Thursday, January 23, 2014

Two Depressions, Some Toddler Therapy, & A Few Extra Cups Of Coffee

2014 hasn't particularly started the way I was anticipating. At the end of 2013, I was feeling pretty good. I'd gone several weeks without a particularly bad episode of mood cycling and I thought that the frustrating episodes of the fall were neatly placed in the past. But as January unfolded, my moods got worse, and then even worse from there. I rarely suffer bouts of depression longer than a couple of days, so I generally feel unprepared when they arrive.... which they did, with a vengeance.

They started hitting me a couple of weeks ago out of the blue. The crying for no reason, feeling bad about myself and about my life, the lack of hope, and the crushing anxiety that tends to piggyback on the depression. If you've ever experienced it, you understand exactly what I'm talking about. If you've not, I am unsure if there's a way to truly do it justice, for lack of a better phrase. It's the kind of anxiety that makes you fearful, though you can't particularly say of what - it feels like you're simply afraid of everything, of life. In the end, I had two terrible depressive episodes back to back that made me feel like I was going to break completely. And then they opened my eyes.

I've spent the last couple of weeks doing a lot of thinking, and a lot of observing of my own brain and the way it works. I've learned a few things, and I thought I'd share them in case others go through something similar, whether diagnosed with mood cycling or not.

  • Not everything your brain tells you is true. It might feel like it, but it's not. Even those things you seem so sure of, that feel so concrete. If you want to test this, look at your thoughts about yourself like you would if they were about a loved one. Would you be so harsh, unloving, negative, or hopeless about them if they were in your shoes? Would things seem so black and white, right and wrong, good and bad? 
  • Fear is often my brain's defense mechanism. I've learned that often times the anxiety and fear subconsciously kicks and cocoons me so that I'm unable to move, unable to address something that feels threatening, that could cause major chaos in my life. To clarify here, I mean a serious personal matter, not a project for work or an errand or something of that nature. 
  • The cocoon my brain puts me in isn't always to hide me from the negatives. Sometimes, the chaos it's protecting me from is the cycling itself, the rapid ups and downs. There's so much constant change in the rapid cycling brain. I wonder if it gets so confused that it just tries to stay in one place, even if it's a severely depressed place. 
  • There's a very tricky line between believing in yourself and protecting yourself from the truth. There are things about myself that I've held close, defended, denied, and rallied against, that in the end I realize I need to stop fighting.  As cliche as it sounds, when you allow yourself to accept exactly who you are at this moment, it's like a weight being lifted off. And once you don't have to carry that weight, you can actually address the issues at hand. Note that I say at this moment. I say that because I truly believe people can change with enough hard work, and that accepting who you are doesn't mean that you're stuck in a glass box forever. In cycling, who you are in a depressive cycle may be very different from who you are in a manic cycle, literally right down to your thoughts, personality, and beliefs. I've had to accept, though, that both of these sides are part of me. They don't define me, but they are part of me. As an added bonus, when you've come to terms with these truths and stopped fighting yourself on them, it's much more difficult for anyone else to hurt you - intentionally or unintentionally - with them either.  
  • In the end, a lot of it is about weeding through the muck. There will be a lot of negative thoughts that aren't true, a lot of positive ones that you're unable to process right now, and a few of those described above, that aren't positive or negative but where you just might have to adjust your perspective on them. 
So where does the toddler therapy and the extra coffee come in? Well, time spent with family always cheers me up, and watching little kids live in the moment tends to pull me away from all the anxiety of past and future that's in my brain. And the coffee... it simply gets me through the day when my brain is going through a lot of shit and I can't really sleep! 

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