Field of darkness

The past few weeks I was doing really well depression-wise. I was feeling more hopeful and a lot less shitty about myself, but now the ugly dark cloud is back. Yesterday I cried and slept for the whole day, today I’m completely numb and don’t feel like doing anything. I need a healthy outlet for my emotions, but even typing a blog post feels like too much effort at the time.

A few months ago I applied for a job as a subtitler. I was invited to do a test on the computer, which I passed. Afterwards I was invited for an interview. They told me I hadn’t done too well on the French part, but that that part was really not important. They proceeded to tell me I had done really well on the Dutch and English part of the test, and that was reason enough for them to consider me as a serious candidate for the job. The interview was more of an introduction to the company along with information about salary, etc., than an actual interview. The only real interview question they asked me was about my internship, as they often work together with that company. They didn’t even ask about the huge gap in my resume. They were very friendly and casual, and even introduced me to everyone in the office after the ‘interview’ part. I had a good feeling about it all, and they promised to let me know if I was hired the next week. I felt like I actually passed as a ‘normal’ person, and was able to hide my social anxiety as much as possible during the interview stage.

I spent all week extremely anxious but also hopeful, and I envisioned that I was hired for the position and even dreamed about it. I thought about the positive spin it would give to my life, which has been a shitshow featuring depression and unemployment for the past two years. For the first time in two years, I not only felt my chances to get the job were high, but I also really really wanted it. This was a huge breakthrough, as my social anxiety has always prevented me from actually wanting to be hired, since working with other people just seemed too scary for me to do. But this time it didn’t.

However, the week went by and I hadn’t heard from the company yet. Then two more days went by, and Tuesday I decided to send them an interview, to emphasize my enthousiasm and motivation for the position, and ask them when I could expect some news. To my surprise, they responded right away, telling me they had a meeting about it that afternoon, and they would call me in the late afternoon/early evening. I spent the afternoon so nervous my hands were shaking continuously and I couldn’t think straight. I waited and waited, yet they didn’t call. Then I got a text message from the hiring manager, telling me something had come up, and she would call me the next morning at 9 ‘o clock. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night, continually on the verge of a panic attack. The next morning I felt like a zombie, but I was oddly calm. The phone rang, and I could already hear by the tone of her voice that I wasn’t hired. She proceeded to make a thousand excuses; that the French part of my test hadn’t been convincing enough (then why did they tell me it didn’t matter during the interview?), that the company couldn’t offer a full-time contract as they had recently merged and the rules had changed (but that goes for all the candidates), etc. I didn’t even hear everything she said, I was so disappointed. When the conversation ended I just started crying and went to bed again.

I’m back to square one. My uplifted mood I was able to maintain for the past few weeks is completely gone. I no longer feel hopeful for the future. I received another rejection email from another company about a copywriter position I had applied for two months ago. They told me I didn’t have the required experience for the position. Last weekend I did another test on the computer for a position my parents pushed me to apply for; that went horribly and I’m sure I won’t go to the next round. And tomorrow I have to go to Brussels again for a French translation test for another translation position. I have no confidence anymore whatsoever, since my last French test went so horribly. I’m incredibly depressed again, and feel like it’s a wasted effort to even try. If by some miracle I pass the test, then pass the interview after that, and I get hired, I’ll have a 4-hour commute each day, for a job that I’m not really interested in. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life at this point, but what else is new. I can only laugh at the very short-lived period I managed to stay positive and overestimate my chances for a decently happy and normal future.

Sunshine blogger award

sunshine blogger award

I have been nominated for the Sunshine blogger award by Kacha (Food.For.Thoughts), who has a very interesting and educational blog about depression and burnout, which you should definitely check out. Thank you so much for the nomination, Kacha! Hope you like my answers to your questions.

Rules for the award

  • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog so others can find them.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
  • Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  • List the rules and display a Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or your blog site.

Kacha’s Questions

  1. If you could, would you turn back time?

I’m a very nostalgic person, so my first instinct is definitely to say yes! I always feel like time goes by too fast, and I certainly miss certain people and places from the past. However, I’ve come to realize that I tend to romanticize the past, and that it’s probably not as amazing as I remember. I feel like I’ve made a lot of personal progress recently, even if I’ve been going through some really hard times. So ultimately, I would not turn back time. I wouldn’t want to go through those hard times again without the knowledge and coping skills I have now. I may not be as happy as I was at certain moments in the past, but I’m more stable and wiser now.

  1. What is an expression you use quite often?

I have no idea, really. I asked my friends and they didn’t know either 😀 This is the only one I could think of: In Dutch we have an expression: “if you dig a hole for someone else, you’ll fall into it.” It’s supposed to mean that when you try to harm someone else you’ll only end up harming yourself. But I use it jokingly in a literal sense with my dad. He is very clumsy and more often than not, when he does yard work and digs a hole he ends up falling into it himself.

  1. What is your favorite fairy tale?

I’m not sure if you would consider this a fairy tale, but I like the Tortoise and the Hare. The tortoise is slower than the hare and seems to be losing the race at first. However, the hare gets tired faster and consequently falls asleep. Eventually, the tortoise overtakes him and wins the race. The tortoise has always been my favourite animal. In fact, I used to own several tortoises and turtles when I was little. They look so harmless and they’re so slow, yet they have a hard protective shell and can live to be a hundred years old. I think the fable teaches not to judge a book by its cover. I’ve often felt like a tortoise in comparison to other people my age, who are already married, have children and a steady job. I haven’t accomplished any of those things yet, and I often feel like I’m behind in life due to mental illness. But then I remember that everyone moves through life at their own pace. The hares will encounter obstacles eventually, and in the end the tortoises will  reach their goals as well, as long as they keep going forward and keep their heads up.

  1. What is the trait you are most proud of?

I hate bragging about myself, but I’m working on my confidence, so here goes. I would say I’m a really good listener and I’m very empathetic. Friends tend to come to me when they need to talk about their feelings, and they trust me, so that must be a good thing. I don’t judge people quickly, especially not when it comes to mental health.

  1. Where do you find inspiration for your blog?

I don’t really have to find inspiration. I only blog when I feel like I need to vent, as a coping skill for my anxiety and depression. So the inspiration is my own life I guess. Sometimes music inspires me to write a post. When I hear someone singing about something I have been going through it sometimes prompts me to speak up about it as well.

  1. What languages do you speak?

I speak Dutch, English and French. I live in Belgium, Flemish Dutch is my mother tongue. I learned French in school and English mostly through tv and music, but in school as well. I also know a teeny tiny bit of German.

  1. What do you dislike most about blogging?

The fact that most likeminded people or people who are going through the same thing live so far away, so we can never have a real life conversation or become real life friends. There’s always a certain distance. Blogging creates a strange platform: my readers know more about me than my real life friends, but they’ll always be strangers on the internet, and vice versa for most anonymous bloggers I think.

  1. What subjects in a conversation are so boring to you that you could fall asleep standing?

Physics, cars… any scientific/mechanical/mathematical subject really. My father and brother-in-law tend to rant about those things and never seem to notice my complete disinterest. Also renovations. I couldn’t care less.

  1. What do you love to talk about?

I love to talk about music, as listening to music has always been my number one coping skill when things have been going really bad for me. I feel like a lot of musicians also benefit from the same distance between them and their audience that bloggers have. They are able to express themselves and open up in ways they wouldn’t be able to in real life. I often feel like I could be friends with a lot of the artists I listen to, that we have been going through the same things and have so much in common. It’s strange to realize I know so much about them while they don’t even know I exist. But yeah, music is therapeutic for me. I also love to talk about anything mental health and psychology related.

  1. Do you have habits that can be considered as a little out of the norm?

I probably have a lot of weird habits. When I’m really stressed I have this OCD-type compulsion of having to retrace my steps wherever I go so as not to tangle ‘the wire’ behind me. I think it’s hilarious that my brain came up with this as a way of coping. I also have the disgusting habit of sucking my toothpaste right out of the tube, instead of putting it on my toothbrush first. And I sleep better in uncomfortable places, like tents and couches and even on the ground than in my own bed. I think it’s because I associate my bed with anxiety and worrying.

  1. Which trend needs to stay in 2019?

Probably the boyband haircut for guys. It should have stayed in the 90’s.

My nominees

Although I have to nominate 11 other bloggers, I discovered there are only 6 blogs which I regularly read. I’ve provided a short introduction to/appreciation for these blogs below. The other 5 are blogs I am less familiar with, but still curious about. Let’s get to know each other!

  1. Sour girl, The Diary of an Unwanted Existence

I love Sour girl’s raw honesty. Her blog shows the hardships that a person with multiple mental health issues goes through, and the unfairness of the system. I think this blog is a must read for ignorant people in order to gain insight into mental illness and to gain empathy for those who have to fight for basic rights every single day.

  1. Klodo, Death by Shyness?

Another very honest blog written from the perspective of a man who struggles with depression and social anxiety. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything and honestly it’s a welcome relief from all the toxic positivity of ‘you can do it if you only put in the effort’ blogs that don’t seem to understand anything about depression and other mental illnesses. Klodo is also a very talented photographer. I really enjoy looking at his photos, as they convey a sense of tranquility that a lot of socially anxious people find in nature. I too love being in nature more than being amongst people. It has a very calming effect.

  1. Luftmensch, Vision of the Night

I look up to this blogger a lot. I’m continuously in awe of how Luftmensch deals with depression, social anxiety, OCD and autism, and still manages to be so productive and to keep moving forward. I’ve also learnt so much about Judaism through this blog, so it’s educational as well.

  1. Nat, don’t mind me, I’m justanervous girl

Even though we live across the globe from each other, I feel like our lives are very similar in terms of social anxiety and living with our parents. Everything this blogger says is just so recognizable to me. It makes me feel less alone. I think she expresses what is going on in the brain of someone with social anxiety very eloquently. She is able to say what I can’t quite put into words.

  1. Tony “Tone” Vega, A Crazy Man With a Blog

The tone of this blog (get it?) is very different from the others, but I love it. This blogger is raw, honest, concise and quite frankly hilarious. No matter what Tony goes through, he is always able to see the silver lining. He continuously tries to work on his issues and never gives up. Whenever I’m down I read his blog, and it enables me to put things into perspective. Honestly, I wish he had been my dad growing up!

  1. Gemma, diary of a social phobic

Another blog that I resonate so much with I feel like I could’ve written it myself. I can identify with a lot of the struggles Gemma is going through. Her recent series of blatantly honest posts about the relationship between her parents and her mental illness are very interesting to me. I think it’s a pretty taboo subject in the mental health community, but it shouldn’t be underestimated.

7. Nick, The Social Phobic

8. Dana, Crowley’s Favourite Worrier

9. Ali Vee, Flight of the Wallflower

10. The Anxiety Chronicles

11. Undeniably Sara

 

My questions:

  1. Why did you start blogging? Did it meet up to your initial expectations?
  2. If you could choose one song/piece of music that describes who you are as a person, or that describes some very important part of yourself, which one would it be and why?
  3. What musical instrument do you play/ do you wish you could play/ do you like to hear the most?
  4. What is something you wish was common knowledge about your mental illness(es)?
  5. Where in the world do you wish you would have grown up and why?
  6. What do you think is an essential quality in a good friend?
  7. What is your favourite way to relax?
  8. What funny thing happened to you/did you see happening recently?
  9. Name one realistic goal you want to achieve in the next 5 years.
  10. What colour/pattern is your bedroom wallpaper?
  11. What is your favourite dish? Do you like to make it yourself or do you like it best when someone in particular prepares it for you?

 

To my nominees, feel free to skip the questions you don’t feel like answering/sharing with the world, and of course feel free to deny the sunshine blogger award entirely. It’s completely up to you. To those of you that decided to answer the questions: I’m excited to read your answers!

Exercise!

About a month ago I started the process of applying for disability benefit, as suggested by my therapist. I only recently changed GPs as my childhood GP retired and I wasn’t comfortable with talking about my mental health with him anyway. Then I found a new GP, a young woman who was the first person in real life to whom I opened up about my social anxiety and depression. She was extremely sweet and understanding, and she was the one who suggested I get therapy and put me on antidepressants. Unfortunately, I only saw her two times before she moved away, and her patients were transferred to her colleague, my current GP.

So when I received a form I had to get filled in by my GP in order to qualify for benefits, I made an appointment with this new woman.  I felt very nervous, as I had never seen her before and I was afraid she wouldn’t approve of me applying for benefits. As she had my medical records available to her, I didn’t think it was necessary for me to explain my whole story to her again, as I still find it very embarrassing and draining to be so vulnerable with a stranger. So I just gave her the short version, that I had social anxiety and depression and that my therapist suggested I apply for benefits. She asked me what I was ‘doing’, meaning how I was spending my days, in a pretty judgemental way. I told her I struggled to keep myself occupied because I often lack the motivation to do things and I sometimes feel so exhausted I don’t do much else than sleep all day. She smugly replied to that: you need to exercise! As if my depression was solely the consequence of me not exercising (which frankly I’ve never done in my whole life) and so it was my own fault I was depressed. She told me I needed to force myself to get out of bed in the morning and before I do anything else I need to get outside, no matter the weather, and exercise. At this point I felt like it was pointless to argue with her; her mind was already made up. I struggle so much with mornings, I can’t even get up on a nice sunny day even if it’s just to get some coffee or breakfast. I hate exercising, always have been bad at every sport I tried. I hate rainy and cold weather, it worsens my mood. Yet somehow, getting up early in the morning to go for a jog in the cold rain is the ‘cure’ for my depression according to this lady.

I told her I have a blog about my social anxiety, and it helps me to cope. She told me the blog wasn’t doing me any good, and it was a bad idea to ‘get wrapped up’ in my mental health issues, as I need to ‘get out of my head’. She knew I was seeing a therapist (who by the way approves of this blog), but she seemed to imply that she knew what was best for me as she has had a lot of experience with depressed people. She then prescribed me a higher dose of antidepressants (20mg of escitalopram instead of 10mg), filled in the form I had brought along, and told me I should see her every month.

At first I was still confused: did this lady want the best for me or was she just ignorant about mental health issues and didn’t want me to qualify for benefits? I brought the form she filled in along to my therapy session the same day. My therapist took one look at it and told me I wouldn’t qualify for the benefits, as my GP had merely written 1 sentence on the form: “depression, takes medication and goes to therapy”. She didn’t mention my social anxiety, which is the main reason I’m still unemployed. She didn’t ask my therapist for a more detailed report to include, and didn’t bother to write anything more detailed herself.

I felt cheated. My therapist and the social worker I had an appointment with both believe I should receive benefits as I’ve been unemployed for a year and a half due to my mental illnesses. The fact that I’ve been living off my parents for such a long time doesn’t help with my self-worth. Dorian, a youtuber with Aspergers who has suffered with mental illness as well, has made a great video about this. She talks about the culture of her family and her doctor that says benefits are only for physically ill people, not for mentally ill people. She felt like she just needed to “man up and get over it”, which is the same vibe I get from my parents and which I got from my GP, who clearly didn’t want me to receive benefits. I already felt guilty for applying for benefits and haven’t told anyone, not even my sister, and now that guilt has been justified by my doctor.

My parents are also increasingly pushing me to apply for jobs that don’t suit me at all, as they require networking and being in charge of a team. At this point I’m just exhausted from all of their nagging and I’m applying to things that I don’t want to apply for just to keep the peace at home. On the bright side, I’ve also applied for a few jobs I am genuinely interested in, and last week I had to go do some tests on the computer for them. By the end of this week I’ll know if I’ve passed the tests, and if I’ll be invited for an interview. I was quite proud of myself for finally applying to jobs and actually getting invited to do some tests. Howeer, my parents only seem to have taken this as a sign that whatever they’re doing is working and they keep on bothering me every single day about it, which is increasing my anxiety and lack of self-worth as they continually emphasize the thing I’m most insecure about: my unemployment.

Suggestions by my therapist

I feel like I have made huge progress in overcoming my driving anxiety in the past few weeks. I can honestly say I’m almost completely over it and most of the time actually enjoy driving now. I think it’s more a result of the antidepressants lowering my overall anxiety than it has to do with therapy, as my driving anxiety was never extensively discussed. I just started pushing myself to start driving places I never went to and tried to seize any opportunity to do so. On Saturday I’ll probably even drive to Antwerp for a concert, which would be a huge accomplishment as the route to Antwerp is probably the busiest in Belgium next to Brussels. Even my sister, who doesn’t have any kind of anxiety and has been driving for 10 years, has never driven to Antwerp.

However, on the social anxiety front, I don’t notice much progress yet. I’m starting to get better at talking to employees/cashiers/waiters, but not in other areas. I’m pushing myself to attend parties and gatherings I would normally avoid, but I’m still feeling as anxious as ever and don’t manage to strike a conversation with strangers or even family. I also still dread the phone, and of course applying for jobs/job interviews. I have an appointment with my therapist this evening and last week she wanted me to apply for a few jobs, which I naturally procrastinated until today, so now I’m feeling anxious as I have to do it at the last moment.

My therapist also suggested that I attend a volunteering center for people with mental illness. She thinks it will help with my depression, as it will provide some structure to my days, which I don’t have currently, it will give me something useful to do, and it will give me a break from my parents’ constant presence. I was feeling very hesitant about it, but made an appointment for a tour around the center anyway. The tour was on Monday morning, and I was feeling extremely anxious about it. I drove there half an hour early, and for thirty minutes straight I was still debating with myself whether or not to go inside. When the clock struck 11, I finally went inside. I couldn’t find the reception area, but luckily I walked into an employee and she gave me the tour. She was very friendly, but she was under the impression that I was already convinced to join the center. I had to explain to her I was still hesitant. Although the center did offer some volunteering work, it was mainly an activity center that aims at reintegrating people who are socially marginalized because of their mental illness. The center requires that people who join the programme attend for at least two days in a week. Some of the activities they offer are: cooking, swimming, arts and crafts, industrial activities, group conversations and mindfulness. Some of these do sound interesting to me, but some of them just sound ridiculous and patronizing, like a group visit to Ikea. I was also under the impression that a lot of the attendees were intellectually disabled and 20+ years my senior, which makes me think I won’t have anything in common with these people, and as I already struggle to communicate with friends my age, I don’t see how socializing with these strangers is going to go smooth for me. I also have to keep this a secret for my parents, as they’ll only need to google the name of the center and they’ll know it’s for the mentally ill and I still haven’t been able to talk to them about my depression/anxiety and therapy.

My therapist also suggested that I look into disability benefits, as my unemployment is a direct result of my mental illness. Tomorrow morning I have an appointment with a social worker, for which I’m very nervous of course. In many ways I feel like I’m not ‘sick’ enough to be receiving benefits, and applying for them feels like giving up on myself. People who receive benefits are stigmatized so much, and I have internalized this shame and feel like a lazy freeloader for even applying for them. Again, I can’t tell my parents about this as I know they’ll be extremely angry and disappointed in me. Lately they have been pushing me very hard to apply for jobs; my dad sends me emails with job offers daily and they both grab any chance they get to talk about my unemployment. They don’t seem to understand that this makes me super stressed out as it underscores what a failure I am, it worsens my low self-worth and consequently my depression. I’m trying to get out of the house as much as possible in order to get away from them. However, they often manage to ruin my mood in a few minutes on the rare occasions I’m having a good day.

I started playing the guitar a week or so ago, as I’m in a desperate need of hobbies to help with my depression and stress relief. I don’t expect I’ll get good at it and I’m definitely not a natural, but so far it’s been helping me get my mind off of things so that’s good. I just hope I don’t give up on it like I’ve done with all my other new hobbies I tried in the last year. I seem to lose interest in things quite quickly and lack perseverance. I don’t know if this is a result of my depression or if it’s just a character flaw.

Woke up hurting

I’ve been more depressed than usual again for the past week, which manifests itself in general apathy and a messy sleeping schedule, a.k.a. having lots of trouble to fall asleep and then sleeping for 10+ hours on end and sometimes even napping during the day. I’ve also been pestered by dreams about high school, my college thesis, and an abusive relationship I had in the past. I feel quite disappointed as initially the antidepressants seemed to combat this and helped me be more energized and generally excited to do stuff again, but now the positive effects seem to have worn off.

I have been going to therapy every week and it hasn’t helped me as much as I would like it to. I’m getting used to writing down my negative thoughts and then writing down some helping positive thoughts to combat them, but I don’t really believe the positive ones and so they haven’t been helping a lot. How do you force yourself to believe positive things about yourself and other people to be true?

My therapists has also been giving some tasks I need to do to combat my social anxiety, which I’ve always put off until the day of my therapy appointment (which is every Wednesday evening). She wanted me to make a phone call to my eye doctor to make an appointment and pretend there was bad reception, then call again. Part of my phone anxiety is caused by the fear of not being understood correctly on the phone, and having to call back and possibly annoy the person I’m calling. So I was very anxious to do this, but I completed the task anyway. Now my therapist wants me to call somebody else and mumble so that they don’t understand me very well, which I haven’t done yet and am feeling very anxious about. She also wants me to get my friend to film me at a party as I walk up to strike a conversation with someone I don’t know. She thinks it will help me to watch myself later and see that I’m not really making such a fool out of myself as I always think. The thought of a. walking up to a stranger to talk and b. having it filmed and c. having to watch me embarrass myself afterwards has been giving me so much anxiety. I know it’s going to be hard work to overcome my social anxiety but I feel like I’m skipping so many steps and going way too fast. The fact that I decided I would attend the party was already a huge step for me, and now instead of just suffering through it I have to actively confront my fear already. I’m kind of scared to say this to my therapist though, as she may think I don’t really want to get better.

On the bright side, my driving anxiety has significantly diminished in the past few weeks. I’ve even driven on the highway last weekend, which was the first time in 4 years or so. On Thursday I’m going to pick up my sister and my nephew for the first time, and it will be the longest distance (on the highway) I have ever done. I’m strangely not feeling too nervous about it. On Friday however, we’ll be visiting my grandma, and I’m pretty anxious for that. I haven’t seen her in a long time and I’m sure she’ll ask me about my job hunt and I don’t know how to explain to her I  haven’t been able to get a job because of my depression and anxiety. My parents don’t even know and lately they’ve been giving me a hard time about my unemployment. It’s making me feel even more anxious to be around them as I know at some point they’re going to try to address the obvious elephant in the room.

My mom in particular was being insufferable on Sunday. She had been drinking all day and wanted me to come along to a baby toy sale in our town. I didn’t feel like it and wanted to take advantage of being home alone for once, as my father was out as well. However, my mom decided to guilt trip and pester me so much about it I finally gave in. I told her if I didn’t go I wouldn’t be able to sleep because of how bad she made me feel, and her reply was: I hope you lay awake at night. Given that I had already been feeling really depressed the whole week and unable to get some decent quality sleep because of excessively worrying, her comment was very hurtful to me. I made the mistake of letting my mom drive to the sale because I didn’t realize at that point how drunk she was. However, her driving made it immediately clear to me and I felt very scared on the way to the sale that we would get into an accident. The sale itself was extremely crowded with people, which made me very anxious and my mom annoyed with my eagerness to leave. When we were back home again she called me retarded for some trivial reason I can’t recall. While I was reading a rare zine my friend had borrowed me, my mom decided to throw away the packaging which was sitting on the table. I only noticed when I finished the zine, and had to salvage the packaging out of the garbage can. Later in the night all of the sudden rain started to pour down, and my mom remembered that the bird cage was still hanging on the wall outside. She shouted at me to come help her get the birds inside, but by this point I was already very angry and hurt by what she’d said to me earlier. I told her to do it alone. She insisted I help her, and got very angry when I first wanted to put on a coat before going outside. Then when I went outside in the pouring rain, she stayed inside, saying I should do it alone because she didn’t have her coat on hand. She could have easily grabbed her coat and help me but chose to watch me take the huge birdcage off the wall by myself and take it inside. My trousers and hair were soaked even though I was only outside for a minute, that’s how bad it was pouring down. She didn’t apologize or anything, as usual. I was upset for the whole evening.

High school dreams

I’ve been out of high school for almost ten years now and still I frequently dream about it. Last night I dreamt I invited all of the people I went to high school with for my birthday. I can’t remember much of the dream, except that one girl snapped at me because I dropped food on the ground, while the ground was already covered in dirt and trash from the party. I felt she was treating me unfairly and snapped back at her, and it felt like such a relief to be able to defend myself. I remember an incident in high school where another girl got scolded by the teacher because she was being too loud, and she replied: “why don’t you focus your criticism on Oryx for a change. She never opens her mouth”. Still to this day I feel frustrated thinking about the incident. I’d never had any conflict with this girl, yet she singled me out for being too quiet while I had done nothing wrong. I was too scared to defend myself and didn’t want the teacher to have to deal with another conflict as she was already having a hard time managing the rowdy students. As a child I always used to keep quiet to keep the peace when my sister was being insufferable to my parents. My sister frequently had the same reaction to being scolded as that girl in high school did: “Oryx can do nothing wrong to you, but she’s just as bad as I am”. I kept my mouth shut because I was expected to be the rational one and I was taught that defending myself wasn’t as important as keeping the peace. As a consequence years and years of frustrations have built up inside of me, and I still don’t know how to deal with anger and frustration in a correct and healthy way. I hate conflict and confrontation; when I’m angry I just keep quiet. That’s why it felt like such a relief to be able to snap back at that girl in the dream.

I also dreamt my kindergarten friend was at the party. (He became part of the popular group in high school so we never talked anymore). I had a short conversation with him in the dream, and we talked about memories from kindergarten/primary school. He was nice to me and seemed just as nostalgic as I was, which was again a relief. I don’t think he’d ever talk to me in real life anymore and he probably doesn’t remember all of the stuff we talked about in the dream. He has a job and a steady girlfriend with whom he lives. He has a normal life for someone my age, while I haven’t made much progress since high school. I try not to compare myself too much to the people I went to high school with, but sometimes Facebook just throws it in my face. Lots of them are married, some of them have children, most of them have steady jobs and an active social life. It seems like everything just comes so easy to them, just like it did in high school. Meanwhile I’m over here struggling with everything. I despise those movies in which the high school losers turn out to be super successful later in life while the popular kids turn out to be the losers in real life. It’s just not true. Most of the weirdos stay weird and the kids who were bullied are scarred for life. The popular kids stay confident and bullshit their way through life’s ladder of success.

The dream ended with all of the high school kids leaving and none of them thanked me for inviting them to the party. They didn’t even acknowledge my presence. I guess it was back to reality before I woke up. The truth is I would’ve never tried to invite them to my party as I was a wallflower and they would’ve never showed up. It’s not that they hated me or actively bullied; they just didn’t care about my existence. I’ve felt invisible my whole life and now I feel most comfortable when I make myself invisible. I have so much trouble believing I’m a person worth getting to know, and a person worth claiming other people’s attention. A person worth it to defend themselves when they’re being treated unfairly. But I’ve always been the easy kill. I guess I always will.

Tiny changes

So I’ve been taking antidepressants for a month now and I’ve seen a therapist three times in that time. Naturally all my problems aren’t solved yet, but I do seem to be more hopeful than I was before. I feel like the antidepressants help to stabilize my mood, as I haven’t felt incredibly low in a month. Sometimes I even feel happy and enthusiastic for some time, which is something I haven’t experienced in a very long time. I also feel less anxious a lot of the time, which is probably not only thanks to the antidepressants but also thanks to staying sober. Anyway, I have been trying to take advantage of my overall decreased anxiety by getting out of my comfort zone more, for example by driving a lot more. However, the beliefs I hold about myself that are at the core of my social anxiety can’t be changed by antidepressants alone, so I haven’t been able to make a lot of progress on that front. I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface in therapy, but I always feel better about myself after a session. Last week we had a long conversation about my job interview anxiety and it felt good to articulate my fears and get it off my chest. She really put me at ease and job interviews don’t seem so incredibly daunting anymore. However, she seems to want to take it really slow, and doesn’t want me to tackle my job interview anxiety right away. She wants me to gradually work towards it as it’s on top of the list of my anxiety-inducing situations.

First I have to work on my depression, and she gave me the task of writing down in what exact situations I have which depressive thoughts, what my emotional responses are to those thoughts and how these thoughts influence my behaviour. As usual I have procrastinated on this task. I feel like it’s harder for me to analyze my depressive thoughts than it is to analyze my anxious thoughts. I know I’m scared of most social situations because I think people will judge me negatively, which causes me to feel extremely anxious and most of the time avoid the situation. But with my depression, I think it’s just a general belief of my life and life in general being pointless, which makes me a nihilist I guess. I think it’s an inevitable consequence of being an atheist and I don’t see how I can change these beliefs without having to believe in some kind of god, which I feel would just be fooling myself. I don’t want to insult anyone’s religious beliefs. In fact I envy the people who truly believe there is a God. However, to me it just rationally does not make sense and I don’t see the point in tricking my own mind to believe something exists when I see it as a fact that it doesn’t.

Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name

How come one man got so much fame?

To any me, it’s pointless to anybody

That doesn’t have faith

Give me the cloth and I’ll wipe my face

 

When it’s all gone, something carries on

And it’s not morbid at all

Just when nature’s had enough of you

When my blood stops, someone else’s will not

When my head rolls off, someone else’s will turn

And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

 

So you can burn me cause we’ll all be the same, the same way

Dirt in someone’s eyes cried down the drain

 

First therapy appointment

So yesterday evening I went to my first therapy appointment. Didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that. I arrived 45 minutes early and I sat waiting in my car for a good half hour before I worked up the nerve to go inside. My therapist opened the door and although I was still 15 minutes early she wanted to start immediately.

First she wanted some standard information like my address, phone number, etc. Then she asked why I wanted to start therapy. I didn’t know where to start and just told her my G.P. referred me for social anxiety and depression. Of course, she wanted me to be more specific and started asking me lots of questions about my life, my social anxiety and depression symptoms, my parents, my sister, my friends, etc. At first I was very uncomfortable and struggled to answer the questions but to my surprise I quickly felt at ease to tell this stranger all these personal details about my life. I suppose it’s not luch different from what I do here on my blog. I even think blogging about my mental health has made me more aware about everything going on in my head, which made it easier to talk to my therapist.

She told me that my depression and social anxiety were the result of a combination of genetics (my sister has depression as well), my upbringing and certain events in my life. She told me my inability to deal with my emotions is not a big surprise as my parents never taught me how to. I don’t want to blame my parents for all my problems but I’m tired of always blaming myself. I didn’t choose to be this way but I can choose to try to change. I’m pretty proud of myself for finally getting help, even though I was always taught that asking for help is weak. I’m also proud I drove to my therapist, as I have bad driving anxiety and I’ve never driven that far on unknown roads by myself before.

We didn’t have much time for practical solutions yet, but she did tell me to try and do stuff I used to love on set times each day, like taking a walk at 9 in the morning and crocheting at 2 in the afternoon. It soundes silly to me schedule these things but she had a point that I otherwise wouldn’t do them. With regards to my sleeping problems she told me to go to bed at a set time each day, to not do anything tiresome for my brain an hour before bed, and to get oud of bed again if I’m still having racing thoughts 20 minutes after going to bed, and only go back to bed when I get tired again. That way I won’t associate my bed with worrying.

She hasn’t given me any practical tips for my social anxiety yet, but she did ask me to list the situations I fear/avoid, and told me we would practice them in therapy with role-play. She said for now I shouldn’t jobhunt as it’s at the top of my list of anxiety-inducing things. Unfortunately today my parents both wanted to talk about my unemployment. My dad thinks I can claim benefits, which I’ve already told him lots of times is not the case, because I haven’t applied for enough jobs in the past year. He doesn’t seem to believe me and it’s very frustrating. My mom showed me a few job description for manager positions that required 3 years of relevant experience and I have none, which also frustrates me because she could have known I wouldn’t qualify before showing them to me. I was actually pretty happy this morning, more so than usual; I got up at 8 (which is ewtremely early for me), had a good night’s sleep, went for the scheduled 3k walk like my therapist told me to do, then went home and my parents managed to completely ruin my mood. Now I feel angry, frustrated and lethargic again and haven’t done anything all afternoon. I wish I could tell my parents about my therapy so they would shut up about my job hunt, but I can’t as they would never approve. It sucks I have to go to therapy and take my medication in secret, but if that’s what I have to do to get better than it’s worth lying to them.

With regards to my medication (escilatopram 10mg), I think it’s working already. My G.P. told me it would take at least two weeks in order for me to feel any effect, but I have been sleeping much better for the past week and have been getting up a lot earlier than I used to. Other than that my driving anxiety hasn’t been that bad this week, but all these things could also be a consequence of having stayed sober for the past 15 days. In any case, I’m feeling better than I have in a very long time, but I still have a long long way to go.

Finally getting help

So yesterday I decided on a whim to finally see a doctor about my mental health. The thing is, even though I claim to have social anxiety and depression, I have never been officially diagnosed by a mental heatlh professional, so it might as well have all been made up. Turns out it wasn’t.

Earlier this week my mom told me our G.P. was retiring in September. I never liked him; I always got an uncomfortable vibe from him. He’s a man in his 70s so I didn’t think he was the right person to help me with my mental health as he’s a pretty old-fashioned doctor. But hearing about his retirement somehow encouraged me to look for a new G.P. and get the mental health stuff out of the way at once. I found a young doctor in my neighbourhood and made an online appointment, as I still hate phone calls. I watched some youtube videos on telling your doctor about depression and anxiety, and decided it would be a good idea to make a list of key things I wanted to say in case I got so nervous I forgot things, which turned out to be a great idea. I had an appointment at 5.15 but she called me out of the waiting room 20 minutes early, which only increased my nervousness. I managed to keep my composure when she asked for my address etc. However, as soon as she asked me why I came to see her, I lost it completely. I told her it was very hard for me to talk about it and handed out the piece of paper with my key points to her. The rest of the conversation is kind of a blur. She was very kind and understanding and never made me feel uncomfortable. I was shaking and stuttering and trying very hard not to cry the whole time. She made me feel like my situation wasn’t as hopeless as I always think it is. So I have now been officially diagnosed with depression and social anxiety (surprise!). My doctor prescribed me antidepressants (Escitalopram) and therapy.

Today I had the impossible task of choosing one of the countless therapists in my neighbourhood. After a few hours of searching I got tired of all the possibilities and just randomly emailed an older female therapist nearby. I hope she’ll respond quickly and her waiting list isn’t too long. At €50/hour she better be worth it. I had no idea therapy was that expensive to be honest. The antidepressants were only €2.5 as they’re largely refunded but therapy isn’t. That doesn’t make any sense to me, as without therapy the medication is unlikely to help much.

This morning I took my first tablet with breakfast as instructed by my doctor. An hour or so later I got very nauseated and then got horrible diarrhoea (tmi, sorry). My head has been feeling a bit heavy all day but other than that I feel normal. It’ll take at least two weeks for the antidepressants to kick in my doctor said. My sister, who is also going through depression for unrelated reasons, was coincidentally prescribed the same medication by her doctor (a different one). She said she experienced the same symptoms during the first three weeks. I sure hope I won’t feel unwell every morning for three weeks though.

I haven’t told anyone other than my sister about my visit to the doctor. My sister told my parents she is home from work for a month because she has depression and their reactions were pretty hurtful. My dad told her she better not be taking antidepressants because “they only make you sleepy”. He doesn’t know she does take medication and she doesn’t plan on telling him. Neither do I. My mom told her “staying home from work isn’t going to solve anything”. So she doesn’t understand the exhaustion that comes with depression, which makes it impossible for my sister to go to work. My parents have always both expressed their aversion to antidepressants and therapy – “a stranger has no business with your problems”. So I’ll have to hide those things from them, which means more lies unfortunately. I feel pretty proud of myself though for making this decision to get help for my mental illnesses despite having always been taught that mental illness is essentially an embarrassing form of attention-seeking.

When I picked up my medication, my pharmacist told me it doesn’t combine well with alcohol, which is all too well to be honest as it’s another reason not to drink. I haven’t touched alcohol in a week now and I don’t miss it, or at least not the horrible anxiety and depression that comes after a night of binge-drinking. I’m determined to stay sober for at least a month, or until my mental health is better. I feel like this is the beginning of a new chapter, as finally I have a little bit of hope for improvement. I must admit it’s a little frustrating that I can’t share this with my family though. They won’t see the changes yet and will think I’m still stuck in my old ways.

Stay sober

Yesterday afternoon I had a hangover induced panic attack in the supermarket at the checkout. I had been feeling very shaky all day and then it all hit me at once. When I tried to insert my credit card in the machine my hand started shaking so badly and I felt like I was going to faint. I made it into my car, then waited for a while until the worst of it was over. However, it was very unsafe for me to drive home in that panicked state. I had promised a friend to come over for dinner and I couldn’t get out of it, so later in the evening I drove there and we drank a few bottles of wine together. I felt immediate relief from my anxiety, but of course today I have been in a very panicked state as a result of alcohol withdrawal again. Again it was very unsafe for me to drive home and I had to pull over on my way home because my foot was cramping up so badly I couldn’t drive anymore. I don’t know if that’s a result of all the drinking I have been doing for the past week but I know my body can’t cope with what I’ve been doing to it for much longer. I came home so panicked my parents even noticed, which has never happened before. On top of that they had company over and I was in no state to pretend I was okay. They asked why I was so out of breath and I told them I wasn’t feeling well. When they asked me why I just told them I didn’t know, then went to my room. I now feel like I’ve been rude to them by just leaving, but I really am in no state to hold a conversation. I can barely get a sentence out. Yesterday was definitely the last day of drinking for me for a while. I’ve had enough of this. It’s not doing me any good. It’s going to be really hard not to drink tonight as my body is getting so used to it, but I have to remember I’m going to thank myself for staying sober tomorrow. I do hope this alcohol induced anxiety is going to disappear soon because I’ve hit rock bottom. I can’t even pretend I’m fine anymore and I’m usually so good at it. So let’s hope I can keep this promise to myself and stay sober.

To think that I’ve wasted my whole life
Chasing my pipe dreams with shots and a whole lot of beer
A part of me figures there’s no fight left in the shell of a person I became this year
I wonder if my parents know why I’m a recluse and I don’t leave my house on most days
When my friends ask if am all right, I lie straight to their faces and say I’m okay