What’s changed?

This is a question I am answering a lot right now, from my therapist, from my primary care, from myself.  What’s going on that triggered all this acute anxiety and apparent depression?  I’d say it’s “mild” depression, although it’s resulted in my losing 10 pounds now so I’m not sure how “mild” that is.  And which came first, that’s the question I’m asking myself too, although so far I’m the only one asking that.

I discussed some of the very good possible reasons for why this could be happening right now, some of the factors leading up to it.  Focusing in on one or two of those right now, because it’s been on my mind this morning.

I don’t like feeling helpless, I don’t like being or feeling disabled.  It’s been a source of frustration for me since the health problems started.  I have managed those feelings largely through avoidance, avoiding situations where I will have to confront my inability to do something or to do it successfully using the tools I have available.  At work, that could mean something like avoiding meetings in a hot room, trying to reschedule elsewhere, because I will get sick and not be able to actually work…I may even pass out or come close enough to it that I will need to be “rescued” by someone and taken home.  I hate being rescued, in no small part because people do it badly…I don’t just mean they make you feel bad about it (they do, more often than not) but that they do the actual practical stuff badly.  E.g., I got a ride home from work from my brother once.  He showed up drunk, drove like a maniac, swearing like a sailor, agitated, slurring his speech (only a little, “just a little buzzed!”).  It was terrifying.

But it’s not just the rescuing.  It’s the confrontation of my inabilities.  My disabilities.  My “special needs”, which in the context of others’ apparent inability to actually account for and respect those needs, leave me damndably frustrated and often lacking having achieved my goal anyhow.  Sometimes expending more energy and time and health on trying to do it that way, so how much of an accommodation is that?

It’s not good for me, for who I am, to have to think of myself as incapable.  So much of my ego and personality and the glue that holds me together is a sense of my own competence.  That has been very shaken, a series of shakings that started that first time a friend and my boyfriend had to carpool up from the Great New England Wilderness to Northeastern Historic City to rescue my ass because I had driven up alone and then become too ill to drive myself home.  Big trans-state things like that, little tiny things daily.  Less now that I’m not working, and that’s actually been great for my mental health.  But then came the disability application process, and in it you have to really sit down and analyze and catalog all the ways, big and small, that you are incapable.  What you can’t do, why you can’t do it, when you can’t do it, if you can do it at all, how?  what your “special needs” are and whether they work to make you actually be able to do it or just do some semblance of it.  Like laundry.  I “help” with the laundry by moving the clothing from the washer to the dryer, in stages if it’s not a small load.  My husband does the laundry though, he’s the one hauling baskets up and down stairs, so he’s the one starting the wash and since he’s down there usually the one moving the clothes (all in one quick go) from the washer to the dryer.  I “help” with groceries, I help make the list, I put things away when my husband gets home.  I can’t write it like that for the disability form though, it’s all about what you CAN’T do and why, or the limits of what you can do.  I’d have to explain why I can’t go grocery shopping myself, that the standing and navigating a heavy cart around (fucking morons) people in the store is too physically demanding for me, that I get hurt, that I get dizzy, I start having cognitive problems (memory, concentration, mood) because I’m now orthostatic from being up walking around so long, and I forget items, have to decide if I have the energy to go back and get them or just skip them and maybe postpone some meal I was going to make….you have to give these details of WHY you can’t do what you can’t do.

I think that process broke me.  I have not been the same since.  Admittedly, that process was during the cycling nausea hell months and was also when my GI doc upped the crazy-making Reglan.  Talk about your confounds.  But focusing just on the question of “what changed”, i.e. assuming it wasn’t the Reglan, or wasn’t only the Reglan, what changed now that has made me feel so full of worry and sometimes dread, so detached and disengaged even from the things I used to take pride in doing (taking care of myself, my home).  What changed was that I got broken in March, and now it’s the anniversary of when things all went to shit at work, a reminder that although I tried as hard as I could manage, I could not keep my job, keep my boss happy/satisfied enough that she wasn’t making my life hell, keep my commitments to work even with two work at home days and still manage to take care of myself.  Happy anniversary.

I’d have needed my usual if not regular resources – not the least of which is that crucial belief in self competence – to get through this time period well.  Is it any surprise that now that I’m here after March having broken me, having shaken deep cracks in my sense of self competence, what was going to be a hard time turned into a nightmare?  In all of my list of intrusive concerns, the focal points (when they are discernable, they were initially, the metamorphosis they’ve taken into a general dread is only recent) have to do with competence and capability.  Even the ones about people dying, the start out with the thought of “where would I be without this person?  how could I live?” and they turn into tragic, compulsive set of scenarios playing out in my head of them being dead and me being told, crumbling from grieve, so intense that I actually start grieving now and have to try to calm myself down and remind myself that they are not, it’s ok.  But it could happen, some ugly little bastardly part of my brain adds in at those times.

It’s tempting to say “SHUT THE HELL UP!” to that ugly part of my brain, but I’ve found that being ugly back to the ugliness just makes more overall ugliness.  It just feeds it.  I think I need to find a way to be nice.  This is hard, in part because anger and prickly hostility is a tool I’ve used that makes me feel strong, stronger than sorrow or empathy for someone who is hurting me, even when that someone is myself.

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