Friday, April 24, 2015

This. This. This.

OMG, this article. Spalding Gray. Suicide. Neurology. Frontal Lobe. Depression. Rumination. This, this, this.
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/27/the-catastrophe-oliver-sacks

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No change

Still sad. Still obsessing over every word I say and desperately hoping I've not offended anyone. Still trying to figure out  what the appropriate facial expressions and responses should be when interacting with others.

Still sad. No change.

I want... Why can't I just keel over, boom? Why?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New here?

If you're new to my blog, welcome. Here's some advice for tooling around:

Most people come for the information about shingles but stay for the witty banter. I'm not an expert on shingles; I just know a lot about it from doing intensive research while I was laid up for a month. I never did try the medical marijuana, so I still can't give an opinion on that.

45 Mercy Street: That post is not an academic analysis; it's only my take on the poem. My blog post will not, I repeat, will not help you with your academic coursework. Sorry.

My posts from 2012 on aren't that great because I wasn't focused on writing so much as I became immersed in Facebook and Twitter. That being said, there's some good reading prior to that (at least, I like to think so). I'd say your best bet is to go back to 2008 and work your way forward from there. There's a lot about the nature of hope, friends who betray or abandon friends and mourning the end of relationships, why I think a lot of adults with ADHD get misdiagnosed (really misdiagnosed), and lots of my thoughts on what the world of medicine and doctors can and can't accomplish for mere mortals who ask a lot of questions.

I somewhat neglected my blog for a long time, but I'm back and should be for a while. I'm going through some stuff and this is where I come to hash it all out. It's like having one of those therapists who doesn't talk and makes you do all the work to reach your own conclusions, except Blogger is free.

Also, I'm reasonably sure I'm on the path toward a major coronary event, so I want to keep writing so there's some documentation of my condition leading up to that. I've been really good at predicting things I was told were unlikely to happen. Doctors don't listen to me enough which is why I only go to them if I'm in agony or there's a compelling risk of death or disability on the horizon.

Also, I talk about suicide a lot. It doesn't mean anything; I currently have no imminent plans to take my own life, but I still contend it's the ultimate human right and I'm entitled to it if I get to that point.

Go ahead--snoop around the old posts. They're not too bad.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I'm nothing if not consistent

I've been re-reading the 2013 portion of this blog. I've made no progress. Still accurate. Feeling this one in particular:
http://brainucopia.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-miss.html

Monday, April 13, 2015

If I don't know, how can anyone else?

I can't tell if I'm losing my mind or reclaiming it.

It could just be menopause. At least, that's what I keep reading. Except...I take hormones, so that's not supposed to happen.

Here's what I do know: When I am depressed, I can't keep up, physically or intellectually.  I hang back, I'm slow, I wander, I don't grasp conversations, and I can't keep track of what people expect from me. I just can't connect the dots. I can't follow the rules because I can' rmember what I'm supposed to say or how I'm supposed to interact.

Do you have any idea how frustrating that is?

It makes me even more of a dory dork than I am under the best of conditions. Ugh.

Let's review

Here is a post from 2008 that sounds an awful lot like my current situation. It's uncanny, actually. I do know myself, that's for sure.
http://brainucopia.blogspot.com/2008/06/1992-or-thereabouts.html

I found that picture on a Bing search, which is where my MS clipart now defaults. I don't  know whom to credit, so there's this: https://robinheyden.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/mirror.jpg

A song in my head

I was going to post the lyrics, but they're pretty clear. Fun fact: I still have this album on vinyl.


Because we can't call in sad

Ikon Images/Corbis via NPR
A few days ago, NPR ran a story about how people who are depressed usually don't or simply can't take off from work. I've never missed a day of work from feeling depressed, although my productivity has been known to take a significant hit.

It's a good story and worth the time to listen. There's a recap on the web page, but I'd recommend you listen to this one in its entirety.

Click here to go to the NPR story:

Working Through Depression: Many Stay On The Job, Despite Mental Illness

Maybe it's just menopause

Of course, that would mean I've been going through menopause since the late 1970s. I only mention this because there seems to be a prevailing attitude in American culture that if you are female and not doing well emotionally, it must be hormones. I find that to be simplistic and dismissive.

I'm just hoping this mood lifts sooner rather than later, because the longer it goes on, the less I like people, including people I normally like a lot. I'm not paranoid, exactly, but anything that is said to me that feels even slightly harsh, feels like boiling oil to me right now. I've lost all perspective, along with my sense of humor and many IQ points.

I'm deeply insecure under the best of circumstances, but my current state has amplified that by about a thousand. Some people will understand that and be patient with me, but others will take it all at face value and keep score for later.That's their short-sighted prerogative.

I keep thinking back to the therapist I had who would admonish me to "look at the data." She'd say, look at the data. Is what you perceive actually true when held up against facts? she was right. I need to keep doing that exercise. Maybe I'm just projecting my own self-hatred out of me and onto everyone else. No one else is the problem, no one else has anything to do with my perceptions. It's all in my head. My intellect hasn't waned so much that I don't know that.

In other news, my debt-payment and gift-distribution plan is progressing nicely. I feel really good about that. I hope all of the recipients feel the same, even if what they receive initially seems puzzling. I've sent some off-the-wall things in the last week. Cans of soup may be the most odd. Ah, well, it makes sense to me, and that's really all that matters in my head.

Why keep a diary?

For me, blogging is way to process and organize thoughts going through my head at any given time. It is unapologetically self-indulgent in nature. I'm OK with that.

Here are some actual writers' thoughts on the topic:
https://www.noodle.com/articles/the-creative-benefits-of-keeping-a-diary

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The problem is

My heart hurts. My soul hurts. There is no prescription for that.

If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?

The one person who always told me she'd take me as I am, warts and all, has reneged on the promise. She has expectations and unwritten rules, she has scolded me and she's carrying a raging, eight-year-old resentment over something so mind-boggling bizarre, I'm having trouble processing it. Her new friends are bubbly and fun. I am not bubbly or fun. I am dark, introspective, fat, homely, morose, and feeling abandoned. So, I'm alone, and that's OK. That's OK. I know how to navigate this. This is my life. I've been here. I know this.

I keep thinking about my impact on the world. I try so hard to be good, do good, be kind, and never say a hurtful word to anyone. I try not to take up any space or anyone's time. Sometimes I think vile thoughts, but I keep them to myself.

I keep thinking about how being good to others is supposed to help us feel better about ourselves, to give us purpose, to ground us and make us more grateful. I have no problem being good or kind or grateful; in fact, it drives my life. Just tonight, Frank said, "If being kind and doing good paid at all, you'd be a millionaire, May." A millionaire, indeed.

Instead, I'm just a sad, pathetic, reject of a person whose brain can't manufacture whatever is required to not be sad all the time. Now my brain stops me from being funny and intelligent, and that is an insult I can't bear much longer. My brain also causes me to be in physical pain all the time, and it still sends out those rogue signals that make my coronary artery squeeze itself shut. It won't go ahead and kill me though, and I'm starting to resent it.

I am so tired. Not just emotionally, but physically. This pushing myself every day has taken a toll. It's not benefiting me in the least. The world benefits from my efforts, but I, personally, do not.

I only have $3,000 in credit card debt left to pay off, which I will do at the end of this month when I rearrange some accounts. Then, I don't know what will happen. I'll be free to take whatever path feels right. Stay, go, whatever. I'm working on my will, making sure my accounts are in order. I've started paying all of the utilities several months ahead so Frank won't have to scramble to figure that out if anything happens to me to stop me from paying the bills. If I decide to go, I'll send Jolie money for the theater ticket she bought on my behalf. I know she'll appreciate that a lot. I will owe no one anything. That's important. Really important.

I don't know how much longer I can go on being a massive fuck up. And I am a massive fuck up. There are no more redeeming qualities left in me. I'm just sad, fat, slow, and homely, an obese middle-aged person with nothing of value to anyone that can't be very easily and immediately replaced. This is clarity. This is truth.

And it's OK. It's perfectly OK. As long as I don't owe anyone anything, I'm free and clear. It will be like I was never here. I have been trying so hard to pay everyone back for anything they've paid for on my behalf, and I'm almost there. Whether it was a drink or a graduation gift, it's all being paid back. Nobody will be mad at me or feel like I cheated them. They can't because I will have paid them back! This is America where Money fixes everything. I am erasing myself as others have erased their relationships with me.

I've been taking stock. I've made a list of things I've observed from visiting people, from their Facebook posts, from conversations, from email. I've started sending them things to fill the gaps in their lives. From things as mundane as a pretty toilet brush, to cookbooks, to money, to garden tools, to car accessories, to music, to driving school tuition, to utility bill payments, to lists of babysitters, to sneakers, to bottles of supplements, to Omaha Steaks, I'm trying to make sure everyone is covered. Whether I stay or go is irrelevant. What matters is that I am debt-free, I have made people's lives easier, and nobody can say I left them with unfinished business or I owe them. All of my business will be wrapped, tidied up, tied, and so resolved that no one can be angry with me or disappointed in my decisions. I will have done something nice, and they won't be able to claim I somehow slighted them. No debt owed! Zero-sum game!

You have to admit, this is fucking brilliant on my part.

And if you haven't spoken to or seen me me in over a year, fuck off and don't even attempt, just don't even try to tell me how important I am to you. You lie. You fucking lie. You like a concept, not an actual living, breathing human. I'm calling you out on that bullshit.

I'd like to leave you tonight with a song I love that keeps playing on a loop in my head. Lyrics follow, but mostly, just listen. It's so beautiful. It's so perfect. So perfect.

I'll write more tomorrow. I'm feeling like I still have some things to say.



Departure and Farewell
(Dan Messe)

The summer folds the afternoon,
And pins a shadow to the lawn,
And sweeps across the empty room
Where I am gone.

The sunlight films my waving hands.
The final scene has just begun,
And pulling back the world expands,
And I am gone.

Hey, I am gone.
Along the way I'll say to you,
“So long, my love, so long...”

Another light now fills the sky.
The window searches for the sun.
Another chance to say goodbye,
But I am gone.

Hey, I am gone.
I'll find a way to say to you,
“So long, my love. so long, my love.”

So long...

I'm pulling back.
The world expands.
And I am gone.

Friday, April 10, 2015

This.

TED talks have been filling my podcast feed for a couple of months now. I binge-listen, especially when the darkness of depression feels like it will consume me. Many of the talks are inspirational, most are informative, and some are very funny. This TED talk, though, by Shane Koyczan, is profound.

Before I watched this, I had never heard of the poet, nor did I have any idea what this TED talk was about. It affected me deeply. I still can't get through it without crying. Several of you who have read my blog in the past will particularly appreciate this, I think. I have no words.

This video is available on the TED website, TED.com.

A cup of karma

The other night, I got home from work early--and that almost never happens. When Frank walked in the door, I said hello and asked how his day was. He sighed and said in a dark tone, "It sucked. It always sucks. Same old shit. Incompetent people and boredom."

I said, "Oh. I'm sorry."
Frank snapped back, "It's not your fault. Don't apologize for things you didn't do. It makes you look weak."
I was a bit startled, and his words and tone felt like a smack. I said, "Oh, well, I am weak. Everybody knows that. But I guess I should have made my sentence longer. What I meant and you didn't understand was, 'I'm sorry you feel that way and you had a bad day.'"

Frank's reaction to my words hurt, I'm not going to lie. I try to never say anything to anyone that I think might cause hurt feelings, anger, embarrassment, or irritation. I didn't speak for the rest of the night.

The next morning, things were back to normal. As I stood in the kitchen eating my breakfast, Frank set about emptying the dishwasher and putting everything away. He picked up my all-time favorite coffee mug, a gorgeous, handmade work of purple pottery that was given to me as a thank-you gift when I worked at the New York Renaissance Festival years ago.

As Frank lifted the mug off the rack, it fell to the floor and shattered. Pieces skittered across the tile, some getting all the way to the next room. I stared at the floor, immediately overwhelmed with sadness and said simply, "Oooo..." the sound trailing off at the end.

Frank started apologizing profusely. He still had the mug's handle in his hand. He said, "I didn't do anything, I swear. I picked it up and the handle just fell off. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I know how much you love that mug." He started picking up the pottery shards.

I took a breath and in an expressionless voice said, "Don't apologize for things you didn't do. It makes you look weak."

He looked up with an expression I couldn't read. It certainly wasn't the kind of thing I'd ever said to him before. I looked down at him and said, "That's exactly what you said to me last night when I was trying to say something nice to you after you had a bad day. It's called compassion. You know, when you feel bad for another person's experience."

"Frank stood up, paused and said, "OK, I get it. Point taken." There was not a trace of snark in his voice.

I'm so tired of trying to be nice, say the right thing, show kindness and concern and getting my wrist slapped. What the fuck is wrong with people? At least in this round, I got to illustrate how that feels.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Getting it all out there

Having a flat affect and allowing it to be what it is has been an interesting experience.

To be honest, I don't express much emotion these days--and definitely not things like enthusiasm. I don't smile unless I think to do that. I don't spontaneously speak or start conversations or share much unless I'm prompted to do so. Most striking, for others, I think, is that it appears I have no reactions to anything. It's not true that I'm not reacting; I'm just not expressing much. Flat affect at its finest.

My flat affect and lack of expression aren't bothering me. In fact, it's a huge relief to not put the energy into something my brain clearly doesn't want to do right now. The people who spend time with me, though, seem very unnerved by it. Does it get people thinking that they're doing something wrong or that I'm maybe thinking something negative about them but keeping it all to myself?

My husband seems to want to "fix" it, but there's really nothing to be fixed. I don't feel like talking, I feel no compulsion to interact. Let me be, let me sit silently and look off into space, let me clear my head and not engage.

I don't think that's a lot to ask, but apparently, there's some social contract I'm violating with my current demeanor.

Anyone who knows me should know by now that I'll come out of this eventually and that just because I'm not speaking what I'm thinking doesn't mean I'm not feeling or thinking. I'm deep inside my head, and right now, I don't have the energy or inclination to engage outside of that arena.

I recently posted on Facebook that I need a card I can hand out with the following disclaimer:
"I'm deep, deep, deep inside my own head right now. Way beyond introspection. If you say something to me and I don't respond, I'm not being rude. It probably didn't even register that you said something to me. Also, not currently able to work up anything more than a flat affect. Cut me some slack and get over it. I'm ruminating."
 That might really freak people out.

It hadn't occurred to me that this might be an issue for anyone until last week. I spent a week visiting Jolie. I had emailed her ahead of time to let her know I was profoundly depressed, exhausted, generally quiet, and not interested in much. She said that would be OK and I should just be "real." I went all-in for "real."

As the days of my visit passed, though, I could sense very clearly that my flat affect was annoying Jolie. She kept prompting me to respond when spoken to, so I don't think it had occurred to her that I either hadn't registered that something had even been said to me or I had no spontaneous response to make. At one point, a friend of hers asked if I was having a good time, and Jolie looked in my direction and said, "I don't know if she's having a good time. She hasn't said anything about it."

It hadn't occurred to me to be having a good time or not. That would have involved registering my own reactions, and those weren't checking in with me very well. I was having experiences, but I wasn't rating them on any internal satisfaction scale. I was trying to just "be." I wasn't having a bad time, I knew that. Well, maybe a little bit because I always feel like my visits are a huge intrusion, and I try to minimize the impact of my presence as much as I can when I visit, and that causes me constant anxiety.

I immediately wondered if Jolie had expected me to convey constant expressions of gratitude since it was she who had invited me to come (which got me out of a sad situation, had I stayed home) but I wasn't delivering the right level of gratitude. My split-second reaction was, she must be annoyed I'm not being gracious enough for what's expected. I assured everyone in the group that I was, in fact, having a good time. I started feeling there was pressure to speak more and react more, and that wasn't something I thought I'd have to actually do for a week. Expectations. Everyone has expectations.

For the remaining days I was there, I kept thinking that I should have followed my gut when I booked the flight and checked into a hotel for this trip. I had made a hotel reservation and then cancelled it, thinking my would-be hosts would be offended had I opted to be by myself but still nearby. The last thing I want to do--ever--is say or do something that annoys anyone else or that hurts anyone's feelings. Doing that intentionally or unintentionally makes me die of shame inside. Generally speaking, I wish others were as considerate of my feelings, but I gave up any hope of that decades ago.

I refuse to apologize for the side effects of my feeling sad, which is why I'm withdrawn and OK with hiding out right now. I'm sad, I'm doing what's recommended for someone in my situation, and that should be enough. Putting on an act takes too much effort at this point, and it's really just something other people want. It benefits me not in the least, and I only feel worse when my attempts at it fail.

I'm sure it hasn't crossed anyone's mind that my current state is causing me distress. I've almost completely lost my sense of humor. I mentioned in my previous post that I listen to the comedy channel on the radio, but in hours of doing that, I never laugh or even register a reaction that humor has happened. For me, being funny and clever are very important to my self-esteem, so the inability to find anything humorous only adds to my low self-esteem and overall depression.

I have nothing to say, and I'm no longer interesting. that hurts, too, but for the moment, those qualities have taken a hiatus from my brain. they may or may not return.

My head needs to work itself out, and I know that eventually it will and I can go back to living my life in a way that pleases everyone else. Although I structure my life and behavior around trying to get people to like me and figuring out how to make that happen, for now, I want the chance to immerse myself in having a blank facial expression and few thoughts.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Relapse

It's the post you've been waiting for. Or not.

Depression is back and it's bad. It started a few months ago, just a dark irritation working along the edges of my mind, disturbing my sleep, and sapping my energy. It gained momentum in the winter months, despite my attempts to focus on the positive and good.

Depression slides into my brain, changes my thinking, and warps my perspective. Intellectually, I understand this, but I feel powerless to steer it in a different direction. Also, I'm exhausted. Exhaustion doesn't help.

I've had up and down days, and for the most part, nobody has been able to tell I'm going through something. If nothing else, I'm an outstanding and accomplished actress.

Right now, the logical part of my brain and the emotional reality are locked in a tenacious struggle for dominance. When I'm in this state, I can't tell what's true. There is no situational root cause for this depression, but anything that has ever caused me pain or anxiety has bubbled up to the surface of my thinking and overwhelmed any sense of perspective I might normally have. I see myself in turn as a horrible monster, a pathetic loser, a worthless attempt someone made at forming a human being.

I've been pushing back against this for months, and the effort has worn me out. I've become exceptionally withdrawn, although I can summon up a reasonable facsimile of a personality for professional situations or whenever otherwise necessary.

The gaps between appearing normal and showing where I really am are getting bigger. I know that for the most part, I have a flat affect. I'm distracted, I've shut down to a certain extent, and I can't concentrate. The phrase, "I'm sorry, what did you say?" comes out of my mouth many times a day. It's not that I'm not paying attention, it's more like I've become so tuned out of everything beyond my own thoughts that I'm not even aware conversations are happening around me, let alone might include me.

I take the train to work, and unlike everyone else onboard, I'm not staring at a phone or listening to my iPod. I stare out the window, but I couldn't tell you what I see. Nothing registers.

Because I ruminate on a very intense level, one thing that brings me some relief from the intensity is attempting not to think at all. For the last couple of weeks, I've taken to sitting and just staring into space, even if there is someone else present. What I've come to realize is that when I do this, the people who witness it find it very disconcerting and become uncomfortable. What they don't get is that the lack of interaction, the way I disconnect, feels so much more comfortable for me than trying to act like I'm engaged with whatever is happening around me. There really isn't anything wrong with sitting in a chair and staring into space, is there? Apparently, there is.

It seems to me--and I am an exceptionally perceptive person--that anyone who knows me finds me unbearable to be around. I wish that the people who spend time with me could show me the same compassion and tolerance I have shown them during their respective episodes of discomfort. Why would anyone do that, though? I'm not worth the trouble. That's not a warped perception; it's a clear conclusion reached after years of observing the same outcome.

If I can't keep putting the effort required to appear that I am functioning normally, I'm not sure what will happen. For now, people around me have been commenting that I seem tired, worn out, subdued. No, I'm not subdued. I have intentionally withdrawn. I am withdrawn.

Really, being withdrawn makes me more bearable to others. It also means I don't waste what precious little energy I have.

A depression has rolled over me and I'm buried. Rather than try to dig myself out, I'm just going to ride it out. Also, I'm taking a different approach this time. Honesty. That's right, I'm pretty openly telling people I'm severely depressed, mostly with the hope they'll show some compassion, lower their fucking expectations, and cut me some slack. Why do we always put on a brave face for this shit? I'm so done with that. If I had the flu, I wouldn't pretend I didn't.

Don't think I haven't tried to do anything to change the course of events in my brain. In a recurring "Dear Abby" column on the topic of depression, the following advice is always given:
  • Do good deeds
  • Focus on helping others
  • Get some physical activity every day
  • Think positive thoughts
  • Be grateful and express gratitude
  • Listen to uplifting music
  • Read something that improves your mind
  • Show an interest in others
Well, I have to tell you, that list is bullshit. At the very least, it's a lot harder than it sounds to find the right dosage. I'm habitually a doer of good deeds and helper of others, but I have dramatically stepped up my game. I keep thinking that if I just do more good, more good, more good, something will reset in my brain and this sadness, this deep, oppressive sadness, will leave my head. The world I touch is probably better, but I am not.

I walk briskly every day, and check the health app on my phone regularly to make sure I'm moving enough. I stretch. I take the stairs. I park far away.

When dark, dark thoughts cloud my logic, I try to think of happier things, but the dark thoughts keep winning. I've cut way back on NPR in the car and have taken to listening to the comedy station as much as possible. I have been binge-listening to TED talks as well as reading the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and the blogs on the NPR website. Although I'm sure my mind is experiencing some improvement, my mood is not.

Uplifting music? The most played playlists on my iPod have the names "Fun," "Workout Jam," "Party Mix" and "Party Mix 2." Despite the beat and the tunes, I do not feel uplifted. At all.

Remembering to ask others how they're doing and to inquire about their interests is a bit of a struggle. First of all, it's not sincere and right now, at this point in my life, I truly don't care. My interest is feigned and forced. Still, I ask, I chat, I try to focus on what I'm being told, and I dispense appropriate responses and make the right facial expressions. I'm not sure what part of this exercise is supposed to assuage my depression, but I do it anyway. And throw in a few more good deeds.

Gratitude. I have never stopped being grateful. The feeling is there, the thoughts are in my head, but I've been so distracted, so muddled, I might not be verbalizing what I'm thinking. I think I do, but I can't be sure. Sometimes people indicate I haven't actually spoken. It doesn't mean I'm not aware of the things in my life that I'm grateful for.

And that's the thing. I know my life could be a lot worse, but that's irrelevant. The circumstances of my life in no way are connected to the depression in my brain. My life is perfectly adequate, and isn't that better than what most people get?

I wrote this down last week but didn't post it:
I'm very sad and have been for quite some time. I'd like to point out, this in no way means I'm ungrateful for the good things in my life. I just feel hugely inadequate in every way and it seems no matter what good things I try to do, my efforts are always found lacking. Don't hate me because I'm inadequate. I'm doing the best I can, even if I'm not up to the world's standards.

I fear I'll never be funny or interesting again. I will force myself to try. Might have to stop trying to be nice, though. I can't get that right. I need to remember the lessons of The Four Agreements, especially that everyone is the center of his or her own narrative, and as a result, my actions and words will be judged through that filter. My intentions may not even come into consideration.

When I'm profoundly sad, it's hard for me to see any good in myself, so if anyone is unhappy with me I assume my self-loathing is justified. Obviously my hard-fought attempts at focusing on positivity and optimism haven't been working. Faking it is wearing me out. I'm sorry I'm so sad. I'll come back when I feel better. That could be a while. Sorry for my despair. My head is full. Kill me, please.