Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, everything has been all over the place, by the feel of things.
I have been depressed more often than not, for a whole host of reasons, and I have been trying to work through my counsellor with this.
Our sessions are not the same day or time as normal as we are using Zoom to have counselling sessions now, and since I’ve been working from home, I’ve accommodated him and his schedule as much as I can.
I like my counselor. He’s not the same as previous counselors I’ve had. He does two things that irk me: he does this weird, over-exaggerated face of miscomprehension at times, which makes me take 12 steps back because it reminds me of the way some people I know react to me when I’m making absolutely no sense; and he goes into this space of negative assurance whereby I think he expects me to fight back. Both drive me crazy, and I don’t quite know how to say, “Stop that. It’s not helpful.”
He has been helpful too, and helped me unlock a few key weird associations I have made. Anger and anxiety being intertwined is one bad habit he’s broken me of, for example, by simply establishing the link. It has been extremely helpful to me.
In our last session, I was very depressed. Actually, I was on the verge of feeling there was no way out in my life, and it was a very horrible, dark, strangling feeling. This was very difficult to express, and he kept doing those things I really dislike, and it was driving me further into darkness. Something came from me that made him soften. I don’t know if it was the desperation in my voice, or the way I explained something, but it became very evident that whatever it was, it struck something at his core, and his demeanour changed. At the end of the session, I explained it was hard to deal with things unless there was some sort of pattern or link that my mind could latch on to so I could dismantle it. Example: anger and anxiety symptoms intertwining. Once I understood they were separate things, anxiety melted away, and anger swelled as a powerful tool when I needed it. No longer would anxiety make the feeling linger; I could release anger as a powerful defender and it was then done. Energy expended, things said, actions taken, done. It made me feel very much more certain in that point in time.
This past weekend, I felt depressed again. In our previous session, I’d told my counselor I’d look for clues of how the pattern triggered, but unfortunately, the pattern would be well underway and I’d be feeling quite blue before I even had a chance to start looking at it. So it wasn’t very helpful.
Some of the problem is, quite frankly, that I feel alone. There have been very few people in my life who I have let all the way in, and I have shown my most vulnerable, truthful, honest parts of me, and several of them lately have hurt me by either betraying that trust or by stepping away. Others have moved away to a different region or country — and they have that right, of course — so the bond weakens over time.
When I have tried to make connections with people here in New Zealand, it has been difficult because of the barriers of where I grew up, my experiences growing up, my life in the States up to when I moved to New Zealand, and the exclusion I have experienced and felt from Kiwis. I’m not the only non-Kiwi who has felt this because I hear this a lot from people from overseas who have moved to New Zealand all the time.
So there’s this lack of trust, in them and in myself, and a defence mechanism that comes into play: don’t let them in so they don’t hurt me, but don’t give them the chance to be let in to show they won’t hurt me. A no-win situation.
I hate no-win situations.
I felt better today going into virtual counselling. My family and I spoke via FaceTime for Mother’s Day, and that was a good time. It brought me out of the darkness because I felt connection.
With my immediate family, and with my friends in “The Group” I had back in the States, I feel now I can be myself a lot of the time. No defence mechanisms, no fear of being hurt: just being myself as real and honestly as I can. And that feels good. It provides me the connection I need.
But they live half a world away, so it is difficult as I’m not around them all the time to build that need for connection and love and companionship back up.
In counselling, later in the afternoon, I spoke with my counsellor about this. The subject wasn’t anything new in the fact that I find that my mind throws several curveballs at me when I seem to get close to some emotional depth or truth in my life. I start nitpicking in my life at some small thing; then my mind decides to race ahead into a million different thoughts to try to distract me; this sometimes leads to feeling overwhelmed at what grows into a seemingly mammoth task; and finally the energy I had drains from me to take all the power away from the emotion.
It’s as if, we spoke about, I don’t give myself the time or space to delve into any sort of self-care for me. There’s a critic in my head harping on about pity parties for me. Another part tries to distract with one method or another. And I’m the poor chump who feels powerless and overwhelmed in trying to deal with it.
And I am lonely. I enjoy my own company, yes, but I long for companionship. I have a few good friends here, and that helps a little, but I need more. I used to have more, and I used to be somewhat content, but that’s all gone now.
The discussion turned to where I was at in the present. I said to him that there used to be very much more to me, but now I was this small bit of who I used to be, and I was clutching on to that very tightly and very afraid to expand beyond that.
Using the example of building blocks, like those wooden alphabet blocks I used to have as a kid, it felt like I had several towers of blocks stacked upon blocks, and depersonalization came in and knocked most of them away. Even as my core being winced away from things I used to like doing (as they were no longer enjoyable and at times very difficult to undertake or comprehend), my work seemed to be okay until NZQA decided to swat that remaining tower and several of the base pieces away, leaving only one more block left.
That’s it. That’s all that stands between me and fading away into nothing. That’s the God honest truth on how I feel about myself.
I want to rebuild that tower, I told him. I want to become a fuller version of myself, without distractions, without fear, without trepidation, without hurt.
There was this deep-seated fear, I admitted at least more than once, that if I took a good, hard, strong look at myself, I’d find a lot I didn’t like, a lot of unhappiness, and this deep well of despair, and that scared me quite a bit.
This is a recurring theme: gloss over confronting my true feelings, let them fester inside until the rot sets in, and then, when I think I can deal with it, the problem is so overwhelming that it compounds the emotional reaction to it, and that emotional reaction threatens to swallow me whole into its darkness.
We seemed to be getting at the crux of the matter, without the over-exaggerated face and me pressing hard against the negative assurance like we do in many sessions even though it annoys the daylights out of me and I tried to push against it, when, at the end of the session, my counselor was like, “Well, I don’t know if I can do anything to help you.”
I have never, ever, ever had a counselor say that to me before.
My reply was that I needed help in breaking down this overwhelming and complex mechanism that kept me from my feelings and my own care of myself, and even if we removed one cog from the bigger mechanism, it could help me immensely. Looking back, it almost seemed plea-like.
We spoke a little more — no recap like usual — and then set up the next appointment, but I felt like this was one more part of my life knocked out from under my feet. That someone took a samurai sword to that last remaining wooden block and splintered it into pieces.
Where to go from here? I don’t know.
Part of me feels I need to save all my energy and strength to get through the next few weeks with work. Another part of me urges me to confront this all now as work and everything else in my life really needs to take a back seat until I can sort this shit out.
I guess time will tell.
In COVID-19 news in New Zealand, our Prime Minister told us today we would be moving to Alert Level 2 as of 11:59 PM on Wednesday, 13 May 2020. Transmission rates are still below 0.4, so they are cautiously trying to get us back to our lives.
Another thing getting at my goat: some of my American friends and family not getting how social distancing and lockdown helped our country beat back this virus.
There have been several debates erupt on Facebook, but as I told some other friends and family, I’m conserving my energy. No matter what I say, nothing will change those people’s minds, and they need to deal with the consequences of their actions, although their actions could impact people I love and care about too. It’s astounding the selfishness pervasive among some people in America, and it will injure, infect, and kill a good many more people before this is all over. Sadly, I think some of them will be part of that too. I don’t want that, of course, but it’s a sad fact. You can’t play with fire without getting burned.
I’m very tired tonight, especially after the emotionally exhausting day, so I wish you all well, my readers. Stay safe, stay home, wash your hands, stay in your bubble, and be kind.
No matter what happens, to my friends, family and loved ones — know I love you very much, now and forever.