Not the Ringmaster

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I should be working on the revisions to the IRB amendment that was returned to me yesterday, but I can't bring myself to open the requisite 294 documents that are required for me to do that. Also, I've read the request letter from the IRB about 5 times now, and I seriously feel like it must be in some other language because every time I read it, I get confused. I just can't even focus.

Life has been like that a lot, recently.

I feel like lately, I've been blogging a lot of very "surface" topics, excluding the posts about finding help for mental health issues and my own mental health journey. I feel like I have way too much packed into my brain right now. As my good friend said, "My brain. Just... so many monkeys in this zoo."

Of course, then there's my new favorite saying.

Polish proverb
The problem is... I am running a lot of circuses right now, and the bigger problem is that I want to run all of the circuses. There are the circuses over which I have control, and the ones over which I have exactly zero control. I am somehow orchestrating the circus of starting med school, buying a house and all the things that entails, managing my health (and my husband's health), and wrapping things up at work. While I can control certain parts of each of those tasks, there is a large proportion that I have to just let go. If you can't already tell, I am the worst at that. The. Worst.

This isn't a new situation for me; in fact, I thrive on busy. If I'm not doing 623 things, I'm probably bored. I like for my brain to be fully occupied as much as possible. The only bad part is that this eventually leads to burnout, and ladies and gents, we are dangerously close to burnout. The kind of burnout where you can't comprehend simple IRB revision instructions. The type of burnout where you can't decide what to eat for dinner, so you eat cereal. Or nothing. The type of burnout where you're too tired to shower. The kind of burnout where you don't want to talk to anyone because you don't feel like telling the same story over again to someone else. The kind of burnout that makes you wish you could put your brain in a jar in the top of the dark closet for about 3 months and just take a damn break.

My therapist mentioned that while I do tend to run at very high levels of brain-saturation, that this is the most saturated she's ever seen me. (She's been seeing me as a patient for... 7 years now, so that's saying something.) I'm having trouble caring about the things I'm supposed to care about, like wrapping things up at this job, and I make plans with friends and immediately wish I could cancel them so I could lay in bed and mindlessly watch Netflix, or better yet, sleep. There are so many things I would like to do for fun, like knit or read, but I get home and the most I can muster is to melt into the sofa for awhile before possibly doing some house chores and then peeling myself off of the sofa so I can shower and then collapse into bed. I'm feeling amorphous, body and soul.

The truth is, I'm fighting a fair bit of depression and a decent amount of anxiety. I'm also coming to terms with the fact that I am, in fact, a "lifer" when it comes to antidepressant medication, and that even when I'm optimally medicated, I still will never feel "not depressed". There is a part of my personality, my innate temperament, that is depression. Recently, I've spent a lot of time talking about this in therapy, because to say "Well, I'm just depressed and that's part of who I am" seems so much like giving up. Since my diagnosis at 13, I've been "fighting" this demon. Medication, therapy, more medication, multiple medications, psychiatrists, psychologists, massage, EMDR/bilateral sound, mindfulness, EFT, meditation, hypnosis. The focus was to eradicate the depression, and in 15 years, it hasn't worked. Not a single time. Sure, it's gotten better. No, I'm no longer lying in bed in a dark apartment, contemplating ending my life and no, I don't actively contemplate jumping from the overpass on the way to my car. Those are good things. But there isn't going to be a magic bullet that makes me NOT depressed. Not for me.

And you know what? I'm learning that it's totally okay for it to be that way.

Accepting that the depression is there, in the room, if you will, is not giving up on ever feeling better. At least, that's what I'm working on internalizing. Most days, it does still feel kind of crappy and sad to think about that as a fact of my life, but hey, that's why I'm in therapy. I don't actually feel bad about having to take medication, at least, not as bad as I used to. I guess taking 15 other pills a day helped me realize that a pill is just a pill. Better living through chemistry, right?

I'm not saying that I'm going to go balls to the wall and make depression my only personality trait. That's a recipe for disaster. What I'm going to try to do is to learn to live civilly with my depression. I don't plan on inviting it in for tea, but it can hang out. I don't have to listen to it, it can just be there, but I definitely don't have to expend every ounce of my free energy trying to get it to leave. Some may say that I'm letting it win, but I say that I'm calling a truce. There will be days that are worse than others, and I'm sure if I ever have to stop taking my meds (you know, to grow a baby or something) that shit might go sideways for awhile. I'll have to see what happens when I get there.

"See what happens"
"Play it by ear"
"On the fly"

I am not good at that. I need plans. My plans need plans. My lists have lists, for pete's sake. But I can't see the future (as Pam pointed out), and I can't control it, either. (I'm working on that one, I promise.) At some point, I'm going to have to realize that these may be my circuses and those may be my monkeys wreaking havoc, but damn it, I am not the ring master. I'm not a spectator, but I am seriously not the one running the show for most of it. At best, I'm the lion tamer. I've got my act and most of the time, I'm pretty sure the big cat isn't going to eat me.

But I sure as hell don't need any more monkeys.

(There are a lot of metaphors happening in this post today. Not sorry about it.)

I also spend a lot of my energy trying not to assess my emotional state. For all of my talk about keeping a finger on your emotional pulse, I can be pretty terrible at it. Sure, I'm okay with realizing when an impending crash may be coming, but on a day to day basis, I'm usually kind of numb to the internal workings of my brain. Externally, I'm running in 43 directions, trying to contain the chaos. Internally, I'm pushing away the things that are truly bothering me. The inadequacy that I feel, the anxiety that plagues me, the loneliness that I feel in a life surrounded by those who love me. I box it up and once a week for 50 minutes, I spew the contents at my therapist and words come tumbling out on top of one another, making me feel half crazy and half relieved that they're finally out. Fortunately, I pay her to listen, so she doesn't run screaming from the room.

I just have a lot of feelings.

I am afraid that if I stop and actually deal with all of the feelings that I box up, I'll slowly (or, if I'm being honest, rapidly) slide into a catastrophic depressive episode that will leave me completely incapacitated.

Side note: Can one be "capacitated"? If one can be "incapacitated" I feel as though being capacitated should also be possible... unless this is an over-or-under-but-never-just-whelmed situation. Google tells me that one can, in fact, be capacitated, but apparently, no one ever says that unless they're talking about sperm. The more you know?


For what it's worth, I'm going to try to actively work on feeling my feelings, which is something I tell my friends to do so often. As Kelly Williams Brown, author of Adulting: How to Become an Adult in 468 Easy-ish Steps and writer at Adulting has said, you don't have to have feelings about your feelings. You can just have them.

This is a new concept for me, so we'll see how it goes. I also find writing all of this out to be incredibly therapeutic, and I would do so on paper except that my joint pain often ends my writing sessions before my brain is done. Typing is easier. And no, this isn't going to become Debbie Downer Central, I promise. But I would like to get deeper here. I feel like creating more meaningful content is... well... meaningful. I hope you'll come with me on what is certain to be an adventure.

Just please, leave your monkeys at home.

- A

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