Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lessons learned

2010 was quite a year. I began it feeling relatively okay, then over the next few months I gradually deteriorated to the point where I was in the deepest despair I have ever been in. I reached the point where I basically wanted to die, where not waking up would have been perfectly okay by me. How did I get to that point?

It was a combination of things. Loneliness, lack of purpose, feeling like a failure, self-loathing, a bunch of other stuff, plus the minor issue of having a giant hole at the core of my being that nothing could fill. Living in a country where I have never really felt comfortable didn’t help either – but then again, I was never that comfortable back in Australia either.

I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve, alone at home as the minutes tick closer to midnight. Last year I also spent New Year’s Eve at home, but then I felt so utterly lonely and abandoned. I desperately needed company, but at the same time, I know now that if I had received that company, it wouldn’t have really have done what I wanted it to. No one can save us except for ourselves.

Over the course of this year I did so many things to try and improve my state of mind. I started reaching out to people more, and came to realize that other people I know have fought – and are still fighting – the same battles against depression that I face. This helped me feel a bit less alone in my misery. And I also finally realized that only people who have been down these roads can really understand. Demanding understanding and help from those who have not been there themselves can end with incomprehension and frustration on both sides.

Blogging definitely helped. I am a creature of habit, and having a self-imposed deadline to write something of significance once a week was good, and it bought me into contact with so many people online that I have learned many things from – Wendy, Takashi, CID, Susan, Jen, Snowbrush, 4-Lorn, In The Pink, and many more.

I also started forcing myself to get out of the house and start taking part in more social activities and exercise. These started to give me a little more of a social outlet, and also provided a sense of purpose, a way to connect with the world around me.

I began to realize that my struggles paled into insignificance when compared to some of the larger issues out there. And while ignoring my own state is not useful, taking part in other struggles, working on other projects to help people other than myself was good for me and somewhat beneficial for the world around me.

As for the self-loathing and feelings of being a failure, they are still there. But the realization that choice is largely illusory, and that we are all doing the best we can, has done a lot to dispose of the feelings of “should” that has beaten me into the ground for a long time.

Things are not perfect. They never will be. But I have come a long way in the last year. So bring it on 2011. I’m ready for you!

9 comments:

  1. This is the second time I have read your post and for some reason I am having a hard time thinking what I want to comment. Probably because this post is so reflective and honest. It is just good to know you are taking the steps needed to live the best life you can despite battling depression. That is an art form in itself.

    Just yesterday I had the gall to complain that my life was hard to my man. His response was, "you do not have to struggle to find clean drinking water". I laughed at him but really...I have nothing to complain about. Just like you said "my struggles paled into insignificance when compared to some of the larger issues".
    I want to wish you a happy new year Reader.

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  2. "No one can save us except for ourselves"

    I wish I could hug you or at least shake your hand, you know? Your journey has been one of self development, you've really worked on yourself in the midst of those depressed feelings. And you did it mostly BY yourself, as you'd not in your home country.

    I remember when I finally learned that there was no one who was going to help me but myself. And I stopped hurting my mind with unhealthy thoughts. It's a process and you've done so well! :) You'll capture 2011, tame it and make it your own. Best of luck :)

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  3. Used Combat Boots and Kiwi polishJanuary 3, 2011 at 6:29 AM

    I quite liked this paragraph,

    "I began to realize that my struggles paled into insignificance when compared to some of the larger issues out there. And while ignoring my own state is not useful, taking part in other struggles, working on other projects to help people other than myself was good for me and somewhat beneficial for the world around me."

    It shows what communal people we are, rather than the independent, apathetic, selfish people we are taught to be. To help ourselves, we must help each other.

    I surely hope you capture 2011, tame it and make it your own. I'm with you...

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  4. I think it's in small increments rather than the proverbial leaps that people who have mood disorders start to move forward, well, some never do. I also spend New Years and Christmas alone and really what saved me from feeling that absolute misery that you have felt was knowing I had friends in the blogging world who genuinely cared about me and that I wasn't some horrible person because of my bipolar disorder or just lack of feeling so worthless. Ever since I started reading your blog, I've seen how much you've grown and evolved and pushed for not just survival but also how to thrive. I've learned so much from you as well, D.R. and know that there are so many of us who stand with you and will continue to throughout 2011.

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  5. I agree that blogging helps - I appreciate all the support and advice from the people I've met through blogging. Your advice about the city taxes literally saved my life, and I can never thank you enough for that. I decided to spend less time online and still come back here once a week. Although we have never met in person, I've found that we share many similar struggles, and I therefore want to be part of the journey of your life.

    Through communicating with you online, I've learned that you live in Japan. I actually live near Tokyo and am interested in meeting with you. I would love to talk with you about a lot of things if that was OK with you. If it isn't, that's perfectly fine. Would you consider this?

    By the way, my psychiatrist started to decrease the amount of my medication a bit. I took three tablets of my anti-depressant daily, but I now take only two. I think this is a sign that I am getting better. I hope I will accomplish the first item of my agenda this year ASAP: Get a new job. As always, I enjoyed your writing. Hope you're feeling well.

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  6. Hello all, thank you all for coming by, reading and commenting. As always, it is appreciated.

    Hi IPT, it is interesting how you describe dealing with depression as an art form. I'm not sure I would use those words exactly, but I would call it a highly specialized skill. As your man pointed out with his example about fresh drinking water, looking at the larger picture can be one way of putting our own troubles into perspective.

    Hi Deadeyes, thanks for the kind wishes, and I appreciate the e-hug! Life is a long trip, with many twists and turns. And a lot of pain, much of which is self-inflicted. But figuring out that the pain is self-inflicted is one thing, but figuring out how to stop doing that is another thing entirely. One thing at a time, I guess. I do hope I can can tame 2011 - time will tell!

    Hey Used Combat Boots - the more I think about it, the more it seems like everything in life is a balancing act. If we neglect ourselves too much we fall in a heap, but if we obsess over every little thing in our lives we become dysfunctional. The same thing goes for dealing with others and trying to help the greater good. Not enough and we get too self involved. Too much and we use ourselves up and fall in a heap. I hope it is a balancing act I am getting a little bit better at as time goes by!

    Hi Wendy, thanks for this comment and for the others over 2010. I didn't enjoy being alone as the minutes ticked towards midnight on New Year's Eve, but I could endure it, and the night passed. Morning came, as it always does, and a new year began. Like they say, where there's life, there's hope. Every day is another chance to learn from what we did the day before, another chance to get right with ourselves and the world. And maybe to make things a little bit better in whatever small ways we can.

    Hello La Tendedera, thank you for coming by and putting that address, but that is pretty close to spamming. I'm happy for people to say whatever they like on my blog, but I don't especially want spam.

    Hi Takashi, it is good to hear from you as always. I'm glad you found my advice useful, but you are the one who went and sorted it out. I just pointed you in the right direction - you did all the work. I am not up for meeting at the moment, but thanks for asking.

    I am glad to hear that you've been able to reduce your medication somewhat, and moving towards some kind of work is a good step. I hope you can take it at your own pace, and that 2011 is a great year for you, and for us all. Here's hoping that we can all make some progress in the many struggles we face.

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  7. Hey, D.R. -

    I loved this post. As you did, I also spent New Year's Eve alone. I was not so happy about being alone, but I drank some sparkling grape juice (since I don't drink alcohol) and watched the ball drop, which is the thing to do in the U.S. on New Year's if you're at home, and it was alright. I remember when I was in the midst of severe depression and thought there would be no end. Like you mentioned here, we all learn eventually that we must help ourselves, and that is quite true. Learning that saved my life, I think. I also agree that there is friendship, or at least good conversation, out here in the blogging world, and you are one of the people who have kindly left comments I've enjoyed reading on my blog in the past year. I have enjoyed reading yours as well. I'm glad you are at a better place now than last year and you're ready to tackle 2011! Let's take it on.

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  8. Hi Jen,
    Thanks for coming by. It seems that there were quite a few of us alone on NYE. I wasn't jumping for joy, but I was feeling much better than a year ago, where I was utterly miserable. Whether I have moved past it or whether I am just in a relatively "up" phase right now and the down will return in due course, I'm glad to be where I am now.

    I'm glad you appreciated the comments I've left on your blog from time to time. Blogging really can be a lifeline of sorts, both in the way we can put out what we are thinking into cyberspace, and hear what others are going through. Like that old Sting song says "It seems I'm not alone in being alone.."

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