Seriously, though, yesterday was a very difficult day for me. It honestly didn’t start out that way. I woke up early as I had an appointment with the sleep specialist to check on how my CPAP machine was going. It went very well, and it made me very happy, which made my mood quite bright and cheerful.
On to our second chore while we were out: work. I needed to swap over the back-up drives (which I’d forgotten to do last Friday) and also some work on allocating student loans to the appropriate Public Trust accounts. The second part really didn’t need to be done yesterday, but because I was at work, I thought it would be easier to get everything done in one fell swoop, so I could spend the time during this school holidays actually relaxing without much work at all instead of working every day, a little here, a lot there, and forgoing the whole reason of having a break like I normally do. One of the things I am learning in counselling is I need to step-back and have some “me” time a lot more often than I have been over the past 20 years or so.
Wednesday (the day before), I’d received a snotty email from the Tertiary Education Commission regarding financial viability reporting and lots of lovely threats (it’s not a real letter from a government department unless there’s a threat or three in there; you should feel an overwhelming sense of dread every time an email or letter arrives from them), which completely ruined any relaxation I had felt in the days before; as a matter of fact, I went up like a rocket and forgot to come down for a few hours because I was that lividly angry with them for being so lazy as to not look back in their records for, well, anything, because, as we all know, writing a threatening letter is much more productive and why bother researching an answer when we can just threaten it out of someone instead? Especially during school holidays when we pretty much all know most institutions are probably shut or running a skeleton staff. Makes sense, right?
(On a side note, at least I released the anger instead of bottling it up. Another point for me.)
“Okay,” I thought, “that’s all the work I have to do today. I can go back to doing something for me, to unwind, to relax.” (By this time, my hands were completely numb and I was close to vomiting; that’s how strong my anxiety had gotten.)
Nope. Even after I posted a post along these lines on Facebook, I got a message from a graduate, asking about where to get a machine. Because I’m nice, of course, I answer, even though I consider Facebook to be my personal, and not work, space. Then a text comes in from someone starting up on the 25 July; she hasn’t bothered to read the letter that came with the photocopies of her enrolment form and other forms that say those copies are hers to keep for her records, so she wants to know, should she bring them in with her on her first day so we can have them back?
By that point, I’m thinking that that’s that day’s relaxation and non-work promise broken well and truly. Give up on the relaxation because there ain’t gonna be none.
Back to Thursday: so, I’m at work, I go to log in to StudyLink (our student loan provider, another Government agency) and it says my account has been suspended. Very strange. I call them up, and all I get is that there’s some sort of updated memorandum of understanding that needed to be signed and now that’s overdue.
Please bear in mind that there are about 15 to 20 different Government reports and audits and all those pleasant things due around this time of year, and this unexpected one fell well and truly outside of the normal routine for me. I have a hard enough time keeping track of all of them when I am well, let alone when I’m not great at concentrating.
So, I’ve been doing Lyssa’s job while she’s away, I’m trying (not successfully) to do my job while she’s away, I’m drowning in months and months and months of overdue things because I was away last year for Grandma’s death and once Jacqui left, I had to do both jobs, then train Lyssa up. This is my first real break since a week or so at Christmas (everyone else has had more breaks than I have). I keep getting told, “Oh, we’ll help you out” but nothing much happens, and now I’m locked out of my account to do my work because the memorandum of understanding, which was one of three very simple, easy, not-needing-instructions tasks I gave away to do (because, hey, everything else needs an explanation so what’s the point in going over the instructions when I could get it done myself, when I finally have the time, in half the time), hasn’t been done and I have to do it myself.
It made me angry at first, then frustrated beyond compare, witnessed by me storming around the school, muttering under my breath and slamming things, and then, suddenly, another dissociative episode occurred, and I stopped feeling anything at all again.
I was reading yesterday, on-line, that depersonalization is a type of defence mechanism for the brain. It goes to that default for some people who suffer from depersonalization to stop further emotional harm from occurring. It definitely felt that way yesterday.
We left work (as I couldn’t do anything until the account was unlocked, and I wasn’t waiting around all day at work for StudyLink, who might unlock the account next week if they feel like it… it depends on their mood, and I just wanted out of the fucking place) and went about our other chores, and I kept hopscotching from feeling okay, to feeling happy, to feeling nothing, to feeling angry, to feeling upset, and back to feeling nothing. Finally, the feeling nothing won over. I thought that I should just ride it out.
When we got home, I tried to distract myself with something, anything, to try to work through it, but I felt nothing, so it wasn’t much point. As I said in an earlier blog, with dissociation, there’s really no enjoyment in a lot of things I used to enjoy, so it’s very difficult for me to entertain myself without getting frustrated at the lack of enjoyment. Actually, what it feels like is overwhelming boredom (but it’s not boredom).
I decided I was going to research a little more on depersonalization on the Web, and I came across some excellent sites. One was really a good, uplifting sort of site where the writer, a depersonalization sufferer himself, found the way out for him was to take a leap and do something he always wanted to do that he knew would bring him joy. In this case, it was his childhood dream of making a video game: rather ambitious but good on him for realising it and running with that.
My mind thought about what would help me, and it came up with nothing. I want to write, but my creative energy and attention span never seems to gel with sitting down and writing anything good. (As I mentioned before, anxiety is the anti-creativity emotion.) Games I used to play are not really enjoyable any more. Reading is hard because I can’t concentrate and end up re-reading the same paragraph over and over again or my mind drifts off halfway through the chapter. Listening to music is good but bores me somewhat, and trying to watch TV or a movie seems underwhelming for me. Even going out for a walk makes my mind wander off a different path than I’m walking, and I’m not present, and I arrive at the destination without remembering the journey, which was the whole point of taking a walk in the first place.
Looking at the comments after the article by the writer who decided to make his own video game, I found I wasn’t alone in how I felt.
And then the depression kicked in. Absolute, total darkness. I admit that I finally cried. A lot.
One person had had depersonalization for 5 years and felt passionate about nothing. What could she do?
Another person had it for over 20 years. It’d wrecked two of his marriages, his relationships with his family, and he was a social hermit on disability.
Almost every person spoke about using alcohol to feel anything — this is common for me too — and their fears about using alcohol so excessively as a type of medication, especially where and when medications had made them feel even more dissociative than the dissociation itself.
I came to realise that I wasn’t alone but this struggle with depersonalization, and anxiety and depression, were far from over. I wondered if I’d ever be better. Will I ever feel anything good ever again? Will I ever be me again? Or will I always be stuck as this carbon copy, this 27th photocopy of a photocopy of myself, forever more?
Will the depersonalization just give way to overwhelming anxiety and depression again? I keep trying to claw my way away from depression because I’ve been at the ledge between the “low functioning” depression I normally have and that dark, gnawing, endless pit of depression threatening to swallow me whole — believe me, I’ve dipped a toe or three, and even an entire leg in, at times — and I don’t want to be close to that chasm. I feel my counselor implies sometimes I need to dive into the darkness to embrace it and familiarise myself with it and accept it so I can pull myself back out again, get my life on track, but it scares me. It absolutely scares me. It scares me that once I’m in, I’ll never be able to get out again.
Will I live my life from now on just not enjoying much of anything? Will my entire life feel like I’m living in a fog all the time?
Is my life meant to feel like wash, rinse, repeat?
What am I passionate about? What do I enjoy doing? Why can’t I enjoy what I used to enjoy?
Who am I really?
I don’t know. Or I can’t remember. Or both.
I woke up this morning feeling a bit more steady, although like I had a bit of an emotional hangover. Honestly, I find sleep helps clear everything out, especially now I have a CPAP machine and I get a decent night’s sleep, like a reboot, which is encouraging.
Part of what I’m going through reminds me of a scene between Will Riker and Deanna Troi in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Best of Both Worlds“. In my opinion, it’s one of the best scenes in the entire series between Will and Deanna.
(For those of you unfamiliar with this series, here’s a quick recap: Will Riker is first officer of the Starship Enterprise-D and Deanna Troi is the counselor aboard the same ship. The two of them used to be lovers but are now friends because they have always shared a special bond with one another. In “Best of Both Worlds”, a hotshot specialist named Shelby comes aboard the Enterprise to combat the Borg, a fearsome, seemingly undefeatable enemy, and it threatens Will’s position as first officer. Will once was a go-getter, wanting promotion to captain and his own ship, but he realizes he’s either stuck in a rut or comfortable aboard the Enterprise.)
Here’s the scene in full:
RIKER: What am I still doing here? Deanna, I pushed myself hard to get this far. I sacrificed a lot. I always said I wanted my own command, and yet something’s holding me back. Is it wrong for me to want to stay?
TROI: What do you think?
RIKER: Maybe I’m just afraid of the big chair.
TROI: I don’t think so.
RIKER: The Captain says Shelby reminds him of the way I used to be. And he’s right. She comes in here full of drive and ambition. Impatient, taking risks. I look at her and I wonder whatever happened to those things in me? I liked those things about me. I’ve lost something.
TROI: You mean you’re older, more experienced. A little more seasoned.
RIKER: Seasoned. That’s a horrible thing to say to a man.
TROI: I don’t think you’ve lost a thing, and I think you’ve gained more than you realise. You’re much more comfortable with yourself than you used to be.
RIKER: Maybe that’s the problem. I’m too comfortable here.
TROI: I’m not sure I know what that means. You’re happy here. Happier than I’ve ever known you to be. So, it comes down to a simple question. What do you want, Will Riker?
I feel this is a powerful conversation, and it’s one I’ve been having with myself lately.