Mental illness and fear

I have mental illness. I’ve seen doctors; they’ve diagnosed me. I suppose I could go into all the gritty details of my diagnoses, which would make all the armchair psychologists come out of the woodwork to give me advise on how to overcome my mental illness and become a better person. I’m not going to do that.

2016 was a very bad year. I went into it very optimistically, thinking that maybe I could finally line up my ducks and move forward with my life and plans. That didn’t happen. One thing led to another, which led to disappointment following disappointment. I tried writing it all off, but there are some things that can’t be swept under the rug and ignored.

2017 hasn’t turned out so hot for me either, in many ways. There has been a lot of good. I won’t say that everything is bad, because it isn’t. It’s just that the bad outweighs the good, no matter how much of each there is. The bad always weighs more. It bogs one down until the load feels too overburdening to carry. And then I want to lay down and just stop breathing.

It’s been a very long time since I last updated this blog, so I should back up and fill everyone in on what’s going on in my brain. I returned to college after a 23 year absence and started working towards a degree in a field that interests me. It hasn’t been easy for me, because I’m much older than most of my classmates, and it’s a heavily male-dominated field. Every time I would get excited about achieving something, I would get knocked down by friends who mock me and accuse me of bragging. I guess I’m not supposed to be excited at finally being good at something. School has not always been easy for me – not now, and not back in my high school days. When I struggle with something, my brain tells me that I’m not good enough, and that I should just give up. My parents were always good about reinforcing the fact that I was never good enough, and that I’d never be as successful or intelligent as my sister. I don’t recall a single time when either of my parents have ever said they were proud of me, for anything. I’m not praiseworthy. I’m not anything. My brain tells me to give up. It’s not worth fighting for a sliver of recognition about anything. I’m not worth fighting for.

Logically, I know that my mental illness is giving me bad messages. Logically, I know that my thoughts are damaged. Logically, I know that depression lies. Mental illness isn’t logical. Mental illness is pulling my hair out by the roots or digging my nails into my own skin until I bleed, just to feel the pain. Mental illness is downing the last half of my prescription bottle of painkillers, just to see what would happen. Mental illness is jumping off the end of a pier, just to see if I would float. Thankfully (?) so far, mental illness hasn’t won. It probably will, someday.

According to my family, I could permanently cure my major depressive disorder by thinking happy thoughts instead of dwelling on negative ones. According to my family, the medications I take are unnecessary and probably filled with all kinds of things that are bad for me, and may cause cancer. (Then again, I’ve had cancer, so maybe they’re right.) According to my family, if I would just change my diet and exercise more, I wouldn’t feel sad anymore. It would seem that I’m the only person in the entire history of both sides of my family to have ever battled mental illness, so it must be in my head. Well yeah, that’s exactly where my mental illness is… in my head.

That’s the mental illness part (for now), here’s the fear part. I’m scared that I’ll never get better. I’m scared that something will happen that will hit me at just the wrong time, and I’ll actually push myself too far. I’m scared that no one will care. And after that, I’m scared that no one will take care of my cats. Let’s face it, they are the only reason I’m still alive some days. Some days, the pain (both real, physical pain and mental pain) is so bad that I don’t want to be here any longer. Right now, the stabbing headache from my screwed up spine hurts so badly I can barely breathe. I overcame my fear of chiropractors a couple weeks ago, when I met a very kind one through a friend. He’s been trying to help with my headaches because he says the pain I’m experiencing doesn’t match up with what the x-rays tell him. In 7 visits, we’ve gone from “no change at all” to “severely worse pain.” This is not an improvement. I want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head until the world goes away.

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What we want, what we get

That’s a favourite song of mine, by Dave Barnes. It’s an oddity to me because it’s a breakup song, but the lyrics call to me in a way that not many songs do. (I highly recommend searching out the song and listening to it sometime) The gist of it is that what we want is not always what we get – in case you didn’t figure that out by the song title. I think we all have those things that we want, that we know we’ll never have, but which doesn’t stop us from wanting them regardless. Sometimes even selfishly.

When I moved back to San Diego in July 2008, I told myself that it was a temporary thing while I sorted out several life altering things that had turned my world upside down. My goal was always to get back to the place I loved. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is back in South Carolina. Well, here I am 7 years later, and I still haven’t made it back “home.” I’ve gotten to the point mentally where I question myself as to whether I love South Carolina because that is where I truly was at my happiest (barring a couple really bad months) or if I’m fondly remembering a place that my mind has altered to seem better than it really is, simply because I despise San Diego so much. And I do despise San Diego that much. The only things I love about this place are a few people who have made my life richer by being here.

Everything happens for a reason, and right now, I’m extremely torn. It looks like I will be given the opportunity to relocate back to my beloved Carolinas as soon as my knee is completely healed, and that is screwing me up mentally. I loved the Carolinas very deeply. Maybe because it was my first taste of true independence. I basically threw a dart at a map and ended up there by chance when I had the opportunity to escape San Diego back in 2004. I drove for three days with a two year old and two crying cats, arriving in the middle of a hurricane. Ivan, if you care. From the very first day, I was in love. I’d never seen a place so lush and green, with water everywhere and gorgeous old buildings.

The longer I stayed, the more I loved it. I met some incredible people and found my way to a job that I actually really enjoyed, and at the end of the day, I could dip my feet into a lake or stream and mentally escape. It wasn’t all wine and roses though. Towards the end, some things happened that caused me to move back to San Diego. I started regretting that decision almost as soon as I started driving west, and by the time I reached the California border, I had to pull over because I was crying so hard that I couldn’t see. I hated myself for moving back and swore that as soon as I could afford to, I’d head east again.

Then, the doubts crept in. Do I love the Carolinas or do I just despise San Diego and anywhere else would be better? I flew back to Charlotte for my birthday the following February, and said that the only gift I wanted was to see snow. It almost never snows in the Piedmont, so I knew it was a long shot, but minutes after I collected my rental car and started driving to my friend’s house where I would be staying, the flurries started. It felt like the Carolinas were welcoming me back with open arms and begging me to return. Getting on the plane to return to California hurt even worse than driving away. I told myself then that I couldn’t return unless I was returning for good. It was like running into an old love from whom you parted amicably. Best not to spend too much time or mental energy chasing down all the what ifs. And there are a lot of what ifs.

So, what’s next for me? If everything falls into place, do I return to my true love knowing that time changes things and that the enchantment may no longer be there? Heraclitus once said “You cannot step twice into the same river” and that is true. By your second step, both you and the river have changed. I just don’t know how the changes I’ve undergone over the past seven years will affect my love of a place that once filled me with happiness. Perhaps I should consider a new place to call home, so I’d be out of my hated San Diego, and can keep my fond memories of the Carolinas as fond memories. Maybe I should stay in San Diego and remember that the people I love here outweigh the hatred I have for the city. I’m lost. I’m confused. I’m even a little bit scared. This is something I’ve wanted so badly for so long that I no longer know if I actually want it or if the wanting of it is just a mental twist. Sometimes, having mental illness really sucks. I can’t trust my brain to tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A niggling thought in the back of my mind is yelling to GO FOR IT! Even if it’s no longer the perfect oasis that I remember, I still have a support system there, and it would be better than living somewhere I hate.

There is one distinct advantage to having chronic insomnia

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had some screwy weather around here. It’s been super hot and muggy more days than not, which means that personal productivity is slightly higher than a tortoise galloping through mud. However, since I’ve been dealing with nearly two weeks of insomnia this time around, I figured I’d put it to good use.

I’ve been spending a good portion of the evening, night, and early morning to clean and organize my house. It’s relatively cool, considering the nice breeze from the fan that’s blowing on me, so I just put on some music and get stuff done. In an ideal world, I’d like to have my room completely organized before my knee surgeries.

I knocked out a big chunk of my to do list today by doing some remodeling in my closet. I hung up a new clothes bar with a shelf over it, so that I have more room to store things, and I plan on adding some additional shelving in there as well. I’ve also dismantled part of the Elfa system that was in my room and reconfigured it to make it more user-friendly for me. By the time I’m done, I should have an actually functional room that will be easy to maintain and look a lot less messy.

I love the satisfaction of writing out lists of things I want to accomplish, and being able to check things off once they’re completed. I guess that’s the super-organized overachiever part of my personality. I don’t like when things are messy and I can’t find what I want. It drives me nuts. I’m also taking the time to do some more crocheting. Again, it is immensely satisfying to see the progress as I stitch together whatever the hell it is I’m making.

Yesterday (September 7) was the one year anniversary of trashing my knee, and I’m getting to the point where reading is getting boring. While I was out of work on full disability, I was reading an average of 600 pages a day, because I just wasn’t able to do anything more than go to the kitchen or bathroom, or to the doctor’s office or physical therapy. Slowly but surely, things are coming together. I’m still waiting on whether or not my surgeries will be approved; I plan on calling WC tomorrow (today?) and trying to get an answer from them. The new claim rep that has been assigned to me doesn’t have a direct phone number listed, and I can’t find him in the company directory when I try to call. If I can’t track him down, I’ll call my previous WC admin and see if she can get me his phone number. There are things I need to discuss with him in addition to trying to settle the surgery plans.

I’m just so ready to move on with my life now, so I can start the next chapter and see where it leads me. I feel like I’m walking up a down escalator. One step after another, with no forward progress in sight. Fortunately, I seem to be keeping the depression at bay for now, which is making things a lot easier for me. I still have just the edge of anxiety gnawing at my subconscious, but I’m doing my best to ignore it, and mostly succeeding. The not knowing what’s happening next is the hardest part of the whole situation.