A Lesson in Semantics

On depression and semantics.

I was near tears when I opened up my laptop with the intent to write this post, but the lock screen was set to a picture of a smiling sloth. It cheered me up, so if you’re having a rough day, here’s a sloth for you too:

sloth

I don’t know if I should publish this.

I often claim that I’m very open about my depression and anxiety, but the truth is that I’m really not.

As a writer, I know the difference between showing and telling.

To show, I would say, “The numbness had seeped out from the girl’s mind and into her body, paralyzing her in the dark in her bed with self loathing for eternity.”

To tell I would say, “The girl was depressed.”

I tell.

I tell people, “Why yes, I struggle with depression and anxiety,” like it’s a fun fact. I’ll bring it up to maybe explain a certain quirk I have, or to make a joke about it. I don’t show anyone why I’m too distraught to move for days. I tell them I drink so much because I love to party and don’t describe how booze fends off the panic that comes with being in a room filled with men who are bigger than me and could overpower me if they wanted. I don’t let anyone see how I rip myself into pieces until all that’s left is a handful of bloody confetti. Only my closest friends get snapshots, and even then, they’re few and far between because I am afraid. I’m afraid that if I show my darkness, what I really am beneath all the meaningless chatter, people will run. It will be too much. A burden.

In my ed psych class we’re discussing learning disabilities. My professor keeps emphasizing that if you ever hear a student say, “I’m ADHD,” or “I’m autistic,” you tell them that they aren’t ADHD or autistic, rather that they have ADHD or autism. They are not their disorders. Meaningful semantics.

I am not depressed.

I have depression.

But I don’t really believe that, not about myself or about him.

In fact, one of the stories I’m trying to get published currently is about  him, my first boyfriend who was an obsessive compulsive, cripplingly anxious, alcoholic with dissociative disorder and was an abusive mother fucker. In the story, I refer to him only as “Illness.” He functioned in social situations only by mimicking television shows; he was composed of learned wit and good timing. The only thing beneath the visage was the illness he was hiding, and I question to this day if there was even a person left amidst all of his sickness. But I loved him, whatever he was, despite the abuse.

But lately I’ve been trying to move away from relationships like that, to be smarter about who I get close to.

There’s a blogger named Jennifer Lawson who unabashedly shows and tells about her mental illness. What baffles me most about her life, is that she has a husband who isn’t mentally ill and never has been. I wondered if an unafflicted man could really understand her, really empathize, without growing weary of dealing with someone who is sick.

Her marriage gave me hope.

I thought that maybe if this woman who is so ill could be with someone who’s well, then maybe I could. Maybe the idea of a normal healthy relationship wasn’t too out of left field. Maybe a well companion could help me get well too.

I’ve been trying really hard to get better, to open up, to show. I tried in my most recent relationship, and to avoid the coldness I’ve so often been accused of. I showed, just a glimpse. And it was too much. He told me so. And I’m single again. It’s not his fault. I wanted to know, and now I do. I was right to be afraid to show my darkness.

I’ve learned that if I am depressed, then I am a burden to whomever I am with. Showing was a mistake. I need to tell, or maybe even not do that either. Maybe I should just deal with things on my own, as I always have. Hide my illness and stay on my own until I’m truly well again, if I ever will be.

I’ve been doing Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and I know that logically, I shouldn’t believe what I just wrote. Just because my illness was too much for one person doesn’t mean it will repeat every time. But logic smogic. I’m sad.

Here’s another sloth.

annother

A Life Update

On depression, education, and dogs.

I haven’t written on here in a while. Actually, I haven’t written anything in a long while. “Bad Kat!” *smacks own nose with newspaper*

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have difficulty writing when I’m depressed, and earlier this year I switched to the cheaper version of my anti-depressants because I was no longer covered by insurance.

Big mistake.

I knew I wasn’t writing, and that my outlook was kind of listless and numb, but I didn’t realize how depressed I really was until I got back on my proper meds and felt significantly better. It’s crazy (no pun intended) how much medication can alter who you are.

However, now because I’m a student again, my insurance has kicked in, I’m back on the proper medication, and here I am! Writing like the writer I’m supposed to be.

Also, yes, you heard me correctly. I’m in school again.

Since my last post, I’ve picked up my life, left Bumbleton, moved to a university town, broke up with my significant other, and started the education program at the University of Lethbridge. In the immortal words of 21 Jump Street, “Fuck yeah, mother fucker!”

I’ve been doing so well since I got here, and when I say “doing well,” I don’t mean just merely getting by while waiting for something horrible to happen as I have been doing since becoming terribly depressed last year. I’ve actually been happy. Until now, actual happiness has felt like a far away dream; I was grateful for having experienced it at all in the past, but didn’t ever actually expect to experience it again. There are moments when I’m almost moved to tears because of this feeling that I never thought I would feel again. I’ve made new friends. I’m working out on a regular basis (this is a HUGE deal). I’m not sleeping for sixteen hours every day. I’m getting all A’s. I’m writing this blog post which is another massive victory. I’m enjoying life again. What a wonderful and foreign concept.

After much humming and hawing, I finally chose the education program over the Master of Library Information Studies at the U of A for a number of reasons:

  1.  teachers have more job stability and opportunities than librarians
  2.  the pay grade is better
  3.  it is a career that I can travel with
  4.  if I get a job teaching high school English, I will still get to interact with my one and only love, literature. Swoon.

I’m very happy with my decision and my peers in the program are just wonderful; however, this isn’t to say that I don’t still wistfully moan with envy every time I interact with a librarian and dream of what could have been. As for the actual teaching part? You know, that thing that doesn’t revolve around literature? Well, I start my practicum in a grade 2/3 class in elementary school on November 14th, so I’ll really find out then if I’m cut out for this career.

Now that I’m doing so well, I’m a little worried that I will fall into old thinking patterns and sink back into depression again when my practicum starts; I’ve been placed in an even smaller town close to Bumbleton, meaning that I will be living in Bumbleton for the upcoming month. If I become as crippled by my mental illness as I have been the last year, I will likely not successfully complete the practicum. But honestly, I could handle that.

It’s this new state of mental health that I am desperately afraid of losing. For all I know, I might go home and view the familiar streets of Bumbleton with new appreciative eyes, rather than feel the crippling suffocation of a small town that I’ve never felt I belonged to. I might be just fine. I might even flourish.

But I might not.

And that scares me.

I don’t want to get as sick as I have been ever again. It would be like crawling out of hell, letting my broken bones heal and wounds scab over, only to be dragged back in again at the end of my recovery, and have my bones crushed and wounds ripped anew. After all that suffering only to face failure, I may as well just stay down there next time.

But until I am sent home, I am well. And I am going to focus on this wellness and furthering my healing until maybe I am so healed, that it isn’t even possible to be dragged as low as I have been before. When my practicum begins, I am going to continue to take care of myself, and do all that I can to stay better. I’m going to keep working out, and writing, and appreciate the time that I have close to my hometown friends, family and of course, my dogs.

I can do this.

The Write Way to Read

By my own definition, lately, I have not been a writer.

Why? Because writers write. I haven’t been doing this.

Unfortunately, my ability to write is closely linked to my mental health and for what feels like the last two centuries or so, I’ve been trapped under the ice in a lake of depression. Only quite recently was I able to finally kick through the heavy sheet of numbness above and feel the sunlight for the first time through the cracks in the ice. You never realize how much you appreciate the ability to feel until it’s taken away and given back.

Since my last post a number of things have happened. I have applied to graduate school to the master of library information studies program, my manuscript has started to resemble something similar to a novel, and I read another book from my list and Huckleberry Finn (I am excited to FINALLY understand all of the references to it in well, pretty much every movie and book ever). I’ve also been analysing my reading habits and I’ve decided to make a new goal for them.

A while ago I came across this image:

These statistics sadden me beyond words, but it’s not the tremendous amount of non-bookish people in the world I want to focus on, but the last little bit that says, “Reading one hour per day in your chosen field will make you an international expert in 7 years.” I tried to look up who initially said this, but I was unsuccessful.

However, wether the information in the image is credible or not (I mean, can reading every day for an hour ever really be a bad idea even if it doesn’t make you a specialist?), it’s a fascinating idea. Since I came across this image, I haven’t been reading for an hour every day because I’ve been stumped by the idea of what to read. What would I like to be an expert in? I have so many different interests, committing myself to only one genre/topic for seven years seemed daunting and, well, boring. That’s every day. Every single day for seven years. That’s 2,555 hours of reading in the same subject. What if I chose to be an expert in flowers and a year into the project, discovered that I really couldn’t care less what the difference between flowers and weeds are? Would I start over in a different subject, or would I just give up? Thoughts like these paralysed me from acting on any impulse to train myself to read every day.

It dawned on me yesterday that it really doesn’t matter what I read as long as the act of reading actually occurs–that’s the important part. As I’ve mentioned before, I have an obsessive personality and it comes out when I read books as well. I need to take breaks from reading because the way that I read isn’t healthy. I don’t eat or sleep or really, function like a human should. All I do is devour page after page until I’ve whipped through the book so quickly, that unless it was a particularly amazing book, in a few weeks I’ll have a difficult time remembering exactly what I was so obsessed about. This trait of mine can be particularly problematic when I tackle large books that take a bit longer to get through. I tend to emerge from my reading frenzies like a strange emaciated bat creature who has forgotten how to socialize with the rest of the world.

I believe that if I learned the self control to stop my reading frenzies and limit myself to only an hour a day, but do it every single day, I would actually be a much more productive reader than I am now. It’s that whole tortise versus the hare parable (except in my case it’s really more like obsessive bat creature versus like, I don’t know, being a normal human being). In the wise words of Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” So that is what I intend to do.

I am pledging to make a goal not to become a specialist in any specific topic in seven years, but to kill the bat creature by learning self control and reading every day for an hour. As a result, I will read more by doing it more productively and I am not limiting myself to any subject. It will be difficult, but now that my mental state is better, I believe I am up for the challenge; I am excited to see how many more books I will be adding to my 50 Book Pledge shelves once I’ve begun.

Bring it on, batsy.