Tag Archives: mental health

I Feel Like a Sociopath (The Trouble Is All These Damned Feelings)

There was a time in my life once where I was exceptionally introspective and self-aware. I analyzed my every thought and intention through a microscope and made adjustments as needed to correct faulty thinking. I had a firm faith then, a guide that gave me direction and established a ruler by which I could measure my progress. I was also younger and more idealistic. Depression was a situational condition, not a clinical one, a normal part the turbulence of growing up and learning what it means to become an adult.

Fast-forward almost twenty years to the present me that has wrestled with clinical depression for the better part of a decade. The idealism and optimism of my youth that was convinced I could learn how to be a better person is all but gone. What’s left is a dry husk of a creature that barely manages to get through a day in one piece. No longer is there any hope for betterment and progress. That space is filled now with despair, despondency, anxiety, anger, and fear.

In my counseling session today, I described myself as feeling numb. It was the best descriptor I could think of at the time for the way I feel – or rather, the way I don’t feel. There is a noticeable absence of joy, happiness, hope, peace, and sympathy in my emotional spectrum. So it’s not that I feel numb, exactly. That would imply an absence of all feelings. Rather, what I seem to lack are positive, healthy emotions – those feelings that enable me to relate and connect to other human beings. 

Don’t get me wrong. I care about my family and close friends’ health and well-being. I care that they’re safe and have all their basic needs met. But after that, it’s like I slam into an emotional wall. I know I should care about my relationships. I know I should be investing in those around me, especially my immediate family. But it’s like that part of my heart has been excised, torn out of my chest and replaced with a bundle of pain and emptiness. What’s worse, I miss that part of me that’s missing, but I don’t care enough to find it again.

I’m scraped thin, stretched to my breaking point. There’s only so much of me to go around. I’m barely getting by on the day-to-day, barely surviving. Every minute of every day I have to make the decision to keep breathing. As a result I feel like a sociopath, knowing I should care more about the needs of the people I love but finding myself unable to. I feel like a paper mask, a lie constructed of tissue paper that can be destroyed with only the slightest pressure.

I often wonder what happened to that young idealist. Is he still around somewhere? Does he still exist? If I went looking, would I find him, lost perhaps beneath a seat cushion of my heart or locked away in a hidden vault of my mind? Or would he turn up as a skeleton in a closet, having long ago decayed into bone and dust?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I only know that I feel cold and indifferent, not only to the cares of those nearest to me but to myself, as well. What hope can there be for others when you have lost all hope for yourself?

When Melancholy Becomes Something Else

Earlier this morning, I sent this to Twitter:

It seems I spoke too soon because my mood has deteriorated since then. Tears have been threatening — and occasionally more than threatening — to spill over all morning. It’s frustrating and maddening because feeling like this is so completely pointless. It’s wasted emotion because it’s directed at… nothing. What’s worse is that it’s crippling and destructive, which makes it all the more scary to me because of the way it interferes with daily living.

Depression, when it’s not flattening my affect and overwhelming every single other thing I feel, makes me angry. I feel like I should be above this, better than this, able to mash down on this with ferocity and conviction, able to banish it to the darkest reaches of my mind whenever I like. And yet, I can’t. The damnable thing rears its ugly, vindictive head at the most unexpected — and unwelcome — of times and makes me think and feel things that aren’t actually true. Depression, among its multitude of other vices, is a liar. But even knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to shove aside. Depression also has teeth, and claws, and it has no problem sinking them into the soft, sensitive tissues of my brain and heart where it will hurt the most.

Therapy for me, then, is to write, when I can summon the strength to shove depression aside long enough to do. And so I write, exposed and vulnerable (which is scary in its own right), because it helps me process some of the things I’m feeling. Plus, it’s something I can actually do, instead of allowing the depression to simply have its way with me. So much of depression is about being passive and letting it do whatever the hell it wants to — which is why physical activity is also such good therapy. Activity, doing, is fighting back and refusing to allow the depression to win.

I wish there was more I could do because even doing feels passive when it doesn’t make the depression go completely away. The best I can hope for is survival and subsistence and hope that this thing will not kill me. My mind says it won’t, but my heart declares otherwise. Apparently depression is also cognitive dissonance.

This Weight Upon My Shoulders

Every couple of weeks or so I go through a spell of feeling like the weight of the world is resting solidly on my shoulders. During these times I feel tired and overwhelmed, certain that I’m doing too many things, that my hands are in too many projects. These are the times when I most seriously consider scaling back my activities and obligations in order to retain my sanity (such as it is), such as cutting out certain portions of our farm operations or dropping optional obligations to which I’ve committed.

Photo: rawlands under a Creative Commons license
Photo: hannah k (rawlands) under a Creative Commons license

For some reason, it always takes me a couple of days of this to realize that what I’m experiencing is a mild bout of depression. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like the deep, crippling depression that pushes me into suicidal ideation, and so it takes me longer to identify what’s going on. It also settles in slowly, a bit at a time over several days so that, at first, it simply feels like the kind of exhaustion born out of a busy lifestyle. To add insult to injury, this usually coincides during times of actual sleep deprivation, which is indicative that the two things are actually related. Either way, the feeling of being tired masks the fact that this is really the onset of depression, albeit a minor case. (That really soul-crushing depression typically only happens to me once or twice a year, the first always in January/February during the deepest, coldest part of winter, and once sometimes in the middle of the summer.) These smaller episodes occur more frequently — every two to three weeks — and are usually easier to bear up under, gritted teeth and shortened temper not withstanding.

These minor depressive episodes almost always pass within a couple of days, but while they’re here, this weight — it’s an actual, physical sensation — never leaves my shoulders. Identifying it and talking about it sometimes helps it abate more quickly, sometimes it doesn’t. At the very least, it is always something of a relief to recognize it when it’s happening.