Heartache, depression, whatever. Mr. D (as I have taken to calling it) has steamrollered me again. Kicked my ass, really.
I've felt the depression building up this last few weeks, but it felt so manageable that I started believing that it was something I could, in fact, manage. I thought that, since my life is so stress-free at the moment, I was able to handle the depression on my own. What I forgot, though, is that I never remember exactly what depression feels like, I forgot that there are levels below the level I am currently on... I forgot that, yes, Virginia, it can get worse than this.
I've been feeling kind of extra-low the last week or so, and that low-feeling had filtered into my writing... the beginning of "Chapter 7" quite simply sucked, it sounded bitter and it felt bitter. That was upsetting; but it was even more upsetting when I tried to fix it and couldn't... the second stab at that section sounded less bitter, in fact it was a much better try, but it still felt all wrong. It felt forced, and unfocused, and irrelevant. I felt forced, and unfocused, and irrelevant.
Then on Friday, something stressful happened, and that's when I found out just exactly how depressed I really was, discovered just how well I was "handling" the depression.
When I woke up, I already felt like crap... I'd had a long day on Thursday, taking Grandmother hither and thither and going to the mall with her and pushing the wheelchair and all. It had been really hot, several of the stores at the mall were not air-conditioned, and I got dehydrated. So when I woke up, I felt unhappy, muscle-weary, and dried-up, which together felt a lot like a hangover. Bleah.
Then the first thing that happened when I stepped out of my room, I encountered Grandmother having one of her hyperactive snits... a water main up the street had broken, and EBMUD (that's what our water company is called, East Bay Municipal Utility District, and I've always thought it an unpropitious acronym, not remotely connotative of the kind of crystal-clear mountainy freshness one wants for one's water supply) was due to come out sometime in the next few days to fix it; when they did, according to our neighbor up the street, our water would be shut off for some undeterminable amount of time... and so we had to do everything in the house that required water, right this minute.
Of course, the first thing that Grandmother thought of was the plants outside, you can take the girl off the farm, but... So before I even got a cup of coffee, I was out front watering the fucking lawn while she was out back with her goddamned tomatoes and hydrangeas.
You remember, the lawn? That useless expanse of pointless plant-life, the contemplation of which never fails to trigger my deep and inexplicably dense resentments? There I was, sad and weary and dehydrated, sans morning coffee, watering this piece-of-crap lawn I hate... and boy did I feel sour. And while I was out there, I started thinking of all the things that should be done before we lost water, things that are actually important... like showering and washing the dishes that were piled in the sink. You remember, dishwashing? That normal day-to-day activity that most people don't even think about but which somehow never fails to trigger my deep and inexplicably dense resentments?
Then in the middle of all that (though thankfully after I'd had some coffee and taken a shower) the bank called, demanding payment on my credit-card. I had forgotten to make the phone call I was supposed to make two months ago to turn on the card-holder protection plan on my Visa. Not only had I forgotten to make the call, I somehow managed to convince myself that I had made the call, and that the whole thing was taken care of.
Those who know me will know how much I hate making phone-calls of that nature, that's why I do everything online or by letter whenever possible. I thought this card-holder protection thing (an insurance plan for which I pay, on average, about fifty dollars a month, so that if I lose my job or have financial difficulty of some kind, I don't have to pay to my credit card for a few months without accruing fees and interest) could be activated by a phone call, all I had to do was steel myself to talk to a stranger over the phone. But I discovered when I did call that there is a much longer process involved, I have to file a claim form by mail, and then wait for them to process it; and in the meantime I have to keep the balance current or else the whole thing goes null and void.
So my dislike of making phone-calls got me into a situation that was simply impossible, I was over my credit limit and my payment was a month past due, and so I had to pay over $300 immediately to keep my credit-card going until I could get the cardholder-protection plan activated. And I had about $180 to my name. Plus my car-insurance payment and my cable payment were going to hit my bank account any day now, being near the first of the month, and those together add up to $220. My car-payment could be put off, since it's not an automatic debit, my student loan payment wouldn't hit the bank for another couple of weeks, and I figured I could live without cash for a little while if necessary; but I needed $500 in my account immediately.
I panicked. I mean, I actually had a real-live panic attack, something I don't remember ever having before. It was extremely unpleasant: I couldn't breathe and I couldn't think and I couldn't stand being in my own skin. I wanted to claw my way out of my own body and just stop existing altogether. And all this while I was washing dishes.
Grandmother wanted to know what the bank wanted, and I started telling her... pouring out the whole thing, my stupid terror of financial insecurity, my anger and resentment against myself for letting things come to such a pass, and how awful I felt, my self-esteem buttresses of independence and buying-power knocked out from under me, and my depression destroying whatever ability I might have had to handle these things... a depression I keep putting off getting help for, the same way I kept putting off the credit-card issue, because of this stupid irrational fear of talking to strangers on the phone.
It's the same fear that was making me procrastinate about getting a job, and about selling my old books and videos, and about a few other things, as well. Procrastination is one of my worst character defects, and definitely the one I hate most about myself: I know I'll feel better after I've done whatever it is, I'd feel even better if I'd just do it when I should do it and not put it off, and yet I still put things off for so long that I get myself into trouble over it. I hate that.
Anyway, I felt humiliated, talking to Grandmother about the weakness and helplessness and self-hatred I was feeling that morning. I was even more humiliated having to ask her to lend me money. The sensation of wanting to get out of my own body got even stronger, so strong that I was simply writhing inside.
I mean, I knew she would lend me money, I was counting on her lending me some money... but having to ask her to lend me the money was something else entirely, and I felt like an utter asshole doing it. Then there was the amount that I would have to ask for, which was suddenly a lot more than I expected to have to ask for, because of my stupidity about the credit-card.
Well, Grandmother told me to stop being so silly, she understood completely and was happy to give me the money, and she wrote me a check that covers all of my bills for this month with a tidy chunk left over for incidentals like gas and co-pays and what-have-you. I got it into the bank and got my bills all paid online when I got home, and I felt a lot better about the financial insecurity thing... though I still felt like a schmuck for having to take money from Grandmother to do it. I bought her a big box of See's peanut-brittle on the way home from the bank, using the money I had in my pocket instead of the money she'd just given me, which made me feel a little better, but not much.
If you've never had a panic attack before, I'm here to tell you: they're exhausting! I spent the rest of the day in bed, reading a little and napping a little and drinking a lot of water. And I prayed and meditated a good deal as well, though by the end of the day I was still struggling under the weight of monumental helplessness, hopelessness, and self-loathing.
The next day, Saturday, I had planned to go to the Living Sober Conference and spend the day there. But while I thought about it on Friday, thought about getting up really early and getting there at nine or ten, and then staying there all day and into the evening... and doing the traditional Drag Invasion (the theme this year was Miss Texas in honor of a Living Sober icon who passed away earlier this year), and what could I wear, and thinking about when to shave and what to wear before drag and what if I decided to not do drag at all would I disappoint people or dishonor the memory of a man I admired... and thinking about how much money it would cost to register and to park and to eat, and thinking about all the people who would be there, so many friends I wanted to see and so many strangers I might want to see but might find intimidating and scary, and so on and so forth... I started panicking again.
So I decided not to go after all; the heartbreaking disappointment I felt at having to miss one of the highlights of my year was a lot easier to bear than the blind panic I felt when I tried to plan on going.
When I did wake up on Saturday, I still felt utterly miserable. But then Caroline came over; since I wasn't going to Living Sober as I'd planned, she wanted me to come bead-shopping with her in San Rafael instead. Well, I didn't want to go anywhere, much less bead-shopping; but I was lured out with the promise of free lunch and the suggestion that I'd probably feel better if I got a little fresh air... and I certainly wouldn't feel any better if I sat in my darkened room trying desperately to write.
So we went to San Rafael and I ended up having a really good time. I even enjoyed the bead shop, they had such interesting doo-dads there. We had lunch and browsed a lot of stores and there were some cute boys and some stuff I wish I'd had money to buy. When I got home, though, I was utterly exhausted and spent the rest of the day in bed.
Sunday, the same thing: I was really tired, a little dehydrated, and not happy, but I got up and did the things I am expected to do. We had lunch after church, and I got overheated again (I really don't do well with heat, and it was boiling out in Concord that day), and so spent the rest of that day in my room, too... this time obsessively building Sims houses and downloading new furniture.
And then Monday we went out to Alameda for the Fourth of July Parade. It was weird, and hokey, but amusing in its own weird hokey way. Then we ate again (I should point out that I overate considerably at each of the occasions mentioned above, and the dehydration was giving me constipation, and so my insides didn't feel so good), and then came home, where I took another long nap. Then I went to a Fourth of July party a friend of mine was having... and while I had a very good time there, I still didn't feel right.
I was telling Daddy, when we were talking about this after the parade, that I felt like I was inside of a tunnel, or a large tin-can, able to see and hear but not really feel anything... I felt separated from everyone and everything by some kind of psychic or emotional barrier. So even though I was techincally enjoying myself, I felt like I was missing something. Daddy told me that was a quite common symptom, it was how he often felt before his bipolar disorder was diagnosed and treated (Daddy has been bipolar for most of his life, but was not diagnosed as such until he went into recovery). It was somehow very comforting to know that I was not alone in that feeling.
The feeling continued for the rest of the day, though, even at the party. That's one of the things I don't like about depression, knowing about it doesn't make it feel any different, you're just able to react to the feelings more rationally.
I'm glad I went to that party, though: my instinct at times like this is to isolate myself, and I know that isn't healthy. It was wonderful to instead take part in a celebration with other sober gay men (especially after the heterofest that is Alameda), Shiloh was there among many other good friends, and I felt supported and loved there... even though that feeling was muffled by the tin-can of my depression, it was very heartening all the same.
So here I am. I still feel depressed, though not so badly as before, it seems to be lifting somewhat. I have started the process for getting treatment through my HMO, but like all things it just isn't as easy and quick as I want it to be. I just want someone to give me some fucking pills or something to make the pain stop; but that's just the alcoholic talking. I will take the proper steps, go through the proper channels, use rational problem-solving techniques, and refuse to foster unrealistic expectations of what can be done for my condition. That's what normal healthy people do (or so I'm told).
[Update... I just got a call from the psych office, they had a cancellation and can put me through the Depression Intake Process this afternoon at 3... so, I'm on my way to treatment! Yay!]
In the meantime, I'm going to go play the Sims some more, build another house, get some more furniture, and wait for Mr. D. to get up and go. And I am going to let Worst Luck simmer and percolate for a little while before I try to pick it up again... I made some good notes about where I need to be going and what I need to be focusing on, but mostly I just need to let it cook for a little while until it's ready to be written again. And other than that, I'm going to drink lots of water, eat plenty of fiber, and get a lot of sleep.
I'll talk to you again soon, and hope you're having a fabulous day!
PS: (10:39 p.m.) I went to the Intake appointment and was given, like, ten pages of questionnaires to fill out; and I got there early and was kept waiting for quite a while, so I filled them all out and still had time to go back and futz with my answers. There was a very cute boy at the intake appointment with me (tall, thin, pretty dark brown eyes and bleached butter-yellow hair, a cute little walk, his name is James...), and I wanted to talk to him but I felt extraordinarily awkward; there I was, at least ten and maybe fifteen years older than him, not particularly good-looking, not very well-dressed, a little overweight and entirely out-of-shape... and what do you talk about? "So, I think I'm manic depressive, and the only thing that has stopped me killing myself is my overwhelming sense of responsibility to my friends and family... what are you in for?"
And as soon as I felt awkward, I started going manic, and found myself futzing with my questionnaires some more. Then the doctor (or rather the intern, I guess he's not quite a doctor yet, or is a doctor but not fully licensed, or something that I had to sign a waiver saying I understood) took my questionnaires into his office and "crunched the numbers" while I waited alone in the waiting room that had no magazines.
I panicked while sitting there... not a full-on panic attack like on Friday, but still a panic. I was sure that I had answered the questions wrong, or incompletely, that I had exaggerated some things or downplayed other things, that I was going to be misdiagnosed because of my mistakes... that I was going to be told to go home and stop being a big baby, or that the doctor was going to come out weilding a needleful of sedatives and a straitjacket.
Of course no such things happened, but I was ramping into manic the whole time I was there, and fortunately had the sense to tell the young almost-a-doctor this while we were discussing my symptoms. He said that it figured I'd be ramping in such a situation, since according to my test results, I am Bipolar Type Two... a condition commonly known among the psychiatric cognoscenti as "Hypomania." That means I am bipolar, but my manic spikes are stress-induced rather than part of the cycle. Or at least that's what I understood it to mean. I'm going to be doing some web research on this so I can understand it better.
[Update: I just read up on Hypomania, and it's not at all what I had assumed... my manic phases being stress-induced is still my own hypothesis; hypomania or Bipolar II just means that my manic spikes aren't as severe as Bipolar I; though I think my mania would be more severe if I didn't have the tools of AA to use.]
Of course, my main reaction is: "Type Two? You mean I'm only a second-class nutjob? B-list crazy? The nerve!"
My other reaction, though, is relief. To be able to call it a name, to know it as an official medically endorsed condition rather than just something I think I have, something that's only happening inside my head, is a huge load off. I mean, there really was a part of me that thought maybe I was making the whole thing up, and another part that thought I might just be way crazier than I think I am.
I am also relieved to be really started on the road to recovery, or at least to coping. I have another appointment for a Bipolar Overview class, followed by a five-week course of Coping with Bipolar class that will filter out into an ongoing support group; I also have an appointment with an MD psychiatrist to discuss medication. Of course, all this is moving at a rather sedate pace, my same-day intake appointment was a seriously rare fluke... my Overview class is on the 28th of this month, my five-week course starts on August 9th, and my medical appointment is on August 19th.
But the wait isn't so bad, knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, that I just have to hang on, continue coping as I have been coping... help is coming.
So that's where I am now... thanks so much to all of you who have supported me through these low times. The intake doctor was impressed that I had so many coping mechanisms and support systems already, that I was a lot less dysfunctional than my symptoms would suggest. You are the wind beneath my wings!
(Okay, that was too sappy. I'm going to bed now... I've been manic for several hours, and now that I'm coming down, I'm all tuckered out. Smooches!)