I wish i could say that my slight blog absence was because I was doing better, the reality is Halloween is a bit of a difficult trigger for me. My ex-wife loved Halloween and the Christmas holidays and truthfully her will is what really made the holidays real for me.
There was a time when I enjoyed seeing costumes and craftsmanship, I’d enjoy taking a few photos. These days all I want is to be left alone and allowed to let the day pass without any real need to ‘celebrate’. Coping with my depression I often feel like I’m always wearing a mask, except instead of custom made clothes, make up and fake teeth, my disguise is a false smile and convincing people around me that I’m ‘ok’.
Don’t know that I’ll ever be okay with Halloween or any of the major holidays to be honest. I’ve never enjoyed them save for the company of friends. We’ve commercialized so many holidays that I always feel like the point of them has been lost to the ages. Maybe I’ll try to do something for arbor day.
I’ve always been amused at how the subconscious works. Dreams, nightmares they all seem to jumble together and there isn’t always a ready cause for them. If only we knew the source.
I had gone through the whole meditation thing, lucid dreaming and other cognitive practices. Still those sometimes frequent weeks of nothing but nightmares do take their toll. Maybe it’s having to process pain and trauma when my mind is idle or just a looped memory trying to shake its way free. The last few days haven’t been kind to my sleep schedule.
Memories of the past twisted around, made painful aren’t uncommon in my nightmares. I’ve woken up a few times my heart racing, with glimpses of what transpired and all I can do is a Nathan Fillion-esque “huh”. Sometimes I worry that being driven by depression during the day and nightmares at night is a repeating cycle, one I haven’t figured out how to break.
One of the interesting things is that while people certainly understand stress they don’t always understand depression. The news these days is full of stressful events, tragic, frustrating and everything in between.
I found it unusual that there were literally things like support groups in Florida being setup for people “offended by racist Halloween costumes” and that mental health professionals were worried about the strain the election was putting on the country. All this attention to what feels more like periodic mental health issues yet the more widespread and chronic clinical depression is still paid more lip service than tangible change.
I had to take a break from some depression/anxiety related forums because the uptick in posts was difficult to see. People of all genders/orientations, ages and demographics experience the gamut of depression and anxiety and often finding someone to connect to and talk about their challenges is the most difficult thing. There isn’t a one-stop shop answer to the issue and I think that’s a difficult thing for most people to face. Don’t forget, from my personal experience I’ve believed that you have four primary planks that may be used. Health/Activity, Diet, counseling/CBT, prescription. Each thing helps in one aspect or another of coping with depression. For some people all four will be needed for others, just one or two. If you’re fighting depression/anxiety make that first call, consult your general physician a therapist but try to start. That initial step is the scariest but it’s the most critical.
University of Florida Mental Health Services for Halloween Costumes
The weekend is not my favorite time of the week. My motivation to leave the house some days is stifling. I try to counter act my anxiety I’ve often taken to mini-missions. Specific goals or objectives that I have to meet in order drag myself out of the home. Going out for myself, or for the sake of myself isn’t quite there yet but I try to do something a bit more social in little doses.
Today I found myself trying to brave the crowds of a coffee and chocolate farmers market. To be entirely honest though there was next to no chocolate… Which is fine, I’m allergic anyway. I was reminded how much I dislike crowds and bumping through a mass of bodies. I found a few odds and ends for friends and made my way to Magnolia Cafe situated in Ala Moana, our largest open air mall. Eating alone post-divorce is still strange and uncomfortable but I muscle through.
Watching families smile and laugh and admittedly argue is strange. Some times I smirk or smile, as I’ve always tried to maintain a happier face around kids. Other times inside I feel like I’m not here. Like the world is around me and I’m in a little bubble. So I sit, read or blog and try to remind myself that all the noises, sights and sounds are something I have work my way through.
Asking for a “table for one” still feels painful but I know I have to get used to it. I guess I don’t quite look like I belong here and was asked if I was visiting from the mainland. I jokingly said yes, that I was here from Berkeley. A half truth I suppose but a better alternative than “No, I just don’t belong here random stranger”. Still I appreciated someone trying to make casual conversation. Just have to remind myself to switch off the snide side of myself more.
Between babies crying and the clang of the kitchen I find myself thinking about what it means to be out and about in the world. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it, but I know it’s something I have to work at. So here’s the meekend, be it ever so humble.
Halloween is a weird double edge for me. My anxiety always made it a bit of a tricky balance but I found ways to cope. This Halloween will be very different. My ex wife loved Halloween. It was an important time for her as she loved cosplay and costuming. These days I see it as a subtle reminder of how depression is.
Depression is like being in costume at times. We smile, we go out, we try to convince everybody we’re having a good time. It’s a mask, one we’ve put on for the benefit of others and to feel socially acceptable. When we return to our homes instead of troves of candy to pick through we find ourselves self-reflecting in sometimes painful negative thought loops. I doubt I will go out, if at all, this Halloween. Too tired of my mask, too exhausted from the loops.
Over time I hope that going out becomes just that. It’s me as I am, plain faced and me. For now it will continue to be a mixture of masks and illusions.
I wish I could say that Sept and Oct have been good months for me but the reality is they have been very trying times. Between anniversaries and a season that my ex-wife really enjoyed there are too many memories that I have swimming in my head as of late.
Sept apparently is a rough time on the whole for people suffering from depression; particularly those afflicted by seasonal depression; as the weather shifts, the sun is out less affecting both sleep patterns and temperature. I’ve tried to use the various coping tools at my disposal but I’ll admit it hasn’t been pleasant. After a while everything feels like just a futile attempt at distracting myself from factors I can’t change.
I’m trying to focus on cooking and things that fulfill two needs at once. The need to distract myself from the less positive things going on and keeping myself fed and (hopefully) healthy. Not always succeeding on the former. Still though I know it has to be done and right now ‘has to be done’ seems to trump ‘want to do’. Then again, not difficult when your mind literally ‘wants’ nothing.
Take a moment to read the above article. It’s a worthwhile read. While some things have improved, there’s a long way to go in terms of how mental health is treated and perceived in America (and the world as a whole).
Most of this article looks at mental health and some of the connections to things like violent crime etc, but I’d rather focus on the stigma and perception half. Mental health conjures some rather negative views to most folks. The word I hear most is “crazy” or “imaginary”. Both terms are grossly slanted views of what mental health really means for most folks. Don’t misunderstand, I realize there are some very serious cases of mental illness such as schizophrenia and dissociative disorder which may require hospitalization but for most people the common mental health issues include depression, anxiety and addiction disorders.
For the more common cases of mental health issues the biggest hurdle is getting help and it’s not easy. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom before you seek out professional help. If you’re on the fence about it please I urge you see your doctor, see a therapist to get your issues out in the open at the very least. The road to recover can be a difficult one but I can tell you that the longer you wait the harder it is.
Divorce is difficult by itself but one of the hardest aspects is that the story changes based upon who you ask. I’ve generally tried to remain neutral in how I explain my divorce. I don’t like to contend that either of us was the root cause, we both made bad choices and in the end the marriage was over.
The thing is, depending on which side you view it there’s always some degree of spin. Some framing to try and put the one telling the story in the best light. Dealing with depression and the divorce I’ve had to stare a lot of things dead on and find ways to cope and acknowledge the problems I found in myself. It doesn’t make it easier but I’ve tried to state my perspective of it without painting myself in necessarily a positive light.
The hardest thing to admit is that when it’s over, it’s over and what things didn’t work. I’ve had to sit down, jot them down and they are things that I now try to work on a little bit each day. Didn’t save my marriage but hopefully will save me heartache down the road.
One of the hardest things for me has been how work/weekends changed. There was a time where I would slog through the work week and was grateful for the quiet that the weekend brought. These days the silence after the M-F grind is equally painful if not more so.
Time spent with friends still provides some semblance of normalcy but there’s an uneasiness about it at times. It feels like an echo, an afterimage of who I was in the past. I don’t always know which direction I’m going in these days. I do know that the road ahead is a painful one, fraught with challenges. A close friends reminded me that right now I’m in protection mode. I don’t know that I totally agree with her, at times I feel like I’m on the edge of attack mode. Like I’m in a ready state of fight or flight but I’m not about to dash.
I continue to look for ways to vent and to speak when I need to be heard but it isn’t always easy. Cooking, photography, my blogging they all afford me a release in some ways. Sometimes I wonder if I need to get back to things with my hands, tools, martial arts. Sometimes you have to hurt to survive. I often escape into science fiction and the Netflix series Luke Cage had a good line, “Survival costs”