DysthymiaBree is a new friend from the blogging world. She writes about mental illness in an honest, inspiring, and often funny way over at DysthymiaBree.com
. Among other things she writes a “Mental Health Alphabet
” where each post is a letter of the alphabet representing a concept or anecdote about living with mental illness. I like this idea so much that I plan to use it here on my blog as well. (She said I could, so it’s not really stealing…)
“Dysthymia Bree is the pseudonym of a middle-class, white Australian woman of the 21st century, which makes her one of the luckiest people ever to have lived on this planet. She’s married, has a few degrees under her belt, and loves drinking tea while reading speculative fiction. Oh, and she also happens to live with depression and an anxiety disorder, which sometimes disrupts her life to the extent that she needs to be hospitalized. She’s a firm believer that people who live with mental illness can find paths to whole health, and finds writing about her journey both cathartic and healing. You can follow her story at dysthymiabree.com”
Sometimes life throws us curve balls especially when we have everything planned out very sensibly and rationally. Just when we have that teeter totter balanced right in the middle, life will drop a fat kid on the other end. That’s what happened to DysthymiaBree when she got ready to write this post. Fortunately she has the strength and experience to cope and adapt like a champ (easier said than done!) Enjoy her post about life’s curve balls:
When Laney first approached me, I was in a far better space psychologically than I am today. She asked me to write about what I’ve leaned from living in the invisible war zone of mental illness, strategies, my time in a psychiatric ward, and so forth. My synapses were firing! I came up with all sorts of inspiring ideas! This post was going to rock! … but then I had the week I’ve just lived. Slump. This is what happens with mental illness, isn’t it? Life is uncertain for everyone, but even more so when our minds can turn coat and betray us.
What this week has shown me is that I can live through the terribly hard times. Despite myself, I can even laugh through them! Let me pace you through the last seven days.
A week ago today, my best friend call and said that her brother had committed suicide. She had only just heard the news. I could hear that she was in shock, and I went into shock, too, I guess – I went into what I call “numb”, a state where I don’t experience emotion, and sometimes find myself paralyzed in body and mind. It’s a defence mechanism against overwhelming emotion, my mind’s way of protecting itself from trauma. Obviously, being in “numb” doesn’t serve one well in the long term, but I do appreciate it in the short term, even though I have to be careful to watch my thinking – times when I’ve done myself harm all occurred when I was in “numb”. I was also recovering from a middle ear infection, which made lying horizontal and still a very appealing thing to do. It’s a good thing, when our mind and body’s defence mechanisms so neatly dovetail, isn’t it?
On Monday, I went to see my therapist as usual. I went into the session feeling afraid that we would unravel the “numb” and I would be left feeling overwhelmed at the end of the session. This happened, and I was anxious about driving home, but thankfully “numb” reasserted itself and I was able to get home safely. Who says a dysfunctional mind can’t protect its owner? Not me!
Tuesday was DBT day. I haven’t been working with this group long, but I love the attitude of the people in it – their willingness to be open, to support each other, to be ‘community’ for the four and a half hours we meet each week. I had an “aha” moment when I suddenly realized my partner and I had been living in a fantasy world where I was ready to return to work. This was quite difficult, because not only is a lot of my self-esteem is based around work, but financially we need me to begin bringing in a certain amount each week to get by. I left, feeling that my world had been rocked on its axis again. Thing is, I’m not ready to work: I’m not emotionally stable enough, and I’ve not regained sufficient confidence. I also am scared to talk to my partner about this. (I still haven’t done so, and it’s Saturday!)
Wednesday rolled around. Surely my week must improve? No: I was informed that my mental health worker is being rotated to a different area, and won’t be working with me much longer. Many tears were shed. Enough said.
Thursday … ah, Thursday! Fitness centre day. Boxing practice! You know, I was brought up to be a good girl, and I never appreciated how much fun it is to hit things very hard. I must have looked like a madwoman (ho, ho) as my long hair fell down, my face turned beetroot red, my canines were bared, and punches rained like divine brinestone upon the hapless punching bag. You think it’s OK to top yourself and hurt my friend? WHAM! You think it’s OK to shuffle an important carer out of my life? WHAM! You think it’s fair that I’m so goddamn smart and so goddamn competent but I can’t work right not? WHAM! Yes, technique did give way to power, but boy, did it feel good!
Friday: oh dear, I’d been so busy coping this week that I’d been neglecting my To Do list. I had to submit some stuff to the Australian Tax Office, and had some other paperwork to complete, both due this day. It felt like torture, pushing myself through the fog to work on these tasks. At one point, I needed a stapler. Problem is, the stapler is kept in the same drawer as the Stanley knife … after staring at it for five minutes, I was on the phone to the hospital, getting one of the psychs to talk me through that danger point. Done. Paperwork: Done. Tax: Done. Another session of therapy, then a shower, then an afternoon nap. I’m plagued by thoughts that perhaps I need to go back into hospital for a bit, but I really don’t want to … so instead of thinking about that, I fell asleep.
Was this week typical? No, it was a bit worse than most, but I am proud that I could be aware of my mental state, deal with setbacks and challenges, engage constructively with therapy, choose not to engage in destructive behaviours, and find support from friends both online and in real life.
Two final gems of wisdom from this week: spinach smoothies – they might sound like a good idea, but seriously, think twice; and, while boxing is fantastic, practising feints in the shower is less so.
My friends, be well, and let’s keep journeying, talking, laughing and crying together.