Category Archives: mental health

Explanations and exits

I have been having a difficult time writing lately. Well, I’ve been having a difficult time in general. Every time I think that my depression has receded a bit, it comes roaring back. I started this blog to mostly write about my Olds, because I felt that their behavior is sometimes too ridiculous for a single status update on Facebook. The Olds have more fans than they know [and I would prefer to keep it that way, thank you very much, tattletales]; plus, laughing at my day to day existence keeps me from remembering why I am where I am and how bleak the overall picture of my life really is. But it seems like I am writing less about the Olds and more about myself, and specifically, about how bad I feel most of the time. And that was originally not my plan here.  Maybe the Olds are not the only ones who need parenting.

Usually, when I am depressed, there are things I can do to distract myself. Watching Criminal Minds for nine or twenty hours without stopping can help. I admit that it may be a little off-putting to some that I enjoy watching serial killers so as to make my own life seem more bearable. But it does help. No matter how miserable I am, no one has broken into my house and stabbed me with an icepick. (Yet).
Watching the serial killers themselves at work does not make me feel better; quite the opposite. It usually makes me feel worse; most of them seem to be incredibly organized with a real talent for planning ahead, so it is just another profession at which I could never succeed. If I can never find the ice scraper in my car, what makes me think I could remember to keep a tarp and a few axes in the trunk? Answer comes there none.

The problem with my depression this time, is that it isn’t the the usual chemical dark cloud that descends for no reason. This time, it is situational, and the situation cannot be fixed. I have mentioned leaving my church, and why I did it. I am tired of talking about it, and I am tired of defending my position, and I am tired of spending so much time and energy on thinking about a place where I am no longer welcome, and where, even if I were, I would never set foot again.

I am tired of being angry and exhausted by sadness, and I’m also tired of mourning. But I can’t seem to stop doing any of that. I knew that the church was a huge part of my life. I knew that leaving it would hurt, and that I would probably feel lost for a while. I also knew that I really, really didn’t want to go—but that my own mouth would, sooner or later, open up and say things that could never be unsaid.  I would have become increasingly bitter and unpleasant, which had already started happening before I left.  And I didn’t want to do that, because I didn’t want people to hate me. Well. So much for that.

I’ve realized that the only way I’m going to be able to get through this particular bout of depression, is to write, but I don’t have happy or funny things to write about right now.  So if you are looking for funny OldsStories, you might have to wait for a few days.  Right now, I can only write what I have, and what I have had for a while now is a broken heart.  Glossing over it hasn’t helped.  Crying hasn’t helped. Neither have venting, wishing, being angry and bitter, pretending it never happened, ice cream, reading Elizabeth Bishop,  or any of the usual cures for a broken heart.

That’s the difference between losing an individual and losing a community, I guess.

I also need to write about it because I do not want to forget the good things.  If the church had not been so amazing, this wouldn’t hurt so much.  Even up until two weeks after I resigned, I hadn’t given up on it completely.  I still trusted the beautiful parts of the church to eventually triumph over these problems.

Most of all, I still trusted people I loved and respected to see beyond their defensiveness, and to believe that I acted with only the best of intentions, and to see what I did as something that came from a good and loving place.  After all, I’ve been asked to do that continually since last December.  It is only recently that I realized that the same consideration has mostly not been extended to me or to the friends of mine who share my position.  Yet, all of us acted out of the best intentions, and all of us are people for whom honor and seeking the right path are as natural as breathing.  None of us have done anything but tell the truth, and ask others to do the same.  So, here we are, most of us on the outside.  And until I really understand why we are out here, I don’t think I can set this aside without the danger that when I least expect it it will all coming flooding back.

These are the things I need to figure out:

What does it really mean to believe only in peoples’ best intentions?

How realistic, useful, and even safe, is it to only ever assume the good in someone’s actions?

How far am I willing to go for what I believe, even at the expense of people I love?

and finally–

What obligation, if any, do my loved ones have to support me when we disagree, or when I’ve taken a stance with which they might agree, but would rather not deal with the hassle of defending?

This last one is something that I have thought about quite a lot, and probably will continue to.

This week, a dear friend let me read something she wrote about this situation, and something she said has been circling around my head ever since:

“I realized that I want a church where someone will run after me when I run out”.

When I read that, I realized how much I wanted the same thing. After all, isn’t that what everyone wants in life?  Don’t we all want to matter enough to at least one person so that if–when–we run away, from something, there will be someone comes after us and says:

“Stop. Please don’t go. I care about you. I want you with me. Nothing is perfect and it never will be, but my life is closer to perfect when you are in it, even if right now that seems too hard to do. And, if you absolutely can’t stay, then I am coming with you.”

My friend and I don’t agree on some things about the events that led me to leave the church, although when it comes to our deepest selves, we agree on pretty much everything.  One night we played that game where you have to draw out something, like a phrase or name that someone has to guess.  My friend and I were sitting across the room from each other and couldn’t see what the other was drawing–but most of our drawings were so similar that it was almost creepy.  And also, amazing.

So when she has opinions that are different from mine, they are opinions that I take very, very seriously, and do everything I can to understand, even if I can’t always agree.  She is still part of the church, and this is the right thing for her, even though it isn’t for me.  And when I read that about how she wants a church where someone will run after her, I knew that even though some of our drawings might not match up, that most of them probably always will.

You see, she ran after me, even though it has been difficult and terribly hard for her at times to do so.

She is not the only one, either.  The fact that she and other people ran after me has meant everything to me, because I can’t remember the last time anyone ran after me, for anything. Some of the people who ran after me completely shocked me, because at least one of them is someone I have taken for granted more often than not, and because I am someone who goes much more by words than actions.   I am finally starting to learn that words mean almost nothing if they are not combined with actions–and that actions without words can say more than entire alphabets.

When I applied to college, I took hours and hours over every application; proofreading, correcting the tiniest mistakes, making sure that absolutely everything was as perfect as it could be. Except for my Vassar application.

I had decided to not even apply to Vassar, but at the last minute, to satisfy a nagging Old, I stomped upstairs to my room and whipped it off in 10 minutes, shoved it in an envelope without looking at it twice, and threw it at the naggy Old so he could drive it to the post office before midnight.

On my Vassar application, I was just me, and really, I was the most annoying and bratty part of me. I was sloppy, and I was careless, and unlike all of my other applications, I was completely honest.  I answered all the questions about my future with what I really thought, not with carefully parsed sentences designed to make me look as much like Ivy League or Seven Sisters material as I possibly could.

The earliest acceptance letter I got was from Vassar.  And I was definitely Seven Sisters and Ivy League material, judging from my other acceptances.  But Vassar accepted me when I was sloppy and angry and completely honest. They saw the best of me and they saw the worst of me.  And they still wanted me. That’s why I went there, and why I felt so at home, and always will.

The friends that I have left from the church, I think, have seen my best and my worst, but they still ran after me.

And that has made all the difference.

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Filed under depression, mental health, religion

Art and lies

Depression is a sneaky, two faced son of a bitch. I have always preferred foes who make themselves known, rather than those who stealthily undermine one with smiles on their faces. Anger and grief are painful, but at least they are straightforward. They knock at the door and come on in for a while, but they usually leave at some point. They’ve been around a lot lately, and I can usually handle them, when I don’t have to entertain depression at the same time. The three of them at once is exhausting, and I haven’t been able to pay attention to anything or anyone else for a while.

Depression is always in the house, but most of the time, it stays out of sight, and when I’m lucky, I forget it is around at all. The problem is, depression fights like a girl. It will bide its time and wait til I am my weakest moment. And then, it attacks from the side, or from the back, so that I’m down before I know what hit me.

When I had cats, I kept their litter boxes in the basement. I would empty them, and forget about them. Then every so often, I would catch a whiff of….something. And then there was more than a whiff. Eventually, the cats would weave themselves in and out of my legs, meowing at me reproachfully and trying to nudge me towards the basement. I would give in and descend the stairs, where the smell would slap me in the face and I would feel like a horrible cat mama and human being and rush to do their bidding. And then, it would start over again, but most of the time, I would deal with the boxes before they got to the eye watering stage.

Depression is a lot like a litter box, only you can’t empty out your head and fill it up with fresh brain. With the right treatment, I forget all about it sometimes. I keep an eye out over my shoulder, yes, and I avoid things that encourage it, like watching terribly sad movies, thinking about Republicans, or taking stock of my life. If I feel myself starting to slide, there are things I know to do that help, like immersing myself in old, familiar books, or running my hands through beads, or taking a walk in the woods. I might knit while watching horrible TV, and dogs help more than almost anything.  That’s because they keep me in the moment, which is one of the hardest things for me to do.

Lately, though, none of my tricks are working. Depression has been following me around, tapping me on the shoulder, invading my dreams, and whispering endless lies to me. I think they’re lies, anyway. After a few days, depression is the only voice I can hear anymore, and my own voice gets tired of trying to overpower it.
That’s why my posts have been nonexistent lately; because I haven’t had the strength to try to write through the lies, and I’m afraid of accidentally writing lies that I might believe.

Until I have my own voice back, I have to rely on the words of others. For the past two months, some of the words uppermost in my mind have been these :

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

–Elizabeth Bishop
VC ’34

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ADHD, or Why I Seem Like A Dick A Lot Of The Time

One of the worst parts of being me–I know, I know, it’s not just all endless glamor and fun–is having ADHD.  This is not something that I mention that often just because it requires explanation which most people do not want or care about, and also because I have ADHD and I get bored easily and also forget stuff.

Lots of people think it’s cute or funny to say they have ADHD; I could go on about how annoying and sometimes offensive that is, but I’m sure there’s an article by a really earnest twentysomething on HuffPost that talks about that much more thoughtfully and diplomatically than I can. Suffice it to say: unless a psychiatrist has talked to you at length, and probably a therapist or two has as well, and you’ve done stuff like lose friendships and relationships and jobs–well, you probably don’t have ADHD, so shut up about it. Being able to multitask is not ADHD. Being overcommitted and unable to say no is also not ADHD. Fucking up your life so thoroughly that you move back in with your Olds after age 40–definitely could be ADHD.

Until well into my 30s I really assumed that most people’s brains worked like mine. I assumed that everyone else’s thoughts whirled constantly about everything  in the world on about seven different levels all at once, stopping only when they fell asleep, during which they dreamed vividly in color all night, and started whirling again immediately on waking. I could not understand why people were always mad at me for things I said.  If someone said one thing, but meant something else entirely, except when obviously using sarcasm to be funny, I had no idea that they didn’t mean what they said. I did not understand why most people do not read five books at a time, or why many people work on one art project until it is finished and only then start a new one. I assumed that the reason that most people’s offices at work were not covered in piles of things like mine was because they did not have any work to do(actually, in many cases, that was true).

Apparently, most people don’t do most of the things listed above. And they certainly don’t do all of them at once, unless they have ADHD. Much of what I’ve just described are ways in which ADHD manifests primarily in women and girls, which is different than it does in males.  Typically, girls with ADHD get accused of daydreaming a lot, or being “somewhere else”. And there are other things, like not being able to edit oneself, not picking up on social cues, and being able to work on lots of things or read tons of books at once.

Since I am above average in the smarty pants department, it is not surprising that it took me until my late 30s to be officially diagnosed with ADHD. I had enough coping mechanisms that I was functional, it was just in the self-editing department that I was truly lacking. It was not until I lost my job that one day my psychiatrist said she wanted to give me a quiz to see if I might have symptoms of ADHD. I scored something like 90% on it, and a score of higher than 50% is cause for concern. She gave me a book to read about women with ADHD. I came back the next week and skipped into her office practically shouting “OH MY GOD THIS IS ME THIS IS ME ARE OTHER PEOPLE REALLY NOT LIKE THIS?! OH MY GOD!!” or something.

Reading that book was a revelation in the way that most things people refer to casually as revelations are not. It honestly was the first time that I understood that the way my brain works really isn’t what we call “normal”, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In some ways, I love having ADHD.  I love being able to read five books at once, and being able to do at least three things at a time most of the time.

But, there are some ways that ADHD has made my life much, much harder than it needs to be.
My biggest challenge is interpreting social cues. I am terrible at them. And knowing that I am, sometimes makes it even harder. Sometimes I honestly would rather not talk than risk saying something completely inappropriate or wrong. I know that’s hard to believe. But that’s why I spend so much time alone, because sometimes I am not fit for speaking to other humans. Being alone by choice is much better than being alone because you’ve made everyone mad.  Which I am really, really good at doing.

Say you are in a work meeting about a controversial issue, and you are in the minority view, which your supervisor and her supervisor are not, and someone asks you, “Wendy, what do YOU think?” When someone asks me that, I always assumed that they wanted to know what I think, because that’s what they SAID.   This is not true.

When you are continually offering opinions that are not popular, even though in many cases they are also right, or true, or both–well, sometimes what happens, is that you end up with no job and, as in my case, no career, either. It also means that quite often you have friends one minute and realize two months later that you don’t have them anymore.

When I look back over my life to date, I can see so many examples of what I always just thought was me making people mad because I was a horrible person. I did not try to make people mad or hurt their feelings on purpose. (most of the time. Sometimes, I did, but those people were probably horrible themselves and they deserved it). But I did offend people often, and later I found out that my best friends were apologizing for me behind my back a lot of the time. I only found that out after I was diagnosed and started asking my closest friends painful questions.

Let me clear: having ADHD doesn’t make it okay to offend people, because it doesn’t. But when you know you have it, you can (sometimes) figure out why you’re being annoying and you can (most of the time) try to change your behavior.

Keeping my mouth shut is something that I work on a lot. And, although it is hard to believe, I am much better. It’s just that when you consider how far I had to go just to get to where I am–well, then you can probably see that the only way I am ever going to get to “socially acceptable” in that case is to have my tongue and vocal chords removed.

I can also be literal to a fault, and I do not understand subtlety in many human interactions. When I saw the movie Mean Girls I was completely confused, because I do not know how to “fight like a girl”. I realized, I would have no idea if someone was doing that to me. I had to call in some girly girls to consult, like my sister. I was shocked to find that EVERYONE knew how to do this fighting like a girl thing, and that everyone for the most part could also recognize it when they saw it.

Another problem I have,  is that I do not care what most people think of me. I might have figured all of this out a lot sooner if I cared about impressing people in general.  It would have helped if I’d realized that maybe I honestly couldn’t help being an asshole, and that if I understood why I was and how to deal with it, I could at least lessen my assholity.

Usually, I have a small selection of people whose opinions are important to me. Sadly, I am usually no better at interpreting social cues from them than I am from movies starring Lindsay Lohan. This can lead to situations like several of my relationships, where, because someone said that they loved me, I ignored all of their actions that said that they most certainly did not love me, because in my literal little head, I took those words at face value without considering what was behind them. Or, where I paid attention only to their actions and refused to hear what they were clearly saying.  Apparently, you are supposed to look at both of those.  And, you are supposed to be able to tell when one is true if they don’t match up.  This is terribly confusing for me.  Why can’t people just have little post it notes attached to them with that info on it?

For instance: If someone says he loves you, but will not tell you where he has hidden his sock of money in the house [because he’s a paranoid idiot who won’t open a bank account] because, as he said: “Then you wouldn’t be able to tell a thief where it was even if he tortured you”–Fact: that is not someone who loves you. That is a sociopath who does not love anyone and who you should kick out of your house and then move somewhere that he can’t find you, like an apartment where you need good credit to get a lease. Do not live with him for 5 more years and allow him to get away without paying for utilities or food. Still–he said he loved me, and I was too busy hearing that to notice what he was actually doing. Which, btw, was mostly sitting on the couch watching TV and asking me when I returned from a long workday what was for dinner.

Then, there was the person whose actions said that she was as in love as a person could be—but who denied it. Stop a moment and remember how bad I am at social cues. I know. It’s cringeworthy. So when I say that someone was clearly in love with me–that I, of all people, noticed it—can you even start to understand the level of lovesickness we are talking about here? Thank you. Finally, I did get an admission that “just because someone HAS certain feelings, doesn’t mean that they have to act on them.” My response to that was, “You mean like they say in gay conversion therapy?” That was just as well. There was no newsstand large enough to contain all of her issues.

But my social issues aren’t just limited to romance. No, I like to be well rounded, so they also happen with friends too. Sometimes, there are people who are nice to me, and who seem friendly. Maybe we hang out a few times or something, or maybe we are really good friends. People get busy, time goes by, I don’t hear from them for a while. I know that I am wont to make assumptions that are quite often wrong, so I try not to take it personally. But what sometimes happens is that I find myself in a situation where I keep trying to be friends with someone who has no interest in being friends with me. Because I am going from the assumption that we are friends, I will just cut them slack when they don’t contact me for a while. Oddly, I am not most people’s –actually, anyone’s–first priority, and to most people I come pretty far down the list. That’s ok, because I often do that on purpose. I am too good at screwing things up to want to be too important to anyone. But for that reason as well, I often don’t realize that someone has done everything but change their name, email, phone number, and send me a registered letter saying “FUCK OFF NOW” to tell me to go away until they actually do one of those things. I am trying to be better about this, but I have already pretty much given up on relationships, and I don’t want to give up on friendships as well.

Oh no. I’m being called to the door. I have to sign for something. Probably that registered letter.

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