Thursday, August 5, 2010

The One With the Depressive State

I'm going to do the thing I hate doing and talk about unhappy, personal things. Not too personal, don't worry. . .I just read something that some people might find interesting. Take it for what you will. But the reason I was looking stuff like this up is because I was researching for my own knowledge.

I'm depressed. This is always a terrible statement to make, because people are like, "But you don't look sad!"

That's because I'm not sad. I'm depressed. There's a very important difference. Sad is generally caused by some underlying factor. Your boyfriend broke up with you. You had a fight with your best friend. You work for the government. Things like that. Depression is just this rampant, underlying THING that doesn't really have a source. It's just there, mocking you.

I'm depressed in a way that I don't actually really understand. It is not caused by, but is in fact amplified by, my rampant OCD. What happens is, I get sad or angry or frustrated or whatever by something. Let's say my dog dies. (I don't have a dog, so karma won't get mad at me for my use of an invisible dog and kill it in real life). My dog dies, and it makes me sad. Since I'm kind of depressed anyway, the dog's death amplifies it and it gets more to the point of an actual person dying. Then I start thinking about the dog, and how I could have done things differently while it was alive. (This is the "O" part of OCD.) I could have come home 10 minutes earlier from being out with my friends to play with it before I went to bed. I could have spent 3 more dollars on dog food and maybe it would have lived longer.

Things like this.

I think about, obsess about, things like this until I'm pretty well convinced that, oh my God, I killed my dog. And then that starts a whole new thing. It causes panic attacks, and I get to a point where I can't breathe. I start hyperventilating. And it can be nothing but downhill from there.

I also have really, really terrible self-destructive tendencies. The type that let someone get just close enough to you, but when Shit Starts To Get Real, you pull away, and then you just leave everything and everyone you love in a wake of destruction.

Y'all are all beginning to see what a peach I am, aren't you?

At least I know this stuff about myself. My therapist (yeah. . .I started therapy because I feel like my brain isn't functioning properly) said she's glad that I am so "self-aware." What that means, I guess, is that I still do really stupid, effed up stuff, but I know I'm doing it. I'm not sure. . .why that's good. But it is, apparently.

The point of this entire thing is that D and I had a fight this morning, and I did the stupid thing I do and said the Worst Possible Thing I could have said during said fight. I, a lot of times, say things before thinking about them, and they are, in fact, the Worst Possible Thing I could say. But what's even worse than that is when I START to say something awful, realize it when the sentence is halfway out of my mouth, and proceed to finish what I was saying anyway.

It's like, everything in me is screaming, "ABORT! ABORT!!!! YOU ARE AN EFFING IDIOT!!!" by my mouth is like, "La la la. . .what fights can I start today? This is fun!"

So that's what happened. My mouth took over and now D may or may not be speaking to me. My bad. (Update: He is speaking to me. Maybe he'll even like me again later today.)

Point of all THAT is, I know that the issues that I have have in the past and are currently taking a bit of a toll on my relationship with D. I'm a little crazy, sometimes he doesn't know how to deal with it. . .things like that. So I Googled "relationships and depression" and came up an article that was kind of awesome. The Web site doesn't say not to reproduce it, so I'll give you the link, the article name ("Depression and Relationships: Living With a Depressed Person") and the author (Bob Murray, Ph.D) so they don't sue me. I'm not going to copy the whole thing, but just things that I feel like maybe I should talk to D about. I think they might help, and they might help someone you know, too. It irritates me that the author refers to the depressed person as "he" through this entire thing, but whatever:

Understand the disorder. Take time to find out what depression is and is not. So many popular misunderstandings about the illness and so much denial about its origins exist.

Keep in mind that he can't “snap out of it.” Remember that the other person has a real illness. Like someone with cancer, they can't simply “get over it.” Try not to express your frustration or anger in ways you'll regret, but don't suppress your own feelings either. You can say for example, “I know that you can't help feeling down, but I feel frustrated.”

If the person is an unrelenting pessimist, as so many people with depression are, try to point out the positive things that are happening. His negative childhood programming--the “inner saboteur”--will probably prevent him from seeing these for himself. The depressive illness has a vested interest in the lie that nothing will go right.

Admit your own powerlessness against the disorder. Many people believe they can cure someone they love just by the sheer force of their love, as if that feeling alone should be enough to effect permanent change. It isn't.
The first stage to avoiding guilt over someone else's depression is to acknowledge that you are not responsible for it. It's not your fault, and you alone can't cure it. You can offer support, you can show friendship or love, whichever is appropriate, but you are probably too close to be able to solve the problem. Step back, admit that you alone are powerless against the disorder. Seek support for yourself from friends and perhaps a psychotherapist. The first stage toward helping the other person is to get help for yourself.

Do not try to rescue. A person suffering from a mood disorder will probably be a slave to his depressive program. The disorder will infantilize him, and he may well put pressure on you to fix whatever he perceives to be the problem. Sometimes the program can be temporarily assuaged in this way and the depression will lift. But it will come back and the inner saboteur will make even more demands. You may be forced into trying to play the role of omnipotent parent and feel guilty when you fail to provide what is demanded of you.

Encourage him to seek help. Many sufferers from depression deny that they have the disorder or try to self-medicate with alcohol (as my mother did) or overwork or shopping--all of which are depressives in the long run. Part of your self-preservation is getting the depressed person in your life to seek professional help. This is true whether you live or work with him.

Discover your own programming. It's important to realize that the other person's depression is playing a role in your inner saboteur's game. In clinical terms you may be getting a “secondary gain” from his disorder. His behavior may seem to give you an excuse to vent angry feelings, or an opportunity for you to play the knight in shining armor or perhaps a reason to excuse your own real or imagined shortcomings. If you find yourself having relationships with a number of people who are depressed, there's probably a reason in your own past. Seek help in dealing with those emotions and fears.

Tell him what you need. The depressed person in your life may be ill, but you still have needs of him. All relationships are based on the mutual meeting of needs.
If you aren't honest about what you're getting from the relationship, or what you want to get, you will make the other person feel even worse about himself. . .Be honest about what you can and cannot do, and about what you will and won't do. Never promise what you can't fulfill. You may often be asked to.
On the other hand, going through the process of exchanging real, functional needs with the depressed person can be a very powerful healing tool for both of you.

I think those are pretty good talking points. And they make sense.

So I'm going to go back to obsessing over whether I committed a relationship-ending faux pas this morning, and hoping not.

I don't really talk a lot about my actually "feelings" about my relationship, do I? I dislike feelings, which is unfortunate, because I feel so many of them so often.

But I love this guy. And I don't want my effed up brain to mess that up. So I'm working on it. I'm working on it and fighting my self-destructive tendencies. Because I'm supposed to be Mrs. D this year, and that is a thing that is going to happen. Period. Misfiring brain synapses by damned.


  1. Oh dear heart, you ARE a peach and don't you ever forget that! You just did a beautiful job of summing up the way OCD takes a bad thing and makes it so much worse. It can do the same with a not so bad thing or even a good thing.

    Be gentle with yourself. You're human and, this may come as a shock, even though you ARE a rock star you are going to make mistakes at times {gasp!}. It happens...rarely.

    P (who should know!)

  2. :) Thank you.

    It's the whole "being human" part that gets me. I feel like if I'm some kind of superhero-vampire-ninja (???), then everything'll be the way it's supposed to. Sadly, that doesn't work most of the time.