Odds and Ends for Your Delectation

November 15, 2009 at 5:55 am | Posted in Dealing with Depression, My Fascinating Mood | 2 Comments

The last two weeks have been damn rough, in case you haven’t guessed. I’ve been largely silent because my mood fell off a cliff two weeks ago, and I have a hard time saying anything at all when I can’t say something nice. There are so many excellent bipolar blogs in which the authors share their anguish eloquently — here I am trying to remain realistic but upbeat, and upbeat hasn’t been a part of my repertoire for the last several days.

This morning I reread this entire blog, partly hoping to benefit from my own advice. Such good suggestions. If only I had the power or conviction to follow them, I’d be well on the road to recovery. As someone — I think William Styron — once wrote, depression is annoying to outsiders partly because when you’re depressed, if someone put a pill that would instantly cure you across the room, you wouldn’t — couldn’t — bestir yourself to pick it up and take it.

When I came to my shrink talking of hopelessness and helplessness, she took the usual steps: we restored a medication that I’d dropped, then she lectured me on wellness. I wanted to smack her, which leads me to wonder how many of you have wanted to smack the Pollyanna me on occasion. It’s odd, though, that someone with degrees in both psychology and psychiatry wouldn’t understand that when I’m depressed, I’m in no shape to reach out and establish a support network. She also chirped that having a spouse and children can provide insurance against severe depression. Thanks. If I should ever remarry, my chances of divorcing again are twice the already miserable 40-50%, and I have a genetic illness that precludes me from reproducing responsibly. I would expect greater sensitivity from one who often waxes earnest about the need to have compassion for my inner child.

(By the way, I know that bipolar people do have actual outer children — sometimes even deliberately. Some may even prove to be excellent parents. But it would tear my heart out to see a daughter or son of mine suffer the torments of the damned because I wanted the love, companionship and long-term eldercare that children can offer. I have always wanted children, but I will never have them.)

So. Friday’s head-shrinking conversation wasn’t tremendously helpful. The medication change seems to have worked, however — I am ramping up on my mood stabilizer again, and am already a good deal more sane, if still disgruntled.

So I’m back here, having suffered a reminder that the advice that I give here can be fruitless when one is truly, crushingly depressed.

I took notes as I re-read: here are some of the fruits of my self-review.

I must blog more resources on the health care reform bill that passed the House. I actually had a chance to meet my Congresswoman last week and thank her for her “Yes” vote. Digression of misery: She is so impressive — such an excellent extemporaneous speaker, so charismatic. And a year younger than me. Grr. I used to be impressive. In fact, I’m still a damn good speaker. But, oh, sometimes I would give anything to have my whole brain back. These cognitive deficits are humbling, humbling. In any case, I will make a point of rooting up some resources for those of you who have a little time to kill by mastering the details of a bill that is, apparently, longer than Richardson’s Clarissa, a novel that took me two weeks of eight-hour days to complete when I was studying for my qualifying exams.

2. A tough question: What can you do, what hope can you nurse, if your life has not been a happy one, and it seems to be getting worse, not better? That’s a hell of a question, but it’s the one that I ultimately face. I feel like I need to think that one through in these pages. There may not be an answer, or it may be the wrong question entirely, but I need to at least take a whack at it over the next couple of days.

3. It is beneficial and easy to keep a gratitude list. Studies show (doesn’t that assertion just make you bristle?) that people who regularly and explicitly count their blessings gain from the exercise. So. You don’t need to do it every day, but every now and then sit down with paper and pen (or laptop and keyboard, or iPhone and finger) and list 10 things that you’re grateful for. Here are mine for this morning:

1. My lovely and excellent cats.
2. My exceptionally cool dad, who ran in the eights yesterday with his home-built race car. That is to say, he topped 150 in the quarter mile, roaring down the track in just under nine seconds. That’s fast, and it’s a tribute to his amazing, self-taught engineering skills. Mom, Dad, email me a photo that I can attach — I’m that proud.
3. My outstanding mom, who quilts, paints, and has so mastered Suduko that she is entirely over it.
4. My sister, who forged the way for both of us to become Christians, though admittedly of very different denominations.
5. My garden, which is small and shabby, but which is still an amazing creative outlet.
6. A Beacoup Conge, the local bead store. Every time I go I see new and vintage beads gathered from around the globe, and the helpful and talented staff often warble along with the radio out of sheer high spirits. The bead store is definitely one of my happy places.
7. My thesaurus. My journalistic training has drilled me in avoiding the temptation to deploy the same words over and over. Therefore the thesaurus lives right here by my desk, and I’m not afraid to use it.
8. The Central Arts Collective, which has a wall of art under a hundred bucks. I recently bought a delightful framed photographic print by an artist who composes brilliant abstractions by shooting close-ups of rust and other forms of weathering. He was so happy to sell the work, and I was so happy to buy it! If you can buy, beg, or steal original art, do.
9. I am trying to add “my job.” It’s sort of a dysfunctional relationship, but I know that the structure and the social challenges are ultimately beneficial.
10. The New York Times, which I read free online.

As often happens, I am tempted to go beyond 10 items. So a couple more:

11. The sunrises and sunsets here in my hometown, which really are remarkable. Visitors are knocked speechless, and even natives will call to each other and crowd outside excitedly during an especially amazing show.
12. Root candles, which smell delicious and are actually made by a several-decades-old privately held company that manufactures ecclesiastical candles as well as ornamental ones. When I complained about poor wicks in one batch of votives, they responded to my indignant email with personal concern and sent me a free candle in my favorite scent, Victorian Fantasy. And how’s that for an evocative name? Because of the folks at Root, I live in a permanent cloud of Victorian Fantasy.
13. The teachers who drilled me so mercilessly in grammar and other aspects of good writing. Talent is nothing without craft, and this blog is the result of decades spent honing my craft.
14. My iPhone. I know it’s shallow and consumerist to have a love affair with an expensive gadget, but it’s so attentive that I’m pretty sure it loves me back.
15. Pandora free streaming radio and the music genome project that makes it possible. I’m listening to my station, Music for Cats, right now. Through my iPhone.

And as I reflect upon my position — sitting in my condo, listening to my homegrown radio station, within earshot of loving cats (why does Julia make those weird grunting noises all the time? I can hear them from the next room), with art on the walls and the internet at my fingertips, I feel that perhaps everything will be all right. It’s true that I have no kids, no husband, a precarious grip on my profession, and a bad migraine, but I really do have a lot of cool blessings. Bringing them to consciousness occasionally is an excellent exercise.

Another random note from my legal pad: “My conversation with Mom and Dad about the genetic causes of bipolar disorder. Possible evolutionary advantages?” Now that’s a post I may well never write. My interest in sociobiology is limited at best, based as it is on equal parts speculation and wishful thinking.

Next: “Optimism mood-tracking software.” Um, yes, that. I sort of fell of the wagon — I usually do when things get bad, it’s that whole overwhelming business of having to mouse-click on an icon — but I will get back to it! I will!

More: “How amino acids, vitamin B, and fish oil are working.” Not well, thanks. Though the nasty cracks at the corners of my lips healed once I started seriously supplementing B vitamins. Otherwise, though, these supplements appear to be an expensive boondoggle.

“My programmable thermostat — status.” Oh, right. Well, I haven’t learned how to program it, but I did figure out how to run it like a regular thermostat. The first step was remembering to flip the circuit back on. From there, everything else was a piece of cake.

“The relief I experience — and don’t experience — while kidding around” at the disabled people’s group at work. It’s very freeing to be able to crack jokes about disabilities, and disabled people are generally the first people to get off a zinger when conversing among themselves. However, in our group I am one of a very few people with a hidden disability, and the only person I’m aware of with a serious mental illness. This gives me a bit of a sense of restraint. After all, being legally blind, for example, doesn’t automatically grant understanding and empathy for those of us whose thoughts are so very deeply weird. So I enjoy the company of my wry disabled work friends, but I remain conscious of a certain difference and distance, too. I can’t know what it’s like to have a visible disability, though I understand intellectually that the discrimination is outrageous. At the same time, they can’t know my daily struggle to render myself acceptable to the more normal folk around me. That desperate and always unsuccessful effort exhausts and alienates me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain.

That’s enough for now. As usual, just when I thought the springs of inspiration were at the lowest possible ebb, I find myself filled to overflowing with commentary and, yes, complaints. I think I will go make another bead project now.



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  1. It makes me so sad to know that you’re suffering so. I think others should know what a very strong person you are and that, even when you are very depressed it’s so nice to spend time with you. You don’t spread your depression to others and I know that it takes great effort to be positive in the throws of depression. You’re an incredible inspiration to me.

  2. The gratefulness exercise is so helpful. I did it when Robert was deployed. The worse day I had the deeper I dig for those blessings. I always had the most interesting entries on those days.

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