It always seems to be worst in the mornings and just before going to sleep.
It helps to think of depression and pain problems as puzzles to solve. It gives you a path to follow to feel like you’re making progress. Try this thing, then if that doesn’t work try this thing, then if that doesn’t work try this thing, etc.
What’s supposed to happen when you do that is that you eventually try hard enough and find the right thing to try and things get better. That’s how the story is supposed to go. It isn’t how mine is going. If I had actually chronicled all the different things I’ve tried for the physical and mental stuff I’m going through on this blog, there would have been a lot more posts over the last year or two. There have been the different daily routines to minimize physical activity that aggravates my physical conditions, the different strategies for communicating and engineering interactions with people that make me feel satisfied and cared about, all those times some new thing I was trying felt like it was working for a few days before everything went back to feeling like last time.
Somehow, in spite of all the things I’ve tried, I’m still here, feeling physically broken and lonely and exhausted and like I don’t know what options are left to try.
Every now and then I think of a new direction to turn in, and I turn to face that direction and walk forward and bang headfirst into a wall I didn’t know was there. It’s like living in a tiny room, and every time you try to get out the walls press in a little closer.
I am in a dangerous place right now. I experimented with yoga a week or so ago, which seems to have turned out to have been a very bad idea — my tendonitis symptoms have changed in an alarming way is making me wonder if I might not have any time left to put off taking some time off from work, and hoping that will be enough.
In consequence, I’m making an effort to locate friends to crash with in the interim, because although there is a decent chance my savings would last a few months of my being unemployed, I think there is a good chance that my mood would plummet further down than it already has. My bad moments are already dipping into a frequency and extremity of suicidal ideation that I am scared by — a few months with nothing to do but brood would be a brilliant recipe for making those moments more frequent and more dangerous than they already are. I think crashing with friends for a while might be the best way to avoid that escalation.
I am seeing a therapist. I am making an effort to talk to people. I am doing the things that you do, and doing them as well as I can. And I am writing about this because it’s as good a way I know as any to make sure I’m letting people know where I am, and because I think that providing a window into what this looks like and feels like it is as important as providing windows into any of the other aspects of the experience of depression or chronic pain.
A while ago I had a conversation with a friend where I talked about how one of the most frightening things, to me, about the idea of committing suicide was that people might be mad at me for doing so. She told me that the people she knew who had friends who had committed suicide were usually not so much angry about the suicide itself as that the friend hadn’t told them that they had needed help. I have tried, since then, to always make sure that I communicate with people when things are going badly, even when I don’t want to, so that if I ever do end up committing suicide, I won’t have left people feeling that way.
But at this point I don’t know what to ask for. Usually I ask for talking, but right now my voice still isn’t doing that well, so I’m having to carefully manage the amount of talking I do. I guess really what I need right now is to find a way to feel financially and emotionally secure for long enough that I feel like I have the time to rest my body for as long as is needed for it to actually get better.
It still boggles my mind how situational so much of this is. I definitely have depression, and it definitely contributes to how this all feels in major ways, but without the physical shit I’m dealing with, there would be so many additional options for self-care for me. There would be ways of socializing and meeting people, there would be less management of the amount of time I spend talking or exercising or just… existing in certain positions that make certain physical symptoms worse.
If I just hadn’t worn out my voice to the point that it got this way. If I hadn’t gotten so excited about being able to type and code faster at the beginning of this year that it resulted in tendonitis. If I hadn’t gotten so excited about finally finding a form of exercise that I could do and found fun that I overdid that and ended up with these symptoms in my legs as well. If I hadn’t, in the effort to get better, tried yoga, which seems to have ended up making things worse.
If it didn’t feel like just this long process of me trying as hard as I can to get better, and my body responding by finding new ways to get worse.
Truthfully, sometimes I get frustrated that there even are the stigmas that there are against suicide. Shouldn’t I have the right to throw in the towel? Shouldn’t I have the right to say, “You know, this is just too much to expect any person to reasonably handle, and I quit.”
The line between where I am and a set of circumstances in which I could be happy feels so thin. Is so thin. If my body were a little different, a little more resilient. If things had gone slightly different way. If things have gotten better after one of the things I’ve tried. If the yoga had worked.
I went on steroids briefly for my throat. Steroids are a pretty effective short-term treatment for the symptoms of tendonitis, although long-term a terrible idea, because they actually eat away at connective tissue. At the same time, I had been experimenting with friction massage for the tendonitis, and for a few days it felt like that was working well. For a few days I caught a glimpse of just how thin the line is between where I am and the set of life circumstances where I think I could be happy.
With the tendonitis gone, and my voice better, I could work more and stop having to worry about money, and I could meet people, and I could teach coding, and I could write.
But none of those things is simple right now. Some of them are complicated and others are impossible. And I’ve spent a decade always having to wonder if it’s a good idea or a bad idea, physically, for me to go for a walk. For most people that’s the simplest thing. You want to go for a walk, so you get up, and you walk out your front door, and you go.
This isn’t really going anywhere anymore, I’m just talking through thoughts as they come. And I guess this is about the end of them for now. I am doing my best, because I know it will be worth it if I somehow manage to get through this. I know it will, but right now I don’t know how to get there, or if I can.
Dealing with physical problems on top of the depression is miserable. I want to say something to help, some kind of “hang in there”, but all I’ve really got is that–a bit of empathy.
Not that I have it anywhere near as bad. But I do know that some of the worst points for my depression have been when I’ve had physical health problems that have restricted the kinds of things I can do for self-care. My body isn’t as resilient as I’d like either, and the same stress that aggravates my depression also tends to lead to either an assortment of pain-producing issues (extreme muscle tension/spasms, headaches, spikes in this weird joint-pain thing I’ve had on and off since I was a kid) or to infections that land me in the hospital and/or sap my strength for weeks on end.
The hard part isn’t being sick, exactly–it’s not knowing what my body can handle, not knowing if yoga or a walk or whatever will make me feel worse or better. I also KNOW that my perception of pain is unreliable–I’ve both been unaware enough of pain that I’ve allowed infections to get dangerously bad before seeing a doctor, and been practically non-functional due to things that should be minor. So given that, how do I “listen to my body”? How do I know when I actually need rest and when exhaustion and weakness are just my depression and something to be pushed through?
For me, this stuff isn’t constant. I have fairly healthy periods where I can push myself physically without worrying about the outcome. But after years of my body betraying me like this, I’m paranoid. Being even a little bit off my game physically makes me panicky. What if I have to stop exercising for a week, or longer? What will that do to my depression? What if this is the beginning of something worse? Or what if it’s all in my head? Like, fuck, my own body is gaslighting me.
So yea. Enough rambling, I’m not being helpful in any way at this point. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry you’re going through this, and I hope things get better soon.
You’re right; so much of it is the not knowing. Like, not knowing how much of my problems are neurological – because the best thing to do if they are neurological is diametrically opposed to the best thing to do if they aren’t. If I only knew what the right thing to do was, I would do it.
Strictly speaking, even now, the physical pain I experience from the stuff that’s wrong with me isn’t and generally hasn’t been extreme – it’s the implications that are so terrifying.
“Like, fuck, my own body is gaslighting me.”
That’s a really good way of putting it. Fuck bodies.
I think the issue with being able to take one’s own life is that it’s very difficult to know if one has exhausted all the possible options to making life better.
You are still trying things. And it seems evident that you really want them to work with your enthusiasm. You have people who want to help and support you, as well. I hope you keep going.
On a practical matter: ever considered putting up a donate button on here, at least?
Seconded on donate button!
Done. I’m flattered you guys want one.