Depression vs. Anxiety in conversation

Moleskine Project: illness & recovery #15; cc-by Christopher Paquette

Moleskine Project: illness & recovery #15; cc-by Christopher Paquette

I am very candid about my mental health. In part because it is only when people are willing to discuss it that we, as a culture, can work towards removing the stigma surrounding it. In part because it helps me in my own struggles if I open up about them; I can find support if I only ask.

I am on a pretty even-keel lately with my depression – finally on a dosage of a medication that seems to be working for me. However the anxiety part of this fun chemical playground that is my brain has been acting up of late. My doctor has prescribed a different medication for the anxiety, to be taken as needed, because, unlike the depression, the anxiety isn’t a constant thing – just something that needs to be dealt with when it rears it’s annoying head.

I’m still working on the correct dosage for that, and remembering to carry the anti-anxiety meds every day, and acknowledging when it is time to take them – when it isn’t something that will pass without the medication.  But I accept this as part of the process, like learning how to manage the depression was a process, and not just an out-of-the-box answer.

But the most difficult thing I have found about managing my anxiety is talking about it. Not for any fear or associated stigma, but because of language. When people ask me what’s wrong, and I say I’m having a difficult day because of the depression, for the most part people get it. When I say it’s because of anxiety, their next question, 9 times out of 10, is “What are you anxious about?”

Nothing. Not a damn thing. I know that I’m doing okay, and that the sudden hyper-awareness of my heartbeat, and that weird sense of dread that something isn’t right (or that I just need to get away from where I am, STAT) is due to an annoying entity in that chemical playground throwing balls at me that I can’t dodge (I think this metaphor is falling apart, oh well).

And due to the confusion the language causes, I find when I am trying to deal with the anxiety, I am less likely to reach out to my support network, because I don’t want to face that question. Because I don’t have a good answer for it.

I think I may take up the “bad brain day” that Sandra and her family use. It could be a catch-all for both the depression and the anxiety, and remove the dread of that question “What are you worried/anxious about?”

NaNo WriMo 2015

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareSunday the calendar switches from October to November, and with it comes the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo WriMo). The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days – or an average of 1,667 words a day.

For some this seems like a Herculean feat, particularly in a short month, and one where (in America at least) we are dealing with Thanksgiving as well as the prep for the impending winter holidays.

I speak from experience when I say it is doable. I have won NaNo WriMo* seven times.

You may say “Amazing” but here is the kicker. My last win was in 2011, and I stopped writing the story about half-way through the month, and made up the rest of the words with notes about the story. Yes I did write the required amount of words, and yes they are about the plot and characters, but it wasn’t actual story on page. So my last legitimate win was 2009.

I have signed up for, and participated in (at least nominally) NaNo WriMo every year since 2003, but these past several years have been less than stellar. I think, in part, this is because I stepped down as municipal liaison for my region. In theory this meant I had more free time in November to write as less of the time would be spent organizing and running the local events. In practice it meant that the obligation I felt as a leader figure to meet the goal was suddenly lifted.

Honestly, I thought about not signing up a few of these most recent years, but I had friends participating, so I made at least an effort for the first few days. Recently I came to realize that my depression might be part of why I wasn’t winning – I couldn’t bring myself to care about much of anything, so why should I care about writing 50k in a month?

This year, well, I’m not as excited about NaNo WriMo as I have been in past years. I know I can win, if I put my mind to it. I also know I can fail spectacularly (just a little over 1,000 words one year). Yet I have signed up for it again, in part because my online writing group has done so, in part to stay connected with my new writer friends from the Out Of Excuses Retreat 2015-On A Boat, and in part because my sibling has signed up, and I want to be an encouragement to them, as well.

The last part, the one that I am having to remind myself, is that I like writing. When I write, I feel better. And, honestly, I haven’t written much this year. Like, at all. I hate that I have to trick myself into writing – to use my group and my pseudo-obligations as an excuse, but that part of my brain where the depression lives is quietly whispering “what’s the use?” So in part, my participation this year is a bit of a “screw you” to my depression.

Because if I want to continue to call myself I writer, I need to get my butt in the chair and write.

So ask me about my word count – keep me honest. And maybe, by the end of the month I will have reestablished my writing habit, or, in the very least put up a good fight my depression.


* Wins mean writing 50k+ words- though not not necessarily finishing the respective stories- in November

Journal Entry: path of least resistance

I feel off balance, like I need to recenter. And it’s not that I don’t have the tools to do it, but that I am resisting employing them. And I am not satisfied with where I am, but I am comfortable with this particular dissatisfaction, because it is what is familiar. It is what comes of following the path of least resistance.

I am refusing to challenge myself because accepting the challenge could bring failure, and I already am disappointed enough with myself.

Accepting the challenge could also mean success, and that, at some level, means a change of who I am at the core. And what if I don’t like that person as much? What if my friends and family don’t like that person as much? What if my changing, even the slightest shift, somehow makes it harder to get along with the people I care about? I worry about alienating them with, what, my desire for self-improvement? A lack of time to spend with them (despite already having to work hard to make sure I am socializing enough – keeping my relationships going as I try to keep the depression at bay)? And I feel, at times, that the depression is just an excuse to let me pick the lazy path and to tell myself that I don’t have a choice, not really. The depression becomes a convenient excuse to not try to do the things I think will help me to improve myself. That I think will help me deal with the depression.

So is this convolved feeling just the depression trying to protect itself? And if I personify or anthropomorphize my depression, is that going to make my fight against it harder, or easier? Something to consider.

I want to simplify, but I don’t know where to begin, because I am attached to the clutter I keep around me – the physical, the electronic, and the emotional. It is familiar, it is insular. Its the wall that I put up between me and, what, the world? Between me and getting to really look deep and know myself? Both?

Simultaneously I want to and fear examining the things and asking “why is this important for me to keep?” so I can learn to let go of the unnecessary.

Lies Depression Tells Me, 5

This one is cunning, because the lie here puts a spin on something that I actually believe. Something that I have read about, and put a bit of faith in due to personal experience.

This lie is cunning because it twists the idea of being kind to oneself, of taking care of yourself so you can take care of others.

Depression tells me that I deserve this break from handling my responsibilities. That watching one more episode of a show on Netflix is not only justified, but preferable to doing anything else. That I deserve to just sit and veg, and that I can get my obligations done another day. I can exercise later, and when the thought flits across my mind that exercise does make me feel better, the depression tells me “yeah, but you’ve already put it off so long today, one more day won’t hurt – you can do it tomorrow.”

And it should be no surprise that tomorrow my depression is back, telling me that one more episode (and maybe one after that), one more day of delay won’t really matter- because I’ve put things off for so long, and despite knowing from experience that I’ll feel better doing some of these things now, I deserve to take care of myself. And hey, I have depression, and I have to be aware of that, and sometimes a “me” day is just what I need, and tomorrow will be better.

And today I realize that I’ve been sitting in this “I deserve a break, I deserve to take care of my emotional state” place for days. That I haven’t moved from the spot, and have worn a nice spot in the couch I thought was self-care, but was really cozying down into my depression – heeding the subtext behind the loud call to take care of myself, unnoticed until now. The whispering voice that says that I shouldn’t bother doing anything else besides the “self-care” because I haven’t done it yet, and I’ll probably fail at it anyway. That I’m an imposter at the things I’m trying, and it is better to just duck away and ignore the things that I have identified as important -because they *are* important, and I’ll just screw them up anyway.

And even as I examine this tactic my depression has taken to hide it’s insidious side, I think “Wow, that sucks. Maybe I should just watch *one* episode of that show, you know, to cheer myself up.”

Lies depression tells me, 4


“You’re better, the anti-depressant is working. This funk you are in is only because of the weather.”

by Mike Willis

photo by Mike Willis

So, it is overcast again today – has been for most days this past week. Most days this past week I have also felt down, and more like I’m sliding back to the place where I was before we raised the dose of my anti-depressant. Basically, I just kind of want to curl in on myself, like protecting my core – that spot just behind my sternum that feels like a miniature black-hole when things are bad.

But I’m still excited about my writing class. I’m still doing things – not with as much energy as other times, certainly, and not with as much enthusiasm, but I’m not shrugging things off as unimportant or too big to handle at this moment.

So I’m not sure, really. Is it just a gray mood that is reflecting the gray day, or is this another lie that my depression is telling me?

If it is the latter, this lie is all the more insidious for the fact that I can’t suss it out for what it is.