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.


  1. Isn't it funny how easily we can accept our dear ones warts and all, but are angered by our own limitations? For example, I read the above and think that you're an awesome legend for doing and coping as much as you do. But I know that if it was me in your place, I'd be angry at myself.

    You're doing great, honey. I'm so proud of you, and I look forward to each of your posts. :)

    1. I look at your life, and I marvel at your strength, your ability to keep going day to day. Every day you face challenges that I would find overwhelming, and yet you keep on going.

      Empathy is win, isn't it? ;)

  2. I was just reflecting today that one of the things that pulls me away from the black dog is regular, systematic (non-family) human contact. I was much better able to cope with being by myself at home for a few months after my heart op than I was when we first moved to the area. The difference? I joined a couple of craft groups that I would go to weekly (can't go to one now as I'm working and it's on a weekday morning). Having a job also works for me.

    1. In the past I've used social contact as escapism, essentially. Temporary relief, but not treating the cause.

      That lack of regular social contact has been hurting me though - new country has meant that I need to expend quite a lot of effort developing a social network, and I just haven't managed it much. Still, I hope that with more energy now, I can devote some of it to solving that problem.

  3. Well done. You were there, and contributed a very important insight into my existential dilemma of 2009. It was a long and pointless mood that lasted a year but i gradually beat it.

    Keep power on and achieving things, you've shown you can.

    1. Thank you. I'm glad that I was able to help in some way - all too often, I feel as if I'm a burden rather than a treasure to my friends.

      I appreciate the encouragement, I sometimes forget I can do things.

    2. DEFINITELY a treasure, not a burden. You have a way of seeing to the heart of things that is just so valuable in a friend, and I trust you implicitly. Not many people I can say that about.

  4. You are a treasure Elsie and it is great to see you are having some success :)