the nature of

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about .. the nature of .. things.

(Some people don’t like dots in writing but I put dots where I pause in my thoughts, because I think it helps to show that I am considering what words are best to express the ideas I want to express, and also that the words I eventually settle on may be the ‘best’ ones but they’re not necessarily precisely representative of what I want to say. Just FYI.)

About .. how I am separate from any conditions that I have, or that my body has. But the weaknesses of my body are such that they sometimes directly influence the expression of my self. These thoughts are a strange combination of scientific and existential. There’s a quote I’ve seen on pinterest, and it’s usually attributed to C.S. Lewis but according to wikiquote this is incorrect.

“You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.”
Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

I do think that basically, I am a happy person. I am an optimist. I may not always act like I am those things, but that’s because of mismatched chemicals in my brain which are preventing me from remembering that, from living that, in this physical existence. Me, the soul, is a blissful being who believes that the greatest happiness and potential for realising our inner power comes from loving and accepting and being loved and accepted. The me that is here and now in this lifetime still believes those things but is held back from truly living this and touching this power because of the limitations of the vessel required to participate in this physical existence. Perhaps it is that I am not yet evolved enough to be stronger than those limitations, to be able to believe despite the doubt inherent in the body. I have a memory of a scene from an episode of TOS popping into my head. The crew are under attack from a source that they know is not real, an illusion being planted in their brains. And they can understand that intellectually but are unable to face the situation with absolutely no doubt that it cannot harm them because of the nature of their humanity. Spock, being only half-human and having the rigid mental control characteristic of Vulcans, can face the situation with no doubt and by mind-melding with the others allows them to share his absolute conviction. (Googling informs me that the episode is Spectre of the Gun.)

So how is that relevant to me, and this caravan of thought? A couple of things come from it.. The suggestion that if only I had better mental control I could make myself immune to the ‘demons’ that plague me. Or that reality is only what you believe it to be and can only affect you as much as you allow it to? The first idea is one I rank up there with the whole snap out if it type mindset, or even worse the just take some vitamins group. I’m not saying I think vitamins are useless, it is obviously documented that certain deficiences can cause similar depressive symptoms. But that’s not everyone. Not every person on this planet who struggles with depression has a vitamin deficiency. And with snapping out of it, the point is that you can’t do that: no matter how much you tell yourself about the things you have to be happy about, no matter how you try to focus on those, no matter how logically you look at your life to see that there is no reason for you to be feeling this way… you still do. I know I have a fantastic husband, and the kind of connection with him that lots of people only dream about finding. I know we have three brilliant and awesome (if occasionally frustrating and annoying) children. I know that we have a roof over our heads, clothes and food and many things that are not really necesseties. But for all that those things give me joy — I still also have pain in my heart and my brain at the same time; doubt that I am not deserving of these things, doubt that I am doing enough to make my family’s lives’ as good as I possibly can, despair that I won’t ever be able to give enough, doubt that I am good enough for them, fear that one day my fears and doubts will push my family away because they don’t understand why I feel those things. Guilt, because I wish they could understand but knowing that true understanding can only come from experiencing and experiencing what I do is not something I ever want them to have to do.

It’s not always that terrible. Most days, because of the medicine I take and the counselling I have recieved, it’s a background noise that you are so used to that you forget it’s there. It’s the buzzing insects and chirping birds and rustling leaves making the soft noises they always make and they are just part of the landscape. It’s never perfect quiet but you learn to ignore them enough to go about your day. But every now and then, a cockatoo will fly into my garden and the screech he makes is an explosion of pain inside my heart and soul that feels too big for my body to contain and makes me feel that if only I could create some openings in my body, some of the pain would escape and I would feel so much better. I haven’t done that but sometimes when the peace is disturbed it is so hard to hold onto the rational part of my mind that knows it wouldn’t work.

It’s very hard to admit that I think about things like that sometimes. I don’t want to seem like (and I realise the irony of this statement) a real crazy person and I don’t want to seem like an emo who wants to do this because all the other cool (uncool?) kids are doing it too. We often joke about being crazy but truly I don’t think I am crazy, because that to me implies a loss of the awareness of reality. I do think that I have tendencies towards exaggeration and paranoia in what my mind tells me people think of me and feel about me but I try to remind myself that I am probably wrong because I don’t think those sorts of negative things about people so why would anyone else do it about me? The place where this comes undone though is when I get reminders that many of my thought patterns do seem to be different than the ‘average’ person — sometimes on big things.. live and let live, make love not war.. and sometimes on random things like writing on roads that always seems to me to be written backwards (they recently painted DOWN SLOW all around the driveway of the complex that we live in) but obviously if everyone thought it was backwards they wouldn’t do it that way.

Then there is the concept of my mind being in control of my reality and if I wanted it enough I could re-form my reality so that this problem did not exist for me. This is a difficult one.. it’s all kinds of philosophical and quantum physics-al and some of the research and theories there sort of make my head hurt. On some levels I do think that we are in control of the reality we exist in but I’m not sure that it’s controllable on the level of.. the person in the physical body. If I can change my reality then I can change other people’s reality, since there are so many overlaps, and that would just create a mess and paradoxical states where different people were trying to create non-compatible situations and it would all end up very… chaotic. I think it’s probably more on the level of… the me that exists beyond the physical body, my higher self if you like.. has collaborated with the same parts of the people who have lives overlapping my own, and we have ended up with this reality and time and place and circumstance that allows each of us to learn and experience what we need to learn in order to grow into something more. Saying that, however, suggests that I chose to be like this and then that just sounds.. well.. masochistic. Or else it implies that ‘all suffering has a greater purpose’ which is not something that I agree with either. But I think maybe some suffering has a greater purpose.. and if the learning does not come from the suffering itself, then perhaps the suffering is necessary to shape you into a person who will be receptive to lessons coming from somewhere else or necessary to strengthen you into a person who can do something important to help others with their lessons.

Maybe it is hard to live with this, to deal with this, to watch the sky and worry about when a cockatoo will flutter in and disturb the peace with it’s screeching.. because I don’t know what the purpose of it is. I don’t know what I am learning or what I am meant to learn. I don’t know with absolute certainty that there is a purpose and a lesson and that I can survive. I don’t have a Vulcan to give me that peace of mind but even if I did I don’t know if it would help. Knowing obliterates the need for faith, and knowing you can survive something means that you don’t have to feel the pain as deeply since you are assured that you will come out the other side anyway. Feeling the pain and struggling to keep the hope that you will survive, struggling to remind yourself that you are not the pain and the blackness, that is the hard part. Keep struggling, keep fighting, keep trying.. trying to remember the true me.

the nature of

how i am

A lot of people are in the habit of also asking how you are when they greet you. I am not. I worry sometimes that they think I’m being rude, but I’m not.

I hate being asked how I am, because I know that they generally expect me to say something like ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or maybe even ‘great’. But I can’t answer like that.. because very often I’m not. Or I’m not necessarily not good but how I am cannot be summed up into a simple word. So I am left floundering wondering how exactly I should answer, because I don’t want to lie, because that would be rude, but I also don’t really want to give a truthful answer because I’m pretty sure that’s not what they actually want to hear. And depending on who it is asking, there’s a good chance that I might not really be comfortable with explaining the whole truthful answer to them. Revealing the extent of my struggles is not something I can do with everyone. So if I manage to get past this hurdle and mumble out a ‘fine thanks’ or similar, I’m still off kilter from the momentary panic caused by trying to figure out the right answer to give, that I generally forget that the social convention is now for me to return the enquiry until after they’ve already walked past or moved on or whatever.

So then I’m left wondering if they are now walking away thinking that I’m rude, or maybe just strange, and that bothers me because I’m not rude (well, sometimes I am, but in these cases I am not trying to be), I’m actually a nice, polite person.. it’s just that they were the ones that flustered me by asking me a question for which there is no simple answer. And that in turn makes me feel annoyed at them for putting me in that position in the first place.

Hence the reason that I don’t ask people how they are, even if I am the first one to extend a greeting or even if I have more than a passing interest in their wellbeing, like with Daniel or my Mum or someone else who is a friend rather than just an acquaintance. I don’t want to inadvertently cause someone else the same inner discomfort that I get caused every time someone asks me how I am. And I am reasonably sure that for the people that I do care about, if there is something I need to know about that is upsetting or annoying or making them sick.. they’ll tell me anyway. (Some of them will even tell me multiple times. Not mentioning any names. Kristian.)

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to not have to struggle. To ask everyone you greet how they are because you genuinely have no concept that for some people it’s not a simple enquiry but an interrogation that sparks off a mini panic on the inside because they don’t know how to answer. I wonder, because I can’t imagine. I really cannot comprehend being so unencumbered by the inadequacies of my own intellect that these interactions could be so simple and honest that as soon as you’ve asked and heard the positive answer, you’ve already moved onto the next topic since that one didn’t require any further action by you.

What do these people do with their brains the rest of the time, when they are not struggling against themselves? What else could I do with my brain if so much of it wasn’t dedicated to just managing to do the things I have to do?

how i am

one twelfth of an hour

i am waiting for my turn to see the head doctor. i screwed up and got here an hour earlier than i was supposed to be.
this morning, while we were gathering enough energy and motivation to get up and get in the shower..
me: i am kind of.. something.. about taking lithium. apprehensive? but that isn’t quite the right word.. what I knew of lithium before this led me to think that it was the kind of drug that only really crazy people take.
daniel looked at me with a sort of self-evident well, yes look.
but i didn’t think that i was that crazy.
but it kind of made me think: have i underestimated the severity of this condition that affects me? is that why i have struggled so much, because i have thought that i wasn’t ‘that bad’, because i thought that there were people way, way worse than me – people who get committed, people that need straight jackets and medicine in cups that they watch you take to make sure you take it, people who live in rooms with padded walls. people who need lithium.
i don’t think i’m anywhere near needing all of that stuff, but maybe the space separating me from people who are suffering that badly is not as wide as i thought. maybe i am just lucky because despite it all i have known deep inside that it is not right and not me and wanted to feel like i do on good days, every day.

it’s later now. evening.

i’m not going to be becoming a battery just yet. daniel understood this when i said it to him. i was somewhat surprised at that he got that to be honest. :)
turns out that a blood test the head doctor sent me for showed that i am deficient in iron and vitamin b12 and he thinks that i should have that fixed first because that could account for a part of why i have been so bad lately. vitamin b12 is apparently quite important in things the brain does. it could be that with those fixed and going to get some more counselling, the efexor that i am taking will do the job that it used to be doing effectively, again. or it might not.. and in that case we can consider giving the lithium a go in a month or two. i also have to get another blood test to check for a bunch of other things to try to find out why i have this deficiency. i think i need to have iron supplements to address that part too.. apparently i have heaps of empty capacity for iron in my cells but just not actually enough of the iron. something like that anyway. i asked for a copy of the results so that i could google all the acronyms afterwards (i didn’t say that bit about the googling, of course) but he said he was going to send one to my gp and seemed to think that fulfilled the request. but apart from those two things everything else was good, i have no anaemia, my neutrophils are as good as my mother’s (post neulasta), my cholesterol is good, my thyroid is good.
so i am going back to luke now, to have the iron and b12 things taken care of and to organise getting some counselling happening. may have to wait until next week to see him now, since it will take a couple of days for blood test results to get to him and by then it will be thursday or friday, and thursday is nanna’s medicine day™.

didn’t feel very good this afternoon and evening. it is tiring articulating the mental things and i had a headache and sore neck, i think that is from the chairs in the waiting room at the hospital. then when certain young persons started being disagreeable… well, that didn’t go well.

please note: we frequently refer to ourselves as “crazy”. this may not be the accepted vernacular for people suffering from mental illnesses, but it’s not meant in a bad way. i guess it’s vaguely like the way gay people reinvented ‘queer’ to their own purposes rather than the derogatory way it was first intended. so please no offense being taken.

one twelfth of an hour

three hundred seconds

it tends to get later than one plans and you realise that you still haven’t spent that five minutes you told yourself you were going to spend, and part of you really just wants to chill with sudoku or the book of the moment but it would be really, really lacklustre to fail at the five minutes a day after just one day…
so, if there is in fact anybody other than my mother reading this, it occurred to me that perhaps some elaboration on yesterday’s outpouring would be useful. a few months back I noticed that I wasn’t feeling as I should be, at the time I took a brief mental note of it and decided to be aware of it, to see if it was a bad week or something or if it was something actually not working properly in my head.

and it slowly declined over a few months – probably not helped by the life-changing events of late, but not caused by it; this was there before all that started. after a couple of serious low episodes I knew it wasn’t a bad week, and I knew that it was time to get help. so initially, luke increased my dose of efexor, with a one month return date to discuss the effectiveness of the change. that put me up to 450mg a day, which is quite a high dose.
didn’t work. when we went back, we talked about the options available – another increase in dose or a switch to a different drug. another increase would really start to go into the uberserious high range, which he felt was going past his comfort zone as a gp rather than someone specialising in nutcases who has more familiarity and experience with the effects of those kind of levels of the drug. Since the increase we already did failed to make any noticeable difference, he thought that perhaps trying something else would be better, and also to refer me to a proper head doctor because maybe i was severe enough to warrant the consideration of other treatments such as ect.
it was at that point, when he started to talk about weaning me off the efexor in order to try something else, that Daniel and my mother practically begged him to not make me be drugless for any stretch of time. Could he give me something else to balance it out, they asked. what if this, what if that, they asked. basically, he said, was that what it came down to was living through it or sedating me through it, which is obviously not a particularly practical option. in the end, we decided to leave the drugs as they were and just go with the referral to the head doctor, so that they could advise us on the best course of action.

so two weeks ago daniel and I went to the head doctors, and I explained in great detail my life story and the exact nature of the darkness that invades my mind, which took several hours and a lot of effort, as sometimes it is extremely difficult to translate into words the feelings and non-verbal thoughts that I experience, and where they come from and how I percieve them and how they affect me and how I fight them, and about how the war has not been going well..

the good thing is that head doctor man (who I don’t think looks old enough to be a head doctor man) doesn’t think that i am at the level yet to consider ect, he thinks that there are more pharmacological options to try before we get to that point. The bad thing was that in order to try some of those pharmacological options, I had to wean down to a lesser dose of the efexor before I can have another drug added in. so that has been going on for the last two weeks, two dose reductions a week apart. the first was the worst, the first three days in particular I felt like absolute shite – shaking, nausea, retching, sweats, vagueness, tiredness. it was like that the second time too but to a much lesser degree.

and now tomorrow I will go back to head doctor man and tell him about the last two weeks and he will check the blood test results he sent me to have. we are supposed to also talk about getting some further counselling since it has been beneficial to me in the past, and then talk about/arrange the introduction of a new drug: lithium.

three hundred seconds

five minutes

I am really out of the habit of recording the processes of my brain, and I would like to fix that. I decided to set a new rule for myself to try to do at least five minutes of thought pouring each day.
One of the the reasons I want to do this again is because the processes of my brain are somewhat in flux at the moment and I would like to keep a record of that. last week we went to toft and we did the exercise we sometimes do where we each select a card and then everyone else tells us what they see in that card. I had a few differing responses to my card, but one of the things that i got from it was that darkness can’t be removed or erased without rendering the light meaningless. darkness and light are rely on each other to exist, to have definition. light cannot be defined as the absence of darkness of there is no such thing as darkness. so in order to be able to live in the light, I need to accept and allow that the darkness must be there. I must know what the dark looks like and feels like so that I can reach towards the light and so that I can recognise when I am there.
this is not to say that I think I didn’t or don’t know that, but that maybe I have been forgetting it a bit as the darkness grows and I feel a desperate need to have it fixed, taken away, cured, banished before it drowns me. I don’t want to drown, i want to float on top of the water… But I want to acknowledge the monster below and respect it’s power so that I can enjoy the breeze and sun on my face as i bob along the surface without being in constant fear that it will leap up to eat me.

my card was ‘comparison’ from the osho zen deck, which I borrowed from my mum since I forgot mine.

five minutes