Overcoming the Clouds is Different for Everyone

I feel the need to put two things out into the world right now:

1. There are different types of depression.

2. It’s not always that easy.

There have been a lot of posts lately about clouds. Most of us use clouds to symbolize depression, or the onset of depression, or a depressed period, or, you get the point. With winter coming / here, many of us with depression, bipolar, seasonal affective disorder, etc. have been struggling.

And in response to these clouds posts, there have been a lot of posts trying to help us find the light. And I thank you for what you’re doing, and I appreciate your advice and your words and your encouragement, but it’s not always that easy, and there are different types of depression.

I feel the need to remind everyone that no two people are the same. We all handle things differently. So, while you may have a reason to be depressed, I don’t. It just hits me. There’s nothing I can do. Maybe you’re dealing with a lot right now and it’s all too much and you can’t help but retreat. On the other hand, my life is going rather smoothly and suddenly I can’t get out of bed. Neither of us are worse off than the other, and we’re both going through legitimate depression. But maybe, just maybe you can do some of that self-help stuff to work you through it. I can’t.

There’s always something you can do. For me, it was seeing a doctor and getting on meds. But, it’s not always that easy. It took me months, months to work up the courage and energy just to pick up the damn phone. From there, it took me more months to get an appointment for therapy. From there, it took me more months to get an appointment to see a psychiatrist, and from there, I had to wait more months for my meds to kick in. My worst clouds hit last winter, and I’m just now starting to see the light.

This wasn’t a matter of forcing myself outside — I physically could not get out of bed.

This wasn’t a matter of looking for the good in my life — I had plenty and knew it.

This was simply a case of an imbalance in my brain. Only therapy and meds could help me, which they are, now. But in a sense you’re right — I did have to force myself to do something. It’s just not as easy as doing anything.

Some people can’t see the good in their lives, either because it’s already there and not helping, or it’s not there at all, or they just can’t see it. Some people can’t force themselves out of bed. Some people can’t afford a fancy new sunlamp. Some people aren’t all people.

Some people can focus on the good, and turn things around. Some people can get their endorphins going with exercise. Some people can afford the best gadgets. Some people aren’t all people.

So, to those experiencing the clouds, I feel for you. I can’t begin to say I know what you’re going through because in reality, I don’t. My depression, or bipolar, or whatever, is not the same as yours. But I am struggling right beside you, and I am here to help you through those dark days. And I encourage you to do whatever helps you, even if it’s letting the clouds take over for a while.

And to those who want to help us see the light, I thank you. I do. But I also remind you that our depression is not yours, and sometimes it’s not that easy. And I encourage you to keep reaching out, with that reminder.

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Depression, or Something

There are clouds everywhere. Encircling my body. But not the soft, fluffy kind that bring comfort. The oozy kind that drip despair.

I just want to curl up with these clouds and let them take over, but Something inside tells me not to. I want to punch that damn Something in the face.

Shit. Is this really happening?

The Something throws some pills at me and I take them, must take them, to maybe make the clouds go away. Do I really want the clouds to go away? Their dampness provides some level of comfort — they know that no one will expect anything from me if they stay.

I try to wrap myself up in them, to accept what is happened, but the Something makes me fight back. The last bit of hope that maybe I won’t fall too hard this time. The Something is stronger this time than the last.

Why is it so hard to give in?

There are children playing and birds chirping and all that other stereotypical shit you’d expect on a nice, happy day. Outside. Inside there are storms brewing and monsters stirring and whatever stereotypical shit you’d expect on a rainy, dark day. There are two me’s.

The clouds tell me to squeeze the life out of the stereotypical happiness; the Something tells me to soak it up before the clouds win. I can’t decide.

Shit. This really is happening.

Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and the clouds will be gone and the Something will have no need to be here anymore. Maybe I will wake and the Something will have vanished and the clouds will be wrapping me in an ever-dimming cocoon. Sleep, they’ll snarl. Live, the Something will whisper.

Can’t I do both? Can’t I live in my cocoon? I know I can’t. I know it will be horrible and the clouds are not my friends and the Something is.

But I just want to give in.

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Manic Holidays

The last time I was really, truly experiencing a full-fledged manic episode was about this time last year.

Since my diagnosis I’ve been able to look back and understand what was going on. Back then I had no idea.

There are “yard sale” pages on Facebook. It’s kind of like Craigslist, but some are only for certain towns, other for certain items, and it’s just all much easier and more legit and less murdery than Craigslist. I adore yard sales and good deals and secondhand items, so of course I started doing all of my holiday shopping on these Facebook Yard Sale pages.

I got really into it. Really, really into it. I spent every waking moment scouring through the postings trying to be the first one to comment “INTERESTED!” so I could get my son everything he never even dreamed. I got a scooter for three dollar. Three dollars. He still rides it.

Things were going splendidly. I mean, Jack and my dad weren’t exactly happy that I was spending all my time online and all my money on shit my son didn’t really need, but I found such good deals they were also somewhat proud of my mad bargaining skills.

Then I became increasingly aware of families in need. You may not recall, but there were a lot of fires in South Jersey last winter. So many unfortunate families lost everything right before the holidays. There were posts begging people to give anything they could, even just a pair of socks. I gave what I could, when I could.

Then the posts got more specific. Eight-year-old girl, four-year-old boy, nine-month-old baby; girl likes this and that and boy likes that and this and baby needs whatever. So I started searching not only for me, but for them. I found a great deal on a shitload of The Littlest Pet Shop pets and homes and case for ten dollars. I bought it for one of the little girls. I went to Five Below and bought one of the boys a toy train for five dollars. I gave away all of Holden’s baby stuff I had held onto for no apparent reason.

In the midst of all this, a friend of mine reached out. She had been having a very hard time financially and was afraid she wouldn’t be able to provide a proper Christmas for her children. I went into full gear at this point. I made post after post about how I knew families in need; I started collecting donations; I would drive up to an hour away to pick up a bag of clothes or a box of toys. Now I was spending every waking minute online, driving, and sorting through the mountains of crap collecting in my basement.

I was obsessed. I would stay up until 4am searching for the perfect postings on the Facebook pages, afraid to miss anything good. I would then wake up at 9am and immediately rush out the door to meet someone. One time I had the car so packed I was literally sitting on top of a bag to make enough room for me.

Holden never saw me. Whenever I was home I was in the basement, sorting through all the donations I had received, separating clothes by size and toys by family. I was supposed to be attending college at the time, but my self-made / self-run charity quickly overtook any responsibility I had to anything else.

My best friend’s mom also experienced a fire, and I drove several towns away in the middle of the night during a snowstorm to pick up a couch for her. I then kept the couch in the bed of my truck, covered with tarps, for weeks until she was able to move it into her apartment.

I cared about everyone else far more than I cared about my own well-being.

After Christmas, once most of the families had everything they needed, I crashed. And I crashed hard. I didn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I didn’t check my computer or play with my son or do my homework or even make food. There was no point to my existence.

Once I went back online, I had several livid messages from people who I had told I might be able to help. When I first felt the crash coming on, I had told mostly everyone that I was dealing with personal stuff and would do the best I could, but would be dialing it back for a while. They didn’t care. One of them attacked me for trying to sell some of my own stuff, instead of giving everything I own to needy families. Another cyber-yelled at me for hours because I wasn’t able to help a family she knew. More and more people were coming out of their hiding places blaming me for all of their problems.

That’s when I decided to stop. By this point I could barely handle my own thoughts, let alone others unloading all of their crap onto me.

Now I still have a basement full of stuff and, a year later, haven’t managed to sort through any of it. When I said my crash was hard, I meant it. I suffered the longest depression I have ever known, and am just now beginning to pull out of it.

And now I know. I know that the holidays are a trigger that can send me into mania. I know I can go overboard and I know I’ll put others before myself and I know I’ll crash again, and I can’t afford to do that anymore.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters is coming to pick up some of the bags in my basement next Saturday. I’m slowly chipping away at the pile of mess, at my own pace. I’m still offering to people in need, so long as they do things on my terms. I want to help, but I sometimes have to put my own health first.

Sometimes I have to be the one in need.

Tempestuous Living

This is an average day in my life — the life of an addict, a mother, a writer, someone with bipolar and anxiety. It’s boring, and it’s missing pieces, and not every day is the same, but it is what it is.

3:30am I wake up. I need a cigarette. I feel around the bed, Holden’s there. Can’t smoke. I squint to see the boys cuddling and smile to myself. I go back to sleep.

7:30am I wake up. I roll over. I try to go back to sleep but I know it won’t come. I check my phone and my computer and I forget to put my glasses on until the tenth time of wondering why everything’s all fuzzy.

7:35am I need a cigarette. I look around the bed again. Holden’s gone. He must have woken up and gone back to his room at some point in the last four hours. I light up. I take a few drags and hear his door. He’s up. He comes into my room and I beg him to let me finish my cigarette, but he doesn’t. I need to turn on his show. We yell at each other for a few minutes, but I don’t want to wake Jack. I get up.

7:37am I go into the living room and turn on the TV. I go into the kitchen and throw some frozen french toast in the microwave, playing on my phone as I wait for it to be done. I get juice ready. I bring everything into the living room and make sure Holden’s all set up.

7:40am I finish the bit of my cigarette that hasn’t burned away. I check my Reader for attention-grabbing headlines and my favorite bloggers’ names. I scroll through a few posts and save a few more to read later. I light another cigarette. I waste away precious time scrolling through my Reader and playing online games and staring at the computer screen, hoping it will give me something to do. Eminem (formerly known as M&M) messages me a Good Morning and things look up a bit.

8:30am I find Holden’s clothes and get his food ready and put everything in the car and make sure the only thing I have to do is put his clothes on and go. I chase him around the house for what feels like an hour and throw my hands up in defeat at least three times and throw his clothes down on the floor at least four before I nearly chokehold him into his pants and shirt. He’s bawling and I’m screaming and my dad’s giving us googly eyes and Jack’s in the bedroom on the computer or sleeping. I make sure, one last time, that everything is ready.

9:00am We’re already running late and Holden has taken off his pants. We go through the routine mentioned above, again, only with a little more gusto. He doesn’t want to go to school.

9:15am After successfully bribing Holden with treats or technology or toys or friends, I get his pants on, throw him over my shoulder, and put him in the car. He’s fine until I go to close the door when he sticks his little hand out and I catch myself before crushing it. I tell him I’ll get whatever he wants when I get him, but it doesn’t please him. Instead of slamming the door on his hand I slowly place it closed and bump my butt against it to finalize the deal. He screams.

9:30am We get to daycare and Holden walks in just fine but clutches my leg when I go to leave and it turns into a big thing with his teacher having to grab him away from me as I scurry out the door. I am free. I head home, big things are planned for the day.

9:40am I stop at WaWa and get my coffee and breakfast and keep my head down but take in all the people. There are too many of them; they are too close to me. I put my head down further — maybe I will radiate off a forcefield and they will stop getting so damn close. They don’t. I pay and hurry to my car.

9:45am I am home. Sweet, sweet home. I bounce onto the bed and light a cigarette and grab my computer and tell myself I have hours to do my chores so a little writing won’t hurt. That’s my mistake. I thought about the chores. I shouldn’t have thought about them, I should have just done them. They won’t get done for hours. I try to write but nothing comes. I put on a TV show and rock and sway and think maybe just this once some heroin would calm me down. It takes a few hours to get that thought out of my head, to subdue the rocking.

Noon How did it get so late? What have I even done? I look at my computer and seventeen posts are waiting for me to read them and my new post area is blank. What happened? Why am I still rocking? I obviously must get up — something has to be done. I go into the kitchen and then into the living room and back into the kitchen. I think about all that needs to be done and retreat back into my room. Maybe I’ll take a nap. I look over at my meds and decide I need to calm down, maybe I’ll just take my nighttime med now. Maybe. Yeah, right. I do it. There’s no maybe. I tell myself I’ll skip tonight’s dose to make up for it but I know I won’t. I’ll just run out sooner.

2pm I force myself up and about and do whatever chore is on my chore chart for the day. Maybe it’s dishes, or vacuuming, or mopping, or laundry. I half-ass it, but at least it’s done. I get myself a cute owl sticker and place it over today on the calendar. I feel successful. I’ll try to write again.

4pm I’m squirming around in bed and wishing heroin wasn’t so damn addictive. I’m paralyzed from moving but I can’t stop. I’m not even making sense to myself. I start talking to people online and I get awfully nervous for no apparent reason and it takes so much out of me I have to take a break. I rock and I sway.

5pm It’s time to get Holden from school. I force myself up and out and through town to get him. When I arrive, he doesn’t want to leave. I let him play for a few more minutes, obviously overstaying my welcome because his teachers just want to leave. I drag him out the door after they’ve bribed him with a balloon. We make our way home.

5:30 I keep myself busy doing I-don’t-know-what. Holden and I fight about something, Jack and I fight about more. I can’t sit down or I’ll rock.

7:00pm I get food and drink and DVD in hand and get my son all set up for bed and listen to his demands and run around doing everything he asks and change him and put his blanket on him and tell him I love him and Goodnight.

7:20pm I try to get to bed but Jack has to fix it because it’s messed up again and then he needs something and our space is so small I can’t get around him and I finally do and I light a cigarette and down my meds. I try to watch TV and I rock. And I stand on my head and I rock. And I watch some TV and I play a computer game and I rock.

8:25pm I sit at my computer. My legs are crossed. I uncross them. I stare at the screen. I re-cross them. I click on a post saved from this morning and I try to read and I skim and I make myself go back over the skimmed parts and I try really hard to devour every word. Eventually I give up and scroll to the bottom and click like. I open a new post and force myself to read every. single. word. and it still doesn’t sink in so I comment on the one paragraph that took. And I feel horrible because this has nothing to do with the writers’ abilities and everything to do with my fucking brain and its rebellion. I repeat the process of skimming posts and reading posts and crossing my legs and uncrossing my legs and chainsmoking.

8:32pm Sometimes I try to write. Like now, right now I’m writing and it feels good and everything is okay for a minute, but usually I get something like this:

My brain isn’t working and it’s driving me fucking mad.

My son’s hair looks cute.

BFEKuhdsfuihesnuigkbsjifnd

I just want to feel the keyboard under my fingers so it seems like I’m doing something remarkable.

On good nights, I will continue to write and write and everything will remain wonderful and I’ll go to bed around 10:30pm. On bad nights, I’ll give up and watch TV until I pass out around 9:00pm.

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I want to thank walkingcontradiction for this idea, and actually giving me inspiration to write something for once.

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What about you? What’s a day in your life?

Withdrawal

This post is going to be short and sweet because I feel like shit, and pretty much its only purpose it to explain why and where I’ll be over the next few days.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I was dumb last month and doubled up on my meds without speaking to my doctor. I ran out a few days ago and have been experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms, such as dizziness, lightheadedness, tinglyness, and inability to concentrate. Yesterday the hot/cold flashes and extreme irritability came into play.

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