Tuesday, October 10, 2006


It seems there is a small contingency of people who think that I am not doing enough. I, surprisingly, and for once in my life, do not rank among them.

Here's why:

A) There are many women who do not have "jobs" in the "real" world, but they spend their time taking care of their homes and their husbands. They are commonly known as housewives. The number of hours it takes to make a house a home are numerous. I do not know how people who have "real jobs" and husbands and homes and even kids do it all.

So that's reason #1: other people don't have jobs, so why should I?

B) I am on disability for major depressive disorder and anxiety. This situation is a two part answer. Firstly, under the terms of my particular disability insurance, I am not allowed to have any income.

So that's reason #2: I cannot work for money.

The second part of this answer is perhaps more important. I actually am suffering from a serious and potentially deadly disease. It kills more people in my age range than breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, I should not be overexherting myself and getting into situations that put me under so much stress that my condition worsens. In fact, I have been ordered to get out of stressful situations. Apparently, and according to the doctors, right now my main job is to recover.

And reason #3: Recovery is no small task.

Firstly, my mood has to be stabilized through medications whose effects are difficult to assess and that take weeks to start working. So, by the time we figure out that one medication or another is or is not working well enough, a month has passed and I've been paying close attention to my "mood" as well as my reaction to the medications--the side effects. Side effects can range from dizziness to nausea to dry mouth to urination hesitation to constipation to loss of appetite to gain of appetite to short term amnesia to problems with word retrieval. Imagine having spent a lifetime in love with words and stories and then suddenly losing them.

These are not fun months of experimentation.

Then, once my mood is stabilized I get to delve into the "whys" of why I am so depressed in the first place. Why my mind reacts to situations or statements others make the way it does. Why my mind's reactions can make my heart drop so far. And the doctors don't want to go there too much until my mood is stable because while it is unstable everything looks worse than reality, which of course would cause my mood to dip even further.

In the process of doing all of this recovery-work, I have lost some friends, I have gained some friends, I have lost some of "me," I have found some of "me," I have come to understand realistic expectations and accept them (whether I LIKE them is another story, but give me some time), and I have some idea of why I am the way I am.

So, lest anyone think I lie around in bed just thinking and being depressed all day long or that I watch TV(really? we don't have cable.) and eat bon-bons (what are bon-bons, anyway?) every day, let me describe for you a typical day in the life of Olaina-on-disability:

4-6 a.m. the husband wakes up at varying times during these hours, depending on his schedule. He sneaks out of the room, trying not to wake me because sleep is very important in the healing process.

6-7 a.m.ish He leaves for the hospital to do whatever it is third year medical students do. I sometimes rise at this time, or sleep for another hour.

When I do rise, I take my meds, then usually check my e-mail, read some news online, sometimes write on my blog (whala!), and then have breakfast. (I have to let at least 30 minutes pass before eating after the meds--it's usually about an hour.) Breakfast can be toast, oatmeal, cold cereal, cookies (rarely), yogurt, fruit or eggs (rarely). Then I get ready. Despite my lack of employment, I have been making a relatively concerted effort to look decent each day--to shower, do my hair, wear nice clothes & some jewelry. I worry about the days that I do not do not do these things. Those days could be precursors to what they call a relapse, though I am not sure that I am so recovered that I could relapse anywhere... just sink further into the abyss.

At this point in my day it is time to figure out what to do for the day. I've turned The Espresso Garden into an office/studio of sorts. In fact, Jeremy called me today because he hasn't seen me there in a few days. I have some responsibilities there--I read to little kids twice a week, I make their menu and advertising flyers, and I painted the flowers that decorate their walls and their hours sign and seating is for customers only sign. But mostly I go there so that I do not have to be alone in my apartment all day. Isolation is another sign of depression and another risk factor for going deeper into the abyss. At the garden, I have Jeremy and Darren to talk to, plus the other regulars and customers. It has sort of become a catch-22, Am I a loser for hanging out at the same coffee house everyday? But where else could I go? I suppose I could go to the Art Academy and paint there, since they let us use their studio during off class hours. But I do like the outdoors, and this is walking distance from my house, and I like the company--though that is true of both places.

And as for work, I DO work. It's just not the work I've done in the past. I write. I paint. I take photographs. These are all things that I am doing to work toward being able to earn money from them when I am allowed to earn money again. Granted, I don't exactly have manuscripts ready to send out the minute my disability disappears, but I will. I NEED to paint. I feel the need coming from my soul--the same goes for writing. And so I am building a body of work, and it is from this that I will be able to show work in the future and hopefully be able to sell some of it. The only thing I need to do more of is working on the photography stuff--I could put together a wedding album from Mandi and Eric's wedding, and I could think more seriously about my "commercial" photography portfolio. Plus I need to work with the camera more.

See--I work.

I go home when the shop closes and then I am tired. I fear naps--do not want to ruin my nightly sleep cycle, do not want to fall into the typical depressive's pattern of staying in bed or on the couch all day. That was something I did when all this stuff started. So I read, do the online thing for a while, clean sometimes, do dishes sometimes, run errands sometimes, think about dinner but never make it (my doctors would say that's the depression at work) , read a book, watch a little TV.

Depression sucks energy from a person's body and spits it out without caring.

I am tired.

The garden is going to be open in the evenings now. I don't know how I will react to this change I've been wanting so much. The garden is my office, will I work or stay at home? Or will I learn to relax even here?

My therapist wants me to strive for non-striving. This concept does not mean I should never do any work, I just can't think about it in the old driven way I used to operate under. Somehow I need to learn to work and be still and free at the same time.

Anyone know how to do that?


Anonymous said...
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OakMonster said...

Hey! Congratulations on your very first spam comment! :)

(Yes, you can delete it. You HAVE the power!)

I have done just that, working to keep busy but not stressed out over it. Funny how being on forced unemployment (damn INS!) sounds similar to your recovery process.

Your life doesn't depend on your work. You're doing what you're doing to pass the time until the next day comes. That's how I survived almost 9 months of virtually no employment and not go crazy. ;-)