gwynhefar: (did you know you could fly?)
[personal profile] gwynhefar
I have been recognising more and more lately just how deeply I have internalised the idea of mental health issues as being a weakness.  This frustrates the hell out of me because intellectually I don't believe that.  When I have friends who are dealing with mental health issues, I don't think of them as weak, or lazy, or somehow failures at life - I respect the hell out of them for just making it day to day.  But when it's *me* it's different.  Because while intellectually I know that what I'm going through is just as difficult as what my friends are dealing with, and that if I don't blame them for it I shouldn't blame myself, deep down I still *feel* like a failure, a weakling, someone deserving of scorn.

Growing up I lived surrounded by the notion that success in life equaled a good job, a spouse, a house with a yard, and some kids.  Maybe a dog.  Cats were for pathetic old spinsters.  I thought I'd rejected that idea in high school, and intellectually I did.  But deep down a part of me still measures success that way.  When I was growing up, anyone who was past thirty and didn't have that kind of life was considered somehow lesser.  In some cases, it was their fault -- they made bad choices.  They didn't work hard enough in school, they followed an unrealistic dream like playing in a band or being an artist, they were too stubborn to conform to the way the world works.  People with physical disabilities were pitied universally, and scorned or admired based on how they 'dealt' with their disability.  Always, there was to be a sense of mourning for the opportunity for a successful life that was taken from them - because of course whatever they made of themselves could never be as good as the traditional American Dream.

People with mental health issues were also universally pitied, but there was also a sliding scale of scorn depending on the nature of the disease and how close they came to achieving the Dream anyway.  People who were 'crazy' enough to be institutionalised were thought of much the same as those with physical disabilities, but with an added discomfort.  It was easier somehow, more comfortable, to be around someone in a wheelchair than to be around someone who kept talking to the voices in their heads.  The 'less serious' mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, were almost discounted.  It was like the mental equivalent of seasonal allergies.  Yeah, your eyes are itchy and watering and you're sneezing all over the place and you're very uncomfortable but you don't stay home in bed, you take your damn Allegra and go to work like a responsible, mature adult.  If you have depression or anxiety problems, that's too bad, and I'm sorry things are harder for you than for other people, but still, just take your medicine and power through.  Anything less is giving up, letting the disease 'win'.  Anything less is weakness, laziness.

For all that I've outwardly rejected this attitude, more and more I'm finding myself confronted by how much I still hold myself to this standard.  The horrible part is, the worse I feel about myself for my 'failures', the worse my depression gets, and the less I am able to 'power through'.  It's a constantly self-reinforcing cycle.  And I don't know how to stop it.  At any given moment I might tell myself that I'm allowed to take care of myself.  That the overwhelming apathy that keeps me from leaving the apartment some days isn't my fault.  And for an hour or two I might believe it.  And then when I find myself on the couch mindlessly watching old episodes of Castle, I'm suddenly overwhelmed by crushing guilt.  Here I am again, being lazy and self-indulgent, lounging on the couch watching TV when a successful, mature adult would be at work, powering through.  What a disappointment I am.  Am I really that weak that I can't get up and get dressed and go into work like I'm supposed to?  Or am I just selfish and self-indulgent and using my 'disease' as an excuse for yet another vacation day?  What must people think of me?  I was always so smart, I had everything going for me, how did I end up such a failure?

I'm trying so hard not to think like that, but it's too deep.  And I look at my life from the bottom of this deep fissure and I can see 'normal' life up there in the sun but it's too dark down here and the walls are sheer and I can't climb them and I have wings but they're hanging uselessly at my side and I can't muster enough energy to fly.  And I think, I'm stuck down here, and if I don't get out soon, it's going to rain, and I'm going to drown.

I look at my bank account and the money I've had to pull from savings to cover my time off work and wonder what I'm going to do when it runs out.  And I look at my job and I think of how my bosses can't possibly keep being as understanding as they have been, and eventually they're going to get tired of bending over backwards to accommodate an unreliable employee and I'm going to get fired.  And I look at my apartment and I think that it's a good thing I don't have friends over because the place is a mess and hell, if I don't get kicked out for being a slob I'll still have to move when I lose my job because even if I'm lucky enough to get disability it wouldn't be enough to pay the rent and I have to remind myself that I still have my job and I still have money in savings, and things aren't that bleak yet but I can't see any other path for the future.  Or rather, I can see them, but they're all overgrown with roots and bushes or blocked by rocks and cutting through seems impossible.

So this is where I am.  I'm at work today, for once, but other than scheduling a few meetings for later in the week I haven't accomplished anything other than surfing Facebook and reading articles on Cracked.  I don't hold much hope for the rest of the afternoon.  And when I'm done marking time here at work, I'll probably go home and lose myself in playing Skyrim, where I can slaughter bandits and rescue hostages and kill dragons and save the world.  Where I can pretend I'm a hero, and competent, and not a failure - for a little while.

Date: 2014-02-18 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amine-eyes.livejournal.com
*hugs incredibly tightly*

Oh hun, brains are complete dicks and I am sorry yours is being one for you. It is tough, and I hope you have someone your side of the atlantic to speak to.

*hugs even tighter*

It will be okay. It may not be for a while, but it will be, I promise on my cold black heart <3333

Date: 2014-02-18 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
Thank you :)

Date: 2014-02-18 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kk1raven.livejournal.com
I'm sorry that you're beating yourself up this way. I think a lot of good people hold themselves to higher standards than they hold other people. That seems to be particularly true where depression is involved. It seems like it is easier to see the truth when it affects someone else.

Depression is definitely not the mental equivalent of seasonal allergies. It is more like the mental equivalent of diabetes. Left untreated, it tends to kill you, or at least seriously mess you up.

I hope you can find your way out of thinking yourself a failure.

Date: 2014-02-18 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
Thanks. It's so frustrating because I *know* all that, but I can't make myself really feel it. Another thing I used to hear all the time growing up is that 'you can't control the things that happen to you but you can control how you react'. It always seemed to make sense but it's not really true because my brain lies.

Date: 2014-02-25 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cissa.livejournal.com
No.

You CANNOT control how you react.

You can- with care- control what you DO. That is very different.

Date: 2014-02-25 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
Yeah, I'm finding that out. Believe me, I wouldn't let nearly as many things hurt me if I could figure out how not to react with hurt.

Date: 2014-02-18 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] malinaldarose.livejournal.com
I have nothing really useful to say, but hugs if you want them.

Date: 2014-02-19 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
Yes please, and thanks :)

Date: 2014-02-19 10:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] malinaldarose.livejournal.com
Many hugs, then.

Date: 2014-02-19 02:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harkalark.livejournal.com
Not much to say other than I hope you find your way out of this. I miss you.

Are you familiar with Allie Brosh? You may find some kindred thoughts here:
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

Date: 2014-02-19 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
Oh yes, I have read those posts many many times and I bought her book. I love Allie Brosh - and everything she writes about depression is exactly how I tend to experience it, minus the suicidal impulses, thankfully.

Date: 2014-02-19 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tewok.livejournal.com
I'm so sorry these troubles plague you. I've got a little of the dual standards things myself, but not to the extent it sounds like you have. I have no advice or suggestions, as I am clueless about real depression. I'll be thinking of you and, of course, vhugs for you.

Date: 2014-02-19 05:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
Thanks. There isn't anything anyone can do because I already *know* all the good advice. It's just . . . a lifetime habit of thought doesn't change easily. It doesn't matter how many people tell me it isn't my fault, that I'm not weak, that I'm worthy - I don't believe them. I don't even believe it when my therapist says it because, hey, she's a therapist, that's her job. And a voice that sounds far too much like my parents' always points out that my therapist and all my friends are those coddling liberal types and just because they say it's ok doesn't mean it really is. I was raised with that good old fashioned American work ethic and in the good old days no one sat around complaining that they were too tired and depressed to go into work because we didn't have these fancy things like sick time and FMLA and all that so if you didn't go into work you didn't get paid and you got fired and then you couldn't buy food to feed your family so by god those guys did it anyway and if they could do it what does it say about you that you can't, or won't?

I rejected that attitude and swore I'd never judge the people in my life like that. And I don't. I just judge me that way.

Date: 2014-02-25 03:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cissa.livejournal.com
In the "good old days" a lot of people took to their beds and became invalids. Historical fact, if they or their families could afford it.

Date: 2014-02-25 05:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
True. Sadly, no one's going to pay to keep me fed if I take to my bed as an invalid. FMLA is a life-saver: so far it's allowed me to keep my job.

Date: 2014-02-20 01:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] belgatherial.livejournal.com
Oh boy, do I hear you. This is all so, so familiar to me. I also hold myself to a whole different set of standards and rules than the ones I have for other people. I've clawed my way up a bit, but it's hard going. I love you. You're still amazing, even on the dark dats when you don't believe it.

Date: 2014-02-21 10:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kristen-mara.livejournal.com

Yes, I can certainly relate to that...

I'll send you a message on the weekend, but for now, BIG HUGS


Date: 2014-02-21 07:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwynraven.livejournal.com
Thanks :)

Date: 2014-02-25 03:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cissa.livejournal.com
Argh. My sympathies.

My own brain is a wanker. it gets all ambitious, and then bails before i can get stuff DONE. So discouraging!

So, hugs.

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