Your Friend With Depression

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Chronic long-term depression is isolating even if your friend is receiving appropriate treatment. Appropriate treatment usually includes medication, and often some form of therapy. Too often, people with depression are under-treated or not treated due to financial reasons/shame. Families can be cruel to people with chronic depression.

It’s excruciatingly difficult for people with chronic depression to open up to new people. Please do not befriend someone with chronic depression if you can’t hang in for the long haul. If emotional ups and downs, talk of hopelessness, and inability to take steps that might aid in lessening the depression frustrate you, just walk away. Befriending someone with depression, lecturing them, telling them about people who have it worse, not talking to them for days because you’re annoyed with their illness is worse than not getting close. We have plenty of peripheral friends. We’re used to peripheral friends. Feeling that we finally have a close friend and losing them because we cannot snap out of depression only sets us back.

Tough love? Do you think that we haven’t been inundated with tough love by people who came before you? Do you think, that if tough love worked, we’d still be depressed?

Also, we are not using depression to get attention. Trust me. We would much rather have no “attention” and be healthy than be depressed.

Paralyzed by depression . . . yes, in many cases. Although, your encouragement can get through to us, if you’re willing to stick it out. Many of us have been struggling in the bog of depression for so long that just lifting a foot briefly is a victory.

But don’t come into our lives and get impatient after two months (two whole months, versus decades of depression) write us off as “toxic people,” and drop us. I’ve read and heard too much happy horseshit about “only surround yourself with people who give off light because” blah blah blah something trite and stupid.

We’re not regular people. We’re not projects. We’re people with an illness, an illness that’s difficult to treat and may last the rest of our lives. We have our good days and bad days, just like anyone else with a chronic illness. We can be your dearest and most loyal friends if you make an effort to understand our illness instead of dismissing it as malingering.

 

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Let Down

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Why is depression killing some of the boldest, most influential voices of my generation?

We lost Chester Bennington yesterday. It’s been just barely over two months since we lost Chris Cornell.

They were rock stars. They moved in the same circles. They performed together. They had “rock star issues.”

But the “rock star issues” seem to be pounding the life out of my generation, most visibly in the musical community.

What fucked us all up so bad? We seem to opt out in our forties and early fifties. Could it have anything to do with looking at the future and not seeing one as our parents did?

I don’t fucking know.

And the tears fall like rain
Down my face again
Oh the words you wouldn’t say
And the games you played
With my unfoolish heart
Oh I should have known this from the start

Oh the winter and spring
Going in hand in hand
Just like my love and pain
How the thought of you cuts deep within the vein
Oh this brand new skin stretched across scared terrain

I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my life again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
So I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my lies again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road

All those years down the drain
Love was not enough when you want everything
What I gave to you and now the end must start
Oh I should have listened to my heart

‘Cause I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my life again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
So I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my lies again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road

Oh

I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my life again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want too be let down)
So I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my lies again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want too be let down)
Be lead down the same old road

Dead By Sunrise – Let Down

I listened to this song over and over after I gave my ex-husband the second chance and he blew it. It is so hard to accept that this person who expressed my emotions better than I could myself suffered from the same mental illness that still tries to pull me down every single day.

The future is bleak.

Vampires in Your Life

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We all have them. Sometimes they are psychic vampires. An example would be an abusive boss, who thrives on your fear of losing your job, or an abusive partner, who controls you through threats of losing your domestic stability.

An emotional vampire is someone you care about, and who cares about you, but continually does things that are harmful to your well-being without intent to harm you. These are the hoarders. The people suffering from addiction who don’t realize that their “little” habit harms you. The people who are perpetually broke when they should not be. The people who should know how to live as adults but can’t unless you help them.

How to deal with a psychic vampire: get away as quick as you can, then use the legal system against them if possible.

How to deal with emotional vampires: you can’t. I’m sorry. You can talk to them day after day, night after night, and the behavior that’s harmful to them and to you will never stop. That’s because you (probably) aren’t a medical professional. You have to find a way to live around these people. You have to mentally separate yourself from them. They will drive you mad in a different way than a psychic vampire. You care for or love the emotional vampire. You see the problem(s) they’re having. You suggest ways to change. You have earnest conversations with them about their problems. You make stronger suggestions. They pull away. You explain to them about the ways that their problems affect other people, including you. “I know,” “I don’t know where to start,” “It’s overwhelming.”

And it goes on and on and on.

An emotional vampire cannot envision another way of living. You can talk sternly, threaten to leave, leave, cut off contact, and it won’t make a difference.

The emotional and physical crap they’ve built up is beyond you. They need professional help. You’ll drive yourself to the cliff edge of insanity trying to get through to them. They hear it, they know it, but “it” is their routine. They honestly can’t see how it’s harmful to anyone.

You have to live your own life as much as possible. If you’re a caregiver for an emotional vampire, you should seek out family help so that you’re not carrying the load alone. If you are alone, contact your local senior center or Social Services. They may be able to give you information about respite care.

If you feel that you’re losing yourself to an emotional vampire, seek professional help, or at least reach out to friends.

And that thing you’ve been wanting to do . . . hang the picture. Go to the movie. Cut your hair. Grow out your hair. Get the tattoo. Buy the book. Write the book. You can do it. You have to enforce little pockets of time for yourself, and you’ll have to hear some bullshit about it afterward, but it’s all words. Do the thing you have to do for yourself, and above all, do not lose yourself.

Motivation failure

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I responded to a woman I follow on Twitter after she posted a motivational quote. I probably shouldn’t have. I do not for one second believe that she ever thought the quote could be in any way offensive or upsetting, but it is to me every time I see it because it is so totally unrealistic and really has a victim-blaming tone about it.

The quote was about change your thoughts, change your situation. Something to that effect. I used to believe in that. I believed it every day and believed so hard and it did not work.

It did not help me view my living situation in any kind of positive light.

It did not help me manage my anxiety and OCD. Nothing but medication and therapy has ever helped with that.

It did not help me deal with the unkind people in my life because no matter what *I* did, they kept on doing things to hurt me. In fact, my attempts to be more understanding led to them taking even more advantage of me.

It did not help me deal with my physical health problems. It did not help me deal with anything, let alone give me the tools to change my situation.

And so I get so sick of seeing it repeated and earnestly passed around that I finally told this woman that I found the quote offensive and even harmful to people with OCD because we can’t change our thoughts without intensive medical intervention. Quotes and prayers are not going to help us. We pray for release from tormenting thoughts every day of our lives. At best, we turn to life examples of other people who have made it through horrific situations and try to look at them as role models and remind ourselves that that person got through X thing. I can get through this. And that doesn’t always work.

Distracting myself just leads to another intrusive thought. There is not one thing in my life I can think about that doesn’t come with some accompanying anxiety or bad memory. Just now I looked at one of my favorite dolls and immediately remembered this past February when a man and a woman cyberstalked me for weeks after I complained on Target’s Facebook page about poor service after I ordered a doll. Now I’m going to think about that all night and probably have a nightmare.

I got an early Christmas gift yesterday, a deck of oracle cards. I love it, but it’s always going to remind me of a friend who collects Tarot cards who told me that she wasn’t my therapist when I was having a very bad day and sent her a message about it.

When my 10-year-old cat gets in the bed with me at night, I start wondering how much longer he’ll live. He’s not even sick.

This is the life of someone with OCD and anxiety. Sleep is no respite because of the nightmares. Meditation is impossible for me. Reading helps a little. Gardening helps a little. Writing is another compulsion with its own humongous set of associated worries. Is this book really awful? I should rewrite this whole book. Oh dear God, did I save that paragraph I cut? I’ll never get a book deal so I’ll have to self-publish but I can’t afford a professional editor so I can’t self-publish because I’ll never catch all the mistakes. I’m doing all this work for nothing. I should give up. But if I give up, all the people who laughed at me and said I’d never be successful will win.

But that motivational quote being a huge trigger for me did not give me the right to jump down a stranger’s throat, and I’m lucky that she ignored me and didn’t tell me where to get off.

I just wish that everyone could understand that we can’t all be that person who lived through a nightmare and kept a positive attitude. It’s an impossible standard. I guess that quote helps some people. But I’ve been fighting to control my thoughts for thirty years and I know a lot of other people with OCD and other mental illnesses have too and some of us are so, so tired of the motivational quotes. The motivational quotes lead “normal” people to think that we’re just malingering, that we really can just “get over it,” “move on,” “stop dwelling on it.” We’re “drama queens.” The truth is that our illnesses are inconvenient for other people and they don’t want to be bothered by them, by us. They want us to shut up and act normal. They don’t care if we’re only acting. As long as we aren’t annoying them with our petty problems, that’s all that matters.

That early Christmas gift, that deck of oracle cards. It’s a stunning deck with 55 vintage images of women. A couple of the cards feature gorgeous vintage photos of Japanese women in kimonos. I cringed in my mind when I saw them because my ex-husband was obsessed with Japanese culture and the stereotype of submissive Asian women. I think that I’ll always associate such images with my ex-husband. How can you control a thought that stems from an abusive situation you were in for seven years? And then I feel guilty for having the thought because does it make me racist? No, it makes HIM racist for stereotyping Asian women and telling me over and over that he should have gotten a “mail-order bride” instead of marrying me, but I can’t suppress that thought.

So this, OCD, anxiety, PTSD after abusive relationships, this needs to be discussed. If someone with one or more of the disorders can talk about it, I think they should so that people will have to see us as actual sick people, not malingerers. But no one should feel pressured to talk about their illness. I talk about it. I get a lot of positive feedback from other people who suffer from the same illnesses.

It still doesn’t have anything to do with the woman who posted the motivational quote, so I apologized to her. I don’t expect to hear anything back from her. I wish I could tell her why the quote set me off. I guess that’s why I wrote this post. I hope it helps with the dialogue that’s so desperately needed between people with OCD and people who don’t understand it. I hope it makes someone think twice before telling someone with a mental illness that they can think their way to recovery. I hope it helps someone with a mental illness talk to someone who doesn’t get it.

I hope the woman who posted the quote forgives me even if she never speaks to me.

I’m Not Afraid

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My anxiety has skyrocketed since last Tuesday. The only time I’ve ever been able to work on controlling my fearful thoughts was with a wonderful therapist on Long Island. I can’t afford a therapist right now. I’m trying to remember things that he told me six years ago. When I start imagining bad things that might happen–and I’m very adept at seeing every possible negative outcome–my thoughts start with “I’m afraid.” I’m making myself stop those thoughts immediately and telling myself “I’m NOT afraid.” And then I try to think of anything that makes me happy.

Like many other people, I was flooded with memories of abuse during Trump’s campaign. I finally had to tell someone close about things that have happened to me over the last 25 years that they didn’t know about. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want that person to be upset by those things, but now they know why I’m so dramatically emotionally different than I was a week ago. I feel drained and numb now, but it’s better than the emotional roller coaster.

I know that some people are spending much less time online or going offline to avoid the negativity. I respect that, although I will miss them. Right now I find that staying in touch with my friends as much as possible is helpful. I also keep up with spirituality-related sites and accounts and fun sites makes things somewhat bearable. As does writing out my thoughts here.

I work from home. I’ve only been out once since last Tuesday. I don’t want to see any of the ugliness I read about online. But I can’t stay inside forever, or I’ll let the bad change me. I’m pessimistic in the best of times. But I feel like I need to start getting out again . . . I need to see my neighbors. I need to talk about homey things.

I need to not be afraid.

“Change It”

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If you suffer from clinical depression, you’ve almost certainly heard most of these things at least once. Did hearing any of them help you, or did they just drive you further back into the dark corner where you spend most of your time?

Depression is an illness. No cutesy motivational quote or command to “snap out of it!” is going to cure it. You have good days, good weeks, and then you have very bad nights. And we’ve all been there and we’ve all heard all this crap and please try not to let it make you feel worse about yourself. Some people will never get it. But there is someone who will, and that person may very well be a doctor in the ER, so don’t fear doctors.

And don’t listen to people who belittle your depression. That leads to belittling yourself and makes the vicious cycle more vicious.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/

Simply saying “I don’t know what to say but I can listen” is better than making someone feel worse than they already do.

I want to live in the glow

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I wanna go to place were I can hold the intangible
And let go of the pain with all my might*

Abuse, depression, depression caused by abuse take many things away from you. Most people take reading and listening to music for granted. I stopped reading almost entirely during my marriage because my ex-husband verbally beat into my head that I was not supposed to do anything when he was home but pay attention to him. And cook and clean. If I picked up a book while he was home, I got the cold shoulder or a lecture. I was supposed to watch him play video games at night. Seriously. It was all right if I sewed and all right if I sketched, but books were a no-no. I suppose that books were too attention-consuming and God forbid, I might read something that conflicted with his views on life or politics. Once I wanted to read a biography of Frida Kahlo and he told me she had affairs with women and demanded to know why I wanted to read such a thing. I told him I just knew that she was a very popular artist and of course I wouldn’t read a book like that.

I had to play dumb.

I hardly read anything for four years. In the summer of 2008 I glanced through a volume of The Southern Vampire Mysteries. I read just enough that I was drawn into the story and I had to read more. I started going to the Borders bookstore in Riverhead and buying a paperback a week. I took a break from the nonstop housework during the day and sat on the deck and read. I realized that if Charlaine Harris could write in that candid style, so could I. One night I sat down with my laptop instead of sewing or a sketchbook and I started writing. Immediately my ex-husband asked if I had started keeping a diary. I said no, I am writing a book.

Now I don’t have a husband but I do have four finished novels and I’m debating if I want to self-publish or go the traditional route.

Even after I left him, reading was difficult. I kept buying books and not reading them because I felt a reluctance, almost a dread. It was as if he had stolen the joy of reading from me. I finally bought a couple of magazine subscriptions and started with articles. I moved up to poetry. Then I found that I could re-read the classics, and short stories in my college edition of the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women.

It took me years before I could read a new book from cover to cover, reading every day.

Before I met him, I always had music playing. Music in the car, music from my CD player, then music from my iPod clipped to my waistband while I did housework. He didn’t like my music. He said only lesbians listened to Stevie Nicks. He hated the Pet Shop Boys. He said that HIM was the most technically unskilled band he had ever heard.

I left the fool. I moved in with a roommate who liked much of the same music I did. But every time a song came on that she didn’t like, she would complain until I hit fast forward and found one of “her” songs.

I couldn’t listen to Concrete Blonde. I couldn’t listen to The White Stripes. I couldn’t listen to Gillian Welch. It made me crazy and I started not putting music on at all.

That situation obviously wasn’t working out and then my mother started having health problems and needed me at home so I went home.

And for years I still struggled to read and listen to music. Because I was waiting for a tantrum or a tirade.

Yet I kept buying books and music.

I bought a lot of DVDs and then started buying the books the DVDs were based on and then the soundtracks to the DVDs.

Now I can read again. Now I can listen to my beloved Stevie Nicks again. I bought her 24 Karat Gold DVD. I bought opera (which my ex-husband did not allow me to listen to in his prescence). I bought the movie The Secret Life of Bees, then the book, then the soundtrack and the score. I just bought “Beautiful” by India.Arie.

The time is right
I’m gonna pack my bags
And take that journey down the road
Cause over the mountain I see the bright sun shinning
And I want to live inside the glow
Yeah

I wanna go to place where I am nothing and everything
That exists between here and nowhere
I wanna got to a place where time has no consequence oh yeah
The sky opens to my prayers

I wanna go to beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
I wanna go to beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
I wanna go to beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
I wanna go to beautiful, beautiful, beautiful . . . .

I can hear the music again. I can read the books my friends recommend.

I have so many, many unread books. I could read for the rest of the year without buying another book.

Every time my ex-husband yelled at me, I went on iTunes and bought another song. I have so much music, and my mom loves it. Even the things that aren’t normally her taste. She said that the same thing happened to her when she was married to my father. He took her music away in that he made it impossible for her to enjoy it. They’ve been divorced for over 30 years. She just started playing the piano again a year or so ago.

Abuse leads to depression which leads to loss of motivation and lack of enjoyment of the things you used to love.

If you’re in an abusive relationship or you’ve left one and you still don’t feel like yourself, like you can’t enjoy anything, give it time. Re-read an old book. A short book. Buy something new by your favorite musician. Buy a magazine.

Don’t stop trying to get back to yourself. You will, eventually.

*India.Arie