Monday, May 4, 2015

A Monday Poem

"Chocolate Cake"
by Sarah

I would like a chocolate cake.
A rich chocolate cake.
A moist chocolate cake.
A dense chocolate cake.
I would like a rich, moist, dense chocolate cake.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Blogging And Mental Illness

Sometimes, I hate blogging.

Why do I hate blogging, you ask? Well, because blogging, in its simplest, purest form, is the intersection in Hell where all my demons pass each other on the way to work, exchanging friendly hellos and paper bags full of blood money. Or something like that.

I don't remember how much I've said about my personal cocktail of crazy on this blog, (and frankly, I'm not about to find out, because if I leave this post for longer than ten seconds I am literally never going to get it done). Suffice it to say that I have experience with a wide variety of mental disorders, all generally agreed upon by doctors (although never officially diagnosed? because apparently there was no motivation to get me diagnosed? Internet, what do I do about this -- do I even need to be diagnosed? These questions and more) and they all make blogging difficult in their own particular way.

Today, I am going to share some of my experience with these conditions ... particularly as they relate to blogging. No, I'm not sure this is a good idea either. But I'm doing it anyway.

Here goes.

1. Depression: If there is such a thing as a *primary* mental illness, this is probably mine. I have lived with moderate to severe depression since I was about 5 or 6 years old. Sometimes it's just the faintest grey haze in the corners of my eyes. Sometimes it is a black, crushing weight on the solar plexus of my soul. Usually, it falls somewhere in between.

What it means: Deadlines kick my butt. If there's anything I absolutely hate, it's feeling incapable of meeting my commitments. Unfortunately, with depression, this happens all too often. (Note that this failure to meet commitments doesn't come in the form of blowing off the commitments entirely: if I promise to get stuff done, I get it done. However, I often have little control over when I get it done -- and I am blindsided by this reality more often than not.) Blogging, in its traditional form, constitutes a commitment. And every. single. time. I have made this particular commitment, whether to myself or to you, whether I promise to blog every month or every Tuesday, it falls through. Every. freaking. time. And that brings us to ...

2. Anxiety (ALL SORTS): If depression is my primary mental disorder, anxiety is my second. I suffer primarily from generalized and social anxiety disorders, with a side of what I think might be panic attacks?*

What it means: The primary function of my anxiety disorders -- in blogging and other threatening social situations -- is to make it very, very difficult for me to behave like my actual self. I am hyper-aware of possibilities, and my anxiety zeroes in on the negative ones, enlarges them until they're all I can see. I become terrified, and then I try to cover it up, often becoming hyperactive, occasionally becoming belligerent, almost always saying or doing things I don't mean, and then I panic and lose it completely.

Social media makes this both better and worse, because it provides both the illusion of control and, you know, the complete lack of actual control. I can edit and consider what I say on the internet, but once I've said it, it can be really, really hard to take it back. And while normal social situations move on and fade into the past, the internet is forever ... and there are some very scary possibilities associated with forever.

This leads directly into ...

3. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: I am blessed with very mild obsessive compulsive disorder, which means that although I spend rather more of my life than I would otherwise choose dealing with the niggling feeling that something is wrong, that the world is off-balance and needs to be fixed, that feeling does not lead me to, for example, punch myself in the face. Or bash my head into walls. Or go running in the dark at -20°C. These are all real things, some of which have happened to people I love. OCD is brutal, and I am grateful that my experience with it has been so mild. That said, it is still unpleasant, and I am here to tell you what it means for me (and for my blog).

What it means: OCD is a funny thing. It might be the mental illness I understand the least (out of those I experience myself). It hitches very closely into my anxiety disorder, which makes sense, as OCD is technically an anxiety disorder, but I'm listing it separately both because it's often recognized separately and because my OCD symptoms are quite distinct from the symptoms I experience with generalized anxiety.

Sometimes, when my OCD is acting up, I find myself compelled to use words that have the 'b' sound. As many 'b' words as possible. (When it's really bad, I can end up rocking back and forth and crawling in circles on the floor, but that's a story for a different day.) When my OCD is triggered by journalling and/or blogging, I can find myself compulsively writing and deleting, stuck on a sentence I want to say because THIS word is a 'bad' word and this OTHER word is a 'good' word and I somehow have to find a way to cut the 'bad' word and use the 'good' word.

I don't know. It doesn't make sense to me either. All I know is that it's real. It's something I regularly experience, and while it doesn't always affect everything like my depression and anxiety do, it does make blogging a regular pain in the neck. The intricate workarounds necessary for me to get around my compulsions and actually write the blasted thing are exhausting, and frankly I usually don't have the energy to do it. Because depression.

CONCLUSION: This has been a really hard post for me to write, for all of the reasons I have listed above. There is a reason I haven't talked much about my mental illness on this blog. The stigma against abnormal mental processes -- even the terminology we use to describe them (mental illness, mental disorder) -- makes it easy to identify those who experience these processes as diseased. Undesirable. Broken.

I don't understand a lot of the things going on in my brain, but I am 100% sure that it isn't broken. I am objectively brilliant. (Another very risky thing to say on the internet.) I absorb information quickly and easily; I acquire new skills in a lightning flash, so long as they don't require kicking a ball or otherwise using my body in any way. I read voraciously. I love unashamedly. I draw and act and dance and sing.

I could afford to be better at all of the above. But so could every human being on the planet.

I am not interested in being broken. I am absolutely interested in being human.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am tired of being ashamed.** My mental processes affect me. They do not define me. Honestly, I am grateful when I think of the abnormalities of my brain. They remind me that I'm still breathing.

Even when it hurts, even when I feel a little less than alive, even when I have to drag myself out of bed and I'm living on the verge of tears and writing a simple 500-word blog post feels like sledding uphill, I am grateful for the person I am, and I am even more grateful for the person I am becoming.

Even if she never gets a handle on the whole blogging thing.

 *I have done extensive research on panic attacks, and I don't seem to manifest many of the physical symptoms that seem common to panic attacks, but I don't know what else to call them, so I call them panic attacks.

**I am also tired of missing deadlines, and freaking out around mosquitoes, and drinking water with chlorine in it, but unfortunately we cannot have everything in this world.