Sometimes I have a lot to say, and I yearn to be heard. Yet it seems no one is listening, or reading, or caring, for that matter. It’s an unrealistic and false conclusion; I know there are those who would listen if I spoke, read if I wrote, and always care no matter what. Why is it I propogate and nourish such lies to myself? What is I actually feel that makes me sabotage myself before I even start?
I do not suffer from depression. At least not in the sustained, crippling, feel terrible and cannot overcome it ways that afflict so many people. I have my funks, bad days, pissy moments. Just like everyone else. But I do not equate my bad days with what others suffer and endure. At the same time, while I am at a low tide mood, my emotions and sky-is-falling overwhelmed-ness is just as real and as painful.
The quest to pooh-pooh myself looms large. The old “there are starving children in China, so eat your carrots” technique for cajoling myself into action is alive and well in my own mind. But when I am wallowing for whatever reason, I could clearly care less about what those starving orphans on the other side of the world are doing at that moment. My empathy quotient is completely drained, so conscience, give me a break and shut the f–k up.
Where does the higher expectation for myself come from, I wonder? Is it because I eventually lose patience and sympathy for those who are genuinely stricken, knowing that my own capacity for helping them is limited? Or am I too busy comparing myself to see how I stack up to devote full measure of attention and sympathy? In my defense it seems those in my realm who are genuinely depressed wish mostly to be left alone in their misery and repeatedly rebuff my efforts to help, distract, talk. Those I am closest to have taught me how to walk the balance beam between pushing to engage them and stepping back and away – how much, how little, how often, how hard. It remains a trial-and-error experience, but we live and we learn, we forgive and we forget after the immediate crisis has passed.
When I wander into the darkness and find myself feeling untethered and unhappy, it’s a volitile time. Because I am hurting somewhere about something, I am a touchy beast best approached with caution. But as M has pointed out, I look perfectly normal. It is only when he presses a point – asking an unanswered question a little more forecefully – that I become this enraged, screaming beast that lashes out in angry, out-of-proportion fury. He has done nothing wrong; I just arrived in a foul mood and have not voiced reasons for my brewing and stewing. Often I think I want him to provoke me, so I can legitimately blow off all the steam brewing between my ears and lash out forcefully, powerfully, hurtfully. This gentle man gets crisp under the heat of my anger.
M is no shrinking violet, though; he is capable of giving as good or better than he gets. My lashing out at him is going to result in him biting me back with at least that much heat and intensity and harshness. Our worst, most painful exchanges have started when one or both of us was in a bad emotional place that we may not have ever explained or tried to explain and relieve the pressure before the yelling started.
Because I abhor conflict of any sort – especially with M or with my children – I will usually tell him/them when I am in a foul, trigger-happy mood and spoiling for a fight. Rarely has it happened with my children, but to my infinite regret there have been moments through the years. Yelling at them when they were very young was catalyst for me to get professional help with my issues, and for the most part it has had a great effect on my psyche. I am still imperfect and falling off the calm and rational wagon a few times each year.
I bring this up tonight even though it was a perfectly fine day. No issues. No breakdowns. No fits of ill temper or even threats of it. What triggered this line of thinking was a resurfacing of an old friend in my phone last night. He suffers from clinical depression, hates the meds, and spirals in and out of terrible, closed-off periods. Honestly, he makes it very difficult for me to be his friend. I never know if I am going to run into our personable, affable, funny, and scary smart friend, or if I am going to be meeting the moody, prickly, leave-me-alone, piss poor company friend. Last we spoke was 2 years ago, and our last conversation involved a lot of sobbing tears on my part and angry, hurtful words between us. After that M insisted we distance ourselves, he pronounced me not adequately equipped to deal with someone ill in this way and unwilling to pursue any of the available medical solutions. Yeah, that made me feel so much better! But when I had some time to think about it, talk it out, I know M was right to put up the boundaries. The friendship between the 3 of us was taking a real toll upon me and my relationship with M. I still never know if it was a right decision or not, but first and foremost M and I protect our marriage.
During the period of radio silence with me M has had communication with him. Periodic conversations, emails, facebook stuff. When I got the brief text last night, I felt the familiar combination of joy to hear from him and anxiety about how he is doing. Addiction I lived with, understand a little better. Is mental illness that much different?
I was guarded in my reply. I miss my friend, but I do not feel equipped to cope with being close to him, and M agrees it is best we maintain a measured social interaction and communication. Sadly this will become one of those his casual friend/her acquaintance relationships, and I feel like a failure. I should not, because not everyone has the training or skills for every situation. But my shortcomings in this area loom large in my own mind.