Depression & Existential Crises

I’ve been battling depression for approximately fifteen years. I like to think that I’ve built myself a type of arsenal against it. I’m used to some of the more intense symptoms, and with time, practice, and help, I’ve found my ways of managing them. For example: I experience self-destructive impulses pretty regularly, but I’ve got a litany of coping strategies that work for me, and while it’s always unsettling, I don’t have any worries about actually indulging them. I’m also getting better at sifting my symptoms from reality. This is never going to done with. But I’ve at least learned that when I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for accidentally breaking one of my Aunt’s glasses and start to think I’ve ruined her entire life and thus become unworthy of her love, that I might possibly be in the middle of a depressive episode.

I’ve developed a tough hide over the years with regards to my health issues, and I’m proud of it. I’m not frightened any more of my illness, or of being stigmatized by others because of it. I don’t think I have to apologize for being sick, or hide the fact that I’m sometimes in pain. As hard as punching back against depression is, the fact that I’m still here after a decade and a half means that I must be doing something right. But I’ve run into a problem. If all goes well, in the next few months I’ll begin taking medication for the first time in my life, and the idea has brought up concerns I didn’t know I had. I don’t mean the standard risks. I’ve researched those and taken what precautions I can. I don’t buy the argument that medication will somehow re-write who I am and I’ll be compromising my soul or true self or some other such garbage. I know that depression isn’t who I am, that it’s gets in the way of things, instead of constituting some foundational part of me. But, you see, that’s actually the problem.

My issues started when I was very young. I didn’t have time to figure out who I was before I started fighting this. I’ve had to learn that haphazardly; sifting through all the wreckage caused by my illness, finding broken chunks of what healthy me would look like, and slowly piece them together. Even with all the progress I’ve made, there’s a thought nagging at the back of my head: When I start taking medication, my best-case scenario is that I meet a part of myself for the first time.  I’ll find myself in uncharted territory again, and I may have to re-learn everything, including how to be me.

The unvarnished truth is that this scares the hell out of me. I don’t have an answer for this situation, and as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t know what to do.

 

5 Comments

  • February 6, 2014 - 4:55 pm | Permalink

    This is a powerful description of a problem I’ve never thought about: what do you do when you uncover a part of yourself you’re not familiar with? It’s calls to mind issues of knowing, of familiarity, and of acceptance. Thanks for your ideas, Jaime. Wonderful entry.

    • Jaime Wise
      February 6, 2014 - 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, I’m going to try to document this process a bit while I go through it. Hopefully it will be useful.

  • February 6, 2014 - 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for writing this, Jaime! I’ll look forward to reading more as you journey (adventure) into the future with this.

  • February 28, 2014 - 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Jaime! Let me know if I can be of any support to you… I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but I say that most sincerely. I can relate to your experiences a lot, except that I’ve been fortunate enough (and, I felt, cursed enough at times) to go through the medication journey already. I haven’t really figured out who I am up until the past year, two, or so. You know that you are not your diagnosis, and are familiar with what the diagnosis is for you, personally. That was the hardest part for me, along with dealing with the storms surrounding the first 7 or so years after my first psychotic break.

    I don’t want to sound cliche, but when you meet yourself, you will inevitably find something beautiful and refreshing. It was new and scary at times for me, but I felt like a washing machine reaching its center during the spin cycle. Before, it would rev up with all the towels on one side, then either crash or make a ton of unpleasant noise that simply wasn’t me. Now, I am quite centered.

    I’d love to sit down and talk with you more or listen… I think we have much to learn from each other.

    • Jaime Wise
      February 28, 2014 - 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment. I do think that one of the best ways of combating stigma about mental health is for people facing those problems to first form a sense of community with each other. We all have different diagnoses and issues, but we all have something to teach each other and the rest of the world about overcoming our problems.

  • Hello! Please feel free to convert the neural activity encased in your skull into to digital representations of phonic components.