Friday, July 08, 2011

My Illness, continued...

I've already made my private suffering public, and if this blog is of any use to other sufferers, perhaps the invasion of my privacy I have so willingly invited can serve some useful purpose.  The two comments on my last post seem to support this hypothesis.

Clinically I don't know how to diagnose myself exactly at this point; depression and anxiety fill the bill with the occasional relief of getting outside myself in viewing a raven's flight or watching my little dog prance in the high grass. 

Our garden flourishes besides, to use that cliche' a virtual "riot of color."  Nasturtiums spill out onto the path and up the deck; centranthus waves its pink efflorescences above exploding pansies; lavender is near full bloom and becoming too large for our little plot (I prefer the more compact bloom of the Spanish lavender to the usual Provence lavender); six dahlias are climbing up to the sun for their August revelation, and the heath called "Purple Beauty" is just that.

I dread my 2 PM appointment today with my therapist, who is using her own style of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  For those not familiar with this term, the principle invoked is that thoughts precede feelings and only by changing our thoughts can we change our feelings.  Paradoxically, as a manic-depressive, I have always experienced the opposite, that feelings precede thoughts.  I am overwhelmed by feelings when a depression strikes, the same with the rare mania.  And then the thoughts follow.  I can't think myself into a mania or a depression.  But once the mood takes hold, my thoughts naturally follow--I feel so low that I think I ought to do the world a favor and commit suicide, for instance, or as my past mania demonstrated in these pages, I feel so high that I think I am the new messiah and can solve all the world's problems in an eyeblink.  What has helped me in the past is medication, not therapy.  And on one occasion at the age of 30, ECT turned me around.  Sadly in '08 (thank you Sis, for your help) and this year, ECT did nothing but render my noggin even more foggy with no essential  relief.  It was like a good hangover, clearing the mind of anything but immediate survival, but like a good hangover, it didn't last.  The one tangible benefit of my 45-day hospitalization at UCSF was that I was discharged no longer "actively" suicidal.  That does not mean I am by any means cured of the thought, only that I recognize (and here CBT obtains) that my thought of suicide is a globalization for intolerable feelings.

How do I spend my days?  Reading, mostly, mainly brain candy--mysteries by P.D. James and Elizabeth George et alia, the latter being my favorite, as her deep characterizations qualify as "literature."  There are so many hacks out there, like James Patterson, whose cartoonish books I have suffered without much pleasure.  The point of reading, however, in my present condition, is pure escape.  Escape.  Escape seems to be my M.O. these days--to sit and have to listen to my twisted thoughts is a toxic experience I would wish on none.

At the base of it all is a lack of confidence, to put it mildly.  Lately I had to make a decision on a new vacuum cleaner and it taxed me to no end.  I finally settled the problem by buying the exact same kind, belt-driven, when I knew I ought to have bought a self-driven vacuum, but I was so anxious about the decision that buying the same vacuum seemed the easiest way out.  I found, push come to shove, that I couldn't really wrap my brain around an independent and logical decision, so I just went with habit.  Now I can look forward to ten years of changing belts and the burning smell that comes when the roller snags a long string of carpet.  Ecch.

I could list the cornucopia of symptoms for depression and anxiety, but there is no need, as they will come out in examples.  Suffice it to say that getting through a day for me is extremely heavy lifting, from the simple activity of washing the dishes to the more extraordinary courage it took to actually reveal myself in this blog.  Blog as therapy, I might add again.  Do not attempt this at home!


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