TW: mental illness, self-pity, death wish discussion
Hi, my name is Sylvia and I have depression. I’ve been on antidepressant medication of various sorts for 23 years. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes life is doable, sometimes I feel irredeemably crazy.
A few weeks ago I developed anxiety and panic attacks, and while these are different sicknesses they all mash up with my depression and have a stabby party in my being and I do feel irredeemably crazy at the moment.
The last time I was this bad was ten years ago. And quite possibly nine years again before that, if one only goes by my contact with the public mental health system (about which I have Things To Say, but that’s another matter).
In between, I’ve been able to function somewhat. To be honest, holding down a job has always been hard. I have an overactive brain. I get bored. I can be bored and all kinds of stressed at the same time, it’s a neat trick but it doesn’t make good television. I once had a job organising a fundraising art auction, and a very famous artist made me realise that it was uncool to ask the struggling to help the struggling, so I basically gave up. I suffer from pathological honesty and integrity. I can dress up in a suit and straight girl shoes but that can’t hide the fact that I’m a liberal, anti-authoritarian hippie, so I don’t see the point in pretending.
A major trigger for my recent anxiety symptoms has been falling into a poverty mindset. I earn about NZ$36K per year in my current job. It’s the highest salary I’ve ever been on. I’m effectively single and child-free. But I don’t feel I can afford insurance or dentistry and if I have to go to my GP it seriously derails my ability to make it through to pay day. Sometimes having to buy veges seriously derails that ability.
And I feel terrible about complaining. There are people doing more and coping better on less, and the fact that I’m struggling must mean I’m a Bad Person. Right? Thanks brain.
And I can’t even afford to check out, because that would hit my family with a big bill. Apparently funerals cost NZ$6-10K, and if I tried to save that I’d have to starve myself. But not enough to actually kill me before I’d saved the requisite amount.
Not that I even want a funeral, but I suspect my family would. I just want to be disposed of, and to have enough forethought to dispose of all my physical baggage beforehand so that my family doesn’t have to deal with it. And pay a couple of months’ rent in advance to compensate my flatmates for the inconvenience.
I’m not suicidal. I literally can’t afford to be. Plus, today I bought a 2019 diary, so I guess that’s some kind of commitment.
These are not the thoughts of a sane person. In the past fortnight, I’ve seethed with anger because I thought I saw a colleague going through a bin, when in reality he was balancing his takeaway on it while he waited for the bus. I’ve hallucinated mean post-it notes in the shower. I’ve walked out on dinner with my boyfriend because I thought he was saying I was stupid (would never happen).
I’m in my third week of sick leave and I can’t see how I could go back to sitting in a windowless room while juggling five conflicting demands and trying to do my core work, which feels like an ever-increasing rubbish heap that’s trying to suffocate me. Most days right now, I need a nap. Especially if I’ve had any kind of therapy, and I need therapy.
One of the big reasons I feel I can’t go back is shame.
The irony is, I’m spewing out all this stuff about my illnesses on social media because (a) it’s therapeutic for me to write it down and put it out there, (b) people tell me it’s good to read because they can relate to it, and (c) people need to know it’s a Real Thing. But in Real Life, I participate in the stigma. If I see people I know, especially from work, my reflex is to pretend I haven’t seen them, because I’m ashamed. And I don’t know what to say, and I don’t want to make people uncomfortable.
The dumb thing is that I know that I’m only responsible for my own shame and awkwardness. And one of my tasks needs to be to shed them in real life as well as online.
What would it look like if I were unashamedly crazy? If I answered “how are you?” with “my depression/anxiety’s been playing up”, because it would be fine if I said that about sciatica or something, right?
That’s actually been a good thing about developing anxiety, because I can’t hide from the fact that it’s a physical affliction. Chest pain, throat constriction, nausea, breathing problems. Not fun.
The other task I need to undertake is, what is an appropriate job for my kind of crazy? And I think right now I’m too crazy to engage with that. But I’ll have to soon.
Postscript: I was looking back at this blog and a scary thing came up, about how my doing less bellydancing seems to have coincided with my being more miserable. And I thought, it’s cold and I have the house to myself so why not dance along to a FCBD® drills video before I go to bed? And I did and I realised that I need SO MUCH MORE of this in my life and now I’m sobbing and my heart is literally hurting because I CAN’T HAVE IT. Sweary sweary swears.