Monday, March 10, 2008

The Battle Against Grateful/Hateful Judgement Calls

My activities have been basically restricted to my apartment, our laundry room, the art studio, my therapist's office and one lousy trip to the Naval Medical Center for an annual exam.

I knew that hour in the pharmacy among the ill would not serve me well (aside from of course the encounter with Elsa and her mom).

Oh well. Worse things have happened. Yes, I know I have a lot to be grateful for: I have a family and a husband who love me for better or worse, I have some skills and talents, I have the privilege of somehow being able to be on an unpaid medical leave from the restaurant and not have to restrict myself to a diet of Top Ramen (though for financial and health reasons, we do not eat out so much anymore). The avoidance of Top Ramen is due in large part to my CFO-husband who always makes sure we are prepared for emergencies. Also my parents would never let us survive on Top Ramen.

All that being said, I believe I have no right to feel so shitty, lethargic, sad and simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed by life.

I miss the vibrant me who gets excited about the littlest things--like stepping on a sprinkler head that didn't go all the way down after the water stopped. I don't know why, I just think that's fun. The weather has been continually beautiful outside and I haven't taken advantage of the opportunity to walk the neighborhood, or hike or go to the beach or anything. Right now, I like to lie in darkness with my laptop and my books. I don't need much more.

The therapist is happy that at least I know that the above described person is not really Me. It's really this mood disorder called clinical depression, or cyclothymia or whatever you want to call it--either way it puts me down for the count.

I see it as my enemy. I must fight it with diligence and vigor and constant awareness.

It is an exhausting and constant battle. All indications point to finding a better solution, since this one seems ineffective. Perhaps it is like the Israelis and Palestinians needing to learn to live with each other and share the Holy Sites. We actually have to be able to exist even intertwined a little bit, because it seems like we're both here to stay. The only way depression wins this war is if it kills me, and for that to happen I would have to commit suicide and I'm really not into that. So, ha! depression: I look forward to a better future. Ha! Ha! Ha! I win that tiny little really important part of the battle.

So Nancy (the therapist) and I had a strategy meeting of sorts. Instead of constantly judging myself for not accomplishing more each day or feeling sad despite my rather positive environment, I am supposed to stop and recognize the judgment, rather than run with it. No more, "God, Olaina, you can't even get the bedroom clean! You can't even hold down a normal job! You can't even feel joyful on a beautiful day! You can't even stay awake all day! You can't even run or go to yoga or go for a walk! You're such a failure. You should just get it together and do those things. Loser."

You see how having these thoughts are not likely to raise my spirits in the least.

Even having Justin or my mother counter these thoughts is sweet, but not that effective. (Though if any of you readers out there want to send me a little comment that would be totally OK by me.)

So my battle plan for the week is to see a judgment coming and say, "Hey, there's a judgmental idea." My natural tendency is to then judge myself a failure for having the judgment, but I don't think that's how it is supposed to work.

The technique is called mindfulness. It's that simple: being aware of thoughts and watching them go by. Knowing that they are not me, just something in my brain floating by like all the other thoughts I have.

"Ew, this coffee is cold. I feel hungry. The neighbor's dog has been howling sad and alone for over a week now. Norah Jones has a beautiful voice. Hanging out with Oakley is fun...." (You can see that my thoughts jump around just a little bit. Like you know, racing.... but that too I must just watch go by.)

It seems that just being aware of these judgemental thoughts would not be all that helpful. But I vaguely remember from cog[nitive behavioral therapy] that it is a useful technique. At the very least it helps me see the judgement as a passing thought rather than a permanent condition.

Maybe right now it is too much work to also try to turn my negative automatic thoughts into positive statements, but if I can at least be aware that I am judging myself rather than actually being whatever it is I call myself, that there's just an idea passing through my mind like a cool breeze passes through my open window; if I can just watch that happen maybe I can feel a little more at peace.

And where in the world do we not need a little hit of peace these days?


oakmonster said...

You know what you need? You need a collage to happen. So you can take your Glue Foot to Blue Foot. I actually was thinking about that today. I could make a kick ass collage out of all my bills I'm shredding here.

Wait a minute...that's an excellent idea! But that bar is too dang far away. Yes, you may use my idea. ;-D

HUGS. I'll see you soon!

Penny said...

I think that you are doing an admirable job trying to keep it all together. It is easier to focus on the negative and that is why we do it. To be positive takes more effort, but it is worth it if it makes you feel better. Keep up the stuggle against depression and know that you have someone in your corner.

Karla said...

You can try to be thankful that you have a messy bedroom that needs to be cleaned. I keep trying to remind myself that I am blessed to have a mess of clothes or dishes to clean. It doesn't always work but I try. Just like PB says "It's a get to, not a got to."