Monday, 14 May 2012

State change

This morning, I've reflected on the changes that have occurred in the last few weeks.

A few weeks ago, I was depressed. I cried or felt like crying all day every day. I didn't leave the house, because it was too hard. I didn't write, or cook, or take photographs, read new books, or do anything much. I hadn't called my family in weeks. I hadn't had a marginally acceptable night's sleep either, due mostly to insomnia caused by the depression.

What changed?


I have a history of depression and anxiety. Quite a long one, really. Caused at various times by various things. This one was mostly culture shock compounded by hypersomnia, and adjustment to a lifelong illness.

This episode was, in some ways, the worst I've had for nearly a decade, and it was very self reinforcing. It was a feedback cycle - I didn't do things, felt I should, felt worse, so I didn't do things. That's a pretty strong cycle, and the generated feelings did leave me pretty much comatose or zombielike, and in any case were rather effective at preventing me from doing anything much.

But the cycle was clear. That, in the past, has frequently not been the case. To get out of this all I had to do was break the cycle. Amongst other things, this would return me to my normal sleep patterns, which would also tend to enable me to do my normal activities.

I used anger. Not the whiny, useless, energy-draining spinlock frustration I'd been engaging in, but full-blown raging anger at the universe. I said a giant "FUCK THIS!" to myself.

That's really all it took for me to start the process of getting rid of the backlog of tasks and associated guilt. I was too angry to be guilty, and I was energised by that reckless anger.

Of course, the anger wore off. But by then I'd accomplished enough and set up enough frameworks to keep accomplishing things that it didn't matter. I was free from the black cloud for the first time in nearly a year.

The somewhat daily posts are part of this framework. That's where I tell myself that I am doing things; I can do things; I have done things - things which matter to me. Doing a load of laundry or restacking the dishwasher doesn't sound like much, until you realise that those chores are things I've been unable to do regularly for the better part of the last 3 years. Mundane in the grand scheme, yes, but a vital part of helping me feel like I'm an able person.

Another element is addressing my physical fitness, and setting up support frameworks to ease the personal load on my mind. I know that my lack of fitness is limiting my physical energy greatly, so becoming more fit is a really cracking good idea. I find it easier to keep appointments than to just make myself go to the gym. And I find it easier to achieve goals if I set small, measurable goals, and if I have encouragement from peers and friends. Rejoining the Nerd Fitness community is a part of that.

Creativity is also rather important to me. To a limit, the more creative activities I do, the more I can do - similar to physical fitness, I suppose. On the other hand, having deadlines (such as the daily deadlines imposed by the 365 project I attempted) doesn't work for me at all, mostly because of my physical limitations. I therefore set myself this goal: for six weeks, I will write at least one blog post a week that wasn't the daily update. The weekly post could be a ramble, a photography post, a cooking post, a book review, or whatever seemed good at the time. I'd say, judging by my archives, that this goal is doing what it's supposed to be doing. It's giving me sufficient motivation to write, photograph, and cook, without loading me with stress. So instead of a single post a week, I'm doing significantly more than that - and not only that, I'm creating elsewhere.

A broad theme I've been thinking along, which is implied by all the ways I've addressed my situation, is self-acceptance. Learning to work within my limitations. Before, those limits distressed me greatly, which shrunk the limits hugely. The goals I've set have a great deal of flexibility built in, even though they are highly specific and time-driven. Some days I'm not going to be able to do much more than lie on the couch and read. Some days I will be able to take photographs for six hours. I can't predict when in advance which day will be which, but I can take advantage of the good ones, and not stress about the bad ones.

This has the effect of greatly expanding my limits. I have fewer bad days when I'm generally positive about the direction of my life.

I have a very long way to go in certain areas to get back to something resembling what I once was, yet I have significantly more confidence in my ability to get there eventually.

It's looking up.