I may never be well

I often feel like a prisoner in my own head. Like I’m trapped inside, and can see, hear, and feel things from the outside world, but I just can’t truly reach out. Like I’m missing a sixth sense that everyone else has that allows them to experience and really be apart of the world.

It’s amazing that I know my perception is wrong, I know my emotional state is off, and that my feelings of depression, anxiety, and the paranoia that people simply tolerate rather than truly love me is just delusion. And when I see someone else struggling with a mental health issue that skews the way they take in reality, I want nothing more to open the door for them, to let them see themselves through my eyes and know that yes, you’re fine. You’re more than fine. You’re an amazing human being with unlimited potential who is infinitely beloved and you don’t have to earn that and there’s no way you could possibly lose it.

But I can’t do that for myself. I have people tell me they love me, help me out, give me gifts, and encourage me daily. But I still can’t, deep down in the core of my being, accept what they are saying is true. Any memory I have of being insulted, demeaned, or hurt takes top precedence in how I view myself and it takes serious mental heavy-lifting to depose even a single moment of depreciation.

I’ve talked about this at length before and I guess I don’t really need to go into all of it again. But I’ve been thinking about something that my doctor has told me a few times and I’ve been trying to find the right way to interpret.

If you have an episode of depression, you might need medication for an extended period. If you have several episodes, whether on or off medication, then you move towards finding a medication you can be on permanently. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s important to remember that a mental illness is just like any other illness or injury. Some last weeks or months, others last a lifetime.

And I know that I will be struggling with depression and anxiety for the rest of my life; I’ve accepted that. What I don’t think I’ve really thought about is what form that takes. Obviously my illness isn’t like breaking a bone, where it requires time to heal before it’s good as new. So is it like something more serious, like a repeated fracture or a spinal injury that will heal but never be quite the same again? Or is like a permanent paralysis, where the damage is irreparable, and  I may never be able to handle certain mental taxations again?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

I’m scared. I’ve been trying to be well, doing whatever I can to be well. I just want to be able to do what everyone else does so effortlessly. Wake up. Not hate yourself. Make breakfast. Feel like you can accomplish all the mundane tasks thrown your way. Go to work. Not feel scared of that something. That something you can’t explain, only feel.

I’m not saying I want to be immune to feeling sadness, stress, or anything negative. I just don’t want to be scared of doing average, everyday normal things that everyone else seems to be able to do all the time. I don’t know how you do it. To be honest, I’ve never known. I can’t remember ever really feeling prepared to handle my own life.

When I was a kid, I didn’t worry about that stuff because I was told I didn’t need to. I felt safe and protected, and it was as I grew that I started to see I was missing something that everyone else seemed to possess. The first time I ever felt depressed was when I was in Grade Four. I saw my school counsellor and after a few meetings I felt a little better, like someone had listened and understood what I was feeling.

The depression returned a few years later, but I just figured being sad was part of who I was. I didn’t say anything, I never mentioned it, I tried to ignore it. When I reached high school, I felt scared, alone, and anxious more and more often. I was told that was part of being a teenager, so I left it at that. The summer after I graduated was when there wasn’t any other excuses to be put in the way, so when I started crying for no reason and felt frightened of not just the distant future, but even the next day, I got to see some professionals and figure out what was going on.

I think I always thought it was just my personality. I thought I thought too much, so it was harder for me enjoy moments of joy like parties and big achievements without secretly feeling worried and morose.

Sometimes I feel like I should be locked up somewhere, so that way I wasn’t a burden on everybody else since I can’t do things like they all can. Maybe if I was separated from the real world, from the places where everyone expects accomplishments from you, then I could be at peace. I don’t want to sit around doing nothing, but I just feel like if I work on something that no one ever sees being made, no one ever makes judgments over, but something that still has some importance—even if it’s so minor and so looked over it scarcely matters at all—then maybe I can finally provide something for the rest of the world.

But I don’t know. The future scares me. All the mistakes of my past never leave me. And no matter what I look like on the outside, my present always has a twinge of discomfort and fear as its core.

Can I ever be well? I honestly don’t know what that would feel like. I’ve felt happy before, and free. As a kid, but also in recent memory. And I’ve even had several hours at a time of just plain contentedness and ease in my own skin, where the depression and fear are truly nowhere to be seen. It does happen, although I can’t imagine what it would be like to be OK with myself for days at a time.

So maybe that’s what the rest of my life will be like. I’ll always struggle with being content, feeling safe in my own head.

I know God promises an end to pain and fear in Heaven. I know that will be great, I just can’t imagine it right now. At my best times, it’s still a fleeting glimpse, the kind that disappears when you look too hard. Maybe that’s why I always feel angry whenever I hear Christians talking about how great Heaven will be. It’s like those magic eye things; I can’t see it and listening to you describe what you’re able to grasp that I cannot is frustrating.

And maybe I never will. So is that the last thing I need to grasp? I feel like I’ve come so far, finding an equilibrium of balance in my medications. I’m not well, but I’m better. At least, my body is. I still feel as uncertain and afraid as ever to make my way back to work, back to life in general, where everyone else is. I feel like I need the last piece, the last push towards an acceptable level of capability. So that’s it then? Accepting that I will never be well, that I can never fully imagine being well, but only feel this absence?

I’m frustrated more than anything. That can’t be it. I can’t live the rest of my life like this. How am I supposed to provide, emotionally and physically, for a family someday if I barely have enough wellness to provide for myself? Am I supposed to just… never be able to handle the things that everyone else adapts to so naturally? Do I accept that I will always feel lonely at get-togethers and never fully satisfied meeting up with any friends or family?

That can’t be it.

No.

I won’t accept it.

If it takes me half a lifetime, I will find a way to be well. A way to be able to handle life and have enough of myself to spare to help others. I don’t want to live the rest of my life in my own head. I want to give something, so I want to have enough to give.

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3 thoughts on “I may never be well

  1. Hi Clayton,

    Heavy.

    It is actually fascinating hearing what is in your head. I was born when my dad was 59. Mom was 48. It was a yours, mine and ours family. My brother Peter and I were the children of the second marriage. I was the youngest of 12. We had one brother that was 13 years older than Peter and the rest were all adults.

    My mom died when I was 11, so Peter and I were left in the care of our dad. He was in his 70’s trying to raise teenagers. He had struggled with depression when our mom was alive, but we were not aware. She was vibrant, energetic and bossy. With her in charge, he functioned very well.

    After her death, it became my responsibility to run the household. You know – Mennonite role expectations.

    Dad was bereft without her. I felt his grief and his lack of hope for the future. The idea of another 10 years of raising kids was overwhelming for him. He often tried to convince my older sister that he couldn’t do it. He wanted to go to a care home and send us to live with someone else. Our brother Alfred moved back home and helped for a few years. That’s another story.

    I became the cheerleader. I had that role from age 11 until age 17, when he passed away suddenly from a stroke.

    I have also had that role in my marriage. I am not attracted to optimistic, thick-skinned men.

    Hans was diagnosed with depression about 15 years ago. He has been on medication for about 10 years and is one of those people who won’t go off his meds EVER! We notice that a time change when we are travelling can throw him off. Taking the generic brand instead of the official brand doesn’t work for him. His pharmacy knows they can’t swap for a cheaper substitute.

    I think the physiology is depression is incredibly complex. I have noticed that Hans functions best within a narrow range of variation. Changes in sleep, diet, caffeine intake, stress and so on all have to be kept within a small range. The three biggest things that have helped him are USANA multivitamins, Crossfit workouts and Effexor.

    Interestingly, the USANA multivitamins basically doubled the effectiveness of the Effexor. This is probably because they improve the function of the gut, so absorption of everything is better. They are also loaded with B vitamins and antioxidants, reducing the damaging effects of stress on the body.

    The crossfit workouts have helped him develop a much stronger core. He no longer gets backaches and he doesn’t injure himself when he is gardening, fishing and hunting. He is stronger and more pain-free now than he was in his 20’s and 30’s.

    It is much easier being in your 50’s and looking back on many years of successful treatment. Figuring it out is agonizing.

    It can be done.

    Blessings, Anna Krueger

    ________________________________

    Like

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