Over the last few days, I have felt emotionally connected again. Yesterday, I spent a lot of the day engaged creatively in my application for a mentor through the New Zealand Society of Authors. When I am so close to feeling normal again, this makes me happy, even if there is an underlying negative emotion like sadness there. At least, I’m feeling something.
And then there are days like today. I’m burned out. Little to no emotional engagement whatsoever.
At one point, when I took several deep breaths and tried to access any sort of emotion, I welled up with tears because I felt suddenly overwhelmed by everything, but, as quickly as that surfaced, that returned to a sort of emotional blankness too.
When I was first diagnosed with depersonalization back in 2014, nearly every day I faced no emotional connection. I put on a brave mask, and laughed and joked and smiled, but I felt absolutely nothing inside.
In my recovery, this has shifted. At first, I was experiencing short, sharp bursts of emotions — a very uncomfortable, and somewhat frightening, experience — with long periods of depersonalization. When the depersonalization came on, it would feel like a midget was sitting on my shoulders and somehow able to get his hands inside my skull and pull back hard on my brain. The feeling was physically unpleasant.
And then, after time, and a lot of hard work, and hours upon hours of counselling, emotionally-engaged time and depersonalized time became about 50-50, then more time as emotionally-engaged versus depersonalized, and so on.
I have always been the type of person to overdo something to get back to “normal”. Injured myself at gym, or while running, or whatever? I start champing at the bit to get back into a gym routine, or running, or whatever, and then I end up overexerting myself or hurting myself.
This is no different. Instead of taking a softly-softly approach, I try to expend as much creativity and engage as much emotionally as I can, just in case there’s a long, dry spell afterwards. It’s like a starving child stuffing his face at the smorgasbord, not knowing when his next meal might come.
I don’t blame myself for this. Here I am, over 5 years down the track from initial diagnosis, and while I am a lot better than I was, I’m not completely in remission.
Pile on top of that everything we went through before that — major earthquakes, injuries, rebuilding work, lots of deaths of people and pets we loved, terrorist attacks, gaslighting, and so on — and it has been a long, arduous struggle over the last decade.
Part of me wants to be recovered fully again. Just let it be done and over with, and let me be whole again. Let me move on with my life.
Another part of me cheers me on. I have come so far, I am nearly in remission, I can see the finish line — it’s right there! — and I can get there if I keep pushing towards it.
A third part of me is overwhelmingly tired. Like today. The battles have been too long, and instead of pacing myself in this marathon of an illness, I’ve been sprinting when I have the energy, expending too much too quickly, and then I’m out of juice for the next leg.
Ebb and flow. That’s exactly how the energy inside me feels, hour to hour, day to day, week to week. Ebb and flow.
I’m sometimes very hard on myself — it’s that critic in my head — so it makes those low tides emotionally even more difficult to face.
Today is supposed to be a nice, warm summer’s day. I hate when I feel like this on days like this because I should be enjoying the weather, but all I want to do is find a nice dark corner to press myself into until I feel better.
I need to realize this is another ebb, another low tide. Another flow will be coming soon to wash me back into a fuller, emotionally-engaged life.