Depressed Optimist - November

    So, writing about last month feels a little weird. I had a very odd month.

    I honestly couldn’t even remember what monthly challenges I was doing and had to look back at my old post to remember. There are many reasons for this - I am in the most stressful work period of the year, I was sick for almost two weeks at the beginning of the month, I have been dealing with some emotional situations in my personal life, and - perhaps most importantly - I grew tired of the monthly resolutions. Writing about my monthly challenges has helped me stick to them more than I had before (I did monthly resolutions last year as well), but I just needed to allow myself a little break. I do not plan to stop them entirely. I am actually really looking forward to my resolutions for next month. I just had more important things to focus my energy on over the past few weeks.

    I don’t know how to write about the part of myself that is partially responsible for my disinterest in the resolutions this month. It is something I don’t want to write about because it makes me feel weak, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing and afraid. I know that writing it will make me feel better though (as it always does). The truth is, I have been struggling with depression and anxiety in a way that I never have before. I have taken many steps to learn how to better manage these new emotions (?) but one that I am missing is putting my exact feelings into words. So, I will try to do that here. 

    The first thing that I want to say is that I cannot speak for everyone experiencing depression or anxiety. Everyone experiences these things differently, and there are many different reactions to them. Here’s what mine is like… 

 

The Feelings

 

- I have good days and bad days, just like everyone else. It feels like either way, however, there is a general feeling of cloudiness that I can’t shake. 

- I have been spending more time in bed than I usually do. A lot more. Partially because I often can’t fall asleep asleep at night. Or I’ll wake up early, but neither go back to sleep nor get out of bed. Unless it’s to get some water or food or a blanket. Both of these things are anxiety related. 

- When I lay down I usually can’t stop thinking about things I should have done, or should do when I wake up, or need to do three days from now. When I wake up before my alarm, the cycle repeats despite my efforts to go back to sleep. 

- If I do wake up to my alarm, all I want to do is go back to sleep forever. 

- I feel exhausted by almost everything I do. 

- I only fleetingly experience feeling truly awake and energetic. 

- I don’t want to be around people as much as I usually do. 

- I have been shutting myself in more than usual. 

- I get excited when plans are cancelled. 

- I sometimes feel like I am wearing a mask that makes me seem happier than I am. 

- I don’t get as excited about things anymore. 

- I’m much more self-conscious/self-critical than usual. 

- While I am able to manage my commitments and stay on top of the things I need to do, I can’t help feeling like everything is fragile and could fall apart at any moment. 

    I’m simply not myself these days. One of the most frustrating things about it is that there is no reason I should be feeling this way. At least I don’t feel like there is. I have so many wonderful things going on and so much to be thankful for. There is also an odd paradox to my experience. I think the best way to put it is: I am the depressed optimist. No matter how tired, or down I feel, I know I’m not going to feel this way forever. I also know that all of the small stressors in my life might not seem worthy of my reaction to them, but they can easily compound to something bigger. I think that might be what’s happening. I’m going to lay out the things that cause me stress, and hopefully in the process give them a little bit less power over me.

 

The Stressors

 

- My gender identity. This is the component of my life that is causing me anxiety that I want to give the least credit. I struggle to admit that my gender identity causes me stress and is difficult for me because I want to be encouraging, brave and strong. The truth is, it’s really hard to be openly genderqueer. I think about it all the time. I am living a weird, split life because I am not ready to be open about/stand up for my gender identity in all of my spaces. Really, anywhere beyond the safety of my closest friends. I know that this will only take time and patience to get better - part of the reason for my optimism.

- I have a lot on my plate. I absolutely love being busy. I know that having a lot on my plate causes me stress, but this stress is welcome. I also know, however, that I need to be cautious moving forward about my commitments. I don’t want to spread myself too thin. I know that if I take on too much I will sacrifice self care. I have not yet reached the point where this is an issue, but I have to be more cautious with my time than ever before…and it’s stressful.

- I feel like I’ve lost sight of what kind of life I want to lead, specifically what kind of career I want to be working towards. I function best when I have a general plan, and I am a little bit lost as to what I’m striving for these days. I have some ideas about the types of job I would like to work towards/make a career of, but not much movement in that direction. I know that part of my discomfort at this stage in my professional life is partially impatience. I know that I will have to work really hard for a really long time in order to adequately squash my fear of complacence, and earn the type of jobs I imagine being truly happy doing. I know that this requires balance and perspective. I also know I do not need my dream job in order to live a perfectly happy life, but I don’t feel comfortable if I’m not at least striving for something. I’m going to indulge in my desire to progress my career and try not to let it take over other equally important facets of my life.

- I am terrified of romantic relationships. I would love to be in a relationship again, but I have a lot of trouble actually imagining what that would look like at this point in my life. I have a lot of fears around romantic love, not the least of which include: vulnerability and the relinquishing of control, adjusting my lifestyle to accommodate a relationship, sex, trying to build a relationship while maintaining my other relationships, etc. I haven’t been dating very much, and I’m actually fine with that, but I feel like I should be putting myself out there. I have conflicting feelings, and need to relax into my perfectly happy single life. My biggest fear is that I will become so happy being single that I won’t know how to let someone into my life romantically again. I know a relationship will come when it will. Or it won’t. Either way I’ll be fine.

- I have written a lot about this, so I won’t give it too much more thought: I struggle with my body image and self confidence. 

- One of the worst things about this period of depression that I am experiencing is that I feel unable to give my full self to anything. I am usually a very passionate person. I love to put my whole self into things. I don’t feel like I can do that these days - not because I don’t have enough time, but because I often feel a bit of distance between myself and the things that I’m doing. I hate looking back on work I’ve done and feeling disconnected from and/or unhappy with it.

    A lot of the things listed above can be rooted back to a general fear of not being good enough. Perhaps this is also why I have a slightly obsessive personality. If I learn something new, I will obsess over it until I feel that I am at least decently good at it. I think I sometimes get so caught up in this fear that I lose any sense of calm. So, here is what I’m going to do to regain my sense of inner peace and try to get back to my usual self over this next month:

 

The Action Points

 

- I am going to get back into more consistent exercise. Getting sick completely threw me off. I always feel better when I do work out, but I almost never actively want to. If I let myself get out of the habit it’s so hard to get back into it. Here’s to getting back in.

- I am going to find a therapist that specializes in gender identity LGBTQQIAA+ folks like myself. 

- I am going to continue to talk to my doctor about managing my symptoms. I have tried a few medications at a few points in my life, and I’ve hated them all. I tried taking one last month, but I stopped after a few weeks because I felt cloudier and even more removed from my life than I did without it. Maybe medication isn’t for me. I know many people who manage their depression and anxiety holistically/without prescriptions. I think that’s a better approach in my case. 

- I am going to reintroduce regular meditation into my life. I am not going to make this one of the monthly challenges, but I generally plan to meditate more.

- I am going to continue to have open, in person conversations with the people around me. I have been making an effort to be more vocal in person because - as you may know - I prefer expressing myself in writing. This has proven to be an issue in some areas of my life, but more specifically with regards to my gender identity. I know that I need to speak to people about it and perhaps explain/stand up for it. I recently went to an alumni event for the Swim & Dive Team at my alma mater and decided to correct anyone that called me “Eileen.” I felt wonderful about being open with folks. For the most part I got nothing but loving responses. I felt so strong and proud despite being in the most feminine piece of attire I’ve worn in a long time, and being around people (including my ex) that I hadn’t seen in years. I’m going to continue to speak up for myself.

- I’m going to eat better.

- I am going to continue to learn about my family history of depression and anxiety.

- I’m going to allow myself time to decompress and do what I need to do, but I will also try to go out and be social. I am focussing on finding an appropriate balance. I also want to focus on making the time I spend with people quality time.

- I am going to continue to drink less. I stuck pretty well to my no drinking on school nights resolution from last month and I can only imagine it helped me feel more balanced. I definitely feel good about this lifestyle shift.

 

    And then the two action points that are my challenges for the month:

- I will not use technology for at least 30 minutes before I go to bed each night. I’m hoping this might help me decompress and relax enough to fall asleep more easily. I also think it will require me to be more mindful about my evening routine and plan ahead.

- I will try at least 3 different yoga classes with my mom over the course of the month. I know doing yoga is one of the things that helps me a lot. While I like doing it at home, it is never quite as wonderful as taking a class. It’s so hard to get yourself to yoga (or any type of exercise class) most of the time, but I remember how great I’ve felt when I do it regularly. I hope trying multiple classes will reacquaint me with various yoga practices, and remind me of my love for practicing them.

So, that has taken over much of my headspace this past month. I am looking forward to my emotions settling down a bit, and I feel better even just knowing that I am being proactive about it. I also know that writing my experience here will help me feel more accountable to my goals.

So, thank you for reading and for holding me accountable. I love you.