Running Against Dysphoria
I saw my therapist today. We covered a lot of ground, but I think she may be a little confused as to how to help me. I scheduled this appointment a week ago because I thought, and Maus thought, I would do better if I could see my therapist more frequently while I was suffering from some of my issues. However, I get there and I find myself telling her that this last week has gone okay. Not really like, ecstatic, but not angry and depressed, so of course, this is a good thing. I’d rather things run “okay” than otherwise so…
I did a lot of talking and she guided me and asked me questions. It was good. Here’s the thing… I wrote previously in another journal that I think that as we grow older our ‘awareness’ for lack of a better term, about ourselves increases. And the automatic things that just kinda kept us going, more or less, that happen in our psyches when we are younger become more a matter of actually choosing and up keeping them than to be taken for granted. It’s like the responsibility of being ourselves gradually increases as we age, which is a good, and kind of a bad thing. It’s a double-edged sword if you will. I think it starts out very accelerated, really hitting us hard and changing from age 0 to about 24 dramatically. Then, I think it begins to taper off, and it’s more gradual as our lives continue. That said, I’m guessing here as I’m only 34. But for instance, the changes in my psyche that I experienced between the ages of 15 and 25 were quite dramatic. The changes that I can consciously feel between the ages of 25 and 34 have been a bit less dramatic, though there were those two and a half awful awful years about five or so years ago.
It’s hard to quantify, or even qualify really, exactly what I mean. But for instance, for those of you who had a semblance of it at one point or another, like me, when you’re young you kinda just cruise along psychologically or mentally in a weird sort of way. You haven’t necessarily “fallen apart,” so to speak, and everything just kind of hums along like its supposed to. It’s like the “goodness” as I put it to Julie, my therapist, just kind of happens automatically, whether by your own brain chemistry or because someone who is taking care of you takes care of something or what not. Albeit, I do know that not everyone experienced such idylls as a child, but I guess I’m trying to put my finger on that particular point that gives birth to the phrase, “The day his childhood ended.”
In fact, it was this particular topic that I shared with Sister-In-Law when I was over at her house to teach my nephew about Python programming that prompted her to share a bit of her own advice. She said that she consciously tried to find joy and such in smaller things, everyday things, to boost her happiness. I shared my theory of becoming ever more aware of yourself, and she said she had to agree. Then she took me out beyond their patio and showed me some blooms. I’m afraid I can’t remember exactly what was blooming at the time, but she said, “See these? These are what I’m finding joy in now.”
Stuff like that is what I mean. When all the automatic controls started to fall to the wayside in my psyche, I couldn’t handle it. That’s why I was hospitalized, and even then, I still had so many things on automatic control (even if they were the wrong kind of automatic control.) As we get older, we have to choose to find our happiness. We gain such control in our own lives, it’s staggering, and a lot of people can’t handle it. People become anxious, depressed, and broil themselves into all sorts of disorders because automatic mechanisms start having to be chosen. Now, before someone tells me that’s not why people have these disorders, trust me, I know. There are a lot of factors that go into mental illness, and I am in no way blaming the mentally ill for being mentally ill like it’s some kind of choice. I’m not saying that.
What I am saying though, is that for many people, they don’t know how to choose, and become ill both mentally and physically. A lot of coping skills, I think when it comes down to it, are an exercise in the power of choice. Sometimes that power works in the short term, sometimes it has to end up working in the long term. Sometimes we can tell ourselves that we are deciding that we are not going to be depressed, but that isn’t going to make us any less depressed, or allow us to speak in more than a dull monotone and complete sentences. There were hundreds of nights I wanted desperately to just choose away what I was feeling and obsessing about, but that didn’t make them go away that instant. But, ultimately, I made the choice that I wanted to be better, and through various methods of application I got closer to that goal.
Which is my strange segue into what else I told my therapist. It seems like when I get into these states where I am completely negative and down on myself, where I seemingly uncontrollably tell myself I’m a worthless human being of no significance, it is as if I have no control. It’s like, that’s my reality right then, and I suddenly realized, sitting in the comfy therapist chair, that perhaps this was something two-fold.
It reminded me of the time I was in the hospital because, and I told my therapist this, well they thought I was an “at-risk” individual because I believed I was some sort of strange zombie rat from space that was here to right the wrongs of the world. She said, “well, that’s creative.” Yeah, anyways, it reminded me of when I was in there for these kinds of delusions, or as they told me at the time delusions. I was told the story of a very accomplished doctorate coming to the hospital because he believed the television was talking to him and sending him messages. Eventually through therapy and medication he realized that indeed the television was not talking to him. But if you asked him if the television did talk to her at the time that he claimed it did, he claimed that yes indeed it had. That’s because realizing something is or was a delusion doesn’t suddenly make you un-experience what you experienced. I can tell you flat faced that at one time I was a zombie space rat stuck in a human body, but that right now, I’m just a normal human being. That’s because I was a zombie space rat on a mission to right the wrong of the world, I’m just not that now, nor am I ever planning on being such in the future. People don’t necessarily understand, you can’t un-experience something.
I told Julie that I believed this state of pure unadulterated negativity and self-deprecation was a form of dysphoria. I don’t use that term lightly at all. I haven’t really experienced terrible dysphoria since I was 18 and was wandering around the engineering building in college trying to find a window from which to jump. However, since this state seems to last days at a time, and is really powerful and immobilizing (not to mention the racing thoughts and such accompanying it) I’ve decided it’s some kind of strange dysphoric state. Well, it seemed to me that whenever I was experiencing this dysphoric state that anything and everything negative I thought about myself was real. It was reality, all fact. That I was a worthless person who had accomplished nothing in his life and will never amount to anything? Total fact. It’s almost as if I am unable to challenge myself with the opposite notions, even with evidence. I can somehow foresee the future and know for a fact that I will never contribute anything to anything. Any kind of fallacy I can use, any kind of cognitive dissonance I can employ, that’s what I’ll employ to convince myself it’s fact. Maus is leaving for a breather, well, that must mean he doesn’t care about me! I can’t focus on writing a sentence, or build the next ultimate computer algorithm (that people consider impossible), then I must not be able to do anything! If you ask me, that sounds borderline delusional, doesn’t it? Julie tempered that she didn’t know if she’d technically call it a delusion, and I understood, and I don’t consider it a delusion proper, but the modus operandi is pretty similar.
And I thought, I considered, when has this occurred before? Now, if I become dysphoric and hate on myself and form a very altered version of reality and it lasts for five days with me being unable to do anything but lay on the couch, Maus wants to take me to the crisis center. Five days! That’s nothing compared to the state I found myself in for two and a half years. I’ve written about it before. But imagine thinking you’re an empty worthless person and having absolutely no will to live, but continuing to exist anyway, for two straight years. I dreaded every day, every dinner, everything. Before I moved back home with my parents, Maus in tow, I was seeing another therapist who asked me to track my hours one week. I came back and she just about cursed, exclaiming, “Oh my god you sleep a lot!” I was racking in about 15-19 hours of sleep a day. I slept to escape.
In my attempt to try to understand this dysphoric phenomenon, and ways that we, or I, could potentially alter it’s path, occurrence, and duration, I thought about these sobering details. My therapist asked me how I got better, and you know, I realized, I couldn’t necessarily put a direct finger on it. It just kinda, happened. There wasn’t a particular day that I just decided I was going to stop having intrusive thoughts and obsessing about stupid crazy shit, and then poof it happened. I decided that every fucking day, and it didn’t necessarily happen. But eventually, the thoughts and insecurities and all that became less and less until they went away. I attribute it to the fact that I never gave up on feeling better, and I exposed myself to the things that disturbed me until I could handle them. That’s right, I didn’t avoid my triggers, I tried little baby steps (or sometimes huge steps depending on what life threw at me that week), and exposed myself one bit at a time until I, or Maus, were reporting on public bathroom masturbator at the Tattered Cover and getting things done!
I realized over a long period of time that other people’s sexuality didn’t have to utterly destroy me. That I was a sexual being too, and that I wasn’t an empty person, that I had lots of thoughts and feelings. But there’s been one area of my life where things haven’t changed, and that is where all of this is coming from… I think.
I haven’t “accomplished something.”
This isn’t necessarily tallied into how “successful” I am, or what not. It’s not a matter anymore of prowess signaling, where I think that I have to “be successful” to be a real man. All of those trappings building up, or tearing down, my masculinity and total sense of identity. I’ve been able to grow past that point, to a degree. It’s not that I don’t feel like a whole person, or that I’m not a real man, because I am a man, and I’m real, and I’m whole… as my expanding tummy tries to remind me every day. No, this is more in the fact that I haven’t achieved one particular goal: making money. I wrote in my previous blog entry that I was going to ignore making money, and I think, for now, that may be the healthiest option.
But it’s more than making money. “Making money” doesn’t really encapsulate what I’m thinking. I should say more that I haven’t achieved a full complete thing yet. PYGJS was a very good start, and I can build on that. In fact, I’m planning on building on that for sure. And I think that’ll help. I want to someday have an income tied to doing what I love to do: think and dream. This means that more likely than not it’ll be something more informational, like a book, but you never know. I want to make something I can build on, and grow, and someday maybe sell. When I get all caught up in my algorithm, to the point of obsession, I think that’s how I’m going to make lots of money. When it doesn’t work, well, it brings it all back.
I’ve conquered every other maladaptive issue that was plaguing me all those many years ago, or at least the majority of them, except for “accomplishing something.” So when I receive evidence or become disheartened that I can’t possibly accomplish something, it all comes back in this dysphoric pseudo-delusional emotional space of absolute negativity. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to control it until I do finally accomplish something, although that’s not the most optimal route. Really not the most optimal route, and probably not quite the healthiest. Julie suggested to me that maybe I try taking my as-needed Zyprexa next time I have a spell. I wrote before that I’m nervous taking those in place of Ativan because when I go off them I can’t sleep worth crap. But, perhaps they’re the extra strength that I need to break out of this negative delusional dysphoria.
Another option I’ve considered is just… not to think about it. I know that sounds unhealthy, but I wonder if it really is that unhealthy. I decided to stop thinking too much about it this last week, and things actually went pretty well. I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue what I believe in and what interests me, and just kind of hope that whatever I end up doing will interest someone else and somehow maybe make an income that way? Yeah, I know, vague, but you never know what’ll come along. So, I’m not really avoiding the problem, as I’m going to continue to do things to help that problem. That is, I’m going to work on accomplishing something without worrying about making money. So what sound potentially unhealthy may actually be the healthiest way to go.
Yeah, that sounds like a vaguely good idea… so that’s what I’ll do.