succumbing to peer pressure

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A somewhat sappy mental health entry

As Kathy and I were shouting and giggling in celebration over the phone last night she mentioned one of the best things about good news - the sort of forgetting and re-remembering and being excited all over again that happens as good news keeps sinking in. I was thinking about that this morning as I was lying in bed - first I thought about how soft and comfortable my bed was, then how adorable the cat looked rolling around in the shaft of sunlight leaking through the curtains, then I remembered that I got the fellowship and started grinning like an idiot. I spent a few minutes just lying there, being happy and warm and comfortable.

Things are going particularly well right now, so it's easy to revel in moments like that. But that's also just a part of who I am - even without my stupendously good news, I probably would have indulged in a few minutes in bed this morning, grooving to the radio, curled up with the cat, appreciating how lovely that moment was.

But I can also appreciate that that is not how things always work. Right now I can really take in how fortunate I am and how good my life is - I have the kinds of friends who virtually hold my hand all day while I wait for news, who spread the good news even faster than I can to make sure I get lots of messages of congratulations. But I know there are places where those facts don't reach. Where no matter what the tangible evidence of your life is, none of it makes a dent in how you're feeling. I've never been depressed, but I do get anxious, and at the worst of times it feels a lot like how Mark (over at Good Math, Bad Math) describes his depression:

What happens if I don't take my medication? I turn into a zombie. Everything turns flat, it seems almost as if things lose their color, like all the colors fade. I feel like my body weighs so much that I can't even hold my shoulders up. I don't feel sad; I feel nothing. Empty, blank, flat. Great things can happen, but they don't make me happy. Awful things can happen, but they don't make me sad.

I spent a lot of the summer two years ago in a state like that - remembering how much I used to enjoy the sheer number of stars you can see at night in WV, how the wind whipping in through the windows of the car used to make me feel good, on and on and on. And yet that summer, pretty much everything made me feel nothing. And the thing is, when you're in those moments, even if you can remember times when you luxuriated in tiny moments, those seem impossibly far away, and like they'll never happen again. I can remember getting into my car to drive over to a friend's house, realizing I would need to stop and get gas on the way over, and almost getting back out of the car and staying home. It wasn't that stopping to get gas was too scary or overwhelming specifically, it was just too much to have one more tiny thing to do. I had mustered up the energy to drive somewhere, to be around people, and I just knew that if I was delayed on that mission I wouldn't get there. Existing just took too much energy, not because it was so awful, but because it stretched out in this unending, unbearable vacancy of absolutely anything. Nothing was bad because nothing was good.

I have no idea how mental health problems feel for other people, but that's how mine feel for me. And I can only really be articulate about them when I'm in a good place. And we don't talk about them enough. So that's my story.


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