Time Passes

“What was the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

I am compelled to write this post due to a comment from Lex. I want you to know there is hope. It is possible to emerge from the darkness; to grow out of the very darkness itself; to burn magnificently again.
I am living a life. It is easy to dismiss this statement, this feeling. But I think back to where I was before, who I was, how I was… I wasn’t living. Now, I live. I can do simple things that were once insurmountable, I study, I learn, I do things which I feel have some kind of purpose, there is some kind of reason there. I want to continue the next day. I keep going because I want to; not through obligation or fear.
Of course, this is progress, not a transformation. I try to stop myself descending into reclusive days and weeks. Sometimes my strength depletes, I rest, I hide, sometimes I don’t notice until it has happened. I have a friend who understands-well maybe it is better than understanding. He lets me rest, he lets me stay quiet for a while, eventually he reminds me not to succumb to the darkness, that I can contact people, I can go outside. These days though are not the vacuum of despair they once were. I barely feel it. I just have to try and stay aware. Not let myself be drowned.
I am not suffocated by my fear. A year ago I was terrified of so many things. I feared I would be locked away, I thought about ECT every day, imaging my family dragging me into hospital, being held down as electricity stabbed through my brain. The truly haunting terror that lurked in the darkness was myself. I worried I would kill myself. It wasn’t an idea in my mind, it was an inevitability, a fact, only a matter of time… I didn’t want to. But I would.
Today my biggest fear is those days returning. They will, they might, they won’t… I cannot know. But I know I cannot let fear dictate my life. Fear took so many years from me. No more. Not today. Today is mine.
I still do not know if this is me. I am at the same inevitable level; ambiguity and ambivalence. There is a difference though. This time there are options. I see the options.
I will try and write again, sometimes. There are things I need to say about feelings, self, ideas and life and living. But I do not know these things yet. I am still growing. There will be time.

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From The Ashes…

You must be ready to burn

yourself in your own flame;

how could you become new,

if you had not first become ashes?

Nietzsche

Since I have been here things have been changing. I have been changing back and changing forward. I am beginning to feel. Mainly it has been brutally painful – a glimpse, a sudden pang of how it used to be, how I used to be. But there is more; a sense of self, excitement, joy, freedom, motivation; life again.

I cannot express, on this mere page, this feeling. It is as if I am reborn – not quite yet, but slowly re-emerging from the ashes. Perhaps not as a glorious phoenix, but as some slightly tarnished, singed being; not beautiful, but alive; not magnificent, but living; not immortal, but being, existing, breathing, seeing, feeling.

I feel it. I feel it deep within my bones and soul. The tiny little pieces are fusing together and healing. Eventually, maybe eventually, when I am ready, I will be able to stare into the eyes of my daemon, combine it all into my soul and just be.

I wait, I live, I learn, I grow.

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Am I Missing a Necessary Component?

So far I have been quietly getting on with getting on, but I have noticed that there is a feeling which I have neglected: excitement. For the past few days I have been constantly confronted with the questions ‘Are you excited?’ or, worse, ‘You must be excited!?’ said like that, with the enthusiasm. I usually respond, shunning social etiquette, with ‘more afraid really’, ‘not letting myself think about it’ or a straightforward ‘No.’

Don’t get me wrong, I would like to be excited. I would like to feel some kind of hopeful anticipation; I would even take the nervous, yet overall positive, butterflies feeling. But no. It is just not there.

Occasionally, if I let my mind stop frantically pacing, I am quickly engulfed by a wave of fear and panic. I desperately flail and try to get some air in my lungs. I get out of that water pretty damn quick! Most of the time, I just do not feel anything. I feel like I am witnessing a stranger’s life, a bad actor, one of those ghosts.

This feeling of emptiness is all too familiar to many people with depression or who are isolated, socially and from themselves. I just cannot connect. I cannot feel the necessary emotions. I don’t react to the world as others do. I don’t live in the same world.

I realise some of this sensation has developed because I have been a recluse. I have forgotten how, or am less willing than I once was, to pretend or force myself to feel a certain way. That thought leads me to question if some of these outward and even inner states – excitement, anticipation, expectation – are accessible to me at all. Am I missing something? Have I lost something? Is this part of who I am?

I feel strongly or not at all.

Since I have arrived here the closest I have gotten to excitement was when buying a book. When I picked up ‘The Waves’ by Virginia Woolf I was aware of a gentle twang of feelings. The beautiful cover, smooth, soft, the lighting, the print, I thought ‘yes, today is the day.’ I do not know if this counts, but it is the most like the self I sometimes think is still here, that I have felt for a long time.

This is what I want from this experience. I do not care if I am not ‘making the most of it’ by losing hours to drunken blindness and empty small talk and excitement for excitements sake. I have lost that boost of adrenaline or whatever it is that comes from or before such things, if it was ever there.

I don’t know. I am just wandering, lost.

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To Begin Again

So, I am here again.
I have been living at my parent’s house for the last few months; slowly resting, living as quietly as I can. I’ve felt guilty for not writing and just letting this slide , but I needed a break for myself for a while. I needed space, time and quiet. Maybe it was just the same old avoidance tactics – but with less urgency and fear. Breathing space.
Nothing ever runs so smoothly of course. Many days have been hard and there has been a gnawing in the background of my mind getting more and more furious: ‘You must get out of here’.
That is now what I am doing. I hardly know how it has even happened… 
I applied for a postgrad, without a thoroughly thought out thought about if it was really what I wanted to do. It was just an idea, an inkling, some kind of plan to be busy and look busy. Still, I thought, I would be rejected. I heard back, I’ve been accepted. I visited the university and the city. Everything was alright; not fanastic, but no complaints. I’m in this state of complete ambivalence so familiar to me these last few years. I don’t know, I don’t know…
Ultimately I found no reason not to go. What I have been doing the last few years is not living. I haven’t felt like I even exist… and so… off I go to do a masters degree in psychology.
I have not allowed myself to be conscious of what I am about to put myself through. All I can do is try and try and try to survive. I am on the train now as I type, hours from what was once home, away to begin again.
I am going to try to write, I am going to study. More than anything I am going to try to live somehow. Wish me luck…though I don’t believe in luck, but I will take anything I can get right now.

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Psychotherapy Session Over

Yesterday I still had not decided with any conviction that I was going to go to therapy today. As the afternoon wore on and it was approaching the ‘too late to phone and cancel’ phase, I decided that, if I was not feeling awful today, I would go. The new added bonus was that I had decided to let myself leave if I wanted to. So, with that thought in the forefront of my mind, I made myself get up this morning and leave the house.

Since my previous session had left me feeling pretty awful and a little betrayed, I did not hold out much hope that today would be any different. I knew, at least, since I was leaving the city, that this really would be my last session. I did not want it all to end on such a bad note, so I went today hoping to get some closure on the whole thing. I needed to release some of my anger from last week and to hopefully get some kind of feeling that the failure had not been solely my fault. To be honest, I wanted the psychologist to at least be aware of how I felt if nothing else. I needed to leave therapy thinking that it was not a total disaster, to hang onto some hope for the future.

The session again, was not great, but this time I did not allow myself to get hurt by it. I had not expected much, just hoped for something. It’s probably good that my expectations were low. The psychologist and I are just not on the same page. He appeared to have very little idea about how bad I had felt last time. I explained how I had tried to talk about anxiety, specifically, and some other things and he had just talked over me. He seemed unwilling to admit this, even when I reminded him of exactly what he and I had said. I even made my body language display the fact that I was unhappy and angry. I said I don’t know what else I could do short of holding a sign above my head. He didn’t respond. I told him I have enough people that ignore me already; I don’t need someone else to. He didn’t respond. He did not respond to anything I said. This does not mean that he did not talk. He just did not say anything in response to what I was saying; he went off on a tangent, or hadn’t understood my point, or (and this bit nearly pushed me over the edge) went back to the topic of decision making!

He only said two things which were in some way relevant. ‘That’s not the way I work’, which was a response to me explaining it would have been more helpful to work through the reasons for my anxiety and my inability to cope, which he took to mean ‘tell me how to cope.’ I explained this was not what I meant, but he ignored that part. Secondly, ‘I’m listening now’, which I did not believe, considering he still seemed unable to comprehend what he was listening to. It was too late to listen, ten minutes before the end.

I understand that his professional position entails that he must step back and look at things objectively. He, however, is just not present. I see no compassion or empathy in him. It was like we were having two separate conversations at each other. I tried to respond to him and tie the two together, but it was impossible.

I did not leave the session feeling anywhere near as destroyed as last week. I was still angry, but less angry than I would have been if I had not gone. I hope that now I can let some of the anger go. In writing this, I have realised I am still more angry than I first thought! My main feeling, though, is of utter disappointment. I had hoped that last session would rekindle some kind of hope in me. It did not.

I feel frustrated and let down by this whole process. In the back of my mind, although I tried not to let myself believe it, I had really wanted this to help. I do not want to feel this way. I want to live life.

I feel pathetic, that I have allowed these things to happen to me. I did not want to go to the doctor or the councillor or the psychologist. I did not want to take antidepressants. I did all of these things because I was too weak to say ‘No.’ to the people around me. I know they want what’s best for me, but it should be my choice. It is my life. Why do I not let myself choose it or live it?

My overall thoughts on therapy are that I would like to get off this NHS merry-go-round, for now, at least. I need a break. I need some rest. Most importantly, I need to consider what I want. I need to stop trying to please everyone around me, because I feel like a failure. I feel like a failure anyway, so why not fail on my own terms? This does not mean that I will never seek some kind of therapy, but I will only when I want to do it. When I am ready and I think it will benefit my life.

The moral of the story is I need to take control of my life. I need to find what’s right for me, be that therapy or something entirely different. I’m glad I’m finally off the ride, able to sit on the ground, collect my thoughts and calm the butterflies.

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Teetering On The Brink Of Sanity

Or insanity, whichever it is. I am balancing on the fine line between the two.

Less than a month from when I wrote about independence, I have to admit defeat. Next weekend (or sooner if I can arrange it), I am going back to live with my parents.

Since I have come back, a week or so ago, to live here alone, I haven’t lived. I haven’t coped. Tiny anxieties are building up to full blown panics. The flat is presenting me with one hurdle after another. The roof is leaking in several rooms, some of the taps have stopped working and one of the rooms was taken over by moths in my absence. These problems would be minor to most people, but to me they are components of constant worry and fear. When it rains, I can’t go out, because I am worried that on my return the place will be flooded. The landlord doesn’t care. I live in fear.

I have barely left the flat since I have come back. The disruption of my routine has been far more damaging than I imagined it would be. I just can’t do it anymore.  I can’t force myself into and through terrifying situations. Even walking down the stairs has become a gut wrenching experience. The things that caused me some anxiety before have become too fear inducing. On top of that, my depression is still playing the ‘this is pointless’ game. Writing is pointless, going out is pointless, getting out of bed is pointless. You win depression. It is all pointless.

When I was at my parent’s house I did not want to leave. I don’t think there has been a time in the last six years when I have wanted to stay there instead of returning to my own place. It took me days to stir up the courage to leave. Every time I thought about it I became overwhelmed by panic and fear. There were so many things I had wanted to try and fix when I was at my parent’s, but none of that happened. Everything was the same, but now I did not have any false hope. I was terrified of coming back here because I knew I was just a few steps away from disaster. Now I am so close I worry that another week here may be too long.

I am exhausted; physically and mentally. I need a break. I need to wake up in the morning without a weight of worries already on my mind. I have no control over my thoughts. I can’t concentrate. I can’t function. Before my avoidance tactics were at least productive. Now my productivity only extends to playing freecell and eating cake.

I know that once I’m back ‘home’ I will probably regret this decision. Right now, I feel like it is the only thing I can do. I am afraid of myself and I am afraid of the world around me. I need some safety and rest. I have been promised that things will be different. I’m not really expecting this to happen. I understand I am the problem and I am the family member who does not fit. I never thought I would say it, but I need people around me. Maybe not even to talk to or for support, but just to deal with the minor day to day problems that I cannot cope with any more. I am afraid of going home too. I worry about people accidently setting me off in a spiral of tears and self-hate. I am afraid that once I have had a certain amount of recovery time, I will magically be expected to be better, or at least act like I am better.

I suppose that what I am doing is giving up. I just can’t fight anymore. I barely even care if it is giving up. I don’t know how I am ever going to fight the fear again. I want to call it recovering, but I think I might be running away and hiding. I can picture myself living there for years and years now. I do not know how I will ever build up the courage to leave. I feel like I am not just giving up for now, but giving up forever. I’ll be alive, but I won’t be living.

At least this episode of my life will be over. Maybe I can get some rest.

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Psychotherapy Session Three

‘A waste is a waste.’

Foals

Yesterday I had another appointment with the psychologist. To say it did not go well would be an understatement.

This week I actually wanted to talk to someone. In fact, I felt desperate. My anxiety yesterday was crippling. For days I have been fearfully trying to keep my depression at bay. I needed to relieve or at least release some of what I was feeling. This did not happen.

The session began by talking about decision making again. I felt as if we were just going over what was said last week. I realise that the therapist cannot remember every client and conversation, but some of the things he was suggesting as some kind of revelation, were point I had made the previous week. Our time continued in much the same way, as I tried desperately to move onto the issues that were most pressing for me right now. At one point I actually got to the stage of coming across as pretty rude and said: ‘These are things it would be good to discuss in a few months, but I have more important things to talk about right now.’ This statement had no effect, he continued on the same topic as if I had not said anything.

He asked why it had been difficult to come there, finally picking up on something I had said. When I explained that it scared me to leave the flat, to walk down the stairs, to do anything, he interrupted me. ‘No, I mean why was it difficult to come here? I think it was because you are worried about talking to someone.’

If I could have brought myself to shout at him, I would have. Instead I cried quietly and tried to explain that I wanted to talk to someone, that was not what the fear was about. He moved on after this, not hearing what I was saying and, I think, presuming he was right.

By the end of the session I had become an emotional wreck. I tried to keep my sobbing sounds and jerking body at bay, but it was no use. As he took out his diary to indicate my time was up he said: ‘This session has been pointless for you. I see you have things you want to talk about, but we haven’t had a chance today.’ I wanted to make a sarcastic comment about how I had been frantically trying to talk about what I wanted, but I couldn’t speak. He ended the session by telling me that I had brought up the topic of decisions. He failed to mention that it had been in response to the first question he asked me. I left with a wave goodbye, biting my tongue and trying to hold in the wailing that urgently wanted to escape. I spent a few moments in the corridor trying to compose myself, failing, then quickly escaped.

Overall I am so disappointed by this experience. I know it sounds extreme, but I feel betrayed; not specifically by him, but by the whole system. I thought this was the place where I had some say. Where I could talk about what was bothering me. When he ignored my cues and refused to listen to what I was saying I felt awful. I felt as if I was absolutely nothing. I am not a real person, with real rights and authentic feelings. I am just a thing he has to pretend to listen to. I have experienced other people brushing over things I have said, but I understand it is because they do not want to talk about it and do not know what to say. They are allowed to be like that. I understand. This is, however, his job.

I do not think he is even aware of my anxiety issues. When I first tried to talk about my depression, in a previous session, he dismissed it, saying, ‘yes, yes, you don’t enjoy anything.’ I do not understand. If this is only meant to be an assessment then I do not know why he is not trying to grasp the overall issues. Perhaps he thinks that a few sessions on decision making will be enough to make me decide not to go back.

I phoned my mum afterwards and was on the phone for three hours crying. I was still crying this morning. He just made me feel so pathetic and worthless. I am accomplished enough in that art already. I do not need someone to help me with that.

He may not be a bad therapist, but I do not think he is the right one for me. A part of me wants to go back next week, to give it another chance. I’m angry that this session went the way it did and I do not want it to end like this. However, I also never want to go back there again. I do not think I could handle another session like that. In addition, I was rude. I have come across as a very negative, depreciative version of myself. I am embarrassed and ashamed to go back.

Where do I go from here? I think I will try and see my GP on Monday, although he is rarely in the practice and I’m not sure if I can deal with the disappointment if he is not there. Whether I go to therapy next week or not I have to endure at least another week of anxiety and trying to fight off the depression alone. I do not know how I’m going to do that.

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