Help me instead of hating me

For me, writing has always been a sort of solace.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed by my thoughts, I write to get them out and organize them.  I have countless word documents on my computer from over the years. Most of them are short; just a few lines I wrote when I needed to vent.  I typically feel the need to vent when I’m in a bad state, and so a lot of my writing is quite sad.  Some of it, though, is downright scary – even for me.  It’s those documents that remind me of how very real depression is.

I make an effort to write when I’m in a happy mood, too.  I write to myself so I can read it when I’ve fallen back into a depression.  I read my own happy thoughts as a reminder that I’ve been there before, and I can get there again.

Although I am feeling strong right now, not everyone is.  And I wasn’t always.  The following is a rework of many recurring thoughts I’ve had when I’ve been depressed.

I’ve written it to anyone who is trying to support a person suffering from depression.  I get that it can be exhausting to care for someone who doesn’t seem to respond to your attempts to help.  I wrote this, hoping to provide some perspective – to both parties.

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You may never say it, but I know you resent me.  At least sometimes.

You resent me for holding you back.  You resent me because you don’t want to be stuck here, looking after me.  You are annoyed by me.  You wish I had no problems, so you could go out and do whatever you want, whenever you want, and never have to worry about me.

I’m sorry to put you through this. 

I get that it’s hard for you, too.  You want to understand but you can’t.  You can’t because you’ve never experienced this – and I am so glad for that, because believe me: this fucking sucks. 

You want to provide solutions.  You want to fix my problems.  But you can’t.

You know this isn’t my fault, but sometimes you forget.  Sometimes you get mad at me for being such a downer.  And sometimes, you do blame me – you say it is my fault, and that if I’d just get out of bed, everything would be fine. 

No.  It’s not that simple, although I wish it were – and I know you wish the same.

I want so badly to want to do things.  I want so badly to want to go out.  I want so badly to want to be social.  But I don’t want to.  I can’t want to.  No matter how hard I try to want to.

I want to believe that people like me, and that they want to be around me.  But I can’t believe it.  My mind won’t allow me to believe it.

I know that my negative attitude brings my negative thoughts to life: I know that no one wants to be around someone who is sad all the time.  You don’t need to remind me of that.

Try to remember that I can’t help it.  I didn’t choose this.  It chose me, I guess.

Support me by reminding me that this is now; this is not forever

Validate my feelings, because what I’m feeling is real.  Accept the fact that I am the way I am right now: I am sad.  I am feeling worthless, useless, and hopeless.  Validate me, and then remind me that you’re here for me; that WE will get through this together.

I know you’ll have moments where you resent me.  That’s okay.  This isn’t a walk in the park for you, either.  Just try to remember it’s not me you’re resenting: it’s the depression. 

Help me instead of hating me.

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My Two Closest Friends

Depression never used to knock before coming in.  Depression would just show up, uninvited, and stay as long as she pleased.  She’d hang out with me wherever I was.  She’s quite lazy though, and usually convinced me to stay in bed all day.  We wouldn’t do anything!  Even if we watched a movie, I could never pay attention because she was so distracting – always rambling to me, talking about god-knows-what.  It’s really hard to focus on one thing when someone is talking in your ear about something else.  Basically, whenever she came over, I was stuck doing whatever she wanted to do (and that doesn’t consist of much).

Sometimes, when I had friends over, she’d leave me alone for a bit.  She’d hang back, I’d hang out, she’d wait for them to leave, and then she’d come out as soon as the door shut behind them.  Usually, though, she’d demand all the attention: my friends would come over to hang out with me, but they’d end up hanging out with Depression.  I’d kind of just be there in the background… somewhere.

One day, Depression and I were hanging out.  She left soon after she came though – which was a very rare occurrence! – so I decided to go out.  I ended up meeting Mania that night.

Mania and I instantly hit it off.  We went out together with a group of my friends and had a fantastic night out.  We spent a bit too much money and drank a bit more than we maybe should have, but I didn’t care!  It was too fun to care.  After that night, Mania and I hung out nonstop for about two weeks.  We had become inseparable!

I guess Depression heard that Mania and I had been spending a lot of time together, and she wanted to be a part of it.  But for some reason, our schedules never allowed for us to spend time as a trio.  Depression kept asking me to hang out more and more frequently.  Every time she’d heard that Mania had been over, she’d insist on coming by the next day.  She was even more selfish during these visits, if that were even possible.

Everything had to revolve around her.  If she didn’t feel like eating, we wouldn’t eat.  Oh, but if she did want to eat, we’d eat an unnecessarily large amount of food.  If she didn’t feel like talking, we’d sit in silence.  But, of course, if she did want to talk, we’d talk nonstop about whatever she wanted to discuss.  I say ‘discuss’, but really it was more of a lecture: I just listened to her talk; I never had a say in anything.

Eventually, I couldn’t even have friends over anymore while she was in town.  She would literally take the phone out of my hand and write up some excuse.  She even forbade me from going to work.  She’d call in, pretend to be me, and say she was sick with the flu, or food poisoning, or whatever else came to mind.

I don’t know why I never stopped her.  I just never really felt like I could.  Peer pressure, maybe?

Anyway, I started to strongly resent Depression.  Hate her, really.  Looking back, I realize that Depression had sort of become a little jealous of Mania.  But at the time, I just wanted to hang out with Mania and forget about Depression entirely.

Mania and I always had so much fun together.  She managed to make me forget about Depression, even though we’d been so close for so long.  I always thought Depression and I would be in each other’s lives forever, but Mania made me second-guess that notion.  She pointed out how terrible Depression treated me.  I honestly never realized it until then, but it was a very abusive relationship.

It was a good thing that Mania and Depression were never in the same room.  I feel like Depression would have definitely taken away all the fun.

Those days, I hung out with Mania as much as I could.  Depression would still come by every once in a while, but she didn’t stay as long as she used to.  Mania was my new best friend.

The early days of my friendship with Mania were great!  We would always be on the go, doing something, going somewhere.  We would spend our free days making things, writing stories together or planning a trip.  I would go to work and she would entertain herself – that was another thing I greatly appreciated, because Depression couldn’t handle me leaving her alone while I went to work.  We went out on the weekends and the occasional – albeit rare – week night.  We had a great social life and my friends absolutely loved her.

After a while though, she started to go a little wild.  And, well, I saw how much fun she was having and couldn’t resist joining in.

We started to go out a lot.  We spent money on things we didn’t need.  We drank. We did drugs. We had a very unhealthy sleep schedule.  We would go days without sleeping properly, and then crash for 20 or more consecutive hours.  Usually, I’d wake up to an empty bed and the doorbell ringing: Mania was gone, and Depression was back.

It was exhausting, keeping up with those two!  If I wasn’t with one, I was with the other.  I had very few days to myself.

Depression came over after Mania and I had had another binge.  I wanted her to go the second she walked in, but I didn’t want to be rude, and I had a hard time flat-out asking her to leave.  After all, she did just want my company.

She eventually opened up and told me she was upset – she felt like Mania had taken over and that I didn’t like her anymore.  She told me she missed me, and just wanted to spend more time with me.  She asked me if we could just stay in bed all day and pretend to watch movies while she distracted me, like old times.  The fact that this all made me feel guilty didn’t even matter: I was so exhausted after my binge with Mania that it actually sounded like a great idea.

So, we stayed in that bed for almost an entire week straight.  We slept most of the time.  We ate occasionally.  We would start a movie and I’d turn it off after a few minutes of her rambling.  I would wake up in the morning and see that she was still asleep, and I’d resolve to stay in bed so as not to leave her. It always upset her to wake up alone.  Sleep, sleep, sleep, repeat.

After a couple of weeks, Depression left, and I was by myself for the first time in over a month.  I was able to reflect on things, and I realized that maybe Depression wasn’t as evil as Mania made her out to be.  She was just lonely.  I felt bad for her more than I felt hurt by her.

Mania wasn’t perfect, anyway – was she?  Sure, we had loads of fun together, but I always spent way too much money while she was around, and it took me days to recover from our sleepless, drug and alcohol induced binges.

It was hard to talk to my other friends about Depression and Mania though, because they didn’t know either of them like I did; they could never really understand our relationship.

Sure, Depression held me back sometimes, but she also held me closer than any other friend ever had.  I could feel how much she wanted me around.  No one can argue the fact that it feels nice to be wanted. And yes, Mania would encourage me to do things that might not have been the best idea, but in the moment, it was always so fun and exhilarating.  We spent money I didn’t have, but we created amazing memories.

Mania was much better at winning me, as well as everyone else, over. She would show up, just like Depression always did, and instead of coming in to hang out, she’d insist we go out and do something.

She wasn’t always in her wild, party mode: sometimes she’d revert back to her original form, and we’d be incredibly productive.  She’d come over and help me clean my house (this was especially nice when she came after Depression had been over, because there was always an accumulated mess), or we’d cook a delicious dinner, or we’d paint something or draw something or rearrange my apartment.

I started to resent Depression.  Again.  This time, more intensely.  And it stuck.

She’d come over and my spirit would sink away to nothingness.  I knew that the moment she walked in the door, there was no more fun to be had.  So I got fed up.  I told Depression that she couldn’t just keep coming over without at least telling me first.  She needed to give me a warning before she came, so I could prepare.  I could never get anything done while she was around.  What if I needed to do laundry?  What if I had someone visiting and actually wanted to spend some quality time with them?  Reluctantly, she agreed that she’d let me know she was coming when possible, but couldn’t always be sure how long she’d stay.  Fair enough, I thought.

As with many things, I was wrong.

These days, Depression sometimes lets me know she’s coming.  I know she’ll be here in a few days.  I can prepare myself as much as possible, but I can never really prepare.  I don’t know how long she’s going to be here.  I know I’m going to be stuck with her, and I know I can’t tell her to leave, but I don’t know when she’ll be gone.  Trying to plan my life around her uncertainties is even worse than being utterly uninformed of her arrival.

Mania never tells me when she’s coming.  I’ve asked her to, but she refuses.  She says she wants it to be a surprise.   I’d rather be surprised by Depression than by Mania.  I want to know when Mania is coming because I want to be able to look forward to the fun.  I want to be surprised by Depression because I want to be oblivious that I’ll be in pain until the pain has already begun.

Unfortunately though, that’s not how it is.  Depression’s compromise was a warning.  She won’t leave me alone, but she’ll let me know when she’s coming.  Mania’s ‘compromise’ is surprise.  She won’t leave me alone, she certainly won’t inform me of her plans, but we’ll have a blast when she gets here.  I cannot rely on her.

This is how it is.  These are my two friends, Depression and Mania, and they’re going to visit me until they tire of me.  They’re going to stick around as long as they please, without my permission, my consent or even my affection.  It’s not certain how often they’ll come, or how long they’ll stay.  It’s not even certain that they’ll ever leave.

All that’s certain is me.   I am certain that I cannot, and will not, ignore them. I am certain that I will accept them.  But most of all: I am certain that they will be my friends, and not my keepers.  I will run the show; they’ll just be my co-stars.

Schizophrenic Parenting

It’s pretty nice to be at a point where I can think about what I want for my ‘future’.  I didn’t always think I’d have one – I didn’t always want one.  I still have days where I don’t.  But, generally speaking, I do.

So, what comes to mind when I think about my life five, ten, fifteen years from now?  Kids.

Do I want kids?  I honestly do not know.  If I do have kids, though, it definitely won’t be any time soon.

I need to be realistic and honest with myself.  I need to think of the pros and cons.  And I can’t be selfish about it.  Would I really be able to raise a healthy, stable-minded child, when I can’t even describe myself that way a lot of the time? And even if I did manage it – hopefully, with the help of said child’s paternal figure – would it really be the right thing to do?

Even if I can teach a child right from wrong, how to cross the street safely, how to feed him/herself, etc… do I really want to subject my own flesh and blood to a life of living with me?

Like I said, I need to be honest with myself.  And realistic.

Schizo-affective disorder is likely with me for life.  And there is no telling whether it will get worse or better, stay the same, or if I might pass it on to future generations. Genetics aside, though, I just don’t know if it’s fair to bring a child into my world of uncertainties.

Looking back at my not-so-distant past, there were periods where I was the child.  A grown-up child – the worst kind.  I needed to be taken care of.  I needed people to watch out for me, to keep me safe, to make sure I was keeping myself healthy and alive.

If I fall into a state like that again, what would happen to that poor babe of mine?

I can say – and part of me believes it – that it wouldn’t happen if I had a child.  I’d persevere.  I wouldn’t let my mind stop me from taking care of my baby, because my maternal instincts simply wouldn’t allow for it.  But is that really true?  Would it really all pan out that way?  It kind of seems like a naïve way to look at parenting.

But then again, by saying this, am I just furthering the stigma about mental health?  Am I just putting myself down?

We’ve all heard the stories about mothers hurting their own children while in a psychotic state.  Sometimes, the poor mothers and children don’t survive.  Sometimes, they do survive, but are left with a scar and an inability to trust the very person who brought them into the world. This isn’t always a woman who suffered with her mental stability before she had kids.  Postpartum depression comes in many forms and severities – mild to downright scary.  All this tells me is that having kids is always a risk, regardless of your state of mind beforehand.

So, there are some of the cons.  What about the pros?

With me as a mother, I think any child would have a rather open mind.  They’d have to.  They’d be surrounded by me and my loud opinions, and I’d certainly introduce them to other opinions – even some I don’t necessarily agree with.

They’d grow up with an understanding of life that a lot of kids are likely sheltered from. It isn’t all black and white, and no baby of mine would be a stranger to that knowledge.

They’d grow up with more responsibilities than the average child.  But, at the same time, I would baby them more than I probably should.  It’d be an interesting mix.

“Come on, you’re 8 months old – make your own dinner!”
“Oohh, come here, let me cuddle you to sleep even though you’re 15.”

I think, especially for me, a very important factor about becoming a mama would be to make sure I had that perfect partner in crime.  I’d need a dude with a clear understanding of me and my quirks.  He’d need to know how to deal with me at my absolute worst, and he’d need to know how to encourage me to be my absolute best.  He’d also need to understand that I’ll have days where I hate him for doing just that.  But he’d have to stick to it.  I don’t need to be married to him for all eternity – but I do need to know, with confidence, that he’s up for the challenge – and the ultimate reward – of parenthood.  With me.  For good.  But isn’t that the same for everyone?

Finally, the biggest and most important pro of all: that baby would be LOVED.  I would love that tiny human with my entire soul and more.  I’d shower that munchkin with hugs and kisses and words of affection.  I’d embarrass that baby well into their teenage years.  I’d bake them their favourite cookies at ungodly hours and I’d always let them crawl into my bed, regardless of how silly the reason.  They’d be my entire universe and they’d be well aware of it.

While love is a very important tool in parenting and life in general, it doesn’t solve everything.  It can’t pay the bills.  Love isn’t going to pull you out of bed when you’re feeling low.  Love, sadly, can’t conquer everything in the world we live in.  There is a lot that goes into raising a child, and I still don’t know if I’ve got it all in my schizo-self.

I really don’t know what defines a good potential parent.  A person could appear to be the strongest and most reasonable person on the planet, but then the responsibility and the feelings of vulnerability that come with parenting may break them down completely. How can you know what kind of person someone will be once their entire life has changed?  How can you judge someone’s ability to do something without giving them the opportunity to actually do it?

Unfortunately, though, it seems to me that the people with the strongest opinions on the matter are usually the ones who don’t really have a clue.

Often times, I hear people talk negatively about schizophrenia, bi polar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder (the list goes on).  As soon as I mention I’ve got one – or two, or a combination – of the above listed disorders, they’re extremely surprised, “oh my god!  I’m so sorry!  You totally don’t seem messed up at all!”  they go on about how guilty they feel about all the nasty things that just escaped their mouth.

But maybe, if you’re so surprised, and you feel that guilty about what you just said, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

I think there are a lot of factors to consider, and I think there are a lot of uneducated people with skewed opinions on the matter who spread the wrong kinds of information.

So, what do you think about it all?  Should the mentally ill be parents?

I hope you never understand

I hope you never know what it’s like to wake up and wish you hadn’t.  Not because you’re tired and you want another few minutes of sleep; not because you’re hungover; not because it’s Monday and you don’t want to go to work.

I mean you wake up, and you realise tomorrow came – and it’s not a good feeling. I mean you wake up and you open your eyes, only to close them right away and silently will yourself away from it all.  I mean you wake up and you are disappointed that you didn’t, by some miracle, die in your sleep.

Quite simply, I mean waking up is just a reminder that you haven’t escaped your life yet.  You’re still here.  And I hope you never understand what it’s like to wish you weren’t here.

I hope you never understand what it’s like to be unable to get out of bed.   Not physically – because physically, you are capable.  Your legs work.  Your heart is beating.  But I hope you never understand what it’s like to be unable to move simply because your thoughts are crippling you.  I hope you never understand what it’s like to be held in place, stuck there, battling with yourself within your own mind.  Swing that leg out and touch the floor.  Take a step.  Get out of the bed.

I hope you never understand what it’s like to forget what happiness feels like.  I hope you never feel like there’s no way out of your sadness.  I hope you never get overcome by numbness.  I hope you never experience that feeling of pure emptiness.  I hope you never feel like there is nothing good, or bad, coming around the corner.  I hope you never feel like you can’t imagine there being a future for you.  

I hope you never need to rely on people to remind you to eat.

I hope you never need to rely on people to remind you to sleep, or to be awake.

I hope you never need to rely on people to remind you to take your multiple medications on a daily basis.

I hope you never, ever need to rely on people to hide all the sharp knives in the house so you can’t get ahold of them to hurt yourself.

I hope you never, ever need to be checked on every time you take a bath, just because there’s a chance you’re trying to drown yourself.

I hope you never know what it’s like to not be trusted near open windows.

I hope you never have to convince yourself not to jump in front of the train as it approaches on the platform.

I hope you never understand what it means to be afraid of opening the front door and stepping out into the real world.

I hope you never have to force yourself to appear normal and happy when all you want to do is run and hide, and never come out.

I hope you never understand what it feels like to worry that everyone in the world is against you.

I really hope you never understand what it means to feel completely alone while you’re surrounded by people.

I really, really hope you never understand what it means to want to end it all.

I do hope you understand that you can’t always understand.

I do hope you understand that you don’t need to understand.

I hope you understand that you can’t fix everything.

I hope you understand that no one thinks you can, and no one is expecting you to.

I think you do understand that no one knows the battles other people are fighting.

I think you do understand that we all have our own stories.

I think you understand that we don’t need to understand each other to support each other, and to love each other, and to wish the very best for each other.

I think you can see that all anyone has ever wanted is to be accepted.

So, stand by me.  Lie next to me.  Sit with me.  Talk to me.   Stay silent.  Hold my hand or smile at me.  Tell me you’re with me and that everything will be okay, someday.  It might not be now.  I know that.  I might be hurting for a long time.  I might be numb for a long time.  I might be happy for a long time, and I might feel myself falling down the tunnel again.

So just tell me you’ll stay with me and you’ll protect me from myself, because that’s who I’m most afraid of.

Tell me you’ll hang out with me until the storm passes.  And then, once it has, hang out with me some more.

You don’t have to understand me.  I don’t want you to know what this is like, because I know it’s awful, and that’s enough.  I don’t want you to know it for yourself.

I just want to know that you’re here with me.