Content Warning: Depression, Suicide, Self-Harm, PTSD
I’ve learned a lot of things during this hiatus.
Among others, it has finally locked down for me the fact that I probably do deal with depression. It just doesn’t present in the same way for me that it has for many of my meat-space friends who have had to deal with it.
Over the years I have heard a lot of, “But you can’t have (foo) because if you did you wouldn’t be able to (foo.)”1
Depression has been a frequent occupier of those statements.
This is important because DSN has made the last few years very busy. Incredibly busy. Wonderfully busy. Each year the pace picked up a little, but I just found ways to just work in what was needed.2Stumbled occasionally3, but the momentum and patterns were sitting there waiting. Picking things back up and just reorienting myself to the rhythms of it was fairly easy.
The thing I hadn’t really properly realized was that a lot of my management of the nastier spaces inside my own mind are centered around my utility to others. And in the work. If there’s always something that must be done, and you generally end up falling into exhaustion or a pain fugue at the end of a day, there’s less energy for the anxiety or the depression or the… to steal and use against you. There’s also a lifeline, for me at least, in knowing that your existence is a good thing for other people. If you know that you actually manage to do Good Things and make life a little less awful for other human beings, it gives you a countersong to fend off the litanies that thrum inside your own mind.
Admittedly, exhaustion doesn’t help with the dreams4, but it helps some with attaining unconsciousness. And it helps with drowning out the negative voices in my head. So does needing to have a driving focus on the work in order to stay on top of things enough to keep the yammering failure brain weasels at bay.
When we went on hiatus, all those patterns and protocols went out the window. The ones for basic house and life maintenance were still there, but I needed to build new ones for the new set of things that needed to happen.
I couldn’t build them fast enough. Into the void raced everything being strengthened by politics, pandemic, and world events…5
And it was SO MUCH.
And, even better, I felt like my response to it was over the top.
Because, inside my own mind, I had so much less right to be anxious, to be frustrated, to be at a loss as to how to confront any of what was going on in any useful or positive fashion…
It is absolutely amazing the downward spirals you can create inside yourself when you get locked into mental spaces where you cannot navigate your own trauma-granted metaphorical scar tissue.
Especially when you’ve always been the strong one. The responsible one. The one who held others together when things got fraught.
For me, at least, that makes it really hard to reach out. Especially when I know that the people I trust enough to talk to are having a really terrible time of things, too. I didn’t want to burden them with what was going on inside my head, and add it to the troubles they were already experiencing.
I just kept spiraling further and further down, locked into patterns and rhythms that were little more than moderately useful noise – managing to not prioritize the things that needed it most because I couldn’t shake myself loose.
I came closer to cutting than I have in years. Multiple episodes of having to put myself in a time-out, away from sharp things, and focus on taking apart the urge, push aside the need for an old coping mechanism that I really should not need anymore.
I also had some really close calls with deciding to just let go, thus breaking a promise I made to myself when I was a wee child.6
One of the things about this year is that I feel like I’ve rewound so many years in my work on my CPTSD – which enhances the persistent feeling of failure provoked by some of the results of the ways in which I’ve gotten stuck. This presidency hadn’t been great for that, at any point. I know I am not the only survivor of abuse and trauma who has seen everything from echoes of the abuse to grand shout-outs to the sorts of things we survived.
That was bad enough.
Add in the additional stressors of the pandemic and seeing Over and Over and Over again that those of us with chronic illnesses are apparently completely expendable? I mean, it only kills us and the old, after all. Where’s the problem in that?
It grinds you down.
Especially if your brain mostly responds with things like: “You should be handling this better!” or “So many people have it so much worse right now, on every level we could possibly think of, so quit whining!” or other phrases deeply steeped in the toxic cocktail of the voices and tones of the worst people who’ve been involved in your life.
Orders were delayed. I’ve barely started doing all the work that needs doing for a proper streamlined reopening. My heartfelt apologies to everyone who has had to deal with those delays – I am working on figuring out ways to keep this sort of spiraling from happening again.
We are also going to be doing a different sort of reopening than originally planned. I will speak to this in more detail in another post – for the moment just know that teas will be slowly reappearing in the shop as I get the labels for them sorted. The Labelpocalypse was one of the primary reasons things had gotten so difficult before the hiatus, and it is the one we can most easily deal with. I’m still trying to figure out what to do in regards to the paperwork issues. One step at a time. Really small ones when necessary.
Which ties back into one of the main reasons I decided to write this post, and to be so open about what has been going on these past months.
As stated, I know I am not the only abuse survivor having difficulties with the present reality. I know I am not the only spoonie having difficulty holding on to any sort of hope. And, sadly, I know I am not the only person having a really difficult time giving themselves any sort of compassion or leeway for any of it.
If you are in any of these boats with me, if you are also struggling – try to hold onto the fact that you are not alone.
I know that is far more easily said than done – drowning alone is easier, quieter, less invasive to the people we love, and doesn’t force the acknowledgement that we might actually need help from another human being, which requires a sometimes terrifying level of trust…
…but there’s no shame in needing to reach out.7 There is no shame in looking at a world that is on fire in so many ways (both literal and metaphorical) and struggling with finding your way through it all.
You are not alone.
- It makes things worse in a way that is hard to describe when you KNOW you are downing, but you still manage to clean the house, do your job, feed and take care of the people and creatures you care about… and because you can still do those thngs you aren’t drowning ENOUGH for it to matter to the people around you. Or maybe, more to the point, you aren’t drowning in the same way they are, and thus it cannot be processed. Now that I’m actually writing this down, I’m realizing it is rather like other chronic illnesses in this respect.
- Who needs sleep, really, right?
- Chronic illness making everything harder. Probably be good if I was better at recognizing the warning signs that indicate I am heading to a collapse…
- Thankfully, I have a tea for that. And I shudder to think what pandemic time dreams would be like without it.
- Perfectly legitimate protests being attacked/disrupted/demonized, fires and hurricanes and other indicators of drastic climate change – all over the world, being anti-fascist being framed as a bad thing, and then there are all the rights that are hanging by a fraying thread for anyone who is not obviously cis, straight, white, able-bodied, and male.
- Reached out on one of those instances, and it ended up feeling like all my worst fears of my own issues pushing someone else to the brink occurred. So I did not reach out to anyone again. I’m working on that.
- Really. There isn’t. Though I have to keep reminding myself of that simple truth that feels like one of the most complicated.