Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Memory of Robin Williams

Mental illness, especially depression, is not something you “get through” or “get over”. It ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes, but it never goes away; it’s always there. The best you can do is learn to cope and function in spite of it, to work around it. Some of us never make it that far, and some of us do but then the illness changes, and we have to start all over again. It's a constant struggle, day by day, though it is easier on some days and harder on others. Even the best of us have times of darkness, and sometimes that darkness is just too much to bear.

Do not look down on those who fall along the way; they were not weak. Every day that they survived showed their immeasurable strength. How their journey ended does not lessen that.

It’s nice not to be scared.

I’ve been realizing that I have abnormal reactions to certain stimuli or events; I’ve been trying to identify those, figure out why I have those reactions, and train myself out of them where appropriate.

For example: hearing people around me waking up and getting ready and going about their day while I’m asleep is terrifying. The sounds of my roommates and neighbors making breakfast and taking showers and leaving for school or work, the sounds of cars driving outside, even just birds chirping outside, all contribute to a knot of fear and worry and dread deep in my gut. Because while growing up, those were the signs that my time of solitude was ending, that I was going to have to go face the world again, and if I was hearing them while in bed that meant I hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep. And I would just lie in bed, unable to believe that I had to do this again, feeling like a dog cowering in the corner.

Another example: it’s incredibly difficult for me to face up to someone I think I’ve disappointed, or whose expectations I haven’t met, especially my parents. I’ll do almost anything to avoid it, even blatantly lying. I’m still working out the “why” for that one. I know that my dad’s tone of voice has something to do with it; sometimes he speaks in a particular combination of frustration and scorn that is incredibly hurtful, though he doesn’t mean it to be, and avoiding that is a good thing. I’ve spoken with him about that, and I think I’ll be able to speak up and say something to him if he uses that tone of voice again, but I’m still dealing with the instinctive avoidance of disappointing others.

I know there are other such unusual responses in my life, and I’m trying to keep an eye out for them so that I can deal with them. These reactions lead me to believe that I am dealing with some degree of PTSD, which is an astonishing thought to think about one’s upbringing. Regardless, I’ve been able to make some solid progress towards that end – simply talking with my father about that tone of voice took an incredible amount of courage and helped relieve my mind a great deal, and I’ve been able to be more honest with my parents and others in the past few months both before and after that. Likewise, this morning I was able to hear the sounds of the world waking around me and I actually didn’t feel scared – it was so different, I wondered what was “off” about this morning until I figured it out.

It’s nice not to be scared.