I’ve recharged

Without really thinking about it, I’ve taken yet another long break from blogging. Two full months, to be exact. I’ve never been good about blogging regularly, but I’d hoped the summer would have made it easier to write more often. That didn’t happen.

I could excuse it on account of career/future planning demands (true). I could try to excuse it on a lot of family matters and shifting dynamics that have come up (also true).

But I know I could have made time for it, just like I’ve made time for other things in the past two months. I really just didn’t feel like blogging for a while; I didn’t feel like publicizing my thoughts/experiences on the Internet. I held them close in my journals instead.

Maybe it’s because (hormonal or stress-related or otherwise), my thoughts/words took a dark turn in June/early July and I wanted to wait until I was okay again. I felt like my writing (essay, fiction, or research) was a lie. False, broken, nothing. I felt like a fraud. Like I had all these hopes and dreams and others hoped and dreamed for me too and I was going to let them all down horribly. I was cranky and rude and cried myself to sleep for over a good week when it got really bad.

I’m still not sure how got the strength to I pull myself out of the rut, but here I am, blogging again with my usual rambling and insertion of personal details that are maybe a bit much.

One thing I did do is recharge. The last few months (and year, really) have been stressful and emotionally draining for an idealistic dreamer like me and I haven’t been practical enough to let some of the burdens go or make real progress in talking them out with others. It’s been too tempting to escape instead, but fortunately I’ve had time to turn some of those escapes into chances to recharge.

So, I’ve done things I haven’t been able to do in a long time. I’ve hiked. I’ve slept in. I’ve woken up early. I’ve eaten healthy food and junk food and experimented with recipes. I’ve paid for a ridiculous amount of Kindle e-books and finished two book series within days of each other. I’ve updated my library account and avoided reading too many current events or negative websites. I’ve reached out to old friends and new friends. I’ve visited a place where my career could take me and loved the experience. I’ve tried not to stress to much about my future or how difficult it is to articulate what I want in 4500 characters or less. I’m starting to think about being kinder and practicing more self-care and including more socialization—even dating—in that category of self-care (something that used to terrify me).

So even though the summer has mostly gone by without my blogging input and I’m not sure if I’m able to keep it up on top of everything else without sacrificing bigger priorities, I’m glad to be back on my feet, more or less, and I’m grateful that I had a chance to at least talk about it here.

I hope all of you are doing well, but know some of you might also be struggling to stay afloat. If you need to talk to someone about it, I’m happy to listen. Best of luck to all of you today with your current problems, your hopes, and your pursuit of dreams and futures and happiness.

– Cinnia

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Feeling Better

I feel better today. It hasn’t been a perfect day, but I’m in a much better place than where I was a few months ago. And as much as I’d like to say it’s due to something badass like demon-slaying, it comes much more from demon-befriending.

I’m in a point in my life where I’m dealing with a lot of stress (level: severe) and my anxiety hasn’t been the best for managing it, although it does help me get the work done and the bills paid. The mild-to-moderate depression flares up every once in a while (usually because of adjustment disorder), but eventually dissipates once I look around at myself and start to get my shit together.

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Emulated darkness

There it is. That disquieting feeling in my gut when I look in the mirror and brush my hair. That feeling when I mix up my words or drive improperly. That feeling, worst of all, when simply getting out of bed or starting even a small task is all but impossible, and my routes of escape seem so clear and easy.

The feeling that I am no better than the worst traits of my parents, that I am doomed to repeat the habits (depression, addiction, etc.) that have brought my family nothing but suffering. And even though I know this feeling is a mental distortion, it sits with me heavily until I push past it.

A curious fear, isn’t it? That I am afraid of emulating the traits I dislike (and sometimes despise) about my parents? It must be an outcome of some sort from distorted thinking, that my thoughts emphasize the bad and forget the good. (Like the fact that after they separated, they both found love and community in different ways, and that my father discovered a whole new life for himself through his work.)

I grew up watching bad habits play out in others’ lives and witnessed their resulting consequences. I was afraid that I would become the same and found ways to run from it, inadvertently emulating what I feared. I’m not proud of the all of the time I’ve wasted by doing this or of the tasks that went neglected. I’m not proud of the fact that I could give my best work more often, or of the anxiety that I’ve fostered to the point that I’ve stunted my ability to form emotional, trust-based relationships. I am afraid of having another nervous breakdown, another panic attack, another falling domino towards spiraling out of control. Most of all, I am afraid of driving my friends and loved ones further away from me.

What keeps me going is the knowledge that I can and will get through this irrational and disordered thinking, that I am most certainly NOT the worst of my parents, and that I can improve one moment at a time. As past experience has shown me, whatever problem I have at a given moment is rarely as bad or as hard as it seems.

At any moment, I can turn off the Internet, set aside my food, stop, and breathe for a bit. Return to my own skin for a bit, remember who Cinnia is, and get moving again.

Once I start up my momentum, I feel almost unstoppable. I get away from those dark thoughts and unhealthy habits and feel so incredibly like my best self that it’s hard to believe that this other person lived inside me for awhile and was so unhappy.

I’m not sure there’s any trick or anything to preventing the fear (and habits) from ever returning, but recognizing its source, flaws, and countermeasures is incredibly powerful for me.

Dear brain, go to sleep.

I am a chronic insomniac. I’ve had trouble falling asleep as long as I can remember, with the exception of nights when I’m so exhausted that I pretty much pass out.

Recently I’ve started noticing this trend:

  1. Wake up feeling a little depressed, listless. Maybe even anxious or sad for no apparent reason.
  2. Go through day as usual. Feels like swimming through molasses. Everything is slower and harder to accomplish. I usually don’t accomplish very much on these days.
  3. At night, have trouble falling asleep:
    • If I’m self-aware, I force myself to write or read a book and shut down all technology until I fall asleep around 11 PM.
    • If I’m not self-aware or avoiding some sort of problem or trying to block out some anxious feeling, I stay on the Internet or some other task until I crash around 1-2 AM. And I can’t seem to force myself off the Internet until my eyes physically refuse to stay open.
  4. Wake up the next morning feeling significantly more cheery and energized:
    • If it was a “good night”, I feel much better and get a lot of stuff done and feel genuinely optimistic about my day.
    • If it was a “bad night”, I still get a lot of stuff done, but the quality of the work is lacking, I feel anxious and stressed out, and I tend to crash and go to sleep much earlier in the night (10-10:30 PM).
  5. Repeat for at least once every week or so.

And there is significant psychiatric data ([1], [2], [3]) to support the idea that insomnia and sleep disturbances are associated with (bingo!) depression and anxiety.

It’s simple: Control the sleep habits, get a mood boost.
It’s also complicated: Controlling the sleep habits means managing my Internet addiction by developing completely new, self-aware habits. Easier said than done!

My goal for the next while is to break the nighttime habits that keep me awake while in a bad head-space. If I feel moody, I have to force myself to get some sleep, because I know I’ll feel so much better the next day. And that means giving up the news, Reddit, YouTube, and tumblr for  a significant amount of time… (*sigh*)

At least I still have you, WP.

Notes: “Late Night” by Jani Ravas

 

Strength and Darkness

Long post today. Tl;dr at the bottom.

It’s really hard for me to be honest with myself sometimes. I avoid acknowledging the core issues of my problems because I am afraid they will be too hard to confront. Or I am afraid people will think less of me for them.

And yes, I know there are people who care about me, who would love me regardless of my problems. I know there are people who can help.

And yet… That old, draining, cold voice in my head says I should keep my problems to myself. That I should ignore them as much as possible, and not impose my problems on others. That other people already have too many other things on their plate and that I should be strong enough to handle it on my own.

I know I’ve had depression for years, but I’ve only skimmed the surface of confronting it, of targeting the disease. Instead, I’ve focused on managing its many symptoms: eating disorders, anxiety, lethargy, anger, escapism, etc. etc.

Is it any wonder that the same symptoms keep resurfacing?

I finally was brave enough to read the health literature on what I should do. I’m a fucking scientist; I should have done this ages ago, but then again… Confrontation.

And one of the major things that stuck out to me (besides the things I’d already realized I’d been trying, such as endorphin boosts by exercise, keeping myself busy, and attending to my social skills) was the need for patients to have a gatekeeper of sorts. People who are aware of the problem, who can act as a sounding board on both the bad days and the good ones.

I haven’t been brave enough to triangle my family into this and I’ve lost a sense of closeness with my friends over the past years as I’ve continued to retreat inside my own head rather than accept the problem for what it is. It is a problem and it is serious and very much like a disease. I know that and I will work on improving my relationships and being brave enough to voice my own problems. God knows I don’t want it to get worse; I have been blessed with many gifts and I don’t want them continuously wasted like this.

But the first step, I thought about was to voice it on my blog. In my journal, my words may not be read by someone who can see the problem for what it is. And I’ve never really been brave enough to confess my problems outside of the therapy sessions I’ve been in. My “everything’s alright” facade that I like to project isn’t really me… It’s my wall, my barrier that I think is protecting me even when it isn’t. In some ways, I think my other blog comes from the “true me” better, despite it consisting of fiction.

But I have depression and here I am on this blog, letting it sink in. And I think that if I am strong enough to say it even anonymously, I will become strong enough to say it to the people I love.

Sorry if this seems like a lot of rambling. I will try to be more coherent in future posts. Today, though, I just wanted to get this out there, make it irrevocably exist somewhere before I decide to delete it, erase it, or pretend it never happened.

To the kind people who will recommend therapy, anti-depressants, or similar treatments, I thank you for your concern and I have considered (and even tried) them before. I am safe and not considering self-harm. As someone with more intimate knowledge than usual of health care and depression, I am aware of clinical treatments and of all of my options with which to access them. But for the purposes of my blog, I would like to focus on the life, rather than clinical aspects of treating the disease here. I will mention the clinical part if needed, but it’s not my primary reason for writing.

Thank you to my kind readers and I hope you have a lovely and safe holiday weekend.

Tl;dr: I have depression, but haven’t been brave enough to confess it to others before now. I am confronting it from a combination of science and other approaches. I am safe. More on it later.

Notes: Image by Biswarup Ganguly