[Image description: Allison’s pets February the Cat ™ and October the Dog ™ eat breakfast together]
Content: Depression, mental illness, sexual assault, emotional abuse mentions
This time a year ago, I got diagnosed with depression. While I always knew I had it, the diagnosis gave me a place to work from and eventually, something to claim and calm me during an episode. Rather than being consumed by my symptoms and situations, it gave me something to name and thus, shake – “I’m depressed right now.” And I’d like to revisit this past year since getting the diagnosis and how I’ve felt worse in the process of feeling better.
At the moment, I’m currently dealing with the full cocktail of my mental illnesses. Since being diagnosed with depression last October, I found out I have two more mental illnesses, bringing the grand total up to four: the most recent being PTSD. I like to think of my mental illnesses as a cocktail because they feed off of each other in such an intoxicating way. What’s a depressive episode without a few panic attacks brought on by PTSD flashbacks? It’s like a margarita – tequila, salt or sugar (I prefer sugar), and…whatever else goes into a margarita. It all comes together in one delicious, potent, black hole of a feeling. Being intoxicated feels akin to being in a depressionanxietyeatingdisorderPTSD episode; watching my behavior, hearing my reckless thoughts, wishing it would end and I’d wake up sober and neurotypical the next day, while simultaneously kind of enjoying the lack of control, initiative and responsibility.
In my depression post, I mentioned that it felt like anxiety was an arm off of my depression. Instead, this year and truly the last few weeks, have taught me that my mental illnesses are really offshoots of a few traumatic events. Yes, there’s some genetic predisposition there, but I can pinpoint probably four to six major life events that have prompted all of this – all of which happened before I turned seventeen. And so the last few weeks have been a bender in remembering all the trauma of my youth and playing tic-tac-toe to connect that to the horrible things I’ve said, done and experienced in my very short adulthood. Experiencing all of that and trying to make sense of it once wasn’t enough. Nope, I’m currently reliving the last six years of my life on repeat, every second I’m awake. So I sleep more.
My partner and I recently moved in together (which I’ve very grateful for), so he’s had front row tickets to this circus. And his theory is everything is fine right now. For the first time, like, ever. I’m safe. I have a job I love. I have an apartment I love. I’m dating and cohabitating with the person I love. I have not just a kitten, but also a puppy. I have friends near and far. My relationship with my family looks how I want it to. I somehow survived college long enough to get a degree, so of course I’m reliving trauma because at this present moment, October 27, 2018, I’m fine. I’m not simply surviving or struggling through anything. And so my sick mind is able to dwell on what made it sick to begin with, since it’s not busy fighting any competing thoughts.
Since quitting my old job, I’ve been working as a case manager at a rape crisis center, providing me with a vocabulary to describe my past. I was already unwell from the stress of such a big transition, and that coupled with this learning made me spiral out of control. I was going to work everyday and learning the different ways people get help and heal from something I had tried to figure out alone for so long. I remember the initial horror I experienced from learning the definition of “emotional abuse” a few months out of that relationship. This recent learning was like that, but amplified, since I didn’t have papers, friends, or the big question mark of my future to keep me distracted. I’ve had to reconcile with the fact that a trigger for my mental illnesses is that one particular relationship, and it was the origin of at least two of them. In my depression post, I said it felt like the ultimate act of vulnerability to say someone can trigger a depressive episode. So imagine me realizing that someone who I deleted out of my life is still keeping me up at night with nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks.
Now, I’ll be honest with you. I always try to be. I’ve been in therapy since 2014. Self-care, self-diagnosis, self-harm, I’ve tried to cope. And this most recent time, getting better felt like a Sisyphean or Promethean task. I still feel like shit after five therapists, a regular gym schedule, healthy eating, weekly baths, journaling, writing up my feelings for the internet, crying to friends for hours, sleeping twelve hours straight, credit card debt from retail therapy and anything else I thought would make me feel better. Why bother?
I can’t tell you why I still do. But I will say that I quit therapy today (I put my Talkspace subscription on hold for a month), to see if I’ll actually use that money or time to take care of myself in real ways. It’s gotten to a point I can say therapy is my ~self-care~ and simultaneously understand I’m not caring for myself at all. And if Jeff’s right and everything’s fine, I might as well try to enjoy that. Or accept that. The terrifying thing about being mentally ill is I tell myself that my episodes are normal for me. And so I don’t want to be one of those people who can only function in chaos and as such, create unnecessary problems for themselves.
So I’m giving myself a month. No excuses. My free time is for self-care. And yes, going to the dentist, doing laundry, cleaning, saving money, and changing the cat litter all count as self-care. So do facials and yoga classes. So does ASMR and listening to Anthony Hamilton. I don’t know why I’m trying but for now, why not?