Depression Quest

In all the ridiculous #GamerGate hype, it was never mentioned just how damned important and accurate the game that started it all happens to be.

http://www.depressionquest.com/dqfinal.html#

There’s a trigger warning at the beginning for a reason, but I challenge anyone who lives with depression not to play it and suspect that the creators were somehow able to spend five minutes in our brains.

The woman who helped create this is the one #GamerGate was trying to get to kill herself. Don’t believe me, read their own words. That blog highlights the “good” parts, but also links directly to the chat logs that kicked off the whole fiasco. #GamerGate was awful for a lot of reasons, but I’m starting to think that obscuring this game was one of the worst. More eyes on it would have given people a better understanding of what we go through and a better way to empathize, and those assholes stole it from us. Fuck you, #GamerGate. From the bottom of my miserable black hole of a heart, FUCK. YOU.

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Flying Monkeys

I had an experience at work the other day that led me to believe I had a mole in my friends list on Facebook who was reporting information to my ex. I think it was meant to shake me up, but it really just made me feeling like showering in bleach sometime after shutting down my profile. Instead, I settled for cleaning out some mutual friends, finding out in the process that the most likely culprit had saved me the minor hassle of removing him (so thoughtful).

It takes a very short time to produce a very long list of ways my life has improved since that relationship ended. Not the least of which is having a partner who is actually a partner. There is something very wrong with a relationship when one individual has to have complete control over the other, even after the relationship has ended. When you can’t express your own thoughts or have your own opinions or be your own person or associate with whom you want to associate or take what jobs interest you or be able to even leave your living room without having someone called in to “check up on you” because you’re not even allowed a phone, so you have to use an instant messaging program to prove every five minutes that you haven’t left the house.

I remember well how I was treated, and he remembers well how he treated me. What stories he has to tell himself or others to pretend otherwise is none of my concern. I have my own life and my own real concerns. He and anyone associated with him have my express welcome to stay the absolute hell away from me and mine. I have no qualms about filing harassment charges, and he was the one who taught me which loopholes to avoid, because he constantly harasses people. Not much to be said for the integrity of someone who facilitates that, either.

Here’s a thing to consider, for anyone who doesn’t like being called out on their actions: maybe don’t do fucked up things, and no one will have anything to call you out on. Just a thought.

The No Contact Life

I did my research before going completely No Contact with my family. I discussed it with my therapist. I can’t say I already had my mind made up, but I was fairly convinced it was the right decision. It’s been close to three months since I unceremoniously ranted my way out of my family (who can resist some parting shots when you’ve kept your mouth shut all your life? I mean, other than better people than me). I have noticed a couple significant differences already, which helps during the few times I doubt my decision.

You know that voice that nags at you when you screw up? Mine used to be loud enough to drown out all reason. It told me what a failure I was as a human being if I so much as forgot to turn off a light. It was omnipresent, just waiting for an opportunity to tear me down. Sometimes, it would get bored when I was alone and start to pick at me. I always felt it just hovering in my consciousness, watching everything I did with critical eyes. It was also distinctly my mother’s voice.

Over the years, I began to argue back with it, but it always had an answer to every protest. Any time I felt I was competent, it would clear its throat and rattle off a list of my failures as a reminder that my triumphs were only flukes. I couldn’t escape it, and arguing with it only led to a cycle of negative thoughts that I often couldn’t break out of for days. I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t imagine living without it, and this drove me to many, many thoughts of suicide, some of which ended in attempts.

Maybe a month after severing contact with my mother, I noticed that the voice was changing. It didn’t sound exactly like her anymore. It was beginning to sound more like me. As time went on, it sounded more and more like me. Somehow, it was making it easier to fight against it. More than that, however, it was beginning to grow less critical. Instead of insulting and discouraging, something that isn’t typical of me, it was gentler. It was as if I couldn’t realistically be that cruel in my own voice, so I used hers. As soon as the illusion was broken, so was the constant stream of abuse from myself. I still relapse into my old way of treating myself from time to time, but it is markedly improving.

Closely following this was a revelation that I am actually good at things. It came about in a weird way. I was playing a video game–bear with me here–called Batman: Arkham Asylum. I had come to the boss battle with Poison Ivy, and I was about ready to pitch my controller at the screen. I was getting too panicky during a certain attack she had and dying before the second phase of the battle. There are only so many times you can have a boss taunting you from a Game Over screen before growing discouraged and angry enough to give up completely. Too stubborn to rage quit, however, I kept trying the battle over and over. At one point, a calm suddenly came over me, and I began to properly time the attacks and dodges, finishing up both phases of the battle with little damage. Somehow, I was able to put aside the irritation with my constant failure and actually see everything happening on the screen. When I stopped berating myself and started cooperating with myself instead, the battle ended up being a lot easier than I was making it.

I’ve been trying to apply this to other areas, and it works. When I stop telling myself I’m not good at things, I’m good at things. It seems simplistic, but it takes a lot of effort when you’re used to operating in a different way. The overall change in how I view myself is well worth the effort, though. I’m beginning to have my sense of worth restored.

I won’t say I don’t have any suicidal thoughts anymore, but I feel like they’re for different reasons. The most recent occurrence was after reading an article about how people with addictive personalities may have trouble caring about other people because of a deficiency of oxytocin when they were toddlers. I began to have the “I’m broken and can’t be fixed” thoughts, convinced that my apparent inability to care about other people would lead to the demise of every relationship and destruction of everyone I loved (which in the moment, I was unable to see as a contradiction). All I had ever wanted was to love and be loved, and it felt like that had all been stripped from me before I could even comprehend hopes and dreams. I didn’t want to live like that, and I didn’t want anyone else to suffer because of it. I got as far as starting a note, which is usually the type of thing that gets you to talk yourself out of it or sufficiently vent the bad feelings. Instead, my partner walked in and noticed something was wrong.

After a brief fight because I don’t translate emotions well, he talked me through it, pointing out that if I really didn’t care, how my perceived deficiency affected anyone else wouldn’t bother me. Normally I take in that information, reject it in favor of “I suck and need to die”, and learn absolutely nothing from the whole experience. This time, it actually made me reflect and decide that I was blowing things entirely out of proportion based on conjecture, which I imagine is what normal-minded people do on the off chance they find themselves in a mental freefall to self-destruction. I decided to live, but that’s something I do fairly often. What was new was the decision to doubt myself less. To doubt him less, for that matter, and not take what he said to me as a vain effort to prop up my emotions from a sense of obligation.

The entire world hasn’t shifted overnight, and I didn’t expect that to happen. I really didn’t know what to expect. I’d read accounts of people who had gone No Contact, but experiences always differ. There is no right decision for everyone. For me, though, it’s been positives across the board, and they just keep coming. Having a mother happy to drop me at a moment’s notice can cause a lot of anger and resentment to work through, but it also means No Contact is easier to maintain and pretty damn near guilt-free.

Better yet, even the anger is fading. It isn’t gone, and I won’t get my hopes up that it ever will be, but it’s no longer all-consuming all the time. I have moments where it flares up and nearly chokes me, but I also have a lot more moments where I forget it even exists. I wouldn’t have even thought that possible not too long ago. It’s a kind of freedom that’s hard to describe. It still feels fragile, but I expect that to improve as well. It’s enough that I don’t feel as fragile anymore.

An Open Letter to What Used to be My Mother:

Really, even saying “used to be my mother” is incorrect. Someone who consistently puts money and property before her children is not a mother, but rather a selfish child with no empathy for anyone but herself and no care for anyone else’s needs or wants. I gave you more chances to step up than I can count. Certainly quite a few more than I should have. You squandered every last one, and I’m clean out of patience for your bullshit.

I know you don’t understand, or care to understand, just how deep and hurtful a betrayal it is to be told you won’t judge and will try to comprehend my situation and then have you drop me out of nowhere without a word. The thing is, these feelings were completely overwhelmed by relief. Relief that I no longer feel obligated to keep believing in you. You never afforded me that courtesy, so there was no reason for me to give it to you. I promised myself that the next time you abandoned me would be the last time, and I intend to keep that promise to myself and every one that follows. You are a coward, a hypocrite, and not worth another minute of my life. In fact, this letter is for me much more than it is for you.

I really should have known when your lovely sister’s oldest accused me of stealing booze (the $6 bottle of wine I replaced is what she meant, I’m guessing, or the one I offered to replace perhaps? Either way, spreading awful things about me to the people you were claiming to want to reunite me with speaks volumes to how delightful of a human being you are) and hiding drugs (you knew I smoked weed, and you knew I left it in our car because I told you that, but to fit your narrative of me being a terrible person, you had to put it into scare language like “hiding drugs in my sister’s room” and spread it where you thought it would cause me the most damage) that I would never be able to trust you. I’ve always found it funny that for as much as you vehemently condemn lying, everything that comes out of your mouth is at best a half-truth. You gossip about your children to your children, assume things without evidence and then declare them absolute truths, gaslight like it’s your job, and selectively forget things which don’t paint you in a good light. You wouldn’t know honesty if it shook your hand and introduced itself. I guess that’s why you make a good conservative “Christian”.

I think the most telling thing about this situation is that I just can’t bring myself to care about your stupid drama anymore. You’re in my life, you’re out of my life; you’re not judging me, you’re spreading terrible things about me; you’re owning up to the abuse you exacted on us, you’re pretending like we were never abused at all. I have enough of a rollercoaster going on in my life without adding your flip-flopping to the mix. It’s done. I’m done. You can go your own way, and I can stop pretending to myself that I had a single “real” parent worth a damn. Hell, Steve and Helene have been better parents to me in the last year and a half than you in the last 26. It’s nothing short of pathetic that people who have known me for a fraction of the time treat me worlds better than the woman who thought she was my mother just because she gave birth to me. Helene and Steve have been wonderfully kind, understanding, supportive, and people I can actually count on–vast divide between you and them.

But I don’t even imagine any of this matters to you, except of course the parts you find insulting to your weirdly flighty ego that is a hallmark of a narcissistic personality disorder. If you can drop me like it’s nothing, then clearly everything about me is nothing to you. You are the only one who matters to you, and it’s really no secret. You think you’re good at hiding it, but it’s written all over every one of your words and actions and the denial you’ve built up around you to protect yourself from everything you’ve done. I wish I’d let myself see what you were sooner, but all things come to light in time.

That’s really all I have to say. There are plenty more fuckups of yours I could throw in your face like you enjoyed doing to me for way longer than I should have put up with, but I don’t even care enough to hurt you back anymore. I’m just glad I don’t have to lie to myself or hear you lie to me and feel obligated to trust you anymore. I’m glad I can live happily, be myself, and no longer feel the shame you instilled in me for so long or fear your disapproval, which I never should have cared about in the first place. You’re in a terrible position to judge anyone. I’m glad this mother-daughter charade is over and I can finally move past it and everything you did to purposely hurt me.

Good luck to you. People like you usually end up being found out sooner or later and left completely alone. I don’t really care one way or the other. You don’t affect my life anymore.

Good bye and good riddance to you and the rest of the bad rubbish that you came from (the adults, not my cousins or siblings; I can’t blame any of them for the dogma you people shoved down our throats since infancy). I am worth much more than the lot I was given in life, and I no longer see any worth in any of you.

DBT: Double Bladed Therapy

Survival pares you down to the barest version of a human. You eat when you can, sleep where you can, and get the hell out of reality as often as you can. The years I spent hiding from the pain I’d pent up feel like an extended nightmare. I suppressed quite a bit from then, because it was the only way I could justify continuing to live to myself.

I was excited when I started Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy. It sounded like exactly the coping skills I needed. Even normal people said it sounded helpful! Surely it was all sunshine and rainbows and feeling better, right?

I’m not sure if any of you have had a PTSD flashback, but suppressing trauma tends to make that kind of thing happen more often. I’m not going to say I was a lot happier not thinking about it. That clearly isn’t healthy, and I know well how much further damage it caused. But DBT involves instilling healthier thought and behavioral patterns, which involves examining the ones you’ve used and why you’ve had to use them. The ‘why’ is often the problem.

I had no ways to deal with what happened to me, no idea of where to start, and embarking on yet another therapy program was daunting to begin with. The mental health world is not fun to navigate, especially when you’re still in a bad place. Obviously, anyone who is seeking help is doing so because they’re in a bad place. With low support, people like me are as likely to end up in a shelter or halfway house–if they’re lucky–as in a therapy program. I count myself as incredibly lucky that I was finally “adopted” by strong supports. One thing about survivors is we like to hold out hope for other survivors and help where we can. We know it’s rough, and if we find a leg up anywhere, we’re spreading that shit like wildfire.

I still believe DBT is incredibly helpful, and although my attendance has slipped a couple times, I do still plan to stick with it. People backslide while they’re healing. It just happens. Things come up–like said flashback–and suddenly the world is a hostile place again, and we want no part of it. At least that’s how it happens to me. I’m still early in it yet, though. And part of me was still not ready to let go of the anger–and the ones who caused it.

I’m unconventional. I always have been. I sometimes don’t go about things in the best way, but I usually achieve the results I want. I had wanted for years to shake up my family’s illusions of themselves. They were abuse apologists, and it was allowing the more vulnerable among them to be hurt over and over. One aunt, some cousins, my mother–so many had experienced abuse and had internalized responsibility for it because that’s exactly where the family put it. It made me sick and sad and angry, but I was still caught under my own illusions of still being a powerless child when it came to my family.

So I sent my grandmother a message officially parting ways with the family. I sent my and my siblings’ abuser a message, and I exposed him to others around him for what he was. I heard nothing back from the former–though plenty from a couple family members, mainly detailing what was clearly a bitchfest about me from my mother to her sister–and was blocked by the latter. Bringing the total of my Facebook Mortal Enemies to: one pedophile and an unapologetic abuser. These two people are the only two who have ever seen fit to block me on social media, despite one family member’s description of my emails as “nasty” (they weren’t. They were angry, but they were truthful). I take this as a sign I’m at least doing something right with my life.

My definition of an apologetic individual is one who owns up to their actions that harmed another and sincerely apologizes. I received one court-ordered letter and a card with $50 and some word salad about how my abuser’s life was going and hoping I “find peace”, as if my anger at him was from some malignancy in me that, you know, wasn’t a direct effect of his actions. My apology from any other family for doing nothing to help is never forthcoming. The thing is: I didn’t expect an apology. I didn’t expect some grand admission and people falling at my feet in remorse. I expected exactly what happened, because I read a lot about things that interest me, and it has always boggled my mind how someone can be cruel after having experienced cruelty. I knew what the response would be, because it’s a reaction so depressingly common that survivors have to be warned and prepared before the confrontation.

What I didn’t expect is the outpouring of support from people I hadn’t even spoken to in years. Even family members of my abuser, which lead me to harshly re-examine my thoughts on “bad blood”. It softened the blow from the relatively small backlash and reminded me something I had forgotten myself–I am not alone in this, either. I have people I can talk to, despite my usual inclination to hide out when I’m going through a rough spell.

I’ve linked this to my personal Facebook numerous times, because I have nothing to hide. I heard a few times in the backlash “you need help”. It’s funny how people use that phrase in a way intended to hurt, when it should be one used to empower another to actually get help with healing. We can’t always do it alone, and there is nothing shameful in seeking help. Nothing.

To my friends who stuck with me through the years when I was still ashamed of what happened and didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t heal on my own, thank you for sticking with me. People like you make all the difference, and I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for my friends, both old and new.

Stick close to the people who truly love you, and there will be hope eventually. Just the hope of hope was enough to keep me going sometimes, and holding on was worth every dark day.

The Day I Don’t Brain So Well

EDIT: I think I know why disruptive kids responded well to me now. I understand the struggle. “Don’t worry, kid. I respond to criticism by violently shoving the world away and hiding in a ball of self-devaluating misery too.” When they weren’t in fight-or-flight mode due to their anxiety, those kids revealed themselves to be kind, understanding, creative and intelligent individuals. More evidence, to me, that we need to tailor learning to the child.

Here is a day in the life of a person with manic depression who skips a mood stabilizer AND a sleep medication because she didn’t count them right and account for the pharmacy being closed over the weekend.

It starts early. Right around the time the clock hit 00:00 on the new day, I knew sleep was going to be a tricky bastard. Unfortunately for me, even when I find it, it slips away as easily as a hard twitch of my legs or a light jostle from my partner. So I tried the old trick of staying up to the point of exhaustion.

I wasn’t even doing much. Fiddling with the DS, watching Pawn Stars on and off. Eventually, I switched over to Netflix to throw on a show I’d watched over and over to fall asleep to. But suddenly the show was SO FASCINATING. The episodes have been rerun to death, but suddenly the punch lines were making me chuckle myself out of the one point sleep haze nearly overcame my fried brain, and BOOM! Awake. Eye-poppingly awake.

Back to the hypnotic shift between handheld game system and show. Four AM passed…six AM. I had to sleep. I had Stuff To Do the next day. I laid down, closed my eyes, and drifted. It was like hopping back and forth across some line I couldn’t quite fully cross into. My sleep was off-balance. At one point, I apparently fed my partner my shoulder, and he pushed me lightly out of smothering distance. Awake. His legs shoved across my side of the bed. Mildly annoyed and awake.

He woke up soon after, and we laid around and did couple stuff. The friend I clean for in exchange for garage space called, needing someone to drop one of his sons off at a babysitter before I came in to clean. I rushed through getting ready and drove over.

I’ve always had this theory that the cuter the kids are, the more stubborn and rebellious they tend to be. I used to proctor for one of my mother’s third grade classes, and she found out I had a knack for getting trouble children to settle down. She passed the info along to a fellow teacher, who had one student who would oppose everything she said, shriek, and generally be a horror. She asked if I would be willing to proctor for her since no one else wanted to because of this one kid. I agreed, feeling assured of my skills after dealing with my mother’s unruly class.

I walked in expecting some burly, sneering skinheaded third grader with prison tats or something after all the fuss they made over him. Instead, I found myself standing over the desk of a fair-skinned, button-cute brunette boy with big, puppy brown eyes. I thought someone was putting me on. Then class started. I realized right away what the problem was. The teacher was instigating, probably unintentionally. Expecting him to be a problem, she would often turn her attention to him and snap at him to sit up straight or pay attention or stop fiddling with something. Her tone was harsh, and it fell on the kid very often. He would start to get more and more stressed, his face reddening and his antagonizing actions ramping up in response. That was when the screaming matches between them would start, and I’ll tell you that kid about pierced my eardrum shrieking right next to me. He’d slam things around, throw things, and ultimately drop out of any reach of reasoning.

Once I was able to get him to myself, though, he responded pretty well to an even tone and politely asking him to follow instructions. He even brought things to classes to show me and would light up when I walked in. I don’t know if it was just a good cop/bad cop situation with my perhaps overly sweet, imploring actions versus the teacher embarrassing and pre-empting bad behavior, but I was able to keep him out of the office that week and on task with the testing.

After him came myriad friends’ children who were adorable little mogwai they apparently fed exclusively after midnight. One of them, a tow-headed boy with an angelic smile, pinched me so hard on the neck that people were snickering about my “hickey” for a month afterward. From the first time I met Jack, I knew he was no different.

I moved away when one of my friends was pregnant. She had him while I was in the new city, and I only got to see him a couple times before I moved back for good. Once, my friend had entertained both of us by playing “fetch” with him. He would throw a ball, Jack would grab it and run it back, and one of us would ruffle his already-thick blonde curls, take the ball, and repeat the process. All three of us were in fits of laughter by the end. Jack is an adorable child with a lot of energy and a contrarian nature.

So when I was tasked with A. Waking him up from a nap and B. Trying to get him to do anything else after being woken up from said nap, I was sufficiently daunted. The thing with me when I’m on the way up the Bipolar ladder, though, is my personality fits really well with a willful three-year-old’s. I am well-practiced in fighting the “I don’t wanna”s in my own brain, so a three-year-old was basically just a version of that I could pick up and tote around if I needed to. Waking him up and getting him to grandma’s could be as simple as bracing myself for the shrieks, dressing him like a doll, and stuffing him into the carseat.

I decided to take a less combative approach and just tickle him awake. You can literally never wake up angry if someone is tickling you awake. You may get angry afterwards, especially if you live alone and someone broke in and randomly started tickling you, but you will at least wake up laughing. It worked like a charm. My subsequent game of “I can’t find your feet to put on socks!”, however, backfired. He curled up into a ball and fought the socks every step. I finally wrestled them on, telling him it was against the rules when he tried to kick them off (the rules of what, I don’t know, but apparently he did), and was stuck with kid-in-a-ball-who-is-now-playfully-not-cooperating. So I scooped him up and deposited him on the couch in front of his favorite monster truck show. I asked if he wanted to pick out something to drink, and he nodded and wandered over to the fridge. I opened it, he took a cursory glance, murmured, “Just milk” and headed back to the couch.

I grabbed the milk, and he popped back in to say “Just chocolate milk”. This is where the best part of being an Auntie as opposed to a Mommy comes in. Chocolate milk? Fuck yeah! The chocolatiest. I mixed it up right, handed it to him, and went back into the kitchen to wash some dishes until it was time to leave.

His face got stormy when I went to gather him up, but he didn’t fuss. I found a couple pairs of shoes that looked like they were his and asked which ones he wanted. He pointed to one pair, and I held each out in turn as he put his feet in. He was still holding the chocolate milk, and I told him to drink what he wanted because we had to go. He locked eyes with me and stood stock-still. The milk level didn’t change. I sensed a dig-in. I told him I was going to count to five, and he should drink as much chocolate milk as he could until then. I proceeded a drawn-out count, and he just looked at me. I got to five and gently tried to take the cup. He resisted for a second, still giving me the business, but finally chugged half of the remainder of milk and gave it up.

We finally made it to the car with ten minutes remaining before he was supposed to be at his grandma’s. I found the game his brother had installed on my Kindle for him and brought it up, then passed the device back to him and started the car. I roughly knew the area from a high school friend who had lived on the same street, and I thought I would be able to track down the address from what I vaguely remembered of my conversation with my friend and Jack’s own knowledge of his grandma’s house.

Some time after this, I got two different responses to trusting Jack to find his grandma’s: My friend, Jack’s father, frowned and said, “Jack knows where his grandma lives. Of course you should have trusted him.” His wife just smiled and shook her head at me, amused. “No, that was definitely a bad idea.”

It was definitely a bad idea. Jack tugged me along back and forth across the road to two different houses. The first was answered by a very confused and slightly scared-looking kid of around ten. I immediately said we had the wrong place and scooted Jack back to the car. I asked him where his grandma’s was. He pointed to another house. I grilled him, asking was he sure? Had he been there before? He solemnly nodded each time, as he had before. I sighed and led him to the next house. Thankfully, no one answered the door.

Finally, I deposited back in the car and drove back to his house. I haven’t had a cell phone in something over a year, yet I still hadn’t anticipated what a hassle driving to a location based on a vague description and the whim of a three-year-old could be. I called his grandma, who was luckily understanding, and got an actual address.

When we got there, Jack dug in again. The difficult part of being an Auntie? Kids don’t want to leave you because you spoil them and sometimes their parents/guardians hate that. His grandma just chuckled and said he must really like me. I ended up having to close the door on a full-on red-faced toddler fit, and I felt guilty for a bit.

With all the trouble, I had used up my time. I had to get the car back for my partner. I stopped back by my friends’ to drop off the car seat and at least touch up a couple things, then rushed home.

The rest of the day was spent alternating among distractions. It’s difficult for me to be alone sometimes, but I often isolate myself when I’m unsure of my mood to avoid embarrassing situations. Too often, I get lost in my head while around other people and come off as standoffish. If I’m manic, I’ll talk until I run out of breath, refill, and then talk some more. Sometimes I’m antagonistic without real intent. Others I just run off on tangents and speak in metaphors. After my head injuries, I often tangle up my sentences, lose words, transpose stories. Being alone is better than risking having an understanding audience.

There are times, though, when I’ll hit that golden stage of hypomania where everything is effervescent, and I am scintillating. I’m fun and happy and just want everything around me to be the same, and it rubs off on people. It’s rare, but it’s lovely. Colors are never so beautiful, and the world is never so welcoming and full of promise and adventure.

It took some time, but I was able to re-stabilize on medication. Brain chemistry always ends up being a dangerous thing to play with. My brain is full of wormholes, and any tweak in the chemicals I feed it can send me shooting down one or another into unknown universes where anything could happen. Finding the decent one among them isn’t worth risking the horrors of the others. For now, stability is the only goal. Perhaps one day I’ll seek that permanent golden state where nothing can touch me, but life needs to even out first. First comes solid ground–then adventure.