Pea Soup

May. 29th, 2013 07:07 pm
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
[personal profile] redback_bites23
Last year I had a lot of issues with my physical health and as part of the recovery process I went to my GP at the beginning of the year for some general follow on checks. She sent me to an immunologist because I thought I might have had allergies. I still wasn’t feeling great. I had to wait a number of months for the appointment and by the time I went, I felt like I had a lot invested in the outcome. I felt a lot better but I still didn’t feel great. I was feeling negative about it, it had all just taken what seemed like forever to solve and it still wasn’t solved and I was still feeling rotten. I thought he would not find anything, I didn’t expect to walk out of there with more or less, a diagnosis of depression. One of the things he described was it was like walking through pea soup all the time. ‘Things’ are just generally hard work. At that point I was blinking back tears because that is exactly how I had felt for ages, but I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough with my life. I should have been able to deal with ordinary things but I wasn’t. Clearly I was deficient and lacking. I needed to keep trying and clearly I wasn’t trying hard enough, or understanding things because I was stupid.

I went to my GP again about a week later and it took her all of about 5 minutes to diagnose depression with anxiety thrown in. She recommended medication, straight away, as I was already doing ‘all of the things’ one would do to help their well being. I had increased my exercise; I was watching my diet; My vitamin D was fine and I was doing things to help perk myself up. But really none of this was enough. The conclusion was that I had been in a depressive episode for at least a year. Thinking about it, I think it started about two years ago. The doctor said it was hard to know whether my physical symptoms from last year were because of it, or possibly the cause of it. I think they were because of it. Just because I’ve had so many hard things to deal with leading up to that time and for a few years in a row there I wondered when the hell I was going to get a break from shitty, hard things in life.

I have no qualms about taking medication, or at least trying it for a while. I also have no problems talking about mental health – to an extent. Talking face to face with someone can be extremely hard depending on the day. Why don’t I mind talking? Because mental illness is common as muck, but there is still stigma about it, but if people don’t talk, the stigma won’t be broken down. It was hard for me to tell my work colleagues or others about it because it’s really hard to know how people will react. Unfortunately with the symptoms and the way one feels, it’s extremely hard to believe that people will think you are anything other than defective. I also know that medication takes time; I know it can take quite some time before you hit on the right one or the right dose. For some people, it’s not the answer at all. Of course it also works best in combination with a whole lot of other things. Like a psychologist or a counsellor, the right support around you and all the other ‘stuff’ you’d do for your general well being.

I acknowledge this is my story and my experience, but I am sure that some things will resonate with others. How is it walking in pea soup? It’s shit and it’s hard. Average living, going to work, cooking dinner, doing your washing and cleaning your house just becomes really hard. It’s like walking through pea soup; it takes far longer with much more effort than if you were skipping along through the sunshine. It makes you feel really tired and all you want to do is go to sleep, and that’s after being at work, let alone trying to do all the rest of it. Throw in the other household duties and you’re walking through pea soup juggling a few balls above your head. This is if things are going well.

Wondering why you feel so tired and why things are so very hard to do, just the ordinary things and wondering why you need so much time to just be ‘still’ in your own company.
With things feeling so difficult social interaction is hard. There is no energy; there is no time to go to anything socially. Small events or interactions may be picked to attend, but then at the last minute the exhaustion takes over and the effort required to go and be around people becomes too much and it doesn’t happen.

Now, walking along, through pea soup and juggling a few balls something else comes up ‘out of the ordinary’ like a car needs fixing or your internet is not working and life really begins to feel overwhelming. My memory turned to shit, I forget things all the time, there is general confusion and half the time you think you’re on the ball and then you discover at a later time that you were so off the mark with something.

Too many things to do become overwhelming and ‘things’ become circular. I had already worked really hard to shut as much of the world out as possible. I don’t read news, watch any televised television (only shows on dvd), I rarely listen to the radio. Why? Because I decided the world was just too fucked a few years ago, it was all negative stuff all the time and it was just too much to deal with, it was eroding my already fragile resilience. Really, this was most likely the beginning of my mental health issues. The need to protect myself from all things bad. And really, everything seemed bad.

The result of doing this for a couple of years means that I often don’t feel like I have a clue about what is going on in the world, and this has only served to further alienate me from other people. I feel stupid. Because I don’t have any understanding of world events, or local events, or any events really. All for self preservation. The down side to this is when I mix with other people, in any capacity and they start talking about many different kinds of things I feel stupid, and thick because I don’t understand and I can’t contribute to the conversation. This of course is not true. I am not stupid, thick or worthless, I have plenty to offer, but my illness tells me I am. The voices and feelings that take over tell me that I am. Repeatedly.

Social isolation is a biggie. Feeling unwell means it’s hard to commit to doing anything socially, and really people will only invite you so many times before they give up, trying to organise anything for your self is pretty much the same. The idea that you might not have the energy or feel up to it means you don’t often try, only with a few people who might understand where you are at. Because this is something that goes on for months and months, possibly even years, people don’t understand. Earlier on I had said I wasn’t well and people offered to bring me soup. Now that’s all very nice of them, but A) this is not a flu and I don’t know how long I will feel like shit and B) even if it would be nice for me to have the soup (because I haven’t managed my grocery shopping), it means I have interact with you when you bring the soup.

In the meantime, I notice I have lost friends. In many cases if you are involved in community, or various community groups you have to actually interact with them – oddly enough. Otherwise you get lost or forgotten, or at least it feels like you are forgotten. If you want to be invited and grow friends in the groups you have to actually be friendly and participate and go to lots of things. This way invitations will flow your way. If you don’t do these things then forget about being included. This is how it has felt to me. I see pictures of various social events, between people I know, people I introduced to each other. But I am not there. This has really hurt in the past. To not be included in things, to not even get an invitation. But the other side to that, is that I probably would not have been able to go even if I had. I would have either not had the energy. Or the work of being around people would be too much, even people I like.

Going out and being around people is confusing. It produces paranoia and many hurtful moments. It’s hard to be friendly because you feel the person doesn’t want to talk to you, even someone you know and like. You feel like you are imposing on them. So you stay away on the other side of the room, and of course then people think you are unfriendly, or a snob. But really you are wondering how to go and talk to them and if they want to talk to you. If you do talk to them you might be wondering if they want you to go away. I went to the Candelight Memorial a week ago. Lots of people I know and like were there. I entered the crowd, found a seat, by myself and didn’t move. A woman I know came and sat near me. I said hello but didn’t enter into any other conversation. It was too hard. While I was sitting there it occurred to me that I would have to get up, and be surrounded by people and I would be expected to be sociable. I had a moment of panic and then thought, it’s ok, I can do this. I will leave before I have to do that. The ceremony proceeded and when it was finished at the end, I made my way out of the crowd as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. But I went. That was the main thing.

Being at work is probably the hardest thing. This is because there are certain expectations behind the way you behave and, well, you have to work. So being tired or confused makes it a bit tricky at times. I haven’t been as on the ball as I know I would normally be. Unfortunately I have basically been unwell the whole time I have been in my job, so it feels like my colleagues don’t know the real me.

My mental health combined with my physical health has meant that I have felt, fuzzy, ditsy and just not on the ball. Quite hard when you are in a management position where you are expected to lead others. The paranoia of people not liking you or feeling worthless continues at work. There have been times when I have felt I have just not been able to do a thing right by certain people, and that means they really don’t like me. They think I’m an idiot of course and this is what my head tells me as well.

Another thing I spoke to the immunologist about is the absence of mood, or feeling good. That ‘things’ haven’t lasted. The things I would normally do to increase my self esteem or help me to feel good haven’t ‘worked’. I have performed in shows, made great artworks, seen amazing things. They have all been sort of enjoyable at the time of doing them, but afterwards I haven’t remained happy. Everything has felt grey. I know in theory, I have so much to be grateful for, I have amazing partners and a great job, I do interesting things. But the enjoyment I get from being with my partners and doing interesting things is only there when I am with them or doing the ‘things’. There is no sustained mood, everything remains flat.
Regardless of the situation, ‘other’ people are always more intelligent, nicer people, more attractive, have better jobs, are more talented etc etc etc etc .....than me. This is what my head tells me and it has hurt my heart more than I can say over the last couple of years. External validation becomes really important, because what one says to oneself is anything other than validating. When someone does something that hurts your feelings, or you feel like you’ve made a fool of yourself around them, or you have wronged them it cuts deep and it is hard to ever feel comfortable around them again. In a lot of cases people possibly don’t even know they have ‘done’ anything.

This is why it was such a relief to be diagnosed with an illness. I can work with the illness and make it go away. It’s not me, I am not deficient, I don’t have to ‘try harder’. I just need to look at things differently. I need to reprogram my thinking. I might not fully get over some of the hurt feelings I have had, but at least now I can see and understand that a lot of my responses to things are illness. When I am feeling better, yes, I would love you to bring me soup, pea soup, which I will enjoy eating not wading through.

Date: 2013-05-29 03:03 pm (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
Depression is awful. Really awful.

Since I got my diagnosis and have learned more about how depression works in general and how it affects me in particular, I can loot back over my life and pin point other times when I was going through a major depressive episode, but didn't have the tools to recognize it, let alone deal with it.

I think you've captured the sense of everyday action being difficult with the pea soup metaphor.

I also get anxiety, particularly social anxiety, and I recognize a lot of the issues you describe about feeling worthless and paranoid in company.

My friend [personal profile] springheel_jack wrote an amazing post on depression several years ago and which he has since made "friends only) but I don't think he'll mind if I quote from it:

There is a corresponding myth that depressives get "invested" in their disease, that they want to keep suffering, that they'd rather lie inert than do things, that somehow they like being ill. Nonsense, and again nonsense: bullshit. The paradox of major depression, what makes it so hard for people who haven't felt it to understand, is that it's as painful as standing in bare feet on a blazing-hot griddle, and you can't make yourself step off. You can't even see an end to the griddle, can't imagine where or how you would step off. Would you get off if you could? Of-fucking-course you would! That level of pain is not something any organism will tolerate if it can help it.

Date: 2013-05-29 03:23 pm (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
This post from 2011 asking for people to tell stories about how their medication worked for them might not be where you are at right now in terms of treating your depression, but it has a lot of different people describing mental health issues from a first person perspective, and talking about different medicines and which ones helped them, so I find it a useful resource.

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