It’s time to admit it. I’m depressed. Well, ok, I admitted that to myself a few months ago. However, I downplayed it to myself or told myself I would get over it in time. I haven’t. If anything, it’s gotten worse, even though I’m able to cope with it somewhat. When I say cope, I mean semi-deal with it. When I semi-deal with it, I mean, keeping the worst of it to myself. When I say keeping the worst to myself, I mean not snapping at everyone all the time.
Here’s something I knew about myself but didn’t really give much thought to: I’m also anxious/suffer from PTSD. I mean, I’m fully aware of both, but it was only after reading a comment in the Ask A Manager blog that made me aware that much of what I’m experiencing now is related to anxiety disorders, which includes PTSD. Or anger disorders, if you’re asking the Mayo Clinic website. The commenter listed all the things she read about anxiety disorders that clicked with her including getting upset about minor things, being ‘lazy’ about getting shit done, and other things that really resonated with me. She said she never knew all those things were part of being anxious, and that hit me over the head. In doing research for this post, I read that anxious disorders and anger disorders have some overlap, which makes sense, but I never made the connection for myself.
I’m like a textbook case right now. Things that normally would just irk me for a second before I let it go now irritate the fuck out of me, and I can’t shrug it off as I normally would.
Side note: I spend quite a bit of energy in general keeping my demons at bay. I would say at least 30% of my brain is dedicated to making sure I keep my irritation to myself as much as possible and not saying the sarcastic things my brain says on a near-constant basis. I have a reputation for being a good listener who is compassionate, but that is a very conscious decision on my part.
When I was a kid, I learned that my worth was as a receptacle for my mother’s distress and other negative emotions. I’ve written before how she made me her therapist/confidante when I was eleven, and it continues to this day. I don’t know if I have a natural aptitude for this trait because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t required to be this way. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing overall, but it can get suffocating at times. Like most of my worth as a friend is how I can support the other person.
I’m the type of person who has strangers pouring their hearts out to me, and while I’m taking conscious efforts to work on this, it’s difficult. Since on some level I still believe that my worth is based on how supportive I can be, I get a boost when other people choose to confide in me. Even if it’s only momentary, it reinforces that it’s what I’m meant to do.
I’m giving all this backstory to show how my outer persona is at deep odds with my inner voices. My main inner voice is, quite frankly, an asshole. Many moons ago, I dubbed him ‘The Dictator’ because he was so cruel to me and to everyone else. In the years since, through much therapy and taiji, his voice has become more muted and more diffused, but it’s never completely gone away. A small example. I was at the grocery store today, and as I was leaving, there was a cart filled with groceries blocking the way. There was a woman next to it, and the voice inside my head was saying, “Bitch, you can’t fucking move your groceries?” She was motioning for me to go ahead and my outside persona gestured politely to the cart, and I said in my outside polite voice,” Would you mind?” She quickly said it wasn’t hers, and we both smile and nodded at each other as I moved the cart out of the way. Inside, the voice was seething, “What kind of asshole leaves a cart blocking the fucking door?” as another woman was holding the door open for me (she was coming in, so the cart obviously wasn’t hers). I thanked her politely and went outside. As I was driving away, I saw a third woman pushing the cart I’d moved out of the way as she was walking out the door, and my inner voice was just seething. No actual words, but anger.
If you were to observe the interactions from the outside, you would have seen a bunch of women doing the Minnesota-nice thing (except me moving the cart out of the way. That’s not something most Minnesotans would have done) and not known anything was amiss. I know it’s said that you can’t hide your true feelings from the rest of the world, that it’ll drip out in your attitude, but I’ve found that to be not true. I was taught at a very young age how to dissimulate, and I’m still very good at it. In fact, to bring it back to the main point of this post, one of the reasons I know my mental health issues are getting worse is because I’m finding it harder to put on the mask.
Side note II: I have a flat affect because I have worked so hard all my life to keep my emotions under control. One reason I like sex so much is because it’s the one time I feel free to fully express what I’m feeling. Otherwise, I have many filters firmly in place to tamp down, well, everything. I’m well-aware that I am not a normal person, and I have learned to calibrate my outer persona to match what is expected in standard society. It’s a facsimile that I have honed with time, and it’s pretty good. But again, when I’m anxious or depressed, it’s harder to keep it firmly in place.
An example. I called my brother yesterday and left a message. Two minutes later, my phone rang. I normally don’t answer my phone, and my brother and I have a system where he’ll call and hang up then call again so I’ll pick up the second time. This time, I was sure it was him, so I answered with a ‘hullo’. Instead, a male voice I didn’t know said in a very hearty voice, “You’re the first person I’ve reached in fifteen minutes, and I’m 6’6″!” Dead silence on my part. I had had no idea what to say, and the silence dragged on. As he started to try to say something again, I hung up on him.
I never hang up on people. It goes against everything I’ve been taught, but I literally could not handle a conversation with this person at that time. If he had been a normal telemarketer who was trying to wring money out of me for the DNCC or something like that, I would have known what to do. I have scripts for those people, which I have no trouble using. However, what he did was so out of line with what I was expecting, I couldn’t deal with it. I had no scripts, nothing to fall back on, so I simply hung up. I felt as if he had broken all the norms of phone interaction, and the only way I could cope with it was by hanging up on him.
Now, I want to say, I don’t think he’s an awful person, and I wasn’t mad at what he had said–it just was out of the scope of what I could process at the time. Had I been in a better place, I might have said something like, “Well, you can keep on reaching then. I can’t talk at this time. Sorry,” or something like that. I probably still would have hung up after that line, though. I can’t stand people using the ‘we’re buddies here’ tact in trying to sell me something.
Anyway, my point is that I know I’m at the end of my resources. Past the end. I’m biting my tongue more than I normally do, and I would say that up to 70% of my brain is being used to try to keep the filters in place. That’s a lot of wasted energy. In addition, my sleep has been all over the map. I’m a night owl, and I don’t think that will change. However, during my recent entanglement with being ill, I was able to have a somewhat more normal sleep schedule (12 – 6/7), and I thought it would be nice to stick to it. My body said, “NOPE!” I’m back to going to bed around 3:30/4, which is still better than what I used to do, but being in bed by midnight seems like a distant dream now. Honestly, I would be fine with 2 a.m., but that is elusive to me right now, too.
Oh! Another interesting fact I learned from the Mayo website is that irritable bowel syndrome can be related to anger disorders (and, I’m assuming anxiety disorders). It’s interesting to me because I’ve had an increase in digestive system issues. Other things related: sinus pressure issues and sleep problems. It’s yet another reminder that the physical and the mental are related.
I know I need to find another therapist. I also know that the likelihood I will do it any time soon is minimal. It’s a pain in the ass to find a good therapist, and when you start to add requirements beyond the normal ones (such as a culturally-sensitive therapist), it gets even more difficult. My last therapist was excellent, but one of her shortcomings was in the cultural/racial department. I need someone who can understand what it’s like to have to live in two cultures, even if one is very predominant. I find Americans in general (including me, and I’m talking about people born in America, not naturalized citizens) are very set in their way of thinking about How Things Should Be Done, and it’s hard for many to empathize with people from different cultures.
I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, even if I’m still able to keep the mask (mostly) in place. This is no way to live.