Saturday, March 3, 2012

"All or nothing thinking"

Seeing my counselor, my momentary opinion of myself fluctuated based on what I interpreted her to be saying. She'd say, “And you had to deal with that all weekend?” And I'd feel strong, because I had dealt with it all weekend, and fairly well, in my opinion. She said, “You need to just make yourself clean your guinnea pig's cage, because you have to start to get things moving again.” And I felt like a lazy slob. If only I had used a little self discipline and made myself do something, I wouldn't feel so bad, and my house wouldn't be a wreck. If it was that simple, what was wrong with me that I hadn't gotten it fixed? That made it seem so insurmountable?

I even tried to express this thought, asking if she meant that if I started, I'd get my whole house (apartment) cleaned, laundry done, pet's cage in beautiful order. She said, no, I might just get my pet's cage cleaned, and then I “should reward myself.” She said I still needed to start because otherwise the “wheel” wouldn't start moving.

So, with amazing partial comprehension, I returned to my outside life, leaving the little room where I actually dare spend an hour looking at my problems with someone else, hoping to find some solution, the room in which I remember why I'm so overwhelmed with my life and what I'm just not handling like I want to. Outside of her office, sometimes I can forget. I spend time focused on this or that and can ignore the overwhelming bigger picture.

At home, my roommate did reach the point of asking me to clean something (in the past, I'd get to it before she asked). So, with determination, I cleaned the shower. That was my down-payment on cleaning the whole bathroom. Then, of course, I was somewhat proud of my self. Friday, I got the piglet's cage cleaned, even vacuuming around it. And I took out the garbage from that the same day instead of waiting two weeks like last time. And I got myself to bed at a reasonable hour, allowing me to wake up on Saturday hours earlier than normal, giving me more time to get Saturday's tasks completed. With a load of laundry started, I watched my promised video (the reward for cleaning Freddie's cage). Even stopped the movie to put the laundry into the dryer. All is going well until... The movie finishes. Then I'm surprised to see that my depression hasn't vanished. I still don't want to eat lunch (though it is still early for that). I still have to “make” myself do things. This weird heaviness around me hasn't left. And then I realize that, even though my therapist didn't expect me to get everything done because I got one or three things done, I still did. I still believed that if I just started doing the work, that everything would be alright.

I keep doing this. I know in my head that the depression is an illness. But at the same time, I think I say that just to make myself feel better, thinking that the “uninformed” people really have it right; I'm just a lazy, pessimistic perfectionist, who obviously has idolatry problems (worshiping perfection or myself or something like that), also sinful enough not to “make” myself look on the bright side of things, foolish enough to concentrate on depressing things and thinking about myself and how I'm feeling (self-absorbed to a fault). Basically, I think, I'm just blaming my sin problem on a mental illness and taking medication to get rid of God's punishment/discipline. I should be able to get out of this myself, and if not by myself, with God's help if I would just let him/work with him. A year and a half of learning to have mercy on myself, learning that my brain could malfunction for reasons not dependent on my sins, all this hasn't gotten rid of the negative feedback that I've taken piece by piece from things people have said, interpreting it my own way, carrying things to unfortunate extremes. I'm pretty sure no one person ever said anything so unhelpful to me, no-one except myself. And I still don't know how to dissolve these false judgments that live in my head/heart.

And guess what? Even this feeling of guilt could also be interpreted as a symptom of depression, even as it simultaneously reenforces the depression already existing. Why do all the symptoms of depression have to have that reenforcing characteristic? And so the hospital psychiatrist's words come back to me, “You are your own worst enemy.” (Not sure how encouraging that is, seeing that am kind of stuck with myself.)

Another issue I have is with the changing face of depression. I recognize it when it's chanting certain clear cut lies into my brain. But then it turns around and takes a different approach. And I think, I don't have such-and-such symptom of depression, so maybe I'm not depressed. Maybe even though last time, it really was a brain malfunction, this time, it is just my personal faults and me not taking responsibility and changing my life. I realize that is about as true as saying a dog can't be a dog unless its fur is reddish gold.

Anyway, my laundry should be dry now.


  1. Abigail, I so relate to your thinking of yourself as sinful and lazy rather than depressed. I still fight with the "lazy" label. My mother used to tell me quite often I was lazy. Really, I was just avoiding things that invited anxiety and was really slow at performing my tasks as a young girl.

    It sounds like you got a lot done, but as your therapist said, you don't have to do everything in order to accomplish something important. I would say you got the "wheel" going, and that was the goal.

    Depression can make the simplest thing seem insurmountable. But you pushed through and got some things done. Focus on that, and the fact that you are strong. You are going to school, working and dealing with some heavy issues. You are strong.

    1. Thanks, Tina, for reminding me to think about what I did get done instead of what I didn't, reminding me that though something appears small, it can still take a lot of effort.