”

This voice mulled around in my head for hour. I tried to fight back. Stop being so melodramatic, I told myself. Stop blowing things out of proportion, you don’t have a hard life and if you think you do you’re a stuck up little bitch. Ha! Look at you thinking that your life is HARD. Your life isn’t hard – YOU are just WEAK.

And so on it went, a constant string of worthlessness, dramatics, weakness…

So what did I do? I consumed an inordinate amount of sugar. And what did that do? Well it just made feel even worse about myself.

And now, I am sitting here in a kitchen chair with a cup of tea, looking blankly at this computer, not even quite sure of the words I am writing or what I have written. I don’t feel like I’m here. I am completely out of it. But it’s one of those detachments where I don’t feel like I’m outside of my body, rather I feel like I’m lost in some in-between.

I can’t hold a conversation properly. I think I’m boring people. I would say I am but maybe that’s melodramatic too. And I can’t stop thinking of all the bad things that have happened so far in my life. My stomach is churning as I realize how useless I really am. My mind is going back, through the reel, not that it even has to search that far. In fact, it doesn’t have to search at all. I can feel them all in my head. All of the memories. All of the emotions. All of my failures. All of things that prove that I am useless. All battling to take first place in my head. 

And all I can do is sit here and drink my tea and hope that they have crawled back into wherever it is that they come from by tomorrow. 

That’s all I can do. 

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Upsets: Communication Breakdown

When I get upset about something, I have a really hard time trying to sort out my emotions and feelings. I tend to use my regular defense mechanism and my mind almost shuts down completely. It’s like a series of voices screaming endlessly, each one trying to be louder than the next. And the more I try to rationalise my feelings and figure out why I am feeling a certain way, the louder the voices get and the less separation of panic, anxiety and actual feelings occurs. 

This makes it very hard for me to communicate effectively with people about how exactly I’m feeling, what’s upset me, who has upset me etc. It can be utterly frustrating for me to talk to anyone without getting overwhelmingly upset. Often this upset is not caused by the original thing that has upset me, but rather the upset of trying unsuccessfully to work through an array of emotions which simply overtake me. Often, this upset is panic. 

In turn, my inability to express my emotions effectively frustrates and upsets others. It makes it near impossible to sort out even the teeniest of issues. My upset tires me and drains me physically and mentally. Often, this is achieved through uncontrollable hysterics and crying. I cannot tell you what causes me to act this way. It’s a reaction to confrontation that scares me. I wonder why I panic so much, why I become so hysterical at the mere thought of telling someone how I am feeling. If hysterics and crying is not the form of upset that overtakes me, it is quiet, numb, panic. This kind of upset overtakes my mind completely, all I can focus on is how I am feeling but at the same time, I don’t know exactly how I am feeling. I wander through my days numb and in a constant state of quietened panic – it is baffling and odd. 

Once whatever form of upset that is preventing me from communicating with people has passed (this can take hours, days, or sometimes weeks or even months) and I can begin to speak to whoever about the issue, it usually gets off to a shaky start, with me stumbling over my words and often visibly shaking with nerves but more often than not, concludes with a well worded summary of how I feel/felt and why. And more often than not, once the words have been spoken, the issue becomes significantly smaller or less serious.

In other words, it loses its power.

Keeping thoughts and feelings bottled up inside is not healthy for anyone, but can be detrimental to those of us with mental health issues. I understand how hard it is to battle through the trappings of your mind and communicate with those around you. I understand it is sometimes the last thing on earth you want to do. I understand that getting the words out can be excruciatingly painful.

But keep trying. That’s all we can do. 

Happy Panic

Some days I find myself wandering around in a state of “happy panic”. I like to call it “happy panic” because, for me at least, it describe perfectly the emotional conflict that is taking place inside my mind. On these days, I am normally in a good mood, feeling as if the weight which usually hold me down has been somewhat alleviated. I’m always cautious of saying that I’m in a “normal” mood. To be honest, I’m not really sure if such a thing exists. As human beings, we feel and express such a vast array of emotions every day how can we convincingly say that we are ever in a “normal” mood? I do however find it important to stress to people who do not understand what exactly depression and anxiety can do your body and mind, that this mental illness is like a constant dull cap on any good moods. So while you might be having a good day, even feeling happy, you still have that festering sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, loneliness, panic, fear, sickness, clawing at you throughout the day, 

This is what “happy panic” is. You are having a good day, laughing, feeling a bit lighter, feeling like you’ve spent so long worrying over nothing, that you’re fine now, what were you being so dramatic for? And then there’s a brief moment where sheer panic overtakes your body. It’s just a brief moment. A second or two. But it’s all it takes to remind you that you’re never really “fine now”. 

This can happen with any of the emotions/feelings listed above You might be laughing a friend’s joke and suddenly be overwhelmed with emptiness. I often find these moments the hardest to deal with. When you are trying to engage and interact with people and something switches inside of you that takes all the joy and goodness out of your world for no good reason. It’s even more frustrating when this switch goes and you suddenly become irritated with everything and everybody around you. When you just can’t contain your irritation and you have to leave the room, only to feel anger bubble briefly through you, followed by intense guilt which is followed by hopelessness which is followed by sobs racking through your body, every bone aching, your heart bleeding, your mind screaming. 

“Happy Panic” has been visiting me often the last couple of days. Sometimes I think I’d rather just be sad or panicked all the time instead of being given a slice of hope only to have it taken away shortly after. But then I remember, I am often sad or panicked or hopeless or empty or irritated or aching all the time. It makes me numb. I am exhausted. I am detached. I feel my body and mind clawing to get out from under my skin, screaming in agony, begging for mercy. 

So maybe these little slices of hope and lightness, although inevitably taken away, are needed. To remember that although I may not be there now, maybe finally one day, some day, they’ll last for more than just a couple of hours. 

 

The Bittersweet Domino Effect

Sometimes life can be cruel.

That, in itself, is a fact of life. And there are many ways in which life’s cruelty can manifest itself. But, perhaps, there is no greater cruelty that life can dish out than the cruelty of heartbreak.

The consequences of such a circumstance are devastating for the individual who suffers at its hands. It can bring the strongest feelings of resentment, hopelessness, anger, pain, sadness, jealousy and panic to the forefront, where they will torture the individual for unknown periods of time.

Dealing with heartbreak is different for everyone. It is a difficult process which can lead someone to lash out, become a shadow of themselves or suffer in complete and utter silence.

I remember when I was in school studying English and the poetry of W.B. Yeats, how panicked I became by his sorrow and despair in love. Here was a man who fell in love with a woman who never returned those affections. He was desperately in love her, yet she did not feel the same. And he did not move on per say. He found different ways to bury his pain and longing but eventually, the domino effect would kick in and he would in some way or another come back to the woman he loved and was forever doomed to love.

I remember thinking to myself how soul-crushing it must be to give your heart completely to a person and never have their heart in your hands. It quickly became a raging fear for me and I have struggled with the risk of falling in love ever since.

Perhaps what doesn’t help me is that I am the kind of person who falls in love quickly and completely. Or at least I used to be. One experience changed that for me and it was not until I fell in love again that I realized just how much damage the trauma of heartbreak can actually cause. I guess to balance it all out, I also came to the realization that it is possible to fall in love again. But it’s harder to fall the second time and that has me wondering if falling in love reaches a limit, a point of no return where your heart can no longer take the fall and so you never love again.

What W.B. Yeats could never do was move on and I think that perhaps he got so caught up in his inner turmoil and unreachable person of desire that he never really had a chance. It is, after all, said that poets often live in dark and grim worlds, that this is what gives their work meaning, so perhaps his never-ending heartbreak kept him going in other ways.

The first time I fell in love, I think I knew it was not reciprocated. I knew that the other person was not as fallen as I was and he was under no obligation to be. But I held out hope that he would fall just that little bit further each day. That maybe one day he’d turn around and look at me and realize he was in love with me. But that never happened and I think I set myself up for heartbreak in that sense. Living in limbo was a dangerous game to play but I couldn’t give up hope, I wanted this man so desperately to love me.

And after the heartbreak occurred in a most cruel fashion on his part, my whole world crumbled. And although it did crumble, I was expecting it to, I realized. I was living in a constant state of panic, trying to keep things going, trying to please him, trying to convince him to love me.  And I was doing it so subtly, so quietly, that I honestly think he didn’t realize how I truly felt about him at the time.

After a few months of feeling my heart slowly rip off little pieces of itself each day, after months of feeling numb with a steady, wrenching pain and after months of endless tears and crying myself to sleep (which is very often when really bad panic hits me), I made a decision.

I was coming to the final couple of months of university and I had been planning to travel to the States and live with P while I was there. But now P and I were over, anything that it was, was over and I was faced with a choice to make. It had taken me 7 months up until that point to get my affairs in order to travel there and it had cost a lot of money. But at the end of the day, money is just money. I had to do what was right for me. So I thought about it long and hard and came to a solution: My heart was still healing and I needed to escape for a while. I needed to give it time. I needed to get it stitched back up together…

I would travel alone.

Just me and my heart.

How was I to know that during this time of healing, my heart would fall again?

It was different the second time around. I didn’t want to fall in love. I had had enough of romance and men and the inevitable heartbreak at the end of the tunnel. It would be stupid to let this happen I told myself. Yet, it happened. And I had no choice in the matter.

I thought long and hard about why I was falling I love. I didn’t have an answer – I just was. I thought maybe I was subconsciously setting myself up for another fall on purpose, yearning for more pain and suffering to fill my days; after all, having dealt with depression and anxiety for years, and still dealing with it, I was used to living in constant, comfortable pain and sadness. This is something that I have marginally managed to escape every so often and the thought of becoming so comfortable with living solely like that again scared me. I had begun towards the end of my final year of university to manage to muster up smidgens of hope when I was in states of utter panic, I had learned to try to  see my feelings and fears from a more logical and reasonable perspective, I had learned to push through the darkness a little bit more – even if it was moving numbly through the motions of the day.

It had taken so much energy to learn to do these things, and even more energy to put them into practice, that I was wholly panicked at the thought of returning to square one, even if it was only an inch behind me.

Falling in love again meant taking a risk and I was so reluctant to do that. And even after taking the initial risk, I have to take more every day.

I think the biggest issue of moving on after heartbreak is learning to have faith in someone again. When you have depression and anxiety, this risk can be the most daunting thing imaginable. You’re more vulnerable to falling completely off the wagon if heartbreak hits you again. While everyone suffers after heartbreak, I think for people with mental illness the suffering is intensified. You already have so much going on that such a devastating and emotional blow can ruin you. And the effects can linger and lurk in every corner of your life.

I am trying not to let my irrational fears that have been borne out of heartbreak and personal issues to interfere with me being in love with someone again. It’s hard to push these to the side and not jump to the worst possible conclusions or assumptions every time a tiny issue crops up. Mental illness can and does affect every facet of your life and you learn to shelter and protect yourself in ways that make loving others very difficult, if not impossible. But I will continue to try to figure out ways to overcome my feelings and fears so that I can continue to have faith in people. I never want to lose faith in people.

And I want to be able to give all of me to the person that I love.

Just like W.B. Yeats gave unconditionally to the person he loved.

Because even the domino effect has an ending. You just don’t know where along the line your domino is going to stop.

 

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

 

 

 

A year goes by…

It’s strange how quickly time goes by. At times, there doesn’t seem to be any distinct line between one day and another. For a year I have spent my time running around like a headless chicken, keeping myself utterly distracted and preoccupied. I have put all my energy into my final year of university, I have obsessed over grades and academic work and not disappointing my parents, or myself. The distractions have been welcomed as they keep my mind from wandering sometimes and they keep my body going.

But it is inevitable that I will always return to a point where I can take no more. I will wake up one morning, my bones weary, my heart aching, my mind suffocating. Getting through those days is hard. It takes every ounce of strength I can possibly muster to get out of bed and plod to the shower. Usually after I get dressed, I impulsively sit down for a while. My mind argues, “Come on get up, stop moping and being stupid, just plant your feet on the ground and stand and move”. It is frustrating when you can’t do this. When you can feel your muscles getting ready to support you but they give up at the last second.

Some days, I literally feel nothing. I will stay in the same spot, staring into space, thinking nothing, but feeling that dull constant weight compressing my body. Some days, I will feel the ache rip through my insides so violently that I scream in pain and sob uncontrollably for mercy. Some days, I can feel the sadness filling behind my eyes, but it will not come out, it will not release itself. Some days, I drift through the motions, anger and irritation bubbling inside me at any attempted interaction with people because I cannot afford to let my defenses down for one second and it takes everything I have to keep them up.

A year has gone by and I have had no interest in writing my feelings on a page. That means I have to face them.

A year has gone by and I have suffered intense depression from a relationship breakdown.

A year has gone by and I have found my medication to be failing.

A year has gone by and I have smothered my emotions.

A year has gone by and I have relished in distractions.

A year has gone by and my security has broken down.

My distractions gone.

My emotions coiling beneath the surface.

My feelings writhing.

A year has gone by and I need a release.

A year has gone by and I have a lot to work through.

A year has gone by and I have made things harder for myself, bottling my pain.

A year has gone by and it’s all beginning to spill over.

A year has gone by.

But that’s the thing with mental illness. You can fool yourself into thinking a year of distractions and exhausting your body and mind will solve your anguish.

I tried it.

It won’t.

Where am I?

It’s been a while now since I’ve felt it. I’ve enjoyed my break; my time away from a place that when I forget about it, I forget about it somewhat completely. I forget the exact feeling, the exact emptiness, the exact detachment, the exact panic, the exact knots in my stomach, the exact despair. It’s like I have been somewhere that has not made much of an impression on me and slowly, as the days go by, I forget about it bit by bit. It seems strange to me now that I have felt it slowly twine its way through me again – the impact it makes is most certainly not unforgettable, so why am I forgetting it?

The only thing that I can think of is for protection. There is no doubt that the mind is a powerful thing and I have no hesitations in thinking that it is powerful enough to erase feelings, periods of time and experiences from our minds and souls – especially when those feelings, periods of time and experiences threaten to destroy us. And now more than ever, because I wake up every morning and pop a pill to help it all go away, it surprises me when I fall gradually but steadily back into its wrath – a place that I feel will never be exempt from my life; it is a part of me.

It is also at these times, when it has coyly made its way back into my life at a certain time, that the feelings are raw – almost new. Before I took the medication, I was used to the feelings. I knew, most of the time, what to expect. I lived in it constantly. Fearing life, fearing living, fearing me. Now, with the medication, it seems I have forgotten what to expect. But I still fear. And perhaps it is this fear that gives a tiny bit of warning these days before the battle starts.

Today, I sunk back again and I have no idea why. I am tired at the moment, I am in my final year of college and working ridiculous schedules and panicking about my future; I am like everyone else. But at the same time, I am not. At this very moment, I feel utterly detached. I feel almost nothing other than a vague yet consistent feeling of screaming despair right in my chest and in the pit of my stomach. I feel as if I am not here, as if I am watching myself through some strange, indescribable medium. I have no interest in you. I have no interest in friends. I have no interest in study, socializing, living. I feel as if I were to fall asleep right now, that is enough. What am I waking up to?

The stranger thing is that I am by no means suicidal. I am not detached enough to not know what I am doing. And that thought scares me – both of those thoughts scare me. I know I have a lot of live for, I am just not sure where to find it right now and this makes me very sad. I am not bothered about anything. Yet this empty loss of interest is conflicted by a fear – a fear that is yelling at me to remember where I can find my feet again before the sorrow takes over completely.

I can also feel the odd pull of panic wrenching at my chest. And it almost feels as if my body is shutting down the stronger it grows; my mind becoming more and more detached in an attempt to get away, to not deal with it. I feel like screaming and shouting and punching something – anything to get me excited again, to feel again. I just want to feel again. That is one of the worst things – not feeling.

Rationally, I know it’s been a hard week and an even harder day and perhaps I should take this into deeper consideration. I have had an intense lecture on anti-psychiatry, given a presentation on the mental health system in Irish prisons, read Conor Cusack’s harrowing and all too close to home story and watched “What Richard Did”. Probably not a wise move all things considered. But it was that scene that made me really realise where I was heading again – that scene where Richard is screaming on the ground, pulling at his head, exhausting himself.

Too often, that has been me. Too often I have exhausted myself in an attempt to make it go away. For some reason, now, although I feel on the verge of it, I feel oddly in control in an out of control way. Impossible you might think but it makes perfect sense to me. But then, none of this makes sense either.

Detachment is possibly what I fear the most. I am detached from me. I am detached from you. I am detached from it all. So where am I?

You will suffer

Things aren’t going so well at the moment. We all have these moments in life from time to time but unfortunately for anyone suffering with a mental illness, these moments make an appearance quite a bit. As you all can see I have not written on here in some time and the whole point of having a blog is to write on it as frequently as possible isn’t it? And while I kept thinking “God I must write a blog, I have so much going on in my head to share”, I couldn’t. And the reason that I couldn’t is because lately I have really been feeling the force of depression.

Having depression and anxiety together is frustrating to say the least. I cannot think of a worse combination. I am at a stage in my life right now where my situation is not helping me to battle these demons either. I am headed into my fourth year of college in a degree which I’m not gone on, I’m living at home with my family for the summer, I cannot drive, I cannot get employment and I have no friends here (and yes, I mean not a single one). And while I’m trying to stay positive and do all the things I can to help myself (get up early, eat healthily, exercise everyday, keep searching for jobs etc) it’s an extremely hard thing to do – for anyone, let alone someone in my position. And I’m not for a second suggesting that others don’t have it worse off than I do, of course they do. But this blog is about my experiences with mental illness and when you suffer from it, when life is hard, so is it.

I think that perhaps there is nothing more frustrating than being on medication for mental illness and still feeling as though you cannot cope. That is another issue which I may have to readdress with my GP soon if things do not improve. As for attending counselling sessions – well, let’s just say that I’ve attended one nut-job too many. Ireland as a country is still learning to deal with mental illness as a non-taboo issue and as a result the help available for anyone suffering with any form of mental illness is absolute shite.

The support that you receive from those around you can also be frustrating. While my parents have been very supportive over the years hearing things like “cheer up” when you’re down is NOT helpful. There is nothing worse than telling someone with depression that they need to perk up, cop on and get on with things.

Tonight, especially, I’m trying to hold myself together. I am on the verge of tears because I feel weak. I feel weak because my illness is taking over me and I feel like no matter how hard I try there is nothing I can do to stop it. I also feel angry. Angry because I go through this constantly. Angry because it’s not fair. Angry because I don’t understand why I deserve this. Angry because I have tried so many times to fix it and yet, I always end up in the same place time and time again.

I am finding myself more emotionally dead as the days go on the last few weeks. I am not interested in doing anything and nor can I muster up the interest. This frustrates me because if I am not interested in anything I see no point in living. This thought depresses me even more. I lie on my bed in the middle of the day, curtains closed shutting out the world and everything in it, wishing that I could just fall asleep and never wake up. I feel useless. A waste of time and space. I feel like I have nothing to offer people and that my life is going nowhere. And even more importantly that even if my life is going somewhere and I feel like this frequently then I don’t want to live.  I don’t want to live a life of okays and lows, of wondering when I’m going to hit the low next. Who would want to have me, after all? I don’t even want to be around me a lot of the time. I guess I feel like I can’t be bothered with life. And I don’t want life if this is what life is. I feel empty. Soulless. I feel like nothing. And this feeling makes me ache with pain. I can feel it wrench my heart and slowly crush it inside of me. Destroying me.

And then I get restless. I don’t want to do anything but I can’t not do anything because that’s when the thoughts get the worse. My heart starts beating uncontrollably fast, I get uncomfortably hot, my mouth gets dry and I panic. Hysterically. I pinch myself to try and distract myself but it doesn’t always work. I pull at my hair. I hold myself. I cry so violently that I can’t breath. The pain aches inside of me and I just want it to stop. But it won’t. It’s so unfair. Why me? Why won’t it stop now? Why is it still happening? Haven’t I suffered enough?

Haven’t I suffered enough?