There are times when I feel trapped in my own mind and body, like I’m a prisoner and some other force or being or…whatever…has taken over. Like, logically I know things and I think and believe certain things, but my brain and/or body seem to conspire against me.
Anyone who’s ever struggled with depression, anxiety, disordered eating, etc. probably understands what I’m talking about.
I can’t tell you how long I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, but it seems like my entire life. Even though I have recollections of being a fairly happy kid, I also remember being a “moody” kid who was incredibly sensitive and probably far more aware than I should have been for my age. I mean, I had the regular temper tantrums that all kids have. I guess. Then again, I’m not even entirely sure how “normal” my tantrums were considering I would throw all of my books onto my bedroom floor (and I had a lot of books) and then immediately feel really bad for my books, which would make me cry because I just wanted something to throw that would make noise but that wouldn’t break, but I hated hurting my books.
I was like three or four when THAT line of thinking began.
Needless to say, I guess I’ve always been a bit “different.”
There’s nothing wrong with being different. Not really.
But I’ve always been somewhat moody. Sensitive. Prone to ups and downs and highs and lows. My guess is that most of that stems from the crap that was going on when I was a kid–I had to process and deal with a lot of very adult emotions that no adult should even have to deal with, much less a four-year-old.
It’s crazy to me, though, that almost 30 years later I still have trouble sometimes processing my emotions. Maybe deep down I’m just a moody, sensitive person and would have been that way no matter what. Who the fuck knows.
Well, that may not be quite right. I know how to process my emotions. I know how to track back to figure out what triggered an anxiety attack. I know how to walk myself back through things to figure out what might have triggered a depressive episode, or in the past disordered eating behavior. I can do those things with an amazingly logical brain and progression, take them out, pick them apart, and figure out how to not let that trigger get pulled the next time–or at the very least how to mitigate the effects.
It’s easy when it’s a single incident, or even two incidents. But every now and then, for some strange reason, it’s like a bunch of shit just coalesces and all of a sudden I find myself in this place where I feel like I’m going fucking insane, and it just spirals downward from there.
Happiness is a choice.
Every morning at 8 a.m., a local sports talk guy says that. His mom always said it to him, and it’s his way of honoring her memory and spreading that message.
“Happiness is a choice.”
Funnily enough, deep down I believe that. You choose to be happy or miserable. If you choose to constantly be miserable, you’re going to be miserable. If you choose to be happy, you’re going to be happy. Yeah, it isn’t always linear–there are ups and downs with everything–but overall, your mood and your outlook on life IS a choice.
The problem is that the marauding army that’s taken over my brain and my emotions doesn’t always get that memo. I struggle with happiness at times. Logic wars with the illogical and inexplicable. I know that overall, I have so many reasons to be happy. And there are lots of things that DO make me happy. But despite the fact that I can be the most determined person you’ve ever met, it’s not like I have a switch in my brain. I can’t just go out to the garage and flip a breaker and all of a sudden all of the lights are on. It doesn’t work that way.
So I get frustrated.
Not helping matters is my constant need to know “why.” I’m not good with not knowing why. I ALWAYS need an explanation. Telling me “because I said so” didn’t work for me when I was two, and it sure as hell doesn’t work for me now. I HAVE to know why. I just do.
Unfortunately, there isn’t always an easy explanation when I get like this. I can’t even begin to tell you what set this current depression spiral off, because it’s insidious. It builds slowly. Anxiety attacks happen super fast. One minute I’m totally fine, the next I’m in full-blown panic mode. Those I can usually figure out pretty easily. There’s always a trigger for my anxiety attacks, and I’ve learned how to overcome them.
Depression…or more aptly apathy…happens so slowly with me. It’s like slowly chipping away at marble or something. It starts off as a block of marble. You chip away a little bit, and you can sense some change, but not enough to really NOTICE a difference. But then you keep chipping. And chipping. And suddenly that block of marble is a fucking swan or gargoyle or naked man with a weird looking penis or something. It’s still marble, but it’s different. It’s been chipped at until it became something different. Sometimes it’s a beautiful thing–like a swan or an angel playing the harp. And sometimes it’s a demon with five heads and some wicked claws. The problem is that if you don’t like what it’s become, you can’t exactly glue all the chips back on and start from scratch. Instead, you have to take what’s there and figure out how to transform it YET AGAIN into something that’s closer to what you want.
There are days when I look at that block of marble and think, “Fuck it. I’m so over this shit. I’m just gonna go curl up in a corner by myself, turn out all the lights, shut everyone out and just sleep until I feel better and stop worrying about everything and feeling like there’s something wrong with me.”
In the past I would deal by going out. In the time between college and Phillip–which, to be honest, isn’t a time I always look back at fondly because I was a fucking mess–I would go to the bar, meet some friends there. Maybe I would drink. Maybe I would play pool. But I would talk and laugh and every now and then make really bad decisions in an effort to not feel so alone and lost (see? I was the very definition of “hot mess” back in the day). Or I would go shopping and rack up a ton of credit card debt, buy books and shoes and clothes. Retail therapy, yo. Or I would go visit my mom and stepdad and hopefully see a niece or nephew or two. Playing with kids sometimes made me feel better, but inevitably would just serve to make me feel more alone. Back then I rarely let anyone in enough to let them see just how bad things could get for me. It wasn’t until I started getting angry all the time ON TOP OF being depressed and anxious all the time that I finally broke down and went to a therapist.
That was one of the best decisions I made in that time period.
Since then I’ve learned how to be okay just being alone and by myself. I’ve learned to honor my emotions and allow myself to feel all the things I’m feeling. I’ve learned how to open up and let people (ok, mostly Phillip) know when I’m spiraling. Luckily, Phillip can usually recognize it before I do, and that helps put the brakes on it, or at least slow it down so that it doesn’t get as bad as it could.
Despite that, though, I still sometimes feel trapped in my own head and body. I’m telling my brain to suck it up, buttercup. Just be fucking happy. But my brains like, “bitch, please.” And my body…it seems I constantly struggle with fatigue. Even when I get 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night, I wake up tired and fatigued and I stay that way. Usually, I’ll wake up sore and stiff, too. We think it’s our mattress, which sucks since we’ve only had it for four years, but I don’t know. I go to Crossfit and my muscles feel tight, and will sometimes continue to feel that way even after 15 minutes of stretching and warm ups. No matter how much I move during the day, no matter how much I stretch or roll stuff out, everything just feels sore and tight (and when I say tight, I don’t mean just from stress). My focus is shit. I jokingly (and not-so-jokingly) say I just have ADD, but I’m not sure if that’s actually the case or not. I can’t remember stuff half the time. I’m super forgetful (I used to have the memory of an elephant). Some days it feels like I’m just in a constant fog.
And despite the fact that I’m a firm believer in the power of the mind, I can’t ever seem to get past those things. I’ll have moments and days where everything’s great. But more days than not it seems like I’m in some weird, sad, moody fog where I’m exhausted before I even get out of bed. Diet and exercise help to an extent, at least with the depression and anxiety. But on days when I do Crossfit I feel even more exhausted and the fog’s even thicker and my focus is even more nonexistent than usual. The endorphins are great for my mood, but apparently they’re not good enough to help me focus. The only thing I seem to be able to focus on here lately (meaning: the past few months at the very least) is reading. I can read an entire book in less than a day with no problem. The irony: most of them I can’t tell you any specifics about. Used to, I could read two or three books in a day and months later recall snippets of dialogue and a ton of details. These days, I can tell you what time period it was in and maybe the hero and heroine’s names. Everything else just seems incredibly nebulous when it comes to the books that don’t “stick” with me, and the ones that do “stick” with me are few and far between.
Some days, it really does feel almost like I’m “losing” my mind.
Deep down, though, I don’t think this is a “meds” issue (because I know that you, dear reader, will probably go there). I’ve been able to manage the depression and anxiety for years with diet and exercise. The other stuff, too, seems to be slightly better managed with diet and exercise, but here lately it feels like it’s slipping away from me. Yes, I need to work out more during the week outside of Crossfit–especially on weeks when we don’t go to the ranch (because believe me, I get PLENTY of exercise on ranch weekends)–even if it’s just walking the dogs (because, hey, they need exercise, too, especially Kimber, because she gets super bitchy when she hasn’t had enough exercise). But there are days–and today’s one of them–where I just feel like, “What’s the point? Nothing’s gonna help.” And then I get mad at myself for feeling that way and want to throw something. But not something breakable. And not with the dogs around because I don’t want to scare Kimber or worry Tiny. And not with Phillip around because I don’t want to accidentally hit him. And not around anything breakable, because that’s just immature and irresponsible. I guess I’ve always had far too much logic regarding temper tantrums.
The bright side in all of this, though? Somewhere along the way I’ve stopped eating my emotions. Instead of binge eating anything and everything in sight, I have no desire to do that. Hell, I almost have no desire to eat, but I’m making myself because I know that I have to fuel my body and that not doing so will only make the doldrums worse.
There’s that, at least.