I started this post last week, and then, well, events happened on August 11 that made me do a couple of revisions – made me be a lot more open and raw. Because dammit, this is not something that should be pushed under a rug, or hinted at, or talked about euphemistically. Mental illness should not be stigmatized anymore than any other disease.
I generally consider myself a fairly sane human being. I function decently well in society, as long as you take that to mean that I am able to hold down a job, have social engagements (sometimes, if I can’t avoid them) and have a few IRL friends that I see on a semi-regular basis.
I’ve had struggles off and on for years. The dragons I dance with aren’t as big and dark as others’, but they are still real. My main struggle is not depression – or not only depression. I have been variously diagnosed as bipolar or having depression or with generalized anxiety disorder. I think the one that gets me the most is the anxiety.
I do fine for months and years at a time, and then something happens. Something breaks. Things don’t fire right anymore. I read today that depression is like having malware installed in your brain, and that description (for the computer savvy among us) was as accurate as anything I’ve ever come up with.
Until you are looking at your thought processes in hindsight, it’s easy to miss where the misfirings are happening. It’s easy to get stuck in a feedback loop of “what ifs.” It’s easy to believe the alternate programs that the malware is running are real, and that the hundreds of fluttery wings in your chest cavity are a natural state of being.
It’s also easy to type everything like you’re referring to a plural anonymous you. It’s harder to take ownership.
A revision. Until I look at my thought processes in hindsight, it’s easy for ME to not realize where and when the misfirings are happening. It’s easy for ME to get stuck in a feedback loop of what-ifs that just cycle through and heighten the anxiety. It’s easy for ME to start to believe that this feeling of a herd of moths fluttering violently in my chest cavity is my natural state of being.
It’s hard for ME to remember that this is temporary, and that there are things that can make it better. It’s hard for ME to remember that self-medication is not preferable to psychiatrist-supervised medication. It’s hard for ME to believe that the voices (not actual voices, I am not schizophrenic, thanks be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster) in my head are not telling the truth.
I am lucky, relatively speaking. My suffering is relatively mild in the scheme of things. When things got very, very bad post-partum, I already had a support system in place. I have a supportive husband. I can generally recognize when things are getting out of hand.
It has been a long time since life has seemed too hard. I feel fairly confident at this time that I have the tools I need to continue muddling through. But I’ve seen the darkness. I’ve felt its suffocating draw. There are days I can still feel it tugging in the corner of my mind. There are days that it is work to get up, to do what needs doing, to be who I need to be for my husband and my son. But I can almost always turn down the volume on the static and keep on keeping on.
And sometimes when our fights begin,
I think I’ll let the Dragons win …
And then I think perhaps I won’t,
Because they’re Dragons, and I don’t.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline