Learning to Enjoy Things Again

One of the side effects of the dissociative disorder known as depersonalisation, for me at least, has been the lack of finding enjoyment in many things I used to enjoy.  This has been particularly disturbing for me, as, for those of you who know me can attest, it usually doesn’t take much to amuse me.  That makes me sound rather simple, but, at one time, I would find enjoyment in something as simple as reading a book in my bedroom or listening to music while doodling on a piece of paper.

Yesterday, my counselor asked me point-blank about what I enjoy doing now.  We had been speaking about my falling out of love with Star Trek (something that had been happening for a while, I must admit) while feeling so upset and then overwhelmingly relieved and happy that I was still able to continue portraying Ken Kato in Henglaar, M.D., which, to be honest, was one of the few remaining things I used to like doing that I still enjoy doing.

Over the last few years, when I try to do something I once enjoyed, I sometimes feel bored, other times wonder why something enjoyable was feeling more like a chore than being fun, and even other times wanting to finish it quickly.  There is no enjoyment in any of this, which then makes me upset and anxious and… well, you get the picture.  (This, incidentally, is very reminiscent of one of the side-effects of depression, which shouldn’t surprise anyone as depersonalisation, as in my case, is caused by a combination of anxiety and depression.)

So, when he asked me about what I enjoy doing now, the list was rather limited: voice acting, sometimes reading, sometimes playing video games, watching TV or movies, and that was about it.  Everything else felt automatic or somewhat “just there”.

He thought this over for what seemed like longer than a few seconds, then pointed out: “Do you notice that you didn’t mention anything about activities you do with other people that you enjoy?”

It was a good point.  Part of our earlier discussions was how I often feel isolated from other people even when we share the same experiences and space.  A party can be going on, and outwardly I look as if I am enjoying myself, but inside, I feel very alone and isolated.  As I’ve said in earlier blogs, it seems like I put these walls up to protect myself.  In the process, these walls have helped me appear strong and as if I could cope with hurt and rejection, but, in the long run, they’ve only hurt me anyway.

So part of this is a need to appear to be in control, which is interesting, because, as he so rightfully pointed out, when I am internalising my emotions instead of expressing them, I definitely am not in control.  It sounds a little weird but it is really quite true.

For example, I used to be quite afraid of flying.  My anxiety and stress levels would keep accelerating for days before we would take a flight.  Part of this, I found out, was because I wasn’t in control — someone else is flying and therefore they are in control of my life, not me — so I used rational thoughts to quell the fear, and, even though it worked, it meant I was no longer feeling or accessing the fear.  My thoughts, and not I, were in control of my fear.  Instead of confronting an emotion emotionally, I was using logic to harness the emotion.

This extends to being with people.  I fear rejection and I fear being hurt, which I think most people do, but I take it further by moving a step or three back mentally, putting those walls up, and making sure I can’t be hurt.  But is that actually living authentically?  If there’s a lack of a real, or even strong, connection between me and other people, doesn’t this affect my enjoyment of life?  The richness of my life?

For my physical health, I had a sleep study done, which uncovered moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.  The CPAP machine has done wonders for my sleep, almost completely stopping my apnea and increasing my quality of life, even within 2 short weeks.  If I pushed myself, and convinced my doctor, to get answers and take action to increase the quality of life physically and mentally through reducing my sleep apnea, then I owe it to myself to push myself to get answers and take action to enhance the quality of my mental and emotional health through enriching my life with deep and meaningful relationships with other people, even if I do end up getting hurt once in a while.

It will be a long and difficult process to step forward mentally, drop those walls, and allow myself to be vulnerable yet authentic if I want to start enjoying my life again.  There are people who I can do this with, and you know who you are, but until I start doing this more often with more people, the flatness might remain.  I’m determined to enjoy life more again, one little step at a time.