(This post was written August 18th-22nd, before the last two I actually published. It's written directly from the darkness. That'll make sense shortly, I hope.)
On sharing my own thoughts with the world.
I've struggled so deeply with how to structure this blog, whether to even call it that. A blog sounds so early 2000s somehow. Should I create a wiki instead? A structured sitemap with a hierarchical flow? How does TikTok work again? Wait, but I have to look at my own face as I record? For fuck's sake, I'm so tired.
When I first started a newsletter where I promised simply to share stories from my eccentric life experiences, it didn't feel as though I was shackling the weight of the world around my neck, but that's where I find myself now, less than a year later.
See, I've had this cycle that happens over the last several years of being on social media, where once I come out of a particularly low point or depressive episode, I share a thread and get great feedback on how my explanations of my personal experience with mental illness resonates with others. It's amazing to me because I find very little to be proud of inside an episode. Might as well be grateful it has the possibility of helping someone else on their own difficult journey on this big blue ball.
One thing I've always wondered though (and never had the wherewithal to do) is what it would sound like if the posts were written in the middle of the storm. See, I'm that finicky kind of creator that only manages to get the words out when inspiration (sometimes as withholding as lightning itself) strikes. I have never been able to force myself to talk about what it's like DURING the depths of depression.
Recently, however, a friend and I have been trying to make writing into a habit, rather than some romantic creative endeavor whose whims we serve. We've been pairing up as body doubles and setting timers and everything. Very fancy.
It was only today though, as the pressure within me to produce keeps growing, that she suggested maybe there is some value in simply writing from where I am. SO here goes nothing...
Hello from the other side.
I am depressed AF. Not the kind of depressed where I'm particularly sad, though I do cry at the slightest provocation. The kind of depressed where I've relocated my address to The Void and I have to be aware you intend to visit if we're going to talk, so I can attempt to grab a ticket back to this plane of existence. Out of the pure darkness and into... well, whatever reality is.
My reality the last several months, has consisted of having the clearest mind I've ever had due to ketamine infusion therapy, losing a job I loved to a startup failure, having to quit an antidepressant because it started to make me sick after 6 years, losing an uncle to liver cancer, and medication withdrawals that have sent me back to the one of the darkest places I've ever been.
I thought this time, perhaps, instead of taking that ticket back to reality to convene with you, I might try instead, speaking to you from The Void.
I tend, in times like these, to look at my brain as something apart from my conscious existence, which is weird but necessary, because there's a voice in here that's so negative, so disparaging, it can't possibly be me. Though I'm indescribably lonely, there's no way I'm alone. Something is definitely present to pick up on every single flaw I have, perceived or otherwise, to constantly tell me I'm worthless and a burden and the world would be better off without me. It doesn't logically make sense to me that voice would be mine, though it mimics me with unparalleled precision.
Time is the hardest thing to face. Depression seems to slow the very hands that circle the clock. There are times when it's so loud inside, there is so much stimulation, that it seems as though hours must have passed, when in reality, it’s been three minutes.
I realized last week that I had been experiencing some sort of super powered panic attacks when I sat still, doing nothing, and felt as though the very cells that somehow fit together to comprise me as a person were attempting to separate, and the only thing holding my body together was sheer force of will. Though, I must be honest, I'm not sure whose will, because *I*, as in the version of me that could have any sort of awareness or make choices, fully wanted to give in and die.
Death often seems like such an inviting concept in the face of depression, in the face of the nothingness that surrounds it. It's as if there's a filter placed over my eyes, my thoughts. Color is muted. Thoughts are fleeting. EVERYTHING is pointless.
Getting out of bed in the morning is a monumental task, and I'm always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. My mental capacity wears out well before my physical body and there's often an incongruence in the kind of rest I need, versus the kind of rest I can get.
There is never a sense of having lost my mind. No, if anything imposter syndrome tells me I'm not crazy enough to have these issues, that they are nonsensical. And they are. Logically, I know that not everything is terrible, not everything lacks meaning. But my insides scream otherwise, as I sit at odds with my own self.
Negativity has entered the chat.
Every thought filters through a negative feedback loop, meaning whatever you or anyone else tries to put in, it will inherently come back out as a bad thing. Are there a lot of mental gymnastics involved in that? Yes and no. There’s not much to have to jump around when you can just sidestep rationality altogether.
The formula is rather simple. Regardless of input type, output equals negative. It’s a hard and fast rule, so there’s not a lot of modification needed. As long as we stay on the same subject, I can simply regurgitate the worst case scenario and boom, negative!
Living through these times is incredibly painful, and maybe that contributes to the negativity. No one wants to feel bad, and no one especially wants to feel bad without a discernible reason for it. Depression is crafty that way. I often consider it an entity all its own, in a way. I mean, it certainly seems to want to survive, and all it needs to do that, like any parasite, is a host.
So often it feels as if the solution to it must be so simple, but I’ve recently had to admit you can’t think your way out of it. My latest therapist says it’s behavioral once you get to this point, this place outside reality, where everything is clouded and dark. You basically dig in as deep as you can and then do everything you know is an antithesis to depression, until you don’t feel depressed anymore. Things like exercise, eating healthy, purposely socializing, and following a good sleep schedule.
For a time, it’s all rote. You’re just going through the motions. Hell, too much of life has seemed like that for me. But if you’re doing all those things, it’s impossible to stay depressed forever. If there’s one thing that is consistent about minds (and moods), it’s that they change.
An added complication that comes with bipolar disorder is that no matter what pole I’m at, it feels like that’s where I’ll be forever. When I’m feeling delusions of grandeur and thinking I can take on the world, that’s fine. When I feel as though having to sit through a single conversation might kill me as it zaps the last remnants of energy I could possibly have left? Well, not so much.
But that’s the thing with mental illness. You operate as if where you are now is what you have to work with, and you start rationing energy as if it’s the most precious thing on earth, considering it might be. We can’t control time. It will go on with or without us. But the things we expend energy on? It’s the very basis of choice and freewill. What we will do with the energy we have. And if it feels as though you never have enough to spend on the tasks life requires? Things get dicey pretty quickly.
Part of me feels like that’s why it never gets easier to go through or come out of a depressive episode. Either I’m not doing or can’t do the right things to make that happen. Your brain does this weird thing where it almost rewards you for leaning into depression, for doing things to reinforce it.
A few weeks ago, I started watching a show. I’d seen it many times before scrolling through streaming the past several years and finally thought, hmm, I’ll try something new. I hated it. It was gritty and violent and gratuitous. Watching it made me feel awful. Just people being the worst versions of themselves and hurting / killing others, often for no reason. I had fully decided it had no real redeeming purpose about 4 episodes in, and yet, I knew then like I know now, I was going to watch the whole thing. It became a chore, but one I simply knew I’d fully participate in, because it was feeding the depression. And somehow, for serving that master, I receive… something. It’s hard to explain, but suffice it to say the path of least resistance is often that which will serve to keep you in that darkness.
I’ve only recently been disentangling my sense of self from “the darkness.” When I started ketamine infusion therapy last December, I remember being extremely concerned about what would happen if the treatment “worked.” If someone were able to cure or curb my mental illness, what would be left of me? How much am I defined by it?
I can confidently say that, while it was working, I was able to separate myself from the illness entirely. It’s simply not me, and when I am in those states, the world is missing out on who I truly am. I don’t know what to do with that realization, the one where I almost have an alter ego that serves only to harm me and largely abandon everyone I care about.
Because let’s make one thing abundantly clear, you don’t react to anything properly in that context. When you’re situated squarely in The Void, no one else’s problem is big enough to be more important. Everything that matters to you is swirling in a mass that’s just out of reach of your emotions.
People have literally died and all I could muster was “huh, that sucks.” And yeah, it does, for a myriad of reasons. It sucks that it happened and I surely didn’t comfort the person who gave me the news. That’s not the kind of person I am, definitely not the kind of person I want to be.
Depression steals empathy. I’m not fully sure why, but I would wager a guess it has something to do with how narrow its focus is. When I am in pain, there is only me and the pain. The very concept that other things are still going on outside that tiny microcosm, that other people are continuing to live normal lives, gets distorted somehow. Because, in a sense, those people don’t even exist. There is me and there is The Void. Nothing exists outside that.
There is only MORE void, more darkness, more nothingness, and lack of purpose.
So, about this attempt.
Oddly enough, I am feeling somewhat better since I started this post several days ago, and already I feel like an imposter writing it. I don’t know why my mood has lifted some, whether it be some of the physical steps I was taking or simply a timing issue since bipolar disorder has to have other presentations than depression to exist in the first place. Still, it has lifted a bit, at least out of the hue of complete darkness, and already I feel unqualified to speak to the unique properties of that state of being, as if it was merely a mirage of something I thought I might be experiencing at the time, but didn’t really happen to me at all.
This stage leaves me perplexed. The moment when you’ve been paying close enough attention to your moods and energy levels that you actually clock when they change, but are left to wonder why it happened in the first place.
I guess I'm back to living in reality... for now? Come say hi!