What It’s Like Living With Depression, Anxiety, and OCD

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Note:
Yes, this was written during a current dark period. Yes, this may be triggering for some. No, it’s not a suicide note. I recently gave someone a short incomplete answer to the question in the first sentence. This is merely my attempt to rectify that with a better, more complete answer.
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What’s it like living with a major depression disorder, generalized anxiety, and an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Everyone thinks it’s suicidal thoughts and self-harm, but that’s not always the case. I’ll try to give you an idea of what it’s really like.

It’s staying up way too late not necessarily because you’re not tired, even though insomnia is a regular problem too, but because you don’t want your wife to see you cry. It’s crying yourself to sleep at night because you feel like a failure at everything you attempt. It’s feeling like a burden on your wife and wishing you just don’t wake up tomorrow because you know things would be easier on her if that were the case.

It’s feeling like a failure no matter what you attempt. It’s rejection notices or coming in second or third or not placing at all. It’s not being able to find a way to make an income out of the things you enjoy the most. It’s feeling like every path just leads to a locked door. It’s following a path you think is the right one only to discover way too late that it’s another path to nowhere. It’s applying for jobs you’re overqualified for because you know you should be working, but getting passed over. It’s being absolutely terrified of applying for a job that says “fast-paced environment” or “requires multitasking” because your brain can’t take the stress.

It’s making a set of plans for tomorrow for job searching, resume writing, and contacting potential references tonight. Then, waking up tomorrow too tired, exhausted, and mentally wiped to do things you put on your to-do list.

It’s sitting in a therapist office and playing down how you really feel or what’s really bothering you because you think there are so many others in worse shape. It’s reading the symptom list for ptsd and matching most of it, but not having the “combat experience” to explain why you should have it. It’s hesitating to or not even mentioning the thoughts of wishing to not wake up in therapy because you’re afraid that’ll give them a reason to lock you away.

It’s wanting to have a plan for tomorrow and even making a list, but having your dog prompt you that she needs to go outside being the only reason you get up. It’s setting multiple alarms, hoping one will get you up, but not having the energy because just getting to sleep was a major chore last night. It’s being terrified of your dog getting older and knowing one day she’ll pass because she’s your main motivation for functioning on the really bad days. It’s feeling like the bad days outnumber the good days. It’s feeling like there’s too many bad days and not knowing why.

It’s trying to write a resume but being afraid to put any of your military experiences because a) you’ve been out too long or b) you’re afraid all the press on vet suicides and ptsd will cause them to not call. It’s going through schooling for specific jobs, qualifications, and plans, and then struggling to follow up on those educational experiences because you still feel underqualified or have experienced a lack of resources that makes you doubt your abilities.

It’s finding a little energy to write a text passage or do art work and then having those around you questioning why you can’t find the energy to do another task when you’ve had the energy and time to that one. It’s trying to lose yourself in video games or books because you struggle to put coherent thoughts together and the reading or the game tasks don’t demand as much.

It’s knowing you failed to help raise your stepkids because of things you either didn’t want to address or didn’t know how to address and then having one those stepkids constantly remind you of your failures and declare “you don’t deserve my mom”. It’s knowing he’s right and the knowing you tell yourself the same almost every day. It’s wishing you could have been a better parent but knowing it’s far too late to fix the mistakes you’ve made.

It’s good days providing so much energy that you accomplish so many things and forget to eat or to go to sleep on time. It’s bad days draining you from the moment your eyes open and not eating because the thought of food preparation feels like too great a task. It’s dreading the coming of winter and the fall seasonal storms. It’s desperately wishing spring and summer would never end for health reasons, but being glad they do for financial reasons.

It’s balancing a checkbook and never having enough to do the things you want to do. It’s having to reduce shopping lists and expense plans to essentials. It’s knowing that your lack of an income contribution keeps you from giving your wife the things you want to give her and keeps her from things she wants to do.

It’s wishing you had a way to explain what goes on in your head and inside you, but struggling to find the right words. It’s pouring thoughts onto paper to try and explain something so difficult to explain then having those words never read because it’s too long. It’s always thinking there’s never enough time to do things, but never having the energy when there’s time.

It’s praying for help, but feeling those prayers are never answered. It’s going through the motions of church and faith, but wondering why you don’t “feel” the things you’re supposed to feel. It’s wondering if the silence of your prayers is proof that the atheist are right and there’s no one there to answer. It’s reading about faith but not feeling it. It’s praying for salvation almost daily but never feeling saved.

It’s being medicated but also wondering if the medication is helping, It’s wondering if your dose is high enough at times and wondering if it’s too high at others. It’s occasional cutting because everything about you feels numb because of the medication. It’s finishing every day wishing you accomplished more, but lacking the energy to do anything about it. It’s feeling nauseated and sick for no reason at all.

It’s not telling your wife what you really feel because you don’t want to burden her or cause her worry. It’s feeling selfish when you have to leave somewhere or stop doing something because the dark shows up. It’s being short and rude without meaning to, but because something just feels off. It’s feeling irritable towards your wife when you have no reason to.

It’s never feeling normal.

Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.

When the Going Gets Tough, Hide and Hope for the Best

The last week or so has demonstrated more lows than highs. They say when it rains, it pours. I don’t know that I agree with that, but bad news always comes in waves.

For many military members and veterans, certain anniversary dates carry more weight and are harder than others. September 11 is one of mine. I was active duty at the time and participating in the exercise that was taking place that day. The exercise was to test U.S. Air Force response times to airborne threats. Ironically, for many of us, that day was seen as a failure of what we were practicing for.

That anniversary was followed by a pair of vehicle registration renewal inspections that should have been routine, but saw my vehicle out of commission for the better part of a week and a surprise $2k repair bill.

In the midst of all that, I did manage to meet a submission deadline for an art piece that I’m still waiting to hear back from. More information on that will be coming when I know more.

I also completed a pair of art projects for step-grandkids. Since those are sort of surprise Christmas presents for them, those will be revealed around Christmas to keep the surprise intact for them.

I’ve got a couple of reviews I’ll be posting this coming week. One for a book and one for a movie, both of which will definitely carry high recommendations from me.

Oh, and by the way, I know the science behind full moons, Friday the 13th, and depression says there’s no connections there. But that was absolutely a strange weekend for me.

Bad Days and Not So Bad Days

When I rebooted this blog, I made a promise to myself and the readers that I would never sugar coat things here. I don’t see how my experiences can help others if I falsely portray things as always okay and never experiencing bad days.

The past week and a half has been filled with bad days and not so bad days. A couple of days ago, irritability, agitation, and anxiety kept me awake until about 3am. Then, I followed that by sleeping in until noon the next day.

At first, I thought maybe I’d overcommitted myself. That may still be true. I’m not convinced that’s not part of the problem. I have several art projects running with deadlines coming within weeks, I’ve got writing projects in various stages of completion, I’m struggling to write absurd humor in a period where absurd humor seems to be the new normal of the real world.

I struggle with the issue of art, writing, and resources. I’m in one of the most productive periods of my life. However, I find us just making ends meet. Part of me thinks a new job search is order. Part of me worries that a new job search and a new job would reduce my creative productivity.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to spend some time in Azeroth, while I mentally work though some world building for my own writing.

Good Days, Bad Days

As anyone who’s ever fought with depression and anxiety knows. we have good days and bad days. Fortunately, the last couple of weeks were mostly on the good side and definitely on the busy side. In addition to working around prep work for the Fleur de lis exhibition, I’ve been lining up the next few rounds of projects. I’m just hoping I don’t over-commit myself as I’m usually prone to do and then end up regretting my project schedule on the bad days that will come along.

In the time between my Fleur de lis prep-work and now, Blizzard released the 8.2 Rise of Azshara patch World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. I’ve been actively watching the Women’s World Cup tournament and cheering on the American team. And, of course, in the U.S. we’ve also celebrated Independence Day this week. So, non-work hours have been and continue to be busy.

In art projects, I’m already doing pre-work and design work on projects for the next three Soulard Art Gallery exhibitions as well as a couple of personal projects. I also do church sanctuary and altar decorations and started working through the next few months projects for that.

In writing projects, I’ve signed up for and will be attending a Veterans Creative Writing Group through the St Louis Va Medical Center. This is a once a week session with writing based on a prompt and then reading and responding to each other’s pieces. I’m also working on a couple of other writing projects, some of which will be appearing here soon.

Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.

Father Martin

Over at Sober Coaches 4 Living‘s blog they’ve got several videos of Father Martin.

I’m not Catholic, but as a long-time 12 stepper, I’ve seen Father Martin’s incredible videos before. This is a real treat and my thanks to the bloggers there for sharing these.

If you’re not familiar with Father Martin, or don’t know where to start, at the very least I recommend this video:

12 Steps of AA with Father Martin.

The Hardest Part of the Twelve Steps

The 12 Steps is a reoccurring theme here for multiple reasons. But first among them is I believe in them and I live by them.

The hardest part of the 12 Steps is Steps 8 and 9:

  • 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Of course, with these two steps the difficulty begins the first time through the steps. Part of the difficulty is not so much Step 8, it’s easy to make the list of people you’ve wronged. Step 9 is difficult in and of itself. You have to swallow your pride and apologize for things you’ve done that hurt others.

Step 9 is further complicated by a couple of caveats in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: 1.) “There will be other cases where action ought to be deferred, and still others in which by the very nature of the situation we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at all.” and 2.) “While we may be quite willing to reveal the very worst, we must be sure to remember that we cannot buy our own peace of mind at the expense of others.”

I mention this because part of the responsibility of a 12 stepper is a constant inventory and review. For me, it seems like every time I review through these two steps, someone who was on a previous Step 8 list and was unavailable for Step 9 contact suddenly becomes available for Step 9 contact.

And, once again, this happened recently.

Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.

What a Bad Day Looks Like

Since my last post mentioned bad days interfering with writing and art projects, I decided to focus this post on what my bad days look like.

Of course, since no two bad days are identical, I can only give rough overviews of how mine tend to go.

The mornings:

Three things tend to happen here: I wake up extremely early (before 7am-ish), I wake up extremely late (after 10am-ish), or I didn’t go to sleep the night before. Normal waking up for me is between 7am and 730am with or without an alarm.

After waking up, the fun of getting up begins. These are two entirely different processes. Waking up is I’m awake. Getting up means getting out of bed. It’s always hard to get out of bed, but even harder on a bad day. Part of the lies depression tells is that “you can’t screw anything up, if you don’t get up.”

Getting to work:

Since unemployment/self-employment is a normal part of my life, my work day begins with starting up the computer, checking messages, and either prepping a Word writing page or an art page (either on the computer or on my drawing table).

Some bad days that Word document may sit empty or only get a few word thrown in. The art project may still be a blank sheet after several hours of “work”. Other bad days, the Word document is deleted multiple times because nothing feels right when I reread it. The art project may now consist of multiple pages tossed aside, or started-and-stopped sketches over multiple pages in a sketch book.

End of the work day:

I may still be on attempt three of reading the same two or three paragraphs in one of the books I’m reading. I also may have spent three hours staring at the page and comprehending nothing of what I’ve read. Normally, I’ve got at least one nonfiction book I’m reading for research and one fiction book I’m reading for pleasure and research.

Work breaks:

My main work breaks usually involve World of Warcraft gaming, Facebook stuff, or random internet browsing. On the really bad days, I accomplish almost none of them.

Other features of the bad days:

  • brain fog where my brain feels like mush
  • eating is either eating way too much all day long or forcing myself to eat the one meal I will eat that day
  • random napping throughout the day

The really bad days have found me laying on the couch with Ancient Aliens or some other similar program that requires no critical thinking skills running in the background alternating with napping. Throw in overcast/rainy days or winter days and just about everything on the nonproductive side escalates.

Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.