Loopy, Lonely and Lost

Urgh.

Dark in the mornings, dark in the evenings, heavy-limbed and deathly bored, lazy and slow and stupid and embarrassed.

I’m trying. Trying to control the things I can.

Dawn-simulating alarm clock. SAD light. Vitamin D supplements. I don’t know if I have SAD, but these things, over time, make things a little easier. So I’m using them. Every little helps.

I feel so sleepy in the middle of the day. I’m most awake when it’s bed time. Can’t get my rhythms right.

I need to force myself to be normal. To cope.

I’m doing OK. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but the trends are positive and the general state is OK.

But no matter how good I feel, the slightest setback has this voice telling me, “kill yourself”.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not hearing voices. The voice is mine, the words appear not in my ears or my head, but in my mouth.

I can be mid-conversation with someone at work and they’re giving me gently constructive feedback about something I can improve on and I’m nodding and smiling and trying to seem like I take criticism well, like I’m open to suggestions. But I’m having to bite my tongue to stop the words coming out.

They appear in my mouth, unwanted. I’m not suicidal. Haven’t been for a long time. These days even when I’m depressed I’m calm and connected to reality and I know it’ll end – I get sad, lonely, anxious, despairing even, but I don’t get suicidal.

But even when I feel OK, or better. I drop my pen. “Kill yourself”. I sleep through my alarm and have to rush. “Kill yourself”. I spend an evening watching TV instead of doing the housework I told myself I’d do. “Kill yourself”.

And my conscious brain kicks in and says “No. Don’t.” But I have to make it do that. I have to think about it.

The voice is my voice but I can’t control it. It’s not driven by any conscious decision-making, not even by wild despair. It slips itself into the gap between something going slightly wrong and me thinking of an appropriate response.

It’s almost reassuring, like a ritual, like I have to think “kill yourself” before I can think anything else. But it scares me, too. That that thought is there, even when I don’t feel it or want it, that it’s lurking in wait for me and I don’t know how to stop it.

I’d learn to work steadier, not just in fits and starts when something took my interest.

I’d be a better advocate for myself and my own welfare, treating my kindness as a freely-offered gift, but not as an obligation.

I’d be more boring, more ordinary, less imaginative, less insular. A more normal person, and happier for it.

I wouldn’t quit all the things that challenged me – music, dance, sport – as a teenager that longed to become a different person.

I’d try to see my failures as opportunities and embrace them, rather than excruciating embarrassments to be studiously ignored.

I’d see myself as I was back then – clever, dynamic, funny, slim, full of life – and strive so hard to remain that way.

I’d still read as many books, but live less in my head when I wasn’t reading.

I’d value my friendships more, and work harder to prolong them, not just shed them like an old coat when they got uncomfortable.

I’d be more honest about what I wanted, and less afraid to pursue it.

I’d let people in. Let them know me, and not be so cynical and full of doubt as to their intentions.

I’d try to find love. Some kind and reliable man to share the burdens of my life, and to fill a house with children.

I’d be less ashamed of being a real, clumsy, messy flesh-and-blood girl, and not try to exist in my mind alone.

I’d appear gentle and obliging and compliant, but be strong and confident and wilful inside, rather than the other way around.

I’d cry more in the presence of others, and less on my own.

I’d return people’s confidences with genuine insights into my own mind and life, rather than trying to appear understanding while being closed-down and unreadable.

I’d place more value on honesty and kindness, and less on intelligence and wit.

I’d watch less TV, spend less time on the Internet, spend more time outdoors.

I wouldn’t wear my weirdness as armour, cultivating idiosyncrasies to protect myself from getting too close to others.

I’d go to more places, try new things, fill my life with experiences, be able to tell true and interesting stories with myself as a main character.

I would be more forgiving of the mistakes of myself and others, but less forgiving of deliberate cruelties.

I’d be a better person in every way I know how, and understand that that’s a process, and not give up every time I didn’t live up to my standards.

I’d live my life freely and truly, and spend much less time wishing and hoping to be able to start again.

My mood is like the water in a glass.

I walk along, nice and careful, carrying it with me.

Sometimes I lose concentration, or stumble or trip.

And it’s not level any more, it’s all leaning to one side.

In my attempt to level it again, it swings the other way. And splashes back and forth a few times, unstable for a while before it settles down.

I just have to be careful it doesn’t spill, either way.

 

10 weeks ago, I had a meeting with my boss, about working towards a promotion. I felt really good about it. I was given a spreadsheet to fill in, with different criteria I had to meet and provide evidence for. I took a quick look at it, felt confident, thought I could get it provisionally filled in within a couple of weeks.

Then, the following week began a slow decline.

It became a real struggle to get out of bed. I couldn’t think, couldn’t communicate, and that spreadsheet looked fucking ridiculous. It all seemed way over my head, stuff I was completely incapable of and unsuited for. It gnawed away at me, my ridiculous arrogance of assuming I could do it.

Stopped sleeping properly. Stopped eating properly. Trudging around my house at a snail’s pace. An intense, painful awkwardness accompanied all interactions with people.

Everything was so slow and useless and I could hardly breathe with how hard it was to do anything.

Then, yesterday, I practically leapt out of bed with my alarm. And I had enough energy to do some cleaning, and cook a meal.

And today, I loaded up that spreadsheet and could think of a million things to enter into it.

And I feel awake and alive and inspired to try things. And as confident as I get.

I still feel like I’m shaking the depression out of my limbs. It’s retreating but not quite banished yet. The heavy feeling. But I know it’s going, now. I’m not stuck in it with no way out.

Miseryguts

Posted on: June 4, 2020

So, I timed my total mental breakdown for the week I had off work.

Or, no. It’s not total. And I’ve been clinging to the last threads of my sanity for weeks, just waiting for an opportunity to let go.

It’s 2am and I’m awake, listening to sad songs.

It’s Thursday and the week is wasted already. I’ve been lying around, watching TV, reading. Hardly eating, hardly sleeping, hardly moving.

And there are tears in my eyes, waiting to fall, but I can’t access them. I can’t feel enough to let them out.

Work has been going OK. I’ve been there a year now. A month or so ago I had a meeting, my bosses want me to work towards a promotion.

I went into immediate self-sabotage mode. I keep doing things wrong. I don’t believe I’m good enough even for the job I have.

And, I don’t have any friends. None at all. I have several people I get on with at work. I have lots of people whose Facebook posts I occasionally like. I have a couple of people I’ve felt close to in the past, with whom I exchange extensive and detailed messages every few months, and meet for coffee or shopping or a movie maybe once a year.  But that’s it.

I don’t know how to feel about it. It’s painful, but opening myself up to someone new is unthinkable.

Fuck.

Posted on: January 29, 2020

It wasn’t the vitamin D. Of course it wasn’t.

Or at least, not entirely.

I bought more. Straight back on the hefty dose.

It’s eased, slightly. But I still feel like shit. My mind is so small. It’s suffocating.

Nothing to say really. Just got to ride it out.

So, the past few years, I’ve had a bit of Winter depression. Just ridiculous, pointless gloominess. Not like my depressions of old – I have awareness and perspective and all that good stuff. I function, I don’t go off the rails. But my whole mind just gets smaller. Everything becomes more difficult. I don’t know if I have SAD or if it’s something else. I’m not really fussed on labels.

This Winter, I was prepared for it. I was determined to be a model of psychological well-being. Check out all the stuff I’ve had in place since the clocks went back:

  • I’ve been eating properly. Low carb, low-ish calorie, a shit-ton of vegetables
  • I’ve been exercising. Bought a cheap exercise bike and I use it every day, increasing the time I spend each week
  • I’ve been taking a high-ish dose vitamin D supplement
  • I bought a dusk/dawn-simulating alarm clock and I use it every day
  • I’ve been listening to Michael Sealey’s sleep hypnosis videos on YouTube. Seriously, if you don’t sleep well, check him out. Completely revolutionised my ability to sleep properly. Some of them are about chakras and other stuff I don’t believe in, but I just pick out the ones that seem interesting and they are super-effective at getting me to sleep and making me feel calm and refreshed when I wake

I’ve tried to attack this depression from all angles. And it’s really worked. I’ve been feeling great. So much energy, so able to deal with things. Like, is this how healthy people feel? It’s a real game-changer.

I’ve lost a little bit of weight. A drop in the ocean to what I need to lose, but it feels good to make a start. And all the little tasks around the house have been getting done.

A couple of weeks ago, my vitamin D supplement ran out. I felt so good I hardly noticed. Couldn’t even remember why I’d been taking it.

Everything’s been going so great. All that shit people tell you to do when you’re depressed, that feels impossible – turns out it actually works! I even applied for a volunteering role, feeling I had so much spare energy and emotional resilience that I can use to help others.

And then today, I’m in a meeting with my boss and she’s telling me I need to be a bit more communicative, take control of my development, can’t just sit there and shrug and mumble when she asks me what my objectives are. And I have tears in my eyes and my bottom lip is trembling and I don’t know why.

And someone asks me how my work is going and I panic and stutter and quietly sneak off to the toilets to do some deep breaths, and I don’t know why.

And on the bus home, I am crying. Actually crying. Cinematic, staring out of the window of the bus, big fat tears rolling down my cheeks. And I don’t know why.

So, as I’ve trained myself to do when I’m sad, I ask myself, am I doing all the things I should? Nutrition, exercise, sleep? Supplement… Oh.

Perhaps it’s the vitamin D? Perhaps I should have got some more?

Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe it’s a placebo. Could be all sorts of things.

But I will replenish my stock as soon as I’m able, and start taking it again while I wait for Spring.

 

I’m several months into my job now, and I’m still sure it was a good move. Quite apart from the fact that I firmly believe that moving on is almost always the right thing to do, practically everything about how my new employer works is better, more effective and healthier than how the old company did things.

Everything is peer reviewed, and people always provide each other with feedback, and it’s all constructive with very little by way of blame culture. And this is good, it’s everything I’ve been saying for years that I wanted. I spent so long receiving only praise that I lost sight of my strengths and weaknesses.

I have meetings with my manager every week or two and they’re overwhelmingly positive, the kind of management meetings I’ve been used to. She tells me all the good feedback she’s had for me and praises my abilities and achievements, and I give awkward thanks but feel nothing other than a faint relief that my mistakes aren’t being highlighted.

I’ve been working with a new supervisor over the past few weeks and he’s big on feedback. Not cruel or nitpicky or abusing his power, he’s just a man gently pointing out what I could do better or how he’d do things differently.

Here’s the thing, though. Tell me I’m brilliant and I’ll blush and avoid eye contact and not really believe you at all, and complain that you don’t give me anything to work on. But tell me I’m wrong or could do better, and I shrink away from you in horrified shame.

It’s not nice to admit it. I believe in feedback. I think it’s important. I want to improve. But it makes me feel so useless.

And I think the reason praise never really affects me, other than to make me feel faintly embarrassed, is because I expect to be good at things. With things that I commit a lot of time to and place importance on, like my job, I expect to be great. I expect to be the best. So if you tell me I’m the best, I shrug it off. It’s not recognition I want, just the satisfaction of doing something well.

When I was 15, a teacher told me in amazement that she’d marked an exam I’d taken and I’d got 113 out of 114. My immediate question was, “what did I get wrong?”

I expect myself to be 100% right, 100% of the time. And it really is an expectation, not an ambition. Maybe normal people hope for 100%, but realistically expect something more reasonable. I see 100% as a baseline. Achieving it is a relief, but not a particularly impressive accomplishment. Falling short by any margin is a disappointment, a failure, and embarrassment.

But who am I, to expect 100%? It’s not even like I feel pride or achievement. I see 100% as not drawing attention to myself with silly errors (which is why I get so uncomfortable if I achieve 100% or anywhere near and then someone does draw attention to it). It seems so cocky to assume I’m capable of doing that, to see it as my minimum requirement.

Holding myself to a higher standard than I hold anyone else is in itself a sign of ridiculous arrogance. If I had a more realistic view of myself and my abilities, everything would be easier.

It doesn’t show me in a good light. That I’m so fragile I struggle to take any criticism, that I believe I’m better than that.

And I think about how uneasy and worthless I feel, and how much I worry about tiny mistakes and how much all feedback makes me cringe, and I think about it in terms of imposter syndrome.

And then I think, you crazy, arrogant bitch. Only talented people get imposter syndrome. Some people genuinely are just useless.

I take the feedback. I cheerfully agree to make suggested changes. I use my body language and tone to let my supervisor know I’m not taking it personally, even though I totally am (sometimes he suggests something and asks if I agree, like he’s worried I mind his opinion and wants me to feel it’s collaborative. I recognise his kindness but resent being patronised). It’s not his fault that a perfectly reasonable comment can send me spiralling into self-loathing.

I felt like this for a while at my last job. And the one before. Eventually I got good enough to not have to feel like this.

I hope I catch up to that stage soon.

Hey

Posted on: September 22, 2019

So, some things have happened.

At the beginning of the year I got the news that I (along with all of my colleagues) was going to be made redundant sometime next year. The uncertainty and the constant looming threat made me anxious, so I decided not to wait, to forfeit my redundancy money and move on to a new job if I could find one.

I got a job. 35% higher salary than my old one, at a bigger, faster-paced company. I’ve been there 4 months now. It’s going pretty well – it’s hard because I don’t know what I’m doing so much, I’ve gone from being an expert to being new, and there is a loss of control involved in that. But, stable employment. A sense of momentum. And I’ve received a lot of positive feedback.

One of my greatest strengths is my ability to shrug off a part of my life like an old coat, and pick up another. I know it comes from a fairly unhealthy place – it’s my lack of connection with other people, my obsession with self-sufficiency, my icy cold core that allow this to happen. But it is one of the things that’s kept me alive so long – the way I can step out of one situation and emerge completely free of it, unencumbered, and step into something else.

I’ve established a new routine. Everything is in place. I have some security.

I do feel pretty lonely though. As I age I get more and more trapped between the fear of being alone and the fear of letting anyone in.

I know I’m a little down because I’m feeling sad that no-one will have anything to say at my funeral. I’m not planning to die any time soon, but death feels like a very real and terrifying prospect and I know I haven’t achieved anything. I’m afraid of dying and leaving no mark whatsoever.

Sorry. This took a turn.

Hello

My name is Laura. I was once told that I have cyclothymia. This blog is mostly where I write about living as a person with extremes and instability of mood, and the history of a life that led to the development of those symptoms.

I complain a lot, I'm very repetitive, unreliable, and I tend to contradict myself.

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