What is pain?

What is pain?

Is it the feeling of inadequacy?

The feeling of loss?

The feeling of rejection?

Or knowing that there is someone out there who you really connect with, but who you may never get to call your own?

Is it the many times of confessing your feelings, wearing your heart on your sleeves only for it to be thrown onto the ground and trampled?

Is it the moment when you realize that you sabotage every chance you have at happiness?

Or is it the moment between hating yourself and everyone else?

Is it loneliness or is it emptiness?

It is the moments when you watch the wisps of cigarette smoke rise and dissipate into the air?

Or is it the moment of when blood is drawn from your wrists?

I don’t know what the answer is anymore.

I can’t write poetry

Your eyes are teal, but your smiles they steal

my breath away

Your innocence, it summons me

in strangest ways

Your kindness and your warmth they

call to my embrace

I went back and forth on top of you

I go back on forth and whether I should

dom or sub or play or

nothing at all…

Your eyes were teal and your words they stole

my smile away

The sun has set,

the sky once butter-gold

‘s now blue and grey.

 

High-functioning Depression: solace in solitude

I’ve always thought that depression was a one-person journey. It was one that I had to accept, deal with, and overcome all by myself, and I still very much stand by this.

The concept of Self-Actualization did not originate from Psychology; however, there were two Psychologists who contributed greatly to our understanding of the idea. According to Maslow, self-actualization, is the achievement of full personal potential — the realization of a ‘true self’ — which occurs only after all the other and basic needs are fulfilled. On the other hand, Carl Rogers asserts that self-actualization is not a desire or need, but rather an instinct to grow and achieve. Nowadays, Rogers’ idea of of self-actualization is often applied to the treatment of depression, whereby the improvement of the condition rely on the individuals themselves: they have to want to get better in order for them to get better. Although there is some debate as to how much of human decision-making and behavior can be accurately represented by the theory(ies), I very much agree that the power to be better rests with the individual.

A lot of the times, people who have depression do not want to get better. This is not to shame anybody, because some times we don’t feel like we have the strength, but a lot of the time we also don’t have the motivation. You no longer want to discuss your problems or feelings with your friends or loved ones. You no longer want to socialize and participate in activities that would normally bring you joy. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone with depression.

As somebody who has high-functioning depression, every day is solitary, but not always lonely. Because socializing can be such a chore, being alone has given me comfort at times, and now I often prefer to be on my own, than with company. Having lived and grown up in a household of six people, and having always shared a room with my younger brother, I never really have privacy. I never have my own space. So when I started struggling with depression, it was truly quite difficult at first — I had no place where I could cry and not worry about being seen. There was no way in which I could just sleep in and do absolutely nothing without somebody questioning it. If anything, my emotional flatness has made this somewhat easier. All that being said, this does not always scream ‘healthy relationships’, and indeed it has been challenging for both myself and my partner.

I do question, sometimes, whether it is good to be in a relationship when I can barely feel feelings on a daily basis, and to be honest, I still haven’t reached a conclusion yet. On the good days, I want to get better. I feel more energized to do a better job, and I want to be on top of things at work and outside of work. On the bad days, however, I’m just glad I have my cigarettes and that I haven’t fucked up too badly to get fired. (In all honesty, I don’t think I will ever fuck up that much unintentionally, but it’s hard not to be critical.)

//

I borrowed a friend’s copy of Sophie’s World because I’ve heard great things about it, yet it’s taken me months to finish 26 pages. I hate that I read so slowly, because when I do, I am often reminded of how much I love learning. It is always in these rare moments where I get to be alone with a good book that I remember why I once wanted to study Philosophy at university, but also why I chose Science in the end. I’ll always have an interest in Philosophy, but there is Science behind everything, and that is wonderful.

High-functioning Depression: lack of motivation

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while now, but unsurprisingly it’s taken a long time for me to actually commit to writing this because it’s been difficult to motivate myself.

Despite what’s happening right now with Covid-19, I’ve been going to work every day (just with more mask-wearing and hand sanitising). Since I function at a pretty high stress level at work, when I am not at work I just don’t want to do anything at all. My mental and emotional batteries completely deplete and I turn into a couch potato with an attention span of a goldfish. It’s very hard to do anything that requires my active attention or concentration — things like puzzles, documentaries, serious drama/thriller movies have all become very unappealing to me. Even socialising has become problematic, and I say that as somebody who’s been an extrovert for most of her life! Obviously, I understand that I live a pretty privileged life in many regards, so I’m not complaining, but merely making observations about certain changes in my life. What people don’t seem to understand about high-functioning depression, is that just because we’re not constantly suicidal and can hold a job, it does not mean that we’re okay either.

Depression is not a mindset. It is not a choice. It is not something that you can “just get yourself out of”.

I used to love spending time with friends, having long, open conversations about life, relationships, parents, death and everything else. I used to be up for spontaneous hikes, trips to the cinema, gigs…you name it. But when you’re always exhausted, everything that used to be fun, that’s supposed to be fun, is no longer that way.

The most ridiculous thing I experienced recently, is when there was a day when I just wasn’t feeling it (in lack of better words to express myself). I didn’t want to smile at anybody. And when I met up with a client, he commented that I was very miserable looking.

“Why are you not smiling? Come on!”

What bothered me at the point was not only the expectation that everybody has to be jolly and positive all the time, but that women should always smile and be friendly. Okay, okay, maybe you think this came out of nowhere, so let me explain. Mood disorders impact individuals differently, such as the way in which different symptoms manifest or impact people’s lives and relationships. But they also create different problems based on the perceived gender of the person. For example, women are traditionally expected to be maternal, warm, more smiley and sentimental, whereas men are expected to be more rational, less expressive…etc. Of course, as the world and our societies progress, these expectations also change with it. However, just like the ‘brooding man’ is often seen as more attractive, women who have turbulent emotions or mood disorders are often seen in a more negative light. They are often described as ‘crazy’ or ‘attention-seeking’. Obviously, I’m only speaking from personal experience here, but when my client was displeased by the fact that I was not smiling, it kind of bothered me.

“I don’t owe you anything. I don’t need to smile for you.”

is what I thought at the time. I was being polite to the client and I saw no fault in what I was doing.

Anyway, I digress. I thought that there was an increased awareness and acceptance of people with mood (and other) disorders now around the world, but apparently it really depends on where you live and who you’re talking to. Many people still have a very limited understanding of mental health issues, and many people are still ignorant to these things. Like many other social issues, it’s no longer a matter of whether it exists, but how you understand and live with these people. You can’t expect everybody to live life the way you want them to, and we need to be more kind to each other.

Just because I’m not always bubbly, doesn’t mean I’m bitter. Just because I no longer enjoy coming out for a drink as much and as frequently as I did before, doesn’t mean I suddenly hate you. (I mean, there’s also the corona-virus).

High-functioning Depression

Prelude

I’m not sure if anybody will ever come across this or find this helpful, but here it is.

I’m writing a post on high-functioning depression because I’ve suffered from this for many years now. It wasn’t until two years ago when I returned to Hong Kong when I finally went to a clinical psychologist and received a proper diagnosis. Some people do not believe in “diagnoses”, because there are many instances of incorrect diagnoses. You can have the symptoms of multiple mental issues but not “have” any of those clinically. There are also many instances where people are given the wrong advice, wrong medication or treatment, but this doesn’t change how I feel (or am unable to).

I’m not here to be skeptical; I’m here to share. Who knows, maybe it will help somebody. Maybe it will help them knowing they are not alone, and that there are people who genuinely understand.

Bit of background

I come from a conservative environment and upbringing where everybody just “gets on with it” and expect you to do the same. I grew up in a high-stress environment where education means rote learning and stuffing information down your throats rather than nurturing one’s passion, interests or capabilities. Everybody is pragmatic and judgmental.

…Now, I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me, I’m merely painting a picture for you. I’m sure there are people who feel like they’ve grown up in a similar environment even if the cultures differ immensely. However, my point is that when you are so used to just “getting on with it” and being told that you’re just stressed and feeling emotional because everybody else is, that it’s normal, you start to believe it.

And because there is a stigma around mental illness (I believe this will never not be the case), I never talked to anybody about it or saught help until I went to university. My self-esteem has always been shite, but during my UG years I was on an emotional roller-coaster everyday. I’d burst out in tears in the library. I’d cry after sex. I would stop wanting to have sex. I’d self-harm or spend more days thinking about dying than otherwise. But I’ve found ways to get around it, and I’ve managed to stay alive.

So, what is the problem, then?

Because I no longer want to kill myself as much as I did before, and because I no longer felt extremely sad all the time, I stopped seeking help. I stopped talking to people about my feelings. Now, I don’t really have feelings anymore. People tell you it’s part of growing up, but it’s really not.

I don’t know how I got through any of it without fucking up my life. I only remember being stressed constantly, and worrying about hurting my girlfriend when I eventually tell her that I cannot go on like this. She’s wonderful, but my feelings are not there anymore. I cannot tell whether it’s my flat affect that is causing this or my inability to love or maybe it’s her. Either way, all my life I’ve just kept going and going and going, until one day I read this blog: https://theoakstreatment.com/blog/what-are-the-signs-of-high-functioning-depression/

Obviously, it’s only one of many blogs, articles and pieces of research that talk about depression (or mental illnesses more generally), but it really resonated with me. It’s so easy to just brush these things under the carpet; it’s easy to not take care of yourself; it’s easy to allow people to tell you that you’re just being dramatic and you’re stressed and you just need a break…but some times, it’s more than that.

I suppose what I wanted to say was: to anybody out there who’s feeling shit, or worthless, or whatever — I hope you will look for help. Talk to somebody. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. There are plenty of resources both online and off, where you can read about these things. Don’t give up.

Because I wanted you to know

“Because I wanted you to know”

Her tears rolled down her cheeks as Elio said those words and repeated them to himself.

There were days when she felt lonely, but today. Oh, today. She felt like she was suffocating from this silence.

This inability to talk to anybody.

It had been a while since she cried, even though it was a stressful couple of months.

Some times you know you are just dragging things on and there really isn’t a point but you go on anyway — lying to everybody.

But maybe you don’t have the strength to stop.

Maybe you don’t have the strength to be better.

Or maybe you just can’t be bothered

and you’re not worth it.

Maybe happiness requires work and since you’re not putting in the effort

you don’t deserve it.

Failing at poetry

Tired, is the feeling with which I’m always stuck

Dizzy, is my head right now, as the room spins round and round

On edge, is my state of being, not being able to not give a

FUCK

Sorry, is what I say all too often, when I shout and get angry

And the room spins around

And around

And around.

—————————-

I cannot write a competent rhyme

And this is not a matter of time

It’s more of an issue with talent and wit

‘Cause I’m not good with writing

This is honestly shit.

Whirlpool

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything, and it feels like a long time since I’ve had a clear mind at all.

These days I feel like I’ve fallen back into deep sleep – I never feel completely awake or aware. I am constantly exhausted and distracted. I constantly feel nothing.

I know what ‘happy’ feel likes, I know what ‘nervous’ feels like, what ‘angry’ feels like, what ‘sad’ feels like…and yet, I do not experience any of these emotions. I know when I’m supposed to be happy or sad or nervous or angry, I also know how to react accordingly, I just simply don’t feel them anymore.

And I haven’t been, for a while now.

I started a new job, I started a new relationship, and I started volunteering at this suicide hotline. I know I’m supposed to feel guilty when I make mistakes, and normally I’m the type of person to beat myself up over these mistakes, and feel bad for an extended amount of time. However, since some time ago, I’ve stopped feeling guilty.

I’ve stopped feeling altogether.

I know that I love my girlfriend because she’s great and I’ve never felt more comfortable and happy, but I don’t feel the butterflies in my stomach, the yearning for her when she’s not around, or the extreme happiness…but that’s just one example.

Waves

Sometimes my mind just thinks and thinks and thinks and goes off wandering

And then I start doubting everyone.

Sometimes I worry, I fear

And then I start doubting everyone.

Sometimes I look into the mirror and I squeeze my belly and my butt

And then I feel disgusting.

Sometimes I think dark and horrible thoughts about other people

And then I feel disgusting.

Sometimes I feel powerful,

sometimes I feel useless,

sometimes I feel sadistic,

sometimes I feel masochistic,

sometimes I think that everyone must think I’m a nuisance, and that I’m just an egocentric prick,

but most of the time I’m just exhausted,

exhausted from all the thinking and overthinking that I do every waking moment.

I can’t stop, but maybe I’m just not trying.