This morning I managed to shave my legs. It’s the closest to achieving anything that I have reached in days.
Because here am I, depressed again. I’m kind of waiting for my CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) to say “I told you so” about the lithium when she comes round tomorrow. Only it’s not the lack of lithium in my system, because it’s exactly what I have lived through who knows how many times, maybe a hundred given what a rapid cycler I am. On lithium and off lithium, on antidepressants and off them, on one antipsychotic or another, I get depressed. Obviously I also get hypomanic, but right now that seems like a dream. I’m beginning to wonder if any of the meds actually do anything and whether I am wasting my time dutifully downing them morning, evening and night.
I’m very much in a place of not having hope about anything or being able to care about anything. I have a place reserved on a Master’s degree course for October and I had really felt that it was the right time to step back into academic life. Because studying is something I’m good at, something I find rewarding which might have made me feel OK about myself, and doing it by distance learning over three years ought to have meant that I could pace myself and allow for episodes. Only now I don’t care, I can’t make myself take the step and register and pay, and I can’t see how I could possibly manage it around my bipolar anyway given that I have basically abandoned the free preparation for postgraduate study course I was, up until recently, enjoying. And now I’m worried about the money, because if I am not awarded a postgrad student loan I will have wiped out all my savings. I think I meet the criteria, but who knows what reasons the Student Loans Company might find to disagree.
I was also looking into how I might be able to help things along financially by returning on a very part time basis to the kind of self-employment (mental health training, consultancy, freelance writing, research etc) I used to enjoy, and I gave considerable thought to how I could market myself, what I would need in terms of a website, what my CV should showcase and so forth. I even got some professional pictures taken to go on said website. Only now, guess what, I can’t make myself care and these preparations, like those for the Master’s, lie abandoned. I feel stuck, yet I don’t have the energy or the interest to do anything to move myself forward or have anything purposeful in my life. I’ve had a couple of good days in the last two weeks, but mostly I have eaten, slept, cried and felt guilty, over and over in a loop. When I am able to do anything it’s mostly something passive like watching TV, although I am also tweeting too much to alleviate the boredom. Because God, apathy is boring.
I have never really “got” the #sicknotweak hashtag because I have never felt or been told that I am weak. I have frequently, however, felt lazy and that is how I feel now. I lie on the sofa, half waking, half sleeping, not even thinking about much except how awful I feel, and I’m aware of Tom bustling about doing what is needed to keep the house and the garden running. He seems to be able to put laundry out on the line and do the washing up and manage the household accounts and make bread simultaneously, while I feel like a huge waste of space, my body lumpen on the sofa, contributing nothing.
One of Tom’s favourite phrases is that I need to learn to “roll with the punches”. He has said this to me repeatedly during every depressive episode, and I am still not sure I fully understand what it means. It’s a bit like the offside rule, I’m willing to learn and I think I’ve almost got it but then no, I still don’t know what he’s on about. Apparently it’s a boxing metaphor, and means something like: the more you resist, the harder the punches will feel. You’re supposed to roll or turn your head or something to let them glance off you.
But how? What does this mean for me, for me right now? I ask every time, and every time he patiently explains. It means, he told me again today, accepting that I am not well. It means not beating myself up about the fact that I can’t do things, it means rolling with the fact that this is how I am today, this week. It sounds almost Buddhist in its focus on acceptance. In terms of being a rapid cycler I guess it means accepting the fact that my mood fluctuate very frequently, that having one or two brighter days doesn’t mean that I won’t be back in the grip of depression the next. The flip side of this is supposed to be consoling; conversely just because I have been depressed most of the last fortnight, this doesn’t mean that I won’t regain equilibrium, or even be hypomanic, next week. Or tomorrow.
Even when I kind of grasp what he means, though, I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to not feel guilty about the fact that he is doing almost everything, and I am doing almost nothing (I say almost, because I did manage to make an easy dinner last night). I don’t know how not to feel shitty about my unwashed hair and my blanket nest on the sofa and my near zero progress on my Apple Watch movement tracking and my poor food choices. I don’t know how not to feel like a failure about essentially dropping out of my Master’s degree before it has even started.
I thought blogging about depression might be cathartic, but now I don’t know. Maybe analysing it like this is resisting the punches?
Image shows two men boxing. Image by Chris Feser (https://www.flickr.com/photos/feserc/) sourced from Flickr, commercial use and modifications permitted.