The day of the tenth anniversary of the 22 February 2011 quake, and the day after, I had a strong return of depression. I’m not saying it has magically disappeared — I am fighting it today as well — but an interesting development is my mind doesn’t seem to automatically tip me into depersonalization for some reason.
Sure, the physical sensations of depersonalization are there. I’ve described it before like a little person sitting on my shoulders, tugging my brain backwards in my head. That sensation has been strong on and off for the last four days or so. And a sensation I have noticed only in the last few days, a kind of twisting motion with the muscles in my temples and forehead too. Usually, this happens while I am depersonalized or going into a strong depersonalized state, but this time, it’s only physical symptoms (which are very jarring, to be honest).
On Tuesday night, Noel said to me he noticed I was pretty down to it, and I could talk to him if I needed to talk. I didn’t say anything for a while, but then said I thought I was depressed because it was the anniversary of the quake, and my life had changed significantly after that. The day came and went, with those of us who went through it standing there like some band of people who were taken out of time and space and deposited on a human colony on a distant planet 500 years from now, and many of those who didn’t go through it didn’t seem to give a fuck. (A few people did reach out to me, and thank you for that.)
On top of that, I added, I was getting these strong, very uncomfortable physical depersonalization symptoms, and it was really unsettling.
A response of, “Oh well, we survived,” pretty much shut down that invitation to a conversation. I couldn’t be bothered pointing out how unhelpful that was and why I always clam up now because everyone seems to shut me down, so I sat on the couch, stewing in my emotions.
Yesterday, at counselling, I opened up quite a bit about this all, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to cover everything in this blog, but I’ll try. Bear with me on this journey.
I hate the anniversary of the quake. I hate the day itself. I wish it had never happened.
Because for the most part after that happened, I have been unhappy and miserable.
Everything fell apart. Pets and family members died. Friends drifted away, or I cut them off after one betrayal too many. The city was a wreck, then everything got demolished. We had to jump through numerous hoops even when we were the victims of an event we had no control over.
And then I fell apart.
Slowly but surely, depersonalization ate away at the pieces of me until there was very little left of me to consume.
One of the last areas I felt strong and sure in was work. Then The Place Where I Work had a routine NZQA review, and the reviewers and NZQA gaslit us. Nothing we saw or nothing we heard happened, despite all of us attesting to the opposite.
So that part of me, the last steady ground I could stand on, was gone too.
Once doubt is planted in my head, especially in this state, it’s not hard for it to take root and spread quickly. And that’s exactly what happened.
Here was Scott. Well, what was left of him. A collection of naked, shivering, starving things clumped together in the darkness, clutching blind at one another, trying to make any sense of any part of him at all.
Desperate, I started to clutch on to things people had said to me over the years.
I get fired up too easily.
I shouldn’t cry so much.
There’s something wrong with me.
Shouldn’t I be better by now?
It’s easier to edit yourself when there’s pretty much a blank canvas left.
But I realised yesterday a few things.
I am being passive in this all. This is my life, and I need to be active. Only a few will stand up for me — I’ve seen that abundantly clearly now — and those who will seem far away, so I need to stand up for myself.
I am responsible for letting those voices get inside my head. I am responsible for allowing them to somehow alter my way of thinking and make me the way I am.
I talk about depersonalization and depression and all these things as if they are some foreign, outside, living organisms impacting me and my life, when, in fact, it is me who is impacting me and my life.
For too long, I have been pushing away uncomfortable truths, emotional and otherwise, and allowing myself to sit in a holding pattern in the guise of safety and recovery.
That needs to stop.
I need to feel comfortable enough in my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own truths, no matter how difficult they are, to be able to be whole again.
Editing out the bits and pieces I am uncomfortable with has fragmented me. Keeping those bits and pieces within me, no matter how odd or off-putting they may be, do make me whole again.
I have said, and continue to say, to my counselor that I feel human when I am whole. Even when I have had serious bouts of depression or depressive episodes, it is actually feeling something, and I’d rather have a hundred days of feeling like that than a day of feeling emotionally numb.
Depersonalization has been hard. Fighting it has been hard. My life has been really difficult to cope with at times due to it. There have been times where I have wondered if not living was a more peaceful choice. But I have fought and continue to fight.
I want to be that loveable Scott people once knew again. I want to be able to think with a clear mind all the time. I want my compassion and care and love to be felt and understood. I want to be able to write beautiful things, words people can buy into and feel deep within their hearts and souls. I want to trust people like I used to do.
There’s so much I feel I have lost out on over the last 7 to 10 years. And that sucks. And I can’t change that, but I can hopefully keep fighting to make myself a better person so my life can improve too.
The positive thing about feeling depressed the last week while having the physical sensations of depersonalization is I’m hopefully one step closer to full recovery. And as uncomfortable as this all is at the moment, if it leads me towards being a wholer, happier, more authentic me, I’m okay to go through it.