Is This A Crisis?

3 Jan

This morning I misunderstood something my friend Audra said, and ended up saying something that I shouldn’t have.

She very gently pointed out what I’d done, and I apologized.

Over. And over. And over.

By the end, I wasn’t even apologizing for what I’d said; I was apologizing for annoying her, for always being wrong, and for just plain being myself. This, amid protestations from her that it was fine, that she wasn’t upset, that she hadn’t communicated clearly in the first place.

Finally, I said, “I’m just awful, and I’m overwhelmed, and I’m not doing enough to help myself because I don’t know how.”

All of that was true, even if I hadn’t meant for it to come out like that.

She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I balked and asked why. I didn’t see any reason to go to the hospital – I was fine, just having a bad day. Well, a string of bad days, really. Maybe a bad month. But certainly nothing more than that!

“I think it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do in a crisis, love,” she said. “I feel like you’ve been in a crisis for a bit now.”

But how can I be in a crisis when I seem perfectly fine to everyone else? How can things be that bad if no one else has noticed?

What does a crisis even look like?

When I asked Audra, she said, “Like, I feel like you’ve got the brain equivalent to not being able to breathe, you know?”

Yes. That is exactly what it’s like right now.

Maybe a crisis looks like weeks and weeks or maybe even years of not sleeping.

Maybe a crisis looks like letting my son watch Fraggle Rock after dinner so that I can pass out on the couch behind him, because I can’t stay awake for one more second.

Maybe a crisis looks like waking up shaking and sweating at night and not knowing why.

Maybe a crisis looks like not being able to focus on any one task long enough to complete it.

Maybe a crisis looks like not allowing myself to eat, or have fun, or relax until I’ve finished my work as a pathetic attempt to motivate myself, and the beating myself up when I can’t get anything done.

Maybe a crisis looks like never being good enough, never being smart enough, never having enough hours in the day.

Maybe it looks like my hands shaking as I try to make a cup of tea.

Maybe it looks like crying alone at my desk for no discernible reason.

Maybe it looks like taking everything way too personally.

Maybe a crisis is all of these things taken together; maybe its more than the sum of its parts.

Maybe this is a crisis.

I don’t know how to get out of this. I’m trying all of solutions that I know, like medication, therapy and yoga, and none of them seem to be doing much good. I feel like I’m doing my best, but I’m not sure how to proceed if it turns out that my best isn’t good enough.

I’m scared.

To be honest, I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this publicly. Maybe because it’s easier than talking about it face to face with anyone; maybe I’m hoping someone else will tell me that they’ve been here, and that’ll make me feel less alone, or make me feel like I’ll be able to come out the other side mostly unscathed. Sometimes it feels like talking about my depression on here was like opening a Pandora’s Box, and now I just can’t stop. Often I worry that I’m being awful and attention-seeking. I tell myself that I’m helping combat stigma, but is that true? Or do I have other motives in place?

Is all this negative self-talk part and parcel of my depression? Or am I just being rationally critical of myself? After years of living like this, how do I untangle my actual self from the disease? Or is it just a part of me, part of my personality now?

It’s taking every ounce of my self-will not to apologize for writing this, for annoying you, for being a bad person. Even writing that is a sort of apology; it’s a compromise that I’ve made with myself, a way of showing you how bad I am without actually saying the words I’m sorry.

Is there even any point in getting help? Sometimes it seems like the hope that things will get better is even harder than the depression itself; not only do I feel rotten, but I also have to deal with the disappointment of each successive doctor, medication and therapy not working.

I don’t know what to do.

But I think that this might be a crisis.


25 Responses to “Is This A Crisis?”

  1. Julia January 4, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    I have been there, but not for an extended period of time (a month at most). I don’t know what to suggest except that talking about it is probably good. *hug*

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 1:26 am #

      Thanks, both for that advice and the e-hug. Talking definitely helps (even if it makes me feel awkward)

  2. xoxo January 4, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    I know how you feel, a lot of people are going through exactly what you are. Sometimes depression isn’t something that can be solved by a jar of cymbalta. Sometimes its something that millions of people simultaneously experience because life is really hard. And maybe knowing that its not just you, its everybody… maybe that will help you feel better. In a perfect world we could just take time outs and rest and still have our rents paid without fear… and we could get crisis help without being forcibly medicated or called unstable or crazy. People need a break. I hope you get some rest and some you time and recharge so you can be happy and feel better, and then you can continue the great work you do.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 1:28 am #

      Thanks. And yeah, I wish this was something that could magically be solved by a bottle of pills or a good therapist or whatever. I did kind of have a forced break last night/today because I was sick, so hopefully that will help. It also helps to know that lots of other people are going through/have gone through the same thing.

  3. Rosie January 4, 2013 at 12:26 am #

    It sounds like a crisis to me, and I ought to know. I’ve been in pretty bad shape myself, recently. You do not suck. Being unable to cope is a problem, but it’s not a fault. It’s a temporary condition and I think your friend’s suggestion is a good one.

    One day I was on the freeway feeling very much as you do now, and I saw a hospital and I said, “Screw it. I’m checking myself in.” At the front desk I asked for the psych ward, and they sent me to the 8th floor. (Why is it always the 8th floor?) There a nice doctor listened to me and asked the right questions to at least help me see a way forward. She basically gave me permission to be in crisis and to allow myself the personal care something like that deserves.

    I really hope you find someone like that if you decide to go. I’m currently trying to find someone to talk to, but I’ve often felt lately like the hospital might be the right place for me. So I get it. I hope that helps even the tiniest bit.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 1:35 am #

      My experience with hospitals and the mental healthcare system hasn’t been great. But maybe I need to give it another go. (And maybe it’s the 8th floor because … section 8? That’s actually all I can come up with).

      It definitely helps to hear about people who have had positive experiences with psych wards in hospitals. It helps to know that there are other people who cycle the same way I do, who are never “cured”.

      I know that you’ve been having a really tough time lately. I hope that things get better for you, and that you find someone to talk to. xoxo

  4. Annette January 4, 2013 at 1:34 am #

    It is a crisis. Or at least, every time I’ve been in that space it has ended up as a crisis. Depression is a real, tangible, venomous, lying thing. It slinks up on you, and whispers in your ear “you suck”, or “you were wrong, and everything you have done is wrong, and everything you will do is wrong”. It’s lying through its pointy, yellow teeth, and you don’t have to believe it (of course, I have no idea how to make me, or you, get that, when it has its claws out).

    If you are not safe, or if you can’t take care of yourself in terms of food, safety, basics of living, or everyday management, then you might want to consider a hospital. If it is getting worse, if things are making less sense, if you are eating less, and sleeping less than you were a week ago, then you have every right to go and get more intense help. Hospitals suck. There is no way around that. For me, they have always been a last resort, when I could not exist on my own any more, or my husband was too afraid to go to work and leave me alone. They provide a bubble, where most of the time you can rest a bit. Maybe you can deal with meds (although they are their own conversation).

    I’m not sure where you are, but in Ontario (where I am), it is hard to get hospitalized if you are not actively a danger to yourself, but if you feel in any way unsafe, it is worth a try.

    If you are safe, then you need your friends or family to give you a chance at a break. You might need to take some time away from work to prevent a total meltdown, and you might need them to back you up on this. You have a right to ask them, you do. This is not your doing, this is not because you made some mistake or miscalculation, this is a crisis, and you need to ask for help from the people who care about you. If you can find a pro (a shrink who does therapy, or a therapy-based GP, or someone covered by insurance), it might be time to call in for back-up.

    Sorry to go on so long, but I just made it back from this pit, and I am wanting so badly to give you a hand up.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 2:04 am #

      Thank you. For everything. All of the things you said were perfect. I’ve been hospitalized before (in Nova Scotia, although I’m in Ontario now) and it was awful. Definitely a last resort.

      I’ve been really lucky to have a good safety net of friends, and, now that we’ve made it through the sickness this weekend (courtesy of my son and his daycare class) I’m feeling better. I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow, and hoping that she’ll have something helpful to say.

      Again: thank you, thank you, thank you. This comment is just exactly what I needed to read right now.

  5. jennie1ofmany January 4, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    Maybe a crisis looks like weeks and weeks or maybe even years of not sleeping.

    Yes, yes it does.

    Maybe a crisis looks like letting my son watch Fraggle Rock after dinner so that I can pass out on the couch behind him, because I can’t stay awake for one more second

    I think that’s an “it depends” sort of thing. Once? That’s a bad day. Once a month even? Not a crisis. Every night for an extended period of time? Possibly grounds for concern.

    Maybe a crisis looks like waking up shaking and sweating at night and not knowing why.

    Once? Possibly a bad night. Frequently? Grounds for concern.

    Maybe a crisis looks like not being able to focus on any one task long enough to complete it.

    Possibly. This could also have something to do with the lack of sleep, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not part of the crisis.

    Maybe a crisis looks like not allowing myself to eat, or have fun, or relax until I’ve finished my work as a pathetic attempt to motivate myself, and the beating myself up when I can’t get anything done.

    This seems like an approach that is ultimately not on your side, and possibly part of an overall episode of depression.

    Maybe a crisis looks like never being good enough, never being smart enough, never having enough hours in the day.

    That sounds a lot like depression. It also sounds a lot like having been raised Catholic (I’m not joking). It sounds like a set of stories you tell yourself, because some part of you is not on your side.

    Maybe it looks like my hands shaking as I try to make a cup of tea.

    Definitely grounds for concern. Possibly also part of the lack of sleep, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not having a crisis.

    Maybe it looks like crying alone at my desk for no discernible reason.

    Yes, it does.

    Maybe it looks like taking everything way too personally.

    That’s part of it, sure. And the sense that everything HAS to be taken personally because everything matters and is impossible.

    Maybe this is a crisis.

    Is all this negative self-talk part and parcel of my depression? Or am I just being rationally critical of myself? After years of living like this, how do I untangle my actual self from the disease? Or is it just a part of me, part of my personality now?

    Yes, the negative self-talk is part of the depression. Depression is, among other things, a sneaky horrible brainmonster that sits in your brain and tells you that you suck and you’ll never be any better. I don’t know why it does this. But I do know that while it’s whispering in your ear how much you suck, it’s difficult to do a number of other things. Something a friend told me about living with a mood disorder was that while she was learning to live with her disorder, she developed a lot of mental habits for coping. As she became more stable, those habits became less helpful, and in some cases actively harmful — like when you develop a physical habit to accommodate a physical disability, and the habit (an unusual gait for example) persists even if the physical reason for it is cured. So you need to go for OT to learn how to walk without the problem you had before. So which is your “actual” walk? The one you learned how to do before your leg was “healed” or the one you get trained to do?

    I’m not sure, but I feel like “disease” might be a misnomer when we’re talking about depression. When we think of diseases we often think of things that can (sometimes) be cured, like, say, cancer: if we eradicate the disease, cut out the tumour, poison the defective cells, and you get the person back good as new except for the trauma brought on by the treatment itself. Mood disorders seem to work more like permanent health conditions: say diabetes or arthritis. Permanent health conditions tend to be more insidious: they can affect the way people live their lives to a greater or lesser extent depending on a number of factors some of which are manageable and others of which may not be. They can change how you live you life, you know?

    I feel like depression and other mood disorders are more like chronic illnesses that flare up, sometimes in response to observable stimuli, and other times for no apparent reason. You can do all the “right” things: self-care, therapy, sleep, etc., and still have episodes.

    You’re not a bad person. You’re not incompetent. You’re not doing anything wrong.

    You are, maybe, having a crisis.

    Things can get better. They’ve been better before.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 2:20 am #

      I love you. Like, a lot. You are one of my very favourite people that I met in 2012.

      I especially love what you said about depression and disease. I am going to start thinking of it as a chronic condition rather than something that can be cured or ended; hopefully that will help.

  6. Karen P. January 4, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    I was diagnosed as bipolar type II, and I also sometimes suffer from depression and social anxiety. I’ve tried many different medications. Right now I’m on a small dose of Abilify, and medicinal cannabis.

    Medicinal cannabis has helped me so much. I really can’t say that enough. I don’t smoke it, I bake yummy creations and eat it. Once you learn how to use it, it can help with: reducing anxiety, relaxing, de-stressing, and sleeping.

    Another thing that has helped me is EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. If you look it up, you might find it interesting. It combines energy work with tapping on acupressure points.

    If you are interested in any of what I have mentioned, please feel free to email me. I’m more than happy to share any information or recipes.

    I hope you feel better soon. I know from experience that it was hard to see the good in the world when I was depressed. You’ve got friends and family that care about you. I wish you all the best.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 2:14 am #

      Thank you! I have to admit, I feel kind of weird about medical cannabis, not because I’m anti-pot (I’m definitely not), but because I’m still breastfeeding. I know that I should probably wean, but even just thinking about that exhausts me, you know? I know that at this point it’ll be a real struggle.

      I will definitely look into EFT, though! It sounds really interesting!

      Thanks for sharing & for your well-wishes. Next time I’m in NS I’m going to ask Nancy to introduce us ❤

  7. sarafist January 4, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    I’ve been there, and it sounds like checking yourself in might be the best thing for you. I haven’t read too many of your entries, so I’m not sure whether you see a therapist in conjunction with your meds, but if so, now would be a good time to say, “Hey, I think I’m in crisis. I need help.” Or perhaps to your prescribing doc. There are options for treatment, from being an inpatient on the psych ward (done that!) or outpatient intensive care (done it, also good!). We don’t all come equipped with what we need to get through these things, but it doesn’t mean that your best isn’t good enough, just that you’re missing a tool or a step, and you need help to get it. It’s not weakness, there is a point, and it’s nothing to be sorry for. You CAN reach out to a medical professional and say, “I am in crisis; I need help,” and they can help you find the best treatment.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 2:12 am #

      Thank you! I am seeing a therapist, which is helpful, I think, although I generally hate therapy. And I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow, so I’m going to talk to her about adjusting meds and other options. It’s so good to hear from other people who’ve been there, especially people who have dealt with psych services in hospitals. My experience with them has been pretty abysmal so far :/

  8. runesandrhinestones January 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Saying that it feels like your brain can’t breathe is such an accurate description, and I understand how you feel. It does sound like a crisis, but such a drawn out one that you can’t define it as such. You’ve been and are still being as strong as you can be, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out and get as much help as possible. I can’t help with the negative self talk – I can’t seem to shut mine up either, but I can guarantee that this didn’t annoy anyone who read it.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 2:10 am #

      Thank you. And yeah, I guess that’s part of why this doesn’t feel like a crisis – because it’s been going on for so long. It just kind of feels like my new normal, you know?

      And thanks. I’m glad it hasn’t annoyed anyone so far (that I know of).

  9. Laura January 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    You’re in the middle of a Canadian winter and wondering if/why you’re depressed? There are places in the world you don’t have to spend 50% of the year cold and miserable.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 1:39 am #

      Yeah, the weather here is pretty miserable. It would probably help to get away to somewhere warm and sunny.

  10. tracey January 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Hi, please do yourself a favor and seek treatment. keep trying til you improve. sleep is so important! you might want to look into ‘mindfulness meditation’ it can be a real help to calm your mind and organize your thoughts. a lot of hospitals offer courses in mindfulness thru their mental health programs. worth looking into. i wish you all the best for the future.

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 1:42 am #

      Thank you! I am seeing my doctor tomorrow, and will work on my meditation skills. Honestly, they are pretty meagre, but hopefully they will improve. Yoga does help, most of the time. Just not lately, I guess.

  11. theyellowblanket January 5, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    Depression is a beeyotch. I have been in crisis land, in that place where one asks themself if the hospital is the only rational place to be. I know it’s hard to grasp this idea, but the state you’re in is a temporary one. You won’t always feel this way. Perhaps the medication you’re on isn’t the right one? It’s sort of like contact lenses, if you’re not using the right prescription, it’s impossible to see clearly. You will get through this. For me, the first step is always accepting that I’m in crisis, and a different course of action needs to be taken. xo

    • bellejarblog January 7, 2013 at 1:44 am #

      Thanks. I am seeing my doctor tomorrow to see about changing meds. It’s a little complicated because I want to keep breastfeeding, but I guess weaning is better than feeling awful all the time. I will see where seeing my doc gets me, and then take it from there I guess. xoxo

      • theyellowblanket January 8, 2013 at 2:09 am #

        Lots of meds are compatible with breastfeeding. Be sure you doc is well-versed in breastfeeding and medications. 🙂

  12. shannon January 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    I’m sure glad you have so many amazing people in your life, because I fail. I’m sorry I missed this entry entirely somehow and am just finding it now. Anne, you’re literally the loveliest (as you would say) and God these dark, dark places are hard, hey?

    Last night Steve was all, OMG Shannon why did you get in touch with your mother again after 9 years now? And I was all, when will it be a good time, if not now? And he’s all, maybe when you’re not depressed? And I’m all, that could be never.

    I get this. You know I get this.

    I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. I have all of the hugs for you. I wish I was closer. I’d come do your laundry while Emma played with Theo and I’d make you some meals to throw in your freezer.

    Imagine the love in those things and it’s yours, my friend.

    You told a commenter above that she’s one of your favourites, from 2012. You’re mine. xo

  13. zimim March 20, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Heyy, so, this is probably totally weird because I don’t even know you, and I only found your blog yesterday, but I’ve been reading your posts and feel like I could’ve written a lot of them, so I just wanted to check in and ask if you’ve ever read about ADD- the withdrawn kind- because often it is masked by the depression that naturally results, when you can’t get anything done and you don’t know why and things that seem easy for other people are inexplicably impossible…. And especially if you are particularly intelligent, so you have developed ways to cope and get by, the withdrawn kind of ADD is severely underdiagnosed. Anyway, I just found out I had it a couple of months ago and now I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on (“Driven to Distraction,” “Women with Attention Deficit Disorder,” etc etc. It’s super misunderstood in mainstream culture- it’s not about a *deficit* of attention– but I won’t go on and on about it- you can look it up. Obviously I don’t know you so I could be completely wrong but I figured the worst thing that would happen is you think I’m a weirdo and you don’t look it up and you don’t have it anyway, and the best thing that can happen is maybe it applies to you and will help you. Because I tried to treat my depression for years and years and years but if it comes out of a cognitive problem, all the treatment will not help unless you understand the underlying ADD. Anyway, just figured I’d mention it! <3- random stranger from the internet.

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