Let’s talk psychology.
I finally got going again with the MSc; got back in touch with uni and found where to go from here. Got happy and got working, got rid of the psoriasis that had been blooming all over my face. Got tapping away and swiping away, filling my iPad with papers and my drive with notes.
Spreadsheets. I made spreadsheets.
I’m writing on lithium – the first ever pharmacological treatment for bipolar disorder (an illness once termed – brilliantly – ‘brain gout‘). The irony of researching bipolar does not escape me, and it’s nice, working on something so unexpectedly intimate. My research can sweep from clinical presentation and phenomenology to structural differences, suspected circuit abnormalities, genetics.
I’m sleeping a lot. This is troubling.
Do you make plans? Asks the psychiatrist, and I shrug. What is this, is he trying to recommend that I plan my life out more and it’ll somehow resolve the depression. I do sometimes make plans, I tell him. I make plans and I start projects but nothing ever comes of anything, all I’m left with is a messy hard drive full of junk. Plans that come to naught, half a page of scribbled lines. I make plans but they never get me anywhere, the depression always comes.
It’s only later I realise he’s caught me out, caught me trying to retreat from a bipolar diagnosis; managed to ambush me with a camouflaged question.
A hard drive full of junk, half a page of scribbled lines. The depression always comes.
It’s been a month now since I made any real attempt at work. The longer I leave it, the more I can’t stand to look at it, the more I feel a wretched failure. It signifies how much of a fucking waste this all was – all this effort, all this promise. All this life.
And I think ‘what now’, and I think what the future might hold. And I’ll tell you I’m not depressed because… because though I’m sleeping so much and sleeping so deep, I’m not feeling truly wretched and sometimes it’s true I feel great, for an hour or even an afternoon. I’ll tell you I’m not depressed because I’m not drinking like I did and I’m not eating like I did but I’ll tell you too that fuck it, fuck it I just don’t care any more. I’m just here waiting for this show to end, for this life I ruined to finally be over. There is nothing I want to do, the future stretches out blank and boring and meaningless.
The words I wrote in a suicide note, I was never any good at living. They’re still true. And I don’t think I’m ever going to get good. In this state it’s hard, forcing myself to first face any uni work and then to care. It’s hard to care about anything long term when you don’t see the point of the future, anyway. But of course, the more I avoid it, the more wretched I become. The more of a failure I obviously am.
So let’s talk psychology.
A risk factor for depression – and a common feature of depressive cognition – is thinking in absolutes. I kicked against this characterisation as first, because I’d like to think I’m smart and nuanced enough to see complexity, to see spectrums of truth. But in my mind, it’s true, I either win or lose, am either the best or the worst. Delighted or destroyed. This fuels catastrophic thinking, so every setback is a disaster. And disasters pile up, evidence of my own inevitable failure.
This thinking is bollocks. Rationally, I know it is. But putting a brake on it takes concentration and effort, and I keep slipping.
I’m hoping this post will help snap me out. Sometimes it’s easier for me to catch my thinking once I’ve pinned down some words. I’ve been trying to write – write anything – for a month now, and nothing’s come until today.
Wish me luck, I guess.