Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Moderate Breakdown

(Trigger warnings for depression, stress, anxiety and whatnot I guess)

So by now anyone who has read this blog knows that I've been dealing with depression for a while. A decade of depression or more (I honestly don't know when it started) and I've only been writing the blog for 7 months (under seven months actually) so the whole blog was written while depressed and unless I find something from way back to post that applies to everything written elsewhere and then brought onto the blog as well.

Most of my non-story posts have been about depression, I think. I probably talk about it more than is warranted.

Anyway, most of the time my experience with depression has been one of deadening of feelings, lack of energy, lack of motivation, and stuff like that. Sometimes it is otherwise though.

Things have been turbulent of late. Not so much worse than normal, just less stable. Like the difference between a smooth sea and a rough one instead of the difference between a low tide and a high tide. There's more or less the same amount of stuff to deal with, it's just been somewhat less regular.

Yesterday that caught up with me. I'd been feeling sick since Sunday at least, maybe sooner, and I was still feeling sick, and I had a midterm, and I was panicking about the midterm both because I wasn't all that confident anyway (which is an understatement if ever there was one) and because my brain wasn't really working right, presumably on account of the sickness.

Finally I decided that I'd stay home, get some rest, and hopefully be better today. I have understanding teachers, and being sick isn't a bad reason to miss a test.

I wasn't sure if it was really ethical because on another day, one without a test, I would have gone in. My standard for seeing if I should go to class is to answer three questions:
1 Can I walk?
2 Can I hold food down?
3 Am I obviously contagious?

If the answers are “Yes, Yes, No,” then I go to school. The answers were “Yes, Yes, No,” yesterday so on most days I would have gone to school. In fact, if things as they normally were I would have gone anyway. My usual ride in (my mother) wasn't giving me a ride and my ride for the day (my sister) was under different constraints and so didn't have to bring me in as early as I normally go. What's more, my first class of the day wasn't happening, so I got an additional hour and 45 minutes of time in which I could think.

If not for that I would have gone in anyway. It's a very good thing I didn't.

In theory when you take a day off to rest and recover from sickness, you spend the day resting and recovering. In practice my brain says, “It's an extra day to prepare, we should study so that we don't fail when we go back.” And if I don't give in at least somewhat I don't rest so much as be restless.

So I tried to study. “But,” you ask, “wasn't the whole reason that you didn't go into school that your brain wasn't working?” Why yes, it was. And you know what happens when you try to study when your brain isn't working? It doesn't work.

You just get more and more frustrated until your mind snaps like a fragile twig.

I actually think I handled it pretty well. I swore. I shouted. And then I went to bed to rest like I should have in the first place.

I've never been good at resting. Alone with a lack of stimulation and faced with nothing but my own thoughts I don't really do that well. I needed the rest – I still do, I feel like I haven't been sleeping – but actually getting it wasn't exactly easy to do. I moved fitfully, I cried. I screamed. I shouted. I told God to damn things repeatedly. Mostly “It” whatever that may be. I swore as if I were in audition for The King's Speech. I thrashed around like an angry child or a wounded animal (the two are more similar than you'd think.) I stayed perfectly still. Neither helped. I undulated between the two. Crests of frenetic motion and troughs of rocky stillness. I cried and swore more while concluding that life is hopeless and nothing good will ever come.

Part of my plant fell off. I swore at the part. I swore at the plant. I swore at the situation. I reminded god that there were things in need of damning.

I realized that I was no in a state where I could cope with school, and I likely wouldn't be in the next few days. Crying and shaking I went to my computer to email my teachers and tell them that I wasn't fit for school and didn't know when I'd be back.

That was probably the worst of it, but I can still feel it waiting to come back. It just needs a trigger. I can feel how close I am to that state when I just thinking about even the smallest bit of stress.  I can feel myself right on the edge.

I'm going to try to take this week to get myself in order, but I don't actually know how. I suppose my goal for the week is to contact places to see if there's any chance of me getting health insurance. That would solve a lot if it could be done. But that's been my goal for every month of the year so far, and some of last year too. Waking up and saying that the only thing I have to do in a day is to make that phone call hasn't made me have any progress.

Contradictory as it seems, I'm going to try to rest and get exercise. They say that exercise releases happy-chemicals. Lately the only exercise I've had time for is the hour long trudge from school back to my home. (I get a ride in, not a ride back.) Maybe doing something else will help.  And the rest I definitely need.

I don't know what to do really, I know I'm not ready to go back to school. The worrying part is that while staying home keeps me away from the stress that would send me back into another breakdown, it is also cutting me off from human contact. I've recently written about how that's not a good thing. If you want good things you have to risk bad. Avoiding risk is not a good strategy.  But there are limits. There is a point where it is healthy to say, “Right now I can't take that.”


I don't think it has anything to do with midterms, but I think the stress of one could send me back over the edge. I think it has to do with everything else.

The situation with my house is still as uncertain as ever with the most likely outcome still being that I lose it.

My mother and I got into a shouting match not to long ago. The positive result is that I think she understands what I'm going through better than she did before. The negative result is that it's basically put her into a more negative state (whenever I say something about it she reacts with hopelessness because there' no way we could pay for a psychiatrist or any other useful professional.) Also, in general, any day I have to explain, “I'm not suicidal. That's one of the few good things about my life: I have never been suicidal,” is not a good day.

My mother's relationship with her boyfriend seems pretty unpredictable. On Friday night I was told that she had called up sobbing after being dumped (but still at his house in the middle of nowhere because she'd ridden up in his car) and was worried about her and wracking my brain for something I could do to comfort her. I didn't hear anything more until Saturday afternoon when she called me to tell me that we were going out to eat, I asked with who and found out that apparently they were back together because she, he, my sister, my sister's boyfriend, and I were all going out to eat together to celebrate my mother's birthday one day early. It was as if nothing had happened. Last night, I overheard that she and he aren't talking to each other.

I don't know how she copes with it because it definitely seems to keep me emotionally off balance.

My sister's housing situation causes me almost as much stress as my own.

The things I got to try to keep me from collapsing into a depressed state haven't been working too well. I like making puzzles, and I take pride in it, but what I didn't account for in my planning is that depression makes simple things hard and that's pretty much thrown me. It's been a month, I've had nothing but failure. What's more I'm still waiting for the bill to arrive and anxious about that because there are going to have to be explanations when it does.

I made sure that my sister, who owes me money, could cover it before I ordered it, but my mother will almost certainly see the bill because usually when I buy something on a credit card it gets paid by her paying the bill and me paying her. Given that that money could have been better spent on expenses for the house, which would have made her life a lot easier, that'll be a giant knot of stress right there. It's not that I shouldn't have spent it, and it is my money, but explaining my priorities isn't going to be easy.

I was hoping that I'd be able to make back the money I spent and then pay that money to her, thus making things easier.  And also providing a perfect explanation for why I didn't just pay it toward the house, if I could do both then that would be better than choosing between the two.

The goal was to prevent myself from having a breakdown by getting back to doing something I liked, that certainly hasn't worked out. If anything I've been more stressed.

Then there's what I latched onto for motivation to get that to work. Once I realized that I'd misread “March” as “May” and thus the deadline was two months in advance of when I thought it was I knew that there was no chance I could go to Greece even if it were possible to sign up without making the initial down payment. But knowing and feeling are two different things. It still felt like, “I can do this,” so I latched onto that impossible hope to use it as motivation to make puzzles because:
1 If I made puzzles I would feel good.
2 Puzzles can be sold for money, and while that money might not pay for a trip for Greece in one month, it could pay some of the expenses on the house.
So I let myself feel like I was saving the dream of a trip to Greece in order to push myself into action. I never thought it. Amoung many other things, if I had thought it I would be setting my sights on entirely different puzzles than the ones I'm actually trying to make. The ones I'm trying to make are much more along the lines of, “I'll feel good about myself if I make this,” than, “Making this is likely to maximize my profit.”

Anyway, I didn't think it, but I felt it, and it really wasn't intelligent to indulge in that because the thing is, “I can get this money in a month,” was never any more realistic than, “I can get this money in a week,” but emotionally a month was a large enough period for it to feel possible while as it winds down my emotions are catching up to reality and realizing, “This was all a bunch of bullshit. This was doomed from the start.” Which it was.

And telling myself that I was knowingly manipulating my own emotions doesn't take any of the sting out of, “I felt like it was possible and now it's not going to happen.”

So at this point it's sort of like I've built a house on sand. Or driftwood and kelp on top of sand so that it's not just shifting stands but also unsound wood and slippery things for added instability. Or maybe quicksand. In a swamp. The point is that the bottom is falling out and it's all coming down. The foundation was never solid and everything is crashing down around me.

The collapse was inevitable but I had hoped to have moved out before the roof caved in. I was hoping that at this point I'd be thinking, “Ok, so I can't go to Greece, but I built some awesome puzzles,” and that would make it ok. Except I haven't.

So now my emotions have finally caught up with the fact that the one thing they've found to hope for will never come to pass and I don't have anything to distract from that.

And other stuff too, I know there was more stuff (just the fact I seem to be somewhat sick and low on sleep is likely to be contributing) but I'm sort of out of sorts and not thinking straight and my memory isn't doing well, and I think I've said enough about this for the moment.


One thing worth adding is that I was lucky. If I'd had my normal ride in I would have gone to school. I would have broken down in the middle of my midterm. Do I think I would have sworn and shouted if I'd had an audience? No. I could have held that in. (I think.) But the crying I wouldn't have been able to stop. And being at turns extremely distraught and extremely angry in the middle of a group of people is probably not a good thing.

And with it all there's an enormous amount of self doubt. Can it really be so bad? My sister was over a bit yesterday, after my tears had dried, she didn't seem to notice anything wrong. Maybe I'm just making it all up because I don't want to go to my midterms. I think I've made some reasonable contributions at Slacktivist and Ana Mardoll's Ramblings since this started. If I can do that I must surely be fit for school.

I feel like I'm cheating. Like I'm lying. And I feel that way even though I can also feel how damn close I am to doing it all again.

Anyway, I'm hoping that writing and sharing this will help some.


  1. In addition I was (desperately) begging the dogs to please for the love of god be quiet well after they stopped barking because... I don't know why. I was still stressed out about it and thus still complaining about it even though it was no longer happening. I guess that must be the explanation. It's not as if I was unaware they had stopped making noise.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I was feeling rather sick today as well (though apparently not as bad as you...), and it helps me to know that I'm not alone.

    I said some months ago that I'd be praying for you, and I'll definitely continue. I don't know anything else to do, but I hope this helps at least a bit.

  3. Chris, I'll be thinking of you and I hope things improve soon.

  4. Knowing that there's someone out there who cares does help, so thank you both for saying something.

  5. Most of the time I don't post 'cos I don't have anything to say. I flirt round the edges of depression but have so far managed not to fall in. Positive thoughts are going in your direction (and positive thoughts from a firedrake can be a bit more... solid... than many people's).

  6. In practice my brain says, “It's an extra day to prepare, we should study so that we don't fail when we go back.”

    I thought you said you didn't refer to yourself in the plural in your thoughts? Okay, not the point, sorry.


    1. No I said I didn't address myself in my thoughts*. Which the thing you quoted is also an example of. I was taking liberties in order to translate from feelings into words.

      And thank you, you made me laugh.


      Anyone have any idea why the ad for the page would be an internet quiz to determine the sex of your child prenatally? I don't think I said anything birth/pregnancy related in the post.

      I don't normally pay attention to the ads. Are they always this random?


      *Which means I don't refer to myself in second person, which could be what you're thinking of.

    2. And now it's a random online university, a software thing, and how to buy gold. I guess they are pretty random. No wonder no one ever clicks on the ads.

      The last ads I noticed were for a vampire RPG, which made a certain amount of sense, given the content of the blog.

    3. *Which means I don't refer to myself in second person, which could be what you're thinking of.

      I think I was remembering the introduction of first person plural as occurring earlier in the conversation than it did, such that your "I don't do that" was referring to both that and second person.

      And thank you, you made me laugh.

      You're welcome.

      I guess they are pretty random.

      Did you do that wiping-the-history thing? I hear the ads get a lot less relevant once you've clicked the "Don't collect this information" buttons.

    4. *looks at timestamp*

      *looks at clock*

      Why does the comment timestamp default to Pacific? (I presume it's default, since you're not on Pacific time yourself.) Hmm...I seem to recall Google is based in California. *asks Wikipedia for confirmation* Yeah. That might be it.

      (Did you know one of the co-founders of Google is named Sergey Brin? It's a bit distracting when trying to skim through and find the location. I had no idea Brin was used as a surname when I chose it.)

    5. I just had a look at the settings and it says it's supposed to be eastern time, so I have no idea why it's Pacific.

      In response to your previous post, it's entirely possible that I could have said I don't use plural because I wouldn't think I did at first since I don't use it as a means of self address, all of my thoughts are as if addressing someone else, never directed inward, but sometimes then I use "we" when "I" would make as much sense. (I think it comes from a convention I picked up in math classes where we describe what we're doing using "we" because "I" is seen as excluding the reader.)

    6. As usual, I have nothing useful to say, but it didn't mean that I don't care. I do. Really.


    7. Redcrow, thanks.

      Brin, I meant to mention that when Fred linked to a site called Contrary Brin every time I saw the name I thought of you.


      To anyone at all, I'd like a second opinion on something if possible. (It might not be, since it's not the kind of thing I'd expect you to keep track of.)

      When was the last time I made a worthwhile contribution to a conversation at the Slacktiverse?

      I honestly can't think of one that's happened since the troll invasion. Not one. At Ana Mardoll's, yes. At Slacktivist, yes. But at the Slacktiverse it seems like every time I post I realize I shouldn't have afterward.

      (For example, my entire involvement in the copyright discussion in Ana's slashfic thread.)

      The difference is noticeable before I post too, I tend to be more anxious and less clear as I'm composing the post. It takes me more words to say things, and I can never seem to get things to a point where I'm really satisfied with them.

      I don't know why (it's not the people, who are great; it's not the site, which I like and am used to; I don't think it's the content, which is interesting) but I seem to be different when posting there in a way that's not good.

      The obvious solution would be stop posting there. I could just lurk and not get involved.

      On the other hand, I'm not exactly at my most rational right now, if ever there was a time when I'd be forgetting good things and remembering only the bad, now would be that time.

    8. (For example, my entire involvement in the copyright discussion in Ana's slashfic thread.)

      I did enjoy the historical bits, though. "Worthwhile" is hard to define.

  7. 'Worthwhile' is such a slippery concept though. Because if someone else has to 'approve' the 'worthiness' of your comments, well, that doesn't actually happen to most comments, by most people, even at Slacktiverse. (Or at least, it never has for me. I often feel like MY comments at Slacktiverse fall into a well, and are unheard by anyone, except maybe the Balrog at the center of the earth.)

    Life is hard. And it doesn't seem to get easier, it just changes. You have my empathy, if you want it.

    1. I think you misunderstood what I was asking. If all of my comments disappeared into a well never to be seen but anyone by the Balrog*, that in itself isn't a problem.

      I don't think something needs to be approved by someone or thought worthy by a third party to be posted.

      The problem is that I keep on saying things that I think make things worse and afterward I wish I hadn't said them. If there's not something good to counterbalance that then that means that my contribution is, on the whole, bad. And that's a problem. Neutral is fine, good is preferable, but if all I ever do is neutral and bad, then that's something I should stop doing.

      Of course, Brin said she liked part of my contribution to the copyright discussion, where when I looked back on it my part seemed to have been negative throughout.


      * When I see that you've commented I look forward to reading what you've written, by the way. So, at least when I'm around, your comments are read by someone other than the Balrog. And I'm sure that the Balrog's life is enriched if ze reads your comments.

    2. The only bit of slacktivite comments I read these days is the Left Behind stuff, and hardly anyone else posts there. But when I've seen your comments, they seem to be interesting and useful.

  8. Er, that above comment was me, Laiima.

  9. Dammit, I should have mentioned what Firedrake said -- that I too find your comments, chris, to be interesting and thought-provoking. I'm not on Slacktiverse much these days, but definitely at Ana Mardoll's blog, I'm always interested in your viewpoint.

    I *did* see your painful interchange with mmy on Slacktiverse (well after it had happened), and I decided not to wade in and defend you, only because every time I've done it before, I end up feeling driven away from Slacktiverse altogether. And I don't have the spoons to keep doing that.

    Today I saw on Tumblr a link to an old Shakesville post that talked about the lack of motivation in a depressed person, and to me, as a (+/- chronically) depressed person, it felt spot on. Wondered if you might also get something out of reading it, since it might lessen what seems to me to be self-loathing. It's here: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/09/theres-good-news-and-bad-news-and-fat.html