Shopping: The most subversive therapy.

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One of my many problems is that I never relax. Like, it makes me nervous, and I’m not very good at it. But Sunday mornings, for some reason, provide a solace that I’ve not found through any other means. You know what I’m talking about, ladies. I’m talking about Target.

I roll up in the early morning sun, just minutes after the doors have opened, and join the line of townies at the understaffed Starbucks. It’s always the same group of not-that-old dudes talking about whatever sport is happening. Or politics. There’s a lot of politics, too.

Dark roast in one hand and ergonomic basket in the other, I weave my way through the women’s  section, looking for good sales and touching all the sweaters, before losing myself wholly in Clearance. This could take awhile.

For a long  time, I wore exclusively Target black tank tops and Target black long-sleeves. When I was in North Dakota, I would continually replenish my wardrobe with such staples – pair after pair of Target knee-length black socks. So, you see, it’s more than just shopping. It’s nostalgia. It’s a uniform. It’s love.

After Ladies’ Clearance has been scoured, I usually make my way through the intimates section. Mostly looking for different colored tights, if you must know, but I’ve been known to eye a kimono robe or two. After that, I’m off to bedding, bath, lamps, and candles, the last of which are never – EVER – on clearance even though I so wish they would be. And I’m always in the market for a wicked cheap lamp.

You can tell by the way I’m writing that I’m kind of working myself into a froth, can’t you? You can feel the madness sinking in? I mean, remember, it’s only probably 8:35am by now, and we’ve already sucked down most – oops – ALL of this coffee – and our basket is suddenly full of all sorts of Things! Towels on Sale and 3-dimensional “thank you” cards (only $2/pkg!) and OMGZ all teh pretty tights and Wait:

 

WTFXX

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I TRY TO RELAX. 

I WIND UP BUYING A (!!!)PINK(!!!) SWEATER WITH SOME KIND OF HEDGEHOG ON IT.

I DO NOT WEAR PINK.

I QUIT.


Bearing up

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It goes without saying that things have been happening. Despite what one might wish, things are always happening. We are powerless to stop it. Some normal things happen, that much is for sure, and some wonderful things, but some things you wish you could pretend AREN’T happening also happen.

It’s on again, this war in my brain, and it’s on full-force. If back in May I hinted at a storm to come, I had no idea it would be a monsoon of such magnitude, or one that’s proven to be so mercilessly unrelenting. I mean, I would have come with snacks. And honestly? We’re out of Chianti. ALREADY.

I’ve equated depression to many things, but what comes to mind most recently is some kind of morbid onion shedding its papery skin. With each layer, you think, oh yes, here’s the bad part. Now, I remember. I remember that vague hopelessness when faced with life’s bounty or crosses, and the distinct inability to sort one from the other. Or no – *I* remember this –  come on – let’s just get out of bed. On the count of three. Just this one more time – and staying in bed for another two days.

With each layer lost another emerges, more bleak than the last, and you never get any closer to the damn meat of the onion. And I don’t even like onions in the first place, so WHY?

Oh, who brought the Sun Chips? Good call, dude. Looks like we’re in for a long one.


Delusions.

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Like most people with mood disorders, I’ve always loved reading books about other people with mood disorders. More than one of them have had a bipolar protagonist. And I’ve always thought, while reading: “Huh. That kind of reminds me of… me”. This is not to say that I’m inclined to wear a tutu to the grocery store or buy spur-of-the-moment tickets to Vegas on a newly opened credit card, but the way things tend to cycle inside my head has always made me wonder.

For example.

Syracuse, NY (home of my alma mater) is not known for its fine weather, but the perpetual slate-grey skies mirrored my dysthymic mindset to such an extent that I could only conclude that the pairing was meant to be. I went to class, kept my grades up, and partied like a rockstar, but, behind the scenes, my mind was an abyss. I sought help on more than one occasion, but no amount of talk therapy seemed to lighten my load. And, at the time, I was resistant to medication. The summer before my senior year things got so bad that I had to quit my waitressing job in Boston, bow out of my prizewinning internship at an ad agency, and move back to SU, head in hands. My boyfriend and I had just recently ended our year-plus relationship, and I was terrified of all that lay in store. That first semester was a nightmare. Horrible.

Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

I remember the moment everything turned roses – it was the screening night for my film class – and finally, to quote the great Sylvia Plath,

“All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung suspended a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air. ”

It was wondrous.

But, as we all know, the only constant in life is change. And it wasn’t long before my euphoria plunged back to black despair. The moment the switch flipped back is just as clear as the moment it flipped on, and I cried on Katsu’s shoulder, knowing that my reprieve had ended. Not knowing when, or if, it would ever begin again.

Those switches are less clear now, but I’m beginning to think that some have flipped. The first was euphoria – living alone, freewheeling out to my new boyfriend B!, even moving home bothered me less than anyone could have imagined.

The second, of course, is now. The realization that all those good times were on some spectrum of yet another mental malfunction – a symptom of this suspected disease. All the progress I thought I’d made? Nothing but hypomania triggered by my stint in the Bin.

And you know what? That really feels like shit. Seriously.


How having a cat changed my mind about everything.

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It was senior year of college – Syracuse University studying at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. It was the first day of first semester, and my film business class was going around the room introducing themselves. Saying what they wanted to do with their lives. There were an unsurprising number of aspiring producers and directors – it WAS a film BUSINESS class and all – so it kind of threw everyone for a loop when I said I wanted to be a mom. “A mom?” I could almost hear them all thinking. “I mean, why is she even HERE then?”

But I did, I really wanted it.

That stayed with me through graduation, through my first job, through my marriage. More than ten years of the tumult that is life, just waiting for the day I’d hold my own baby in my arms. And then, of course, everything changed. You might think it was the going crazy, or the going broke that did me in. Or, surely, the divorce? The divorce must have been the nail in the coffin.

Nope.

It wasn’t the Bin, it wasn’t the cash, and it wasn’t the men or my own poor decisions – It was that goddamn Jake that finally made me realize I might not want to have children. That goddamn Jake and his liver disorder (or whatever it was) that nearly killed him last summer. I mean, I’m usually able to accurately describe most feelings with words, but I have no language for how awful it was to sit by and watch him suffer. This poor sweet creature, just so sick and so sad. It literally hurt my heart. It broke me. And I thought: what if this was my child? What if this was my own child I had to hand over to others, what if it was MY kid that was being poked with needles and force-fed pills, knowing that he hated every second, not knowing if he’d even make it to the other side? I don’t think I could bear it. I truly don’t think I could.

Watching someone you love suffer is the worst pain of all. We want our children to be happy, but life, intrinsically, is the most painful wish you could grant. As the Buddha teaches us: life is suffering. I find that to be the noblest truth.


And another thing, while I’m on a roll here,

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http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-truth-about-borderline

This article, found through a Twitter feed I follow at work, made me at least 6% less productive on Tuesday. I remained devoted to my job, turning my attention back to more relevant Tweets, but something about it stuck with me long after the day was done.

Now, let’s be up front. I’ve never been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I have a lot of other official diagnoses, but BPD is not one of them. However, they did teach Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a treatment schemata for those *with* BPD, in The Bin while I was there. I found the techniques very helpful: mindfulness, awareness, cultivated skills and concentration. I’m not saying it works every time, but, really, it’s not supposed to. Emotions are normal, and, we learn, they come and go.

The horrible thing about depression is that it seems to NEVER let go. Being depressed is like being trapped under a heavy, moist, 1-ton bale of stinking farm hay, and not even having the energy to wedge yourself out. And when you’re treating someone depressed, I’d imagine, the first order of business is to lift up that load and help the person stand. So in the hospital, every bit the picture of classical depression, it’s no wonder that they diagnosed me thusly.

So I’ve not been depressed lately. But I haven’t been great, either. Where my moods were once a one-note hum, they’re now a jazz arpeggio. Like, that kind of crazy jazz I hate. I’ll be fine one minute, just OK the next, and then feel myself slipping over the edge into something dark and mushy. Sometimes I’m able to catapult myself back out – sometimes I’m not.

None of this is like depression. But a lot of it is like borderline. Although I’m able to maintain relationships, it has more to do with my resolve to stay healthy and the infinite patience of my companions. Although I’m usually able to compose myself, I generally feel just on the verge of going technicolor. And impulse control? Let’s not even talk about all the ways I venture to excess.

I feel bad about it, really. I feel like I conquered one horrid beast only to be faced with another, more jostling foe. And anyone can tell you, the worst thing about feeling bad is feeling bad about feeling bad. But this article, instead of bringing me down, gave me some measure of hope and self-forgiveness. It’s exhausting to manage these moods – the euphoria and the depths – and since I’ve now been trained to bring awareness to every flicker, each movement is obvious to me.

So maybe it’s OK to be exhausted. Maybe it’s OK to be sad sometimes. And maybe it’s OK that my on-off switch flips at the speed of a strobe light. Maybe this is just the new me, and now I just have to learn how to handle her.


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