TL;DR and content warnings: mental health stuff, depression, suicidal thoughts.
I can handle depression. I’ve had fifteen years to figure out what my moods are and how to cope with them, and what works best for any given problem. That’s not fun, but it’s cope-able. I know what to do with it.
What I’m currently struggling to handle is depression + medication.
I’m trying to work out what’s new, and what’s the same. What’s me, and what’s the medication. I’ve got a handle on depression, anxiety and emotion storms: I don’t have a handle on depression that feels like a black hole, anxiety that gives me the nevousness but not the fear, emotion storms that come and go as quickly as a passing cloud.
Medication throws everything I’m used to up in the air, and I have to try to catch it all as it falls.
I’ve still got the thought spirals for anxiety (why do you knead bread? what do we have for dinner? what would happen if there was a solar flare apocalypse and do I need to learn how to make an oven? I should be reading books. I should be working. I should be resting. I’m not sleeping. I need to sleep. I should be working. I have bread flour to use. do you knead it for the gluten or the yeast?) but none of the fear. None of the restlessness. None of the whirlpool. It’s just my brain going THINK THINK THINK without any reason.
I’ve still got the emotion storms, but I can’t feel them build; they’re like a sudden rainstorm from a blue sky, rather than the build-up of thunderheads that they were before. Then, I could see them forming: I could understand the situations and emotions that were going into them, and get myself to safety before I broke down (or just broke). Now, I get a few minutes’ warning and then I just break, crying uncontrollably – and then it’s gone. I’m ok again.
I’ve still got the depression, but it’s got no punch, because all of its feeling has vanished. The black hole that has formed under my ribs is just sucking all my emotions; I can do surface reactions, but I can’t feel anything more. No tug of the heartstrings. No stomach-hurting joy. No gripping sadness either, and no whirlpool of fear, but it’s just sucked…everything.
It’s also given me pretty bad suicidal thoughts; there’s no emotion behind it so I know it’s not actually me, but it’s still pretty frustrating when my brain throws up “oh yeah, kill yourself!” as a solution to small problems. Gee, thanks, brain. That’s not a good solution. Eff off. (I’m fine, by the way – zero intention. I think someone referred to them as “passive thoughts” which is a good way of thinking about it; versus the active intention, which if I ever had I would certainly do more to get help. At the moment I’m just fighting weasels.)
On a random sidenote, I was reading Neil Sharpson’s blog, and he mentions (understandably) freaking out over sudden suicidal thoughts. And I just thought.. well, hey, it’s just another day for me. That’s pretty scary if I look at it from one point of view, but it’s actually also reassuring. I know my brain throws them up, and I know how to deal with it. (Kick the weasels. Hard. It’s not easy or fun but it works.)
I can also understand the thing about the first six months being the most dangerous, because you still have depression but you also have energy. I do still have depression. I can feel it. But I don’t have any of the emotions behind it – and that makes it harder to understand, and to cope with.
But for now: I’m keeping going. I’m holding onto my routine, and my partner, and my friends, and everything around me, and just stepping forward. I’m trusting that if I just keep on a bit longer then everything will start to settle, and everything will start to balance again. I’m trusting that the medication will work and that despite the difficulty, this is going to make me stronger.
I really want to do something with this concept…
Christmas book haul! It does mean my TBR is bulging at the edges (again) but also… MOAR BOOKS. So… overall win?
I got given the Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey, which I’m really excited about – also, the outside edges of the pages are uncut! It looks really cool. I also got Gideon The Ninth from a charity shop (WHO GIVES THAT AWAY?! But hey, it means I now have a physical copy as well as an ebook!) and Otter’s on a bit of a crime kick, so I picked up The Complete Father Brown Stories (as I’ve only ever read selected stories) and Sherlock Holmes’s Greatest Cases, which contains all of my favourites. I also picked up The Riddle of the Third Mile as a relatively short foray into Dexter, and then we can pick up more if Otter likes them – I wasn’t going to inflict the inch-thick grump that is a Morse book on anyone who wasn’t sure about it!
Another present was The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Tour of Britain – it’s a mix of street plans, old maps and ordnance survey landscape maps, mixed with snippets of history about each chosen place and questions ranging from easy to fiendish! There is one for Oxford, so I’ll have to try that…
I also got She-Merchants, Buccaneers & Gentlewomen by Katie Hickman from a charity shop, and my copy of Dragon Bike came through! It’s an anthology of “short stories about dragons and bicycling, from across time, space, genres, and cultural traditions” and I’m really looking forward to reading.
I also got an ARC of one of my favourite series… eeeeeeeeh! Not saying anything more, but I’m elbowing aside time to read it and hope to do a review soon.
My world’s on fire, how about yours? And no, I definitely don’t like it. I would much rather have boredom. (Earworm brought to you courtesy of Mr David Moore breaking into Smash Mouth at any and every opportunity.)
After the glorious fun that was the political fuckery of December, I had a long think, and then a bit of a thought-splurge on Twitter about what I could actually DO.
My overall conclusion? Be more kind.
(I’m still debating getting that as a tattoo.)
Off my list so far, I’ve subscribed to the Guardian, and also joined the Patreons of Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Uncanny Magazine, Locus and Shoreline of Infinity. (If you’re into podcasts, by the way, I also highly recommend Breaking The Glass Slipper.) I’ve asked at work about payroll giving to donate to The Trussell Trust, Shelter and probably BookTrust (and I already donate to Tommy’s), and I’ve also asked about mental health first aid courses. I’m looking into Arts Emergency too, and the possibility of internships.
What else? I did Christmas cards for the neighbours, and I’m starting to get to know people. I want to do a crafty evening once a month, and get into the habit of buying a foodbank item when I shop. Beyond that, I’ve started to consolidate myself; sort out what I have and where I have it, and get myself onto a firmer footing for the next ten years. It’s going to be rough, so I want to know where I stand before we hit stormier waters.
I also want to be better at being there for people this year; I always do find it hard as an introvert and someone with limited spoons, but I want to make sure I keep up with friends. I know I forgot things, so my calendar is going to get lots of new entries to remind me! I’ve already got a bundle of random cards to send out, and I want to pick up some odd little gifts in the sales that I can just post at random times. Beyond that, I need to make sure I actually keep in touch, too!
Everything else on the list is ongoing… but it feels good to have started it all! If the world’s going to try to make selfishness and hate a priority, then fuck that. I’m going to do my best to be kind.
And as a final thought:
My response, all I really know to do, is to create cool shit that does include all those normally shoved to the margins. To reclaim magic and wonder and share it. I can do that. Some of you can too. Let’s do it. pic.twitter.com/WHXo0ABK6W
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) December 20, 2019
I might not be able to make cool shit at the moment, but I can bloody well enable it. I’ve got the power to choose what I want to publish, and I’m damn well going to enable what I want to see in the world. Diversity, kindness and weirdness are the watchwords of 2020!