How depression changed me

I’ve had depression for much of my life. Of course, I haven’t been depressed all the time for my whole life, but it’s come and gone in various degrees for as long as I can remember. But the long cycle of depression I came out of about six months or so ago was the worst I’ve ever experienced. And having really acute emotional pain on a daily basis for months and months changed me. Before, my depression sucked and often impacted my life negatively, but it didn’t consume me. When I finally came up for air it took me a while to realize that I had changed, but I had.

My self confidence was shot

Spending more than a year with your brain bombarding you with the message that you are ugly and worthless and unlovable is pretty hard to recover from. Even after my depression subsided, I still had a much lower self confidence than I had before. I had gained a little bit of weight, which didn’t help because it’s long been a sore spot for me. I also felt less capable, less kind, less competent than before. It’s something I’m working on in therapy and with my actions, but it is taking me a long time to undo the damage. Part of how I’m recovering is just by living my life like the person I want to be and hoping that my brain catches up.

My priorities were different

I used to be a fairly ambitious person. I wanted a job that was important and had an impact on people and was difficult to succeed in. That ideal job changed a few times, but I always wanted to have professional adventures and be well respected, and that always made me lean towards professions that are very time consuming. After my bad depression, though, I started to focus more on building a life that was pleasant on a day-to-day basis. My priorities shifted and I became much more concerned with a  good work/life balance. Now I’m in grad school for a profession that is meaningful but not all-consuming. I focus more on my family and home life. I prioritize Mike and our dog. I make time to spend with friends. I talk to my mom on the phone as much as I can. I try to do things that make me happy, like blogging and cooking.  My ideal life looks radically different than it did three years ago. Now I want to be a person with a job that doesn’t feel like a chore, with a lot of friends and loved ones, with the time to have fulfilling hobbies.

I take better care of my health

When my depression got bad, I sort of let it. I put off going to see a psychiatrist until it was intolerable. It took me a while to get off my ass and find a therapist I clicked with. Now I’m on top of that shit! I had been off of medication for a while, but a few months ago I started to feel a little down again for no reason and I thought my depression was coming back. So I saw my psychiatrist and he put me on a low dose of a medication that has worked for me in the past. It’s been very helpful in keeping me normal. I exercise more. I see my therapist regularly. I’m more aware of what I need to do to be OK and I do it as best I can. That doesn’t mean I’ll never be depressed again; I probably will. But with any luck, next time won’t be so bad because I already have a system in place for taking care of myself.

I hate depression, and being depressed was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me. I don’t think anyone comes out of something like that completely unscathed. I see that period of my life as a dark chasm that separates a more carefree time from my adult life. I mentally separate things into before, during and after. But some of the changes that came out of it were positive, and I’m working on the ones that weren’t.

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Shut up, brain

I over think things a lot. Sometimes when I try to communicate I get anxious and think about all my word choices too hard and do I let there be an uncomfortable silence after or do I change the subject abruptly or what? I’m an awkward person.

Today I hung out with that friend I’ve been seeing sexually. We just hung out for an hour and chatted and I pet his cats. No big deal. Then later tonight he texted me and asked if I wanted to watch a TV show tomorrow at his place and I said yes because I like the show and want to be more social and I enjoy this dude’s company.

But then I started to worry that if I hang out with him two days in a row Mike will be jealous or think that I’m really serious about this guy or something and I got anxious about telling him. But the thing is, I’m not falling in love with this guy. I like him and care about him, but that’s not new. I’m seeing him two days in a row out of coincidence and because he’s my friend. And if Mike weren’t busy he’d be welcome to join us.

I wonder if I’m doing Mike a disservice by being that anxious about simple communications. He’s a reasonable person and he trusts me. There’s no reason to think he’s going to panic for no reason. It’s patronizing or demeaning or something. Maybe. I’m letting a combination of irrational fears and baggage from previous relationships complicate this one. I don’t really know what to do other than remind myself that I’m being silly and try to act like a normal human. Now I just need to figure out how normal humans act.

This isn’t a huge deal. Mike and I are doing well. We’re solid and happy and this is just a minor case of my anxiety taking a non-issue and turning it into an issue. But it would really be nice if my brain functioned normally.

 

ETA: I talked to Mike and, as I suspected, this was just an irrational fear. He was never upset about it and was very supportive of me going out and being social.

Compersion? Me?

Last night I stayed up late. Mike was running a Dungeons and Dragons game with some friends and so he came home late. I have trouble sleeping when he doesn’t tuck me in, so I waited up. Even though it impacted my schedule a little bit, I was happy that Mike got to do it. Not only did I enjoy the time to myself, but I was really happy for Mike that he got to go have fun. He’d been looking forward to it and he likes to be social and this type of thing is fun for him. I was happy that he was happy.

But then it occurred to me. How I felt about Mike’s D&D session was not significantly different from how I felt the other week when Mike did a demo rope and wax scene with a girl in front of her friends. I missed him, sure, but I was glad he was getting to go have fun and do stuff. At the time I didn’t think about it, but if I’m not mistaken, that’s a pretty textbook case of compersion.

I’m feeling really pleased with myself. I’d always thought of compersion as something beyond my reach. Jealousy for me was both inevitable and all-consuming. But now I don’t feel depressed all the time and I feel more confident and secure in myself and my relationship. I guess compersion requires a solid foundation. It really does feel good. It’s so much easier to be happy for someone you love than it is to struggle and fight and feel hurt and irrationally angry.

I wish I understood better how I moved from that bad place to this good one. It’s easy to blame it on the depression. But I wonder if it’s not that simple. Being depressed really shredded my self worth and my sense of myself as a person with value. And I’ve been working really hard to rebuild myself. I’ve practiced letting go of intrusive thoughts. My relationship with Mike is great. That’s all taken effort, but at the same time I feel like it has to be more than that. Non-monogamy has been good to me lately. I’m having fun and it’s not felt like a threat to my relationship. Maybe my mental health freed my mind to be receptive to the fact that I can see other people and still love Mike the same.

This was supposed to be a happy post, but I worry it got sort of rambling and incoherent. It’s just so nice when things are smooth and easy and I’m still not used to that.

Special day

Today feels like a special day and I’m not sure why. I don’t have class today, so it’s like the start of a weekend. My week has been a perfect storm of family health stress, new-semester nerves, BDSM group politics and personal problems. But now it’s over and I can relax.

Last night Mike and I had a friend over. I made dinner and we ate and had wine and then did a BDSM scene where they both spanked me. Then we ate pie and watched a movie. It was a ton of fun and very easy. There was nothing hard about it (well, the scene was physically hard, but nothing was emotionally difficult). No fear, no jealousy. Just friendship and fun and love. It was yet another really gratifying reminder of the best parts of non-monogamy for me.

Then today, the two of us had lunch with a couple of friends who were visiting from out of town. It was really fun to catch up. They are people we know from the kink scene, so we got to hear them compare the community here to the one where they live now, which is something I’m always interested about. Tomorrow I’m going to a friend’s birthday party and Sunday I’m having lunch with friends. All in all, it’s a pretty social weekend for me.

I’m laying here in comfy pajamas, with my dog sniffing around and my boyfriend in his usual good mood and I’m contemplating all the fun things in my life and stretching out and appreciating the fact that I can just be lazy for the rest of the day. It feels like a sick day but without the hassle of being sick. I’m feeling so grateful: for Mike and for our relationship, for the friends I can be myself around, for the fun opportunities I have, for my grades last semester. I’m going to spend the rest of the day watching murder mysteries and being happy.

Ringing in the New Year right

I had a perfect New Year’s Eve. I picked up a friend and we went to a fetish party at the house of one of the first people I met when I got into the scene. I chatted and socialized. Before Mike showed up I had a nice chat with the girl he hung out with this week. We even talked about what they did together without me getting uncomfortable.  Then Mike came, we kissed at midnight. We watched some scenes and did one ourselves. I flirted with a girl or two and got to feel a couple people up. Then, just as I was getting tired, I dropped my friend off at her house and came home. Mike and I walked the dog and he tucked me into bed and I fell asleep feeling really grateful for everything I have and optimistic for the year ahead.

I woke up today with that feeling intact. I’m getting 2014 started off right. I’m reconnecting with a high school friend and meeting his wife. Then I’m going to a discussion meeting about power dynamics. Tomorrow Mike and I are spending some time together. Next week we have our friend coming over, and the week after that we’re going to try to get dinner with a couple we don’t see often enough. Classes start again next week, but my textbooks are all ordered and cost less than $100. I have things I’m excited about coming up.