Perfectly Broken

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Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression, anxiety, and self-loathing, and I figured I’d talk about it here, because chances are other folks go through this too and it’s always helpful to know one is not alone. General content warning for the post.

So, first: I want to say that objectively, my life is pretty great. And subjectively, too. I’m engaged to a really awesome person who respects me and my career. We live together in a nice place, in a nice neighborhood. I’ve started a new business and my career as an author is going pretty well. Overall our life is a nice thing.

But of course this does not preclude shitty things happening to us, and of course our lives are not 100% great. There are definitely areas that are causing some long-term stress and, for me at least, depression, anxiety, and all those other fun things I get to deal with already for no particular reason. Except now they’re being given a reason, and I’m finding my already fragile mental state being poked at constantly.

The main thing that’s poking the bear of mental illness for me right now is my physical state. Some of you know that almost 3 years ago I suffered a spinal injury. That’s actually not entirely accurate; the injury itself happened in 2009. It didn’t flare up like a fireworks show, however, until 2012, leaving me bedridden and unable to walk for weeks. After a lot of hard work in physiotherapy, I slowly was able to walk with a walker for short bursts, and then longer bursts, and then finally upgraded to a cane. I’ve been walking with a cane since 2012, though there have been times when I’ve been able to go without for a short period of time.

Likely, had I continued with the physio after getting to that state of wellness, I would eventually have gotten to a point where I could walk without a cane, and probably get somewhere near the state of health I was at before the injury knocked me down. Even in the years I had the injury but it hadn’t flared up I was doing pretty well, despite the new, sharp, knife-twisting pain in my lower spine that I had chalked up to “Another weird permutation of the chronic back pain I’ve had my entire life because genetics is a shitty lottery.”

But I didn’t continue with the physio. I quit in 2012. This wasn’t because I wanted to, or because I thought I was done: I wanted to continue and knew I needed more. But I could not find a new physiotherapist when I went back to Nanaimo after staying in Coquitlam for several weeks, and not only that — the price went up. You only get a few visits at the reduced rate with a doctor’s prescription, you see, and I would need to continue to go every week to see progress.

Fifty dollars a week is too steep for me. Then, and now.

So for 2 years I have lived no where near what “normal” is for me, just dealing with the pain, taking a strong painkiller on the days when I can’t move without it, and continuing to do things that are probably contraindicated for my spine’s condition but hey, what else am I going to do? My social life has dropped off considerably and my ability to do a lot of things in a short period of time has gone to zilch, approximately. I now need a few days to recover after an event that wouldn’t have left me winded 3 years ago.

It has been an adjustment, to say the least. I still overextend myself because I am used to a body that can handle more than it can. And though mentally I have gotten better since it first happened, I still have dark nights of the soul.

So when I broke my leg this summer — 3 months exactly as of this coming Saturday — I slipped into depression again.

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Mental Breakdowns, Medication, and Optimism

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I keep questioning myself on how open and honest I should be on my blog. Sometimes I think I should share everything, hold nothing back, and just be myself. Other times I think I should keep as much private as possible — only show the good sides, only have positive, uplifting things to say. I’ll admit, that opinion is heavily influenced by most ‘blogging advice for writers’.

It’s wrong, though. At least, it is if you’re blogging about your life.

My phone alarm just went off with a certain theme from Doctor Who. It’s an 11th Doctor theme, and generally plays when he’s racing to save the day and you just know he’s going to succeed. This is also Ogre’s ringtone, but my phone didn’t play it because he was calling.

It played it to remind me to take my Zoloft.

I took my meds again yesterday, after being off them since December. Today, I took them again — a complete 24 hours later. On time, correctly. For the past three and a half months, I’ve been functioning pretty okay without my meds, and I stopped taking them because I was throwing up after swallowing the pill (that hasn’t happened again, so I may have just had a mild flu, or something). So I didn’t really see the need to start up again. I was doing okay.

That obviously changed. Had a mental breakdown this week. Was on the verge of another, until I took my Zoloft. Then I was a few feet back from the verge, but it took until this morning to really kick in.

The Zoloft didn’t fix the problem, but what it did do was calm the anxiety that was clouding my thoughts and give me a chance to breathe. And then I was able to see the source of the problem — which, again, not a fix, but I’m now very far back from the edge of any more breakdowns, which is better than I was doing a few days ago.

Still not entirely stable. Slowly getting there.

This is all related to Spring Mysteries, by the way. While there I had a pretty profound experience, and it was good. It started me on the road to healing. I forgot, of course, that when you get a bunch of poison expelled from you that little bubbles remain, and can erupt. I forgot that a large, or perhaps small and just very strong, part of my brain is dedicated to making sure I don’t heal: it’s the part of my brain that lies to me, that tries to sever what little support I have, that convinces me I’ll always be broken and worthless.

Medication, at this point, really helps in shutting that part of my brain up.

I’m not going to get into specifics about what the mental breakdown was surrounding. Suffice it to say my brain lied, and tried to cut me off from my support system, but I persevered and did not give in. With a bit of help from Zoloft, of course.

And today I made the decision to blog about it. To talk about my mental illness publicly, while I’m still not wholly stable. I’ve done this before, but not really like this. I’ve never blogged while I was this unstable. Or if I have, I haven’t been able to talk about that instability with any sort of optimism.

Today, I can do that. I can talk about my instability with optimism, because it’s temporary.

I am going to get better.

I will probably never be 100% healed, and I may always need medication of some sort (whether or not Zoloft continues to work for me). That’s fine. I just want to get to a point where I can go a week, month, year without trying to push everyone I love away from me. 

It’s doable, because my optimism has now reached the same level of tenacity and stubbornness as my mental illness, and I am one tenacious, stubborn bastard myself.

I am going to get better.

And no one, not even my asshole brain, is going to stop me.

-Kat

PS. The past few days have given me a possible memoir title: A Series of Mental Breakdowns. Funny, y/y?