Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: depression

Exercise, Activity, and Mood

I have struggled all my life with depression. At times, it has been chronic and crippling, to the point where me brushing my teeth was a major accomplishment. Right now, I would say I have a low-grade enduring depression that flares up into serious depression from time to time. It’s my go-to when I’m under stress, and the difference is how alien the encompassing depression feels now as in comparison to how comfortable it was back when I was in the middle of it day-to-day-to-day.

I would love to say that I worked on my depression and that’s why I’ve gotten better. I would love to be able to give a list of things you can do to feel better. I would love nothing more, but I can’t because that’s not how I emerged from the suffocating embrace of depression. Sure, I did my due diligence by seeking out therapy and medication through therapy, then starting taiji which has helped a great deal, but it was an outcome, not the main intent, but nothing I did consciously to help my depression mattered as much as the indirect results of other behavior such as the aforementioned therapy and taiji.

However, I’ve been in and out of therapy for the past thirty years, and I’ve been practicing taiji for almost nine years. Neither are an easy or quick solution, and I didn’t go into taiji with the intention of easing my mental health issues. That’s just been a nice side bonus. I will say, however, it makes me more aware now how fragile my mental health balance is. I went through a period recently of deep depression, not as bad as it was before, but still pretty intense. I knew it wasn’t from within me, which made it almost worse. Rationally, I knew there was no reason I should be depressed, but I also knew I couldn’t talk myself out of it. It lasted a few weeks, and I just gritted my teeth and powered my way through it. I was terrified it would last forever, but it faded after two  or so weeks.

On Saturday, I had to get up early to pick up Ian from the airport. Without thinking, I checked my social media. Then, I remembered that it was my day not to be on social media, and I quit. I felt bad, but not too bad. I can’t tell you how much better I feel on the days when I stay offline. I don’t think it’s viable for day-to-day life, but it’s nice to get a break twice a week. It’s too easy to get overwhelmed while scrolling through my TL, thinking that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I mean, it is, but not more so than it has been in the past. There is a lot of shit in this world, and there always has been. Having it flash past my eyes on a continuous basis leaves me in a state of numb depression. It’s something I’ve railed about before–how overwhelming all the bad news can be. It’s easy to feel hopeless about the state of the world and think that there’s nothing you can do to alleviate the pain.


Continue Reading

An Unsettled Mind

My brain is rumpled today. Now, that’s not unusual for me, but I’m feeling it extra today, and I don’t know why. Well, that’s not entirely true. Part of it is the horrible fiasco that is the American Congress voting to proceed on the reprehensible kill Obamacare bill–that isn’t even written yet. The Republicans keep sinking lower and lower, and there isn’t anything we can do about it. Let me rephrase that. We can protest and march and make a big stink, but if the Republicans hold firm, it won’t mean jack or shit.

I’m so tired. And so many of my online friends are tired as well. We’re angry, yes, but the rage is wrapped in layers of weariness, depression, and hopelessness. I’ve talked before about the weirdly American mentality of positivity when there’s no tangible reason to be positive. You can see it in most of our pop culture where the good guy wins in the end, and the bad guys are inevitably vanquished. That’s not the real world, and I’m very much afraid that the good guys are in dire trouble right now.

I’ve decided to add another social media-free day, and it’s going to be Wednesday (which is today by the time this is posted). I feel better when I’m not compulsively scrolling through my timeline on Twitter or my feed on Facebook. Huh. Alliteration. Cool. It’s weird how social media makes me feel simultaneously connected with the world and alienated from it. I’ve talked about it before, so I’ll move on.


Continue Reading

It’s the Little Things

It’s late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, and I’m loving this social media-free Saturday thing. I had a bit of a conundrum, though, because a friend of mine was going to be attending a difficult event, and I remembered a few hours ago that I told her to tweet through it. I checked my mentions, and she had tweeted me (and a mutual friend). I wanted to be supportive, so I checked her tweets and answered one of them. I didn’t look at my other mentions or my TL, and I feel like that’s a good compromise.

I also realized that the air conditioner had been running for the past few hours. I checked, and my thermometer said it was 79. That wasn’t right because I had bumped the set point to 76, which means the temperature should have been less than that. I felt the air coming out of the vent, and it was cool, but not cold. Damn it. The air conditioner had shut off. I didn’t want to go out, but I was sweating bullets. I hate the heat as I’ve mentioned several times before, and I knew it would only take one push of a button to reset the air conditioner.

“It’s dark out, and I don’t want to,” I said to myself grumpily. I also didn’t want to sweat bullets all night long, either, and if I didn’t do it, no one else would. I grabbed my phone to set my flashlight, then went to the side of the house. There were bugs everywhere, and I tried not to think about the new bites I’d be accruing. I’m covered in bites, which is another reason I fucking hate summer. I pushed the button and went back in, and then I waited to see what would happen.

I know it’s a little thing, but it felt like a mountain to climb before I made myself do it. I’ve been in a funk lately, and I’m struggling to get out of it. I’ve written before about the difference between internal depression and external depression, and this is definitely external. I acknowledge that I have no reason to be depressed, and I don’t know what’s causing it, but it’s still there. I don’t want to kill myself, but I do have intrusive thoughts such as, “No one cares about me”, “What is the point of life?”, and, “I’m tired of being alive.”

Everything takes extra effort. I went to taiji class last night at the other studio for the first time in months, and I almost talked myself out of going. I’ve realized that I hate driving at night now, ever since my accident, even more than I did before. Let me rephrase: I hate driving on the freeway at night. Even if it’s not dark, I just get tense in a way that I don’t while driving during the day. It doesn’t help that there’s no air at the other studio, which is not fun, believe you me.

My stomach is hurting, and I think it’s the honey dew melon this time. I’m discouraged because after I gave up gluten and dairy, my digestive problems cleared right up.


Continue Reading

Third Saturday Social-Media Free

So, this is the third Saturday I’ve been social-media free. I managed to remember it this week and didn’t even peek in the morning when I woke up. I had to check something from one of the people I follow on Twitter, and I managed to do it without looking at my TL itself. It’s a weird feeling of being simultaneously disconnected and in tune. Disconnected from social media and the world at large, but in tune with myself. Which is not necessarily a good thing. I may try extending the blackout through tomorrow if it continues to go this well.

My teeth are hurting. They have been on and off for the past few months. At first, I thought it was a sinus problem, but now I’m not so sure. I know I grind my teeth, and I used to have a mouth guard that was made specifically for me. I bit my way through it though, and it’s not cheap. Anyway, when I eat hot or cold food, my teeth hurt like hell for several minutes. They dully ache at other times. I know I need to see the dentist, but I’ve been dragging my heels on it. I hate going to the dentist for several reasons, not the least because I haven’t gone in a few years, and I’m embarrassed about it. My dentist is really good, though, and I like the dental hygienists, too.

I also should go to the doctor to get my thyroid meds checked again, along with what food sensitivities I might have. I already know I’m lactose-intolerant and have a sensitivity to gluten, but I’m starting to realize that there are other things that affect my digestive system in a negative way.

It’s Sunday. My self-imposed ban of social media is over. I checked my mentions and responded as necessary, but when I started looking at my feed on Facebook, I found myself getting tense. I haven’t even looked at Twitter yet. I think I may go a second day without checking my TL and feed. We’ll see how far I can take this!

On a different note, I’ve been watching more clips of best and worst auditions for various talent shows, and I have a few general tips. One, don’t ever compare yourself to icons like Whitney, Mariah, and Michael (Jackson), let alone sing their songs if you’re not an absolute powerhouse. Match your songs to your personality. Well, first of all, make sure you can sing. After that, though, the song has to match your voice. This young woman who said she sounds like Whitney had this kittenish voice which would have been better suited to…um…well, not Whitney.

I also have a top three list of songs you should never sing in audition. I’ll give you the reason for each. 3. Proud Mary by Tina Turner, especially if you’re a white dude. Yes, I know there’s a CCR version, but people singing it in audition are definitely trying to do the Tina Turner version. From her growl to her wiggle to the outsized attitude, it’s a performance that I have yet to see anyone else pull off. 2. Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and a million other people. The reason for this is a bit different. This song has been covered within an inch of its life. I love this song and have heard dozens of covers, each better than the last. Most people who try to sing it in audition want to put their own spin on it, but butcher it mercilessly. I have only heard one good version of it, and it’s mostly because the guy’s voice was amazing. The arrangement was pretty pedestrian, but he made it his own.

By the way, I saw David Williams’ comments from the initial audition, and he wasn’t mean at all. Plus, he’s hot. But that’s another post for another time. Anyway, Kyle’s version is pretty much a straight cover, which is why it works for his voice. If you can sing like this, then go ahead and sing Hallelujah. Otherwise, stay away from it.

Continue Reading

Depression, Anxiety, and Stomach Aches

darkness becomes me.
Shrouded in sadness.

I am in a funk, and I don’t know how to get out of it. I’ve written before about how frustrating it is to be depressed when there’s no reason for it and it feels as if it’s coming from outside of me. I’m used to depression being a part of me, and this feels alien to me. I’m guessing a large part of it is my ongoing health problems. Last week, I had a sudden case of the runs that lasted for three days, but only hit at night. I blamed the shawarma I had because it was the only new thing I’d eaten that week. (I tend to eat the same food over and over again.) I felt OK a few days after, but now, I’m having a stomach ache again. It’s not as bad, and I’m not having diarrhea, but it’s very uncomfortable. I’m thinking it might be corn (tortilla chips and corn salsa), and it would make me grumpy to have to give that up as well.

I have to say that giving up gluten and dairy has been a good thing, but I wonder if I’m creating more problems by doing so. I know I’m intolerant to dairy, so I think giving that up is a good thing, but gluten is a bit more iffy, and am I creating more problems by cutting it out completely? I think it might be time to go to the doctor again; I have to get my thyroid meds dosage checked again. I’m tired of feeling shitty most of the time.

In addition, *warning, first world problems ahead*, I had to run a few errands yesterday, and I wanted to do one before I went to taiji. That meant getting up earlier than usual, and I was waking up every hour or so because my brain won’t let me sleep if I have to get up at a certain time. I finally gave up and got up an hour and a half earlier than I had planned on, then it was a jaunt to the nearest UPS store. My Xbone controller has a sticky B button, which is not great since it’s the sprint/roll button in Dark Souls games. I’ve had to use either my fingernail or a mini-screwdriver to occasionally pop the button back out, which, as you can imagine, is not optimal gaming. Now, it gets stuck most of the time, and I have to hit the controller to pop it back out. It’s been interesting trying to play DS III without being able to consistently roll. Anyway, I bought a new wired controller without realizing it’s not the Microsoft controller. When I got it, it just didn’t fit right in my hand, and Ian noticed it was made by a different company. It’s official, but it’s not good. I really didn’t like it, so I decided to return it and get a controller with a cable set (nice, Microsoft. Squeeze out a couple more bucks from us for a wired controller), which is what I have now.

I love my Xbone controller. The minute I picked it up, it just felt as if it were made for my hands. I’m hoping my new one will feel the same. The fake one I bought most certainly did not. It felt cheap, and bumpy, and just WRONG. Anyway, Amazon told me I had to return it in one day in order to get the refund, so I hustled my bustle to get there. I sent the directions to my phone, and I generally know the area, so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. It was. I couldn’t find it, and my phone wasn’t really helping. When I finally found it, it was a tiny hole in the wall, and I was frustrated by the time I got there. I missed the exit on the way home, and that frustrated me even more. I also stopped at the bank and the gas station, all of this before going to taiji. After taiji, I went to the coop and then to renew my tabs for my car. That’s six places in one day, which is six places more than I normally visit. I was so tired, I took a nap last night, which has thrown my sleep completely off.

I need to figure out what is going on with my digestive track. I need to get over this goddamn depression. I feel like nothing matters, and I know it’s not the real me. At least I am cognizant that it’s not me, but it doesn’t help me not feel it.

My Bowl of Empathy is Empty

I did a performance a long time ago in which I said the phrase, “My bowl of empathy (or compassion) is empty”, and I really like it as a way to explain that I do not have any fucks to give right now. That sounds more defiant than I mean it to be, though, because it’s more of a, “I’m feeling so low, I can’t extend myself to others.”

I tend to automatically think of others before I think of myself. It’s not innate, but it was drummed into me when I was a kid that my feelings don’t matter and that I had to cater to the feelings of others, especially my parents. It’s second nature to me by now, and I know I’m at the end of my rope when I’m impatient rather than empathetic. That’s when I have to pull back and replenish my inner resources. At least I’m cognizant of when that is happening.

The problem is, I’m feeling it more and more these days. A large part of it is our political situation and the helplessness I feel about it. Part of it is a depression that came over me a few weeks ago, and I don’t know why. Either way, I’m having a hard time extending myself, and it’s making me uncomfortable.

I will say that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to think of myself rather than others, but it’s makes me feel bad when I can’t be empathetic or compassionate. Intellectually, I know

That’s all I have for today. Here’s a Maru video.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

dark wet cold damp.
Depression as dark as night.

A friend recently asked me how my depression was, and the question stumped me. It’s not something I talk about, and I didn’t know quite how to answer. I said something like, “It’s better than it was before. I’m sleeping more, but I’ll probably have to deal with it all my life.” This is technically accurate, but it’s not the whole truth. I don’t like talking about my depression because it’s boring as fuck–much like the bronchial/sinus shit I’m experiencing right now. Who the hell wants to hear, “I’m depressed. I can’t get off the couch. I want to die.” over and over and over again? I certainly don’t, and it’s how I feel a lot of the time.

It’s tricky because on the one hand, it’s absolutely true that I’m much better than I was twenty years ago. I can sleep more than four hours in one block, and I don’t have the death nightmares that used to pepper my dreams on a weekly basis. I don’t constantly see all the ways I can die as I move along in my daily life, and more importantly, I don’t have to continually fight myself not to ram  my car into a concrete lane divider or anything like that. I don’t spend days catatonic on the couch, curled up in a ball, wishing I had the courage to kill myself. I don’t hate myself or think that other people hate me, either.

These are all good things, of course. In fact, when I think of how far I’ve come, I’m amazed. I’ve done a lot of hard work, including three decades of therapy, medication, and taiji (and writing), but the depression has alleviated despite myself–not because of anything specific I’ve done. I say despite myself even though I’ve worked on it because the lifting of the depression has crept up on me inch by inch. Here’s the thing about being marinated in depression for all my life. It’s my life. It’s what I know. It’s all I’ve known. It’s my norm as oppressive as it is. I got used to it, and I didn’t notice as it changed little by little.

It’s a truism, but change usually isn’t a big bang. It’s a minute more of sleep a night, rather than an extra hour. It’s sleeping with only four interruptions rather than six or seven. And, because I have anxiety as well as depression, it’s not freaking out when I say something I perceive as stupid to a complete stranger, or only freaking out for a minute instead of the rest of the day. It’s making a mistake and not berating myself for an hour afterwards, but only for fifteen minutes.

Because the change is so minimal, I don’t notice it at the time. It’s only when I look back that I can see how different I am now than I was even five years ago. I give a lot of credit to taiji, and I’ve recounted the ways it’s helped me in past posts. I’m pleased with my progress. But, and I bet you knew a but was coming.

But.

Continue Reading

Try a Little Tenderness

One of the downsides to being sick is that I get depressed at the same time. It’s understandable, but it’s difficult to handle for someone (me) who has dealt with depression all her life. When I say depression, I don’t mean the blues or feeling a little down. I mean, “There’s no point. It’s all hopeless. I might as well be dead” feelings. The worst part for me is that it makes me not want to write, which is akin to death for me. My brain tells me, “Your writing is shit. No one cares what you have to say.” I read what I’ve written, and it’s horrid.* I’m hard on my writing in general, but I know I’m being extra-hard on myself.

I woke up this morning and thought, “I hate all my writing. I should just stop.” I actually considered quitting for several minutes, and then I stumbled across an article about Mr. Rogers on Facebook (h/t Krista Elliott) that made me feel better. The author, Anthony Breznican, recounts a terrible time in his life when he felt hopeless about his writing and life in general. He’s from Mr. Rogers’ hometown of Pittsburgh, and he (Breznican) caught an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on the television in the common room at his college. He watched the whole thing and felt better. Later. he ran into Mr. Rogers and poured his heart out to Mr. Rogers about how hard a time he was having and how watching one of Mr. Rogers’ episodes helped him. Mr. Rogers actually sat down with him and related his own story of grief (losing a grandfather for both of them), and said that it never went away, but the love was always there.

The story really resonated with me because of the writing aspect, and it was exactly what I needed to read at the moment. Writing is a lonely business especially for an intense introvert like me, and it’s hard to see the end of the tunnel when there’s no light along the way. It also reminded me that there is kindness in the world, which is hard to see when things are dark all around.

Breznican wrote this article in response to the Manchester bombings because the quote by Mr. Rogers about always look for the helpers was making the rounds, and he (Breznican) wanted people to know that Mr. Rogers was the kind and gentle soul he appeared to be.

Continue Reading

The Downside of Social Media

I’m a heavy user of social media, at least two of the venues–Twitter and Facebook. I get most of my news from Twitter, which is how I found out about the Manchester bombing this morning. (Tuesday morning). I read up on it, and it broke my heart. All those excited young girls going to the concert of their life (Ariana Grande), only to be terrified and traumatized, and many of them killed. At last count, 22 dead and 59 injured, and I have no doubt the numbers are going to rise. It was a suicide bombing by an Islamic fanatic, and we have to address the elephant in the room. I’ll get to that in a minute, though.

I check my social media right after I wake up, and I’m realizing that’s not the best thing to do for my mental health. I mean, I’ve known it for a while, but it’s really hitting home, especially since this administration has taken over. I’m already a pessimistic person with a negative view on life. The last thing I need is a steady diet of all the things wrong in the world the minute I wake up.

It’s a tricky thing because I believe you should be informed about current events in order to be a productive member of society. However, it doesn’t help to drown yourself in all the negative news, and I don’t know where that line is drawn. The problem for me is that I feel the news as if it’s happened personally to me, and while I’ve worked on erecting a wall between me and other people’s feelings so it’s not as bad as it used to be, I can still feel the pain as if it were my own.

This brings me to one of my pet peeves on social media–pictures/stories of abused children and animals. I know some people believe you have to make people see the ugliness in the world, but I don’t need to see it to feel it. I especially don’t need to see the same picture of a dead kid/animal over and over again on Twitter. It hurts me every time I see it until I eventually am numb, and I don’t think that’s the end result people are looking for. It’s the same as Sarah McLachlan’s SPCA commercials–they just make me feel shitty and helpless because I can’t save all the animals.

The brain isn’t designed to deal with repeated negativity that isn’t able to fixed. At least mine isn’t. It just makes me depressed and feel hopeless about the world in general. I know I have to curb my social media intake, and I’ve been doing it incrementally over the past year or so. We’ll see if I can keep on keeping on.

I’m tired. I’m grumpy. I’m still recovering from the crud. I’m sad. Here’s a Maru & Hana video.

(I remember what I said earlier, but I don’t feel like tackling it right now. Maybe in another post.)

Natural Vs. Man-made: The Tension Between

More information has come out about Chris Cornell’s death, which is now officially a suicide.  His wife revealed that in her conversation with him after the concert, he was slurring his words. She said he admitted to having taken too many Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication. Concerned, she asked his bodyguard to check in on him, but the hotel wouldn’t let the bodyguard into Cornell’s room. So, he kicked the door down and found Cornell unresponsive with a belt around his neck.

It’s a tragedy for so many reasons, but I want to focus on a comment I saw on Facebook after this news was revealed. The comment was, “This is why I don’t trust Big Pharma.” It was written by a friend of a FB friend, so I didn’t respond, but it made my hackles raise. There are many reasons not to trust Big Pharma, but this isn’t one of them. The side effects of Ativan are well-known, and it’s pretty basic knowledge not to exceed the recommended dosage without input from your doctor. I want to make it clear I am not saying Cornell deserved what happened because I fully understand wanting desperately to feel normal and grabbing at anything that will do that for you. Our society has become anxiety-producing on its own, and it’s swimming upstream to remain calm in chaotic surroundings. In addition, creative types usually are extra-sensitive to external stimuli, which is one reason they’re so susceptible to self-medicating.

My point is, there is only so much a doctor or anyone can do if the person is determined not to follow the instructions.  Drugs can work for people, but there are so many ways they can be misused. If someone is determined to take twice the dose, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. It’s the same with, say, seat belts. You can put them in the car, but you can’t force people to wear them.

My bigger point is that there is a swath of people who believe in being natural at all costs. They think society is too medicated, and they eschew any kind of pill to help what ails them. Now, there is more than a grain of truth to the idea that pills are not a whole solution, but only part of it, but they think any medication is of the devil. The same people eschew GMOs and many of them are part of the anti-vaxxer crowd. It’s an anathema to me because the same people are using cellphones and driving cars and are on the internet with impunity. I realize there’s a difference between technology you use and things you ingest, but it’s still the same science behind all of it. It’s weird to me to want to roll back time on certain things, but not others.

Back to meds. As someone who’s dealt with chronic and crippling depression all my life, it’s frustrating to hear people disparage antidepressants and saying anyone who uses them is weak. My other favorite, “It’s dealing with the symptoms and not the cause,” in a snobby, smug voice. I think part of the problem is that if you’ve never experienced deep depression, you cannot understand how pervasive it is. If something can alleviate it, just a little bit, you’ll sell your soul for it. It’s the same with anxiety which can be more immediately worse. In the middle of a panic attack, you will do anything to stop it. Yes, you’ll want to deal with the root of the problem, but that can take years if not decades. A temporary stop-gap while in the middle of the pain is a godsend. In addition, there are chemical reasons for depression and/or anxiety, and ain’t no shame in correcting that malfunction with better science. Here is a well-worn comparison, but if you broke your leg, you probably would go to the doctor to get a cast for it. You wouldn’t think, “Oh, it’ll just mend by itself if I drink enough hemp milk and eat enough quinoa.” No, you’d get a cast on that damn thing pretty damn quick. So why when you hear that someone’s brain chemistry is broken do you disparage them using something that will heal that break?

Continue Reading