Underneath my yellow skin

Staring into the Abyss

The other day, I was talking with a classmate about depression. I was saying how the thing I fear most is when I get hit with depression (serious depression, rather than the low-key depression I normally suffer) is that I’ll be plunged back into the darkness and not be able to come out of it again. Intellectually, I know it’s just a temporary state, but because I lived in it for twenty-plus years, it’s easy to feel as if it’s back for good. It used to be my normal state, and it’s weird to feel it envelope me again like a well-worn coat. It’s shabby, and it has holes in the elbow, but it still fits. Not well, and it doesn’t block out the elements as it used to, but it’s still my old coat.

I’ve stretched that metaphor as far as it can go. The point is, it feels familiar, but still strange.  I can’t believe I used to feel this way all the time; I don’t know how I survived it. I think it’s because I didn’t know any differently at the time. I’ve been depressed for as long as I can remember, and I assumed I would feel that way forever. When the fog started lifting, it was so incremental, I didn’t realize it until I was well out of the darkness. Going back to it, even briefly at ten times less the intensity, it shakes me.

It’s fucking horrible. I’ve tried to explain what it feels like before, and I’ve never come up with an adequate description. Everything flattens out so that when I’m looking at something, there’s a flat affect. Not that it loses color–that only happens when I have a migraine. It’s more like my brain refuses to register there’s color. I become detached from my body or rather, from my brain. There’s a slight wall between me and everything/everybody else, and I feel emotionally cold.

I used to have nightmares all the time, some of them narrated. It was strange to watch myself do something in my dream and to hear a dispassionate male voice say, “She is now walking into the room” and the like as if it were a movie. It often felt as if I were watching a movie, and I was semi-conscious it was a dream, but not enough to lucidly dream. To me, it symbolized how unconnected I felt from myself, and it was a manifestation of my mind/body split.

When I was in college, I started having dissociative states in which I would disappear for up to an hour at a time. I don’t mean physically, but mentally. I’d be talking to someone, and then I’d ‘come to’ and realize I’d lost a chunk of time. Apparently, the other person never noticed, which makes me extremely nervous to remember. Then, it started happening during classes. I’d be ‘out’ for the whole hour, my notes would be filled with gibberish, but nobody seemed to notice. Those were both bad enough, but then I started doing it while I was driving. I’d be on the freeway, then I’d ‘wake up’ several minutes later not knowing how I got there.

I was a mess at the time, obviously, and I had no idea what was happening to me. The best I could do is think I had fallen asleep, but even at the time, I didn’t buy it. I just accepted it was something I did because what else could I do? Think I was crazy? Aw, hell, no. The irony is that I was a psych major, but I didn’t apply it to myself. I mean, I knew I had my problems, well, actually, I didn’t. I just felt like shit all the time and thought that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

I look back at my life prior to my thirties and shake my head at how fucked up I was. Eating disorders, sexual abuse/assault, dissociative states, chronic almost catatonic depression, acting out, and that’s not even all of it. I really can’t imagine how I survived it except I was too scared to kill myself. Funnily enough, my pessimism kept me alive. As much as I hated my life and everything about it, I was more scared about what’s on the other side. I was raised with hell and damnation brimstone fire, and even when I realized I didn’t believe in God with a capital G any longer, I firmly believed in hell. It fed neatly into my belief that everything bad was my just due and everything good was an illusion.

I hate feeling this way. I hate feeling like I’m sliding down into the abyss, and I don’t know what to do to stop it. That’s the worst thing about it–it’s so random. There’s nothing in my life that is egregiously bad–except my health as I talked about in the previous post. My ears are crusting over–which is a sign that my sinuses are acting up. By the way, am I the only one who can’t stop picking at scabs? I keep telling myself to stop, but I can’t help picking. It’s the same with hangnails–I pick them until they bleed. I also grind my teeth and used to bite my nails. As I wrote in my previous post, I haven’t been kind to my body, and it’s taken quite the beating from me.

I went to the dentist yesterday for the first time in several years. Well, the second time, actually. The first time was when I had to get my crown re-cemented about a month ago. Anyway, I have bad teeth. I was fortunate in that I never had any cavities when I was kid, but now, I’m making up for it in spades. The last time I went to a dentist for the first time after several years, it was because I broke a tooth eating popcorn. I had several things wrong with my teeth, and it took many visits to get them back in shape. I’m in the same situation now. I have to have a root canal and a cavity filled. I also have to have another more thorough cleaning as this one mostly focused on removing the plaque (ouch). In addition, there’s a gap between two of my teeth that has created a food trap. I floss two to three times a day, and the dental hygienist flossed and flushed it four or five times, and the dentist STILL found debris in it. So, it’s a painful area for me, and they gave me tools to pick at it better, but it’s pretty inflamed right now.

I’m full of self-recriminations because some of this probably could have been avoided if I’d gone in sooner. By the way, I’m surprised there aren’t more horror movies about going to the dentist. Seriously. My dental hygienist has a kind hand (unlike my previous one who reduced me to tears by SCRAPING as hard as she could against my teeth), but I was still gripping the arm rests as she cleaned my teeth. Abdominal breathing helped (thanks, taiji!), but it was hard to remember to do constantly. Plus, the sound of the instruments! That high-pitched whine is the WORST.

I hate my life. Not anything specific about it, but just the fact that it is at all. It’s a low-key hate, unlike the all-encompassing fire it once was, but it’s still there. When I was talking to my taiji classmate about depression, I asked if his was completely gone now other than the times when he notices a low-grade depression. He says it is, and I’m envious because he used to have it really bad. When he first started taking class, it was clear that he was deeply depressed. Now, he’s got a bounce to his step and a lilt to his voice that wasn’t there before. It’s great to see, and it’s a tribute to taiji, but I can’t help wondering why it can’t happen to me. I’ve done a lot of work on my depression, and I still feel like most days, I’m just getting by. I’m happy for him because he’s a great guy, and he deserves to feel better, but don’t I? I’m not sure about that, but it would be nice.

One thing we discussed was the realization that our lives don’t matter. Or rather, we’re insignificant in the bigger picture. I first wrote, ‘bitter picture’ which is both funny and apt. It’s a positive thing in that it can make letting go of the little things easier. In addition, for those of us with low self-esteem/high self-consciousness, it can be a boon to understand that your actions aren’t as detrimental to others as you think they are. It’s weird, but part of having a low self-esteem is thinking that you suck because you were so mean to other people. It’s thinking too little of yourself because you think too much of yourself. One thing that I tell myself is that no one cares about my life as much as I do, and, yeah, it can sound bad, but it’s ultimately liberating. If I don’t smile and say hi to someone on the streets, their life isn’t going to go off the rails because of it. If I don’t answer the random tweet, that person isn’t going to cry about it for days. And if they do, it’s not on me, really.

It helps if you’re perfectionist as well because you can say to yourself, “Is this really going to matter when I’m dead?” Most of the time, the answer is no. The problem is that when I’m depressed, my brain can twist this into the negative version which is, “Your life is meaningless, and it wouldn’t matter if you died now.” My classmate said that our individual lives don’t matter and they matter at the same time. They don’t matter in the big scheme of things, but they matter to the actual people, obviously. And to people around them.

Right now, I’m leaning towards, “My life don’t mean shit.” It’s not as bad as it has been in the past, but it’s still difficult to deal with or to shrug and dismiss it. I’m tired. My sleep has been shit in the past week, even more than usual. That’s another sign that the depression is creeping back. I used to have epic sleep issues, and when they start coming back, I know my depression is just around the corner. I know it probably won’t stay long, but it’s still not fun to deal with. I just have to grit my teeth and bear it, I guess.


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