unhappy happiness

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m hungover. I’m not sure what time I got up or when I started on this post or where I’m going with this thought. The only things that I am certain of are the fact that I drank a lot last night and I lied to my girlfriend about it. She left for the weekend to visit her family in the North Bay. I haven’t seen them for a while, and I really should have done the right thing and gone, but I didn’t. I’m not even sure why I didn’t now because I’m feeling quite a bit different than I was yesterday. Even with the hangover, I feel great! Yes, I’m upset that I lied, but everything just seems right. I’m me again.

Two years ago I had everything together. I functioned well during the day. I had a full-time job at Yahoo. I had friends. I ate right, got plenty of exercise, and spent my free time reading and writing. At night, though, there was another side to me–a side with a secret. This secret’s dark and scary and infinite. It came out at the darkest times of night, staying with me until morning. I hated it and tried to fight it every time it came out. Each fight seemed to weaken me more and more, and little by little, this secret grew. One day I realized I couldn’t fight it any longer, and so I quit my job and stopped hanging out with friends. I started an online graduate program in Library Science and moved in with my girlfriend, away from the world. Now, I want you to know that these things–quitting and moving–were actually good things: I hated my job and needed a change, and I was (and still am) in a committed relationship. My reasons for doing them weren’t to better myself or because of love, though. I did them because of my secret. I thought I could run away from it. I thought by completely changing my life my secret would cease to exist. In reality, these changes only strengthened it.

You probably know by now that this secret is social anxiety and depression. They’ve been with me for over ten years, but I’ve only identified with them the last four or five. What’s more, they grow with me, intensifying with age. They’ve been with me for so long, it’s hard for me to a remember a time when I wasn’t anxious or depressed. Social anxiety is my main issue; it drives the depression. It’s cyclical: I get anticipatory anxiety about an upcoming social event, and then I’m anxious throughout the event, of course. After the event, I brood on the negatives, which puts me into a depression, and once I pull out of depression, the cycle starts over. It’s vicious.

When I quit my job and started school full-time, I found that I had plenty of spare time. So, I tried addressing my anxiety in a different way: holistically. I began seeing a mindfulness-based therapist in November 2009 and a hypnotherapist in April 2010. I also used yoga, meditation, and exercises as interventions. Each of these target intuition rather than logic, and because of this, change is slow. Too slow, in my case. I became frustrated, and so I began taking an anti-depressant about three months ago. After two months of no results, I increased my dose. This, coupled with emotional fatigue sent me into a deep depression, culminating with a night filled with lots and lots and lots of alcohol and suicidal thoughts–the last night that my girlfriend left me alone. Subsequently, I got off the medication and intensified the other interventions. I also began writing about my inner experiences. The writing process has been a wonderful for me. I’ve  been able to put words to things I’ve never talked about–things I’ve been too afraid to talk about in therapy even. At times, it just felt so good to name the things going on inside me. I became addicted, thinking writing was my new savior.

I wrote and wrote and wrote, and within a week, I filled over fifty pages with new thoughts, new ideas, new experiences.  There were noticeable differences at therapy. Suddenly, there were new experiences to talk about, and I knew how to stay with the feelings better, rather than running back to my intellect when times got tough. I felt so good. I felt high. But this high lasted only a month: suddenly, and unexpectedly,  I crashed. Depression hit me harder than ever before. I couldn’t work on homework. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I could barely think. My only way out was to binge. So I binged, and everything was back to normal. I caught up at school and started writing more, even harder this time, thinking that I hadn’t been working hard enough before. Things were going good. More and more emotions. Better and better therapy sessions. And then: crash! I binged again, started writing again, and crashed again …

I’ve been in this cycle for about two months, and for the last month, I’ve crashed once, sometimes twice, a week, having to resort to binging to pull myself out. Yesterday I binged, and the day before that, too. That’s why I’m hungover today. I don’t usually have to resort to alcohol; food usually does the trick. This past depression, however, was longer and deeper than the one before that, and the one before that was longer and deeper than the one before that … And it’s hard for me to admit this, but food is working less and less: I’m having to eat more and more to become me again, to rid myself of my dark secret.

On Tuesday I’m going to see my psychiatrist. I’ve been using Ativan and Propranolol for the past two months for the anxiety. They’ve worked well. But the depression and these cycles seem to be more pressing now than the actual anxiety.  I’m afraid I’m bi-polar and need to be on a mood stabilizer. I’m scared about what he’s going to say and even more scared that I won’t even tell him any of this. I don’t want to let him down. I don’t want to be a failure.  But I know I need to tell him. I can’t go on like this. I’m having to eat more and more to bring myself back to reality, in order to feel like myself again. One day I’m going to get up from a night of binging and not be able to just brush myself off and go on with life. Even now it’s hard for me to do that. I neglected schoolwork for the past two days. I’ve neglected my friends even longer. This is the reason why I’m writing this post: to gather my thoughts, to summarize the past few months not only for you, but for my benefit as well. I need to see what’s happened to me so that I can provide empirical data to the psychiatrist, so he can make an informed decision about what course of action to take.

I last saw my psychiatrist on August 10th, and it just so happens, that I started recording my depression and binging in detail around that point. I’m now going to summarize my findings. Even though it is a “summary”, it’s still quite long. Skip down to the sentence in bold if you want a summary of the summary. Anyway, the summary goes like this–

July 29: I binged because of the emotions I stirred up from writing the previous day. I wrote about my last day of high school. High school is a difficult subject for me because it was so hard. Like most kids, I struggled to fit in. Being highly sensitive and introverted didn’t help. My anxiety started in high school. I must have engaged in a negative social situation and came out of it, for reasons unknown, feeling like I had done something wrong–that I behaved inappropriately given the situation, perhaps. That social situation made me feel like I had to change something in order to act differently in future social situations. I set new expectations for myself–expectations I could never live up to, even to this day.

Like most times, I binged on a super vegetarian burrito and a pint of ice cream. I felt better almost immediately after.

The next few days went well. I had two successful social situations with friends and I wrote a lot about my past, my relationship with my parents, and even a short story. On August 3rd I avoided a binge. I saw my psychiatrist that same day. He let out some frustrations because I wasn’t experimenting enough with the Ativan and Propranolol. I really felt like I let him down, and so, after that session I consciously told myself that I would experiment more with those drugs, document my experiences, and even try upping the dose of Celexa. The very next day I took my first dose of Propranolol (which went fine), and I also sent out an email to some friends from my past, explaining about my issues: why I didn’t really connect with them, and why I just seemed to disappear. It was hard and very, very emotional, but I felt great. Those feelings lasted into August 5th, culminating at a yoga class. By the end of the day, I just felt exhausted though, emotionally and physically, and I felt a depression coming on.

August 6th and 7th: I briefly described these days above: “After two months of no results, I increased my dose. This, coupled with emotional fatigue sent me into a deep depression, culminating with a night filled with lots and lots and lots of alcohol and suicidal thoughts–the last night that my girlfriend left me alone.” I’ll go into more detail now. The depression I started feeling the night before carried over to Friday, August 6th. I recognized that my depression probably resulted from all the emotions stirred up, and the fact that I was just drained. If I wasn’t working on school work, I was either writing, running, working out at the gym, or doing yoga. I bounced from activity to activity instead of giving myself a break from all the emotions brought up that week. I didn’t give myself time to rest, to heal, or to integrate. I also wasn’t sleeping very well. Recognizing this was a great achievement and telling myself that it’s okay to take breaks was even better; however, the damage was already done. My depression got worse and worse, and on top of that I increased my dose of Celexa the night before.

I immediately felt the side effects when I woke up. I felt sluggish and depressed, listless even. Everything seemed a bit fuzzy or out-of-focus. Thoughts weren’t coming to me. I questioned everything I had accomplished that week. My confidence faded, as well as any hope: I’m at the mercy of my own thoughts. Right now, I don’t believe anything or anyone can help me. I went back down to my previous dose of Celexa. (So, I only increased the dose for one day).

My girlfriend left in the morning of August 7th to visit her family. I felt terrible. She knew this and wanted me to come. But I assured her everything would be fine, even though, deep down, I knew it wouldn’t. After she left I held out as long as I could, but I ended up binging on a super burrito and almost a quart of ice cream a few hours later. This left me feeling better for about and hour; the depression intensified after that, however, and I ended up binging on alcohol that night, alone. Drinking made everything worse: after each sip, I could almost feel the depression strengthening. I knew I would have to drink a lot in order to suppress my feelings–and I did. In all, I drank eleven beers and two and a half glasses of wine. That night the suicidal thoughts were as strong as they’ve ever been. I wanted to die, and I needed to die. It was the only thing left; the only thing real; the only thing I had control over. Fortunately, I was too drunk to act on my thoughts. I passed out, and when I woke up the next day, the suicidal thoughts were gone–all thoughts were gone, actually–leaving me only with a massive hangover and the notion that I somehow had been defeated.

After spending a few days hungover, reflecting on what happened, I went to see the psychiatrist on August 10th. We agreed that I should tapper off the Celexa. He also seemed to view my experience on August 7th more optimistically: He also thinks that my actions over the weekend show that I may be on the cusp of something more–that maybe I’m on the way to change. I’m just shedding my emotions. Even though it was hard for me to believe that, I felt better after hearing it. The rest of the week went well. Because of the depression, binge, and subsequent hangover, I fell behind on schoolwork, and I had to frantically finish a paper. It was stressful, but I got through it. I had a few social situations that went really well for me, with the help of Propranolol, on Monday and Tuesday (August 11th and 12th). On August 13th, I flew back to Kansas City to see my family.

Being around my family was difficult. I left home almost four years ago after graduating from college. Since then, I’ve been changing, little by little, and, as of late, that change has intensified. I’m different. I’ve changed a lot. It’s hard to be this new person, though, when I’m around my family. I tend to revert back to my former self, into the person I was before I left home. Because of this, going home is a struggle. On top of that, my parents have quite a few issues they refuse to address. I’m aware of them so I feel like I have to solve them–or at least make them aware of them. It’s hard. I spent a week in Kansas City struggling not only with my own issues, but with trying to open up about those issues and express my feelings about my parents’ issues, as well. Issues, issues, issues! There were plenty of ups and downs that week, but I felt the most depressed the day after I got there, August 14th. I couldn’t binge, so, instead, I called my girlfriend and explained how I felt. Immediately after, I felt better. I know what you’re thinking: Why can’t you always do that: talk instead of binge. I do! I talk non-stop about my issues. I’m not sure why it was any different then. Anyway, after getting over my initial depression, the rest of the week went well. I talked openly to my mom and brother about my issues and concern over my dad’s alcoholism. It felt good talking about things we’ve never talked about as a family. I flew back to San Francisco more happy and hopeful than I’d been in a long time.

Unfortunately those feelings didn’t last, though. I wanted to continue moving forward. I wanted to build on my successes in Kansas City. In that first week back, I had three social events. I began writing a letter to my dad addressing his alcoholism. I wrote a lot of blog entries. I started cognitive behavioral therapy. I had a difficult session with my talk therapist. I burnt myself out basically, and I started feeling depressed on Thursday (August 26th), and I binged on the usual: a super burrito and a pint of ice cream. That night I met up with a friend. It didn’t go well for me socially, and I fell into another depression. In the night, I felt strange and my thoughts were strange. These strange feelings and strange thoughts eventually led to me feeling suicidal, in a strange way. It’s hard to explain. The thoughts weren’t tangible; it was more like I really felt deep within my body that suicide was an option for me. I felt scared. Those feelings eventually faded though, and I drifted into sleep, dreaming about death.

I went out with that same friend the next night (August 27th) with a group of people, including my girlfriend. Unlike the social situation from the previous night, I didn’t feel much anxiety. I just felt super, super depressed. I think it was one of the first times the depression overshadowed my anxiety in a social situation. I was afraid the strange feelings of suicide would come back that night, but they didn’t. The depression was still there, though. I went on a small binge the next day (August 28th) with a pint of ice cream and immediately felt better. The day after was great, and the day after that, even greater. I felt happy and optimistic again. This happy state lasted until Tuesday, August 31st. I crashed again the next day (September 1st), binging twice: large sandwich, pint of ice cream to begin, and three chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches later. Despite my efforts, the depression persisted into the next day, September 2nd. I binged again: super burrito and two pints of ice cream. It worked! I felt normal again! This past week I caught up with school, continued writing and working on cognitive behavioral therapy, and went through an okay social event on Labor Day. Therapy was difficult, as well as tutoring (I volunteer at a adult literacy center).

Again, this past week, I’ve tried outrunning my depression, always keeping busy; yet, it caught up with me on Wednesday (September 8th).  At night, back home, I felt a depression coming on. I tried fighting through it, and I thought I succeeded, but the next day (September 9th), I just felt terrible: I hate my life. I don’t have a job or any friends, nothing. School is too hard. My writing is terrible. There’s no hope for me today. I’m leaving the library right now to go binge.

This is what I ate:

Half-gallon of ice cream, super veggie burrito, chips. ~ 2500 calories

I’m used to the gourmet ice cream, so the Dreyer’s tasted terrible. I literally had to choke it down at the end. At that point, I wasn’t eating because I wanted to; I was eating it because I had to. I had to shove that much calories down my throat in order to squash the depression. In order to feel normal again. In the end, the binge didn’t help. It only fueled my depression, in fact. It grew and grew and grew. And GREW. By the end of the day, I knew I had to do another binge. Fortunately, my girlfriend left the next day (September 10th) to go visit her family. Remember: last time she left me alone, I spiraled out of control, eventually having a breakdown. She insisted that I go with her. But I refused, and she went anyway. She shouldn’t have to sit around babysitting me all the time. I promised her I wouldn’t drink any alcohol–a promise I eventually broke.

Yesterday I binged again; this time on food and alcohol:

Nearly a quart of ice cream, super veggie burrito. ~ 2200 calories

6 beers. ~ 900 calories.

This was enough to bring me out of my depression. Which brings us to the present. I’m feeling good, despite being tired, hungover, and emotionally exhausted. I’ve got to pick myself up, clean the house, and start on schoolwork. I’m so behind, and besides, I have to work now while I feel good because I don’t know when my next crash will be.

Whew! That was exhausting. To wrap up, let me give a summary of the summary–

  • July 29th: binged
  • July 30th to August 4th: felt good
  • August 5th: started feeling depression, increased dose of Celexa
  • August 6th: depressed, experienced side effects from increased dosage of Celexa, decided to go back down to my previous dose of the medication
  • August 7th: binged on food and alcohol, had suicidal thoughts
  • August 8th and 9th: hungover
  • August 10th to 13th: felt good, flew to KC on the 13th
  • August 14th: depressed, felt better after talking to my girlfriend about my feelings
  • August 15th to 25th: felt very emotional yet good
  • August 26th: felt depressed and binged, had suicidal thoughts
  • August 27th: depressed
  • August 28th: still depressed and went on a small binge
  • August 29th and 30th: felt great
  • August 31st: depressed
  • September 1st: binged (twice), had suicidal thoughts
  • September 2nd: binged
  • September 3rd to 7th: felt great
  • September 8th: depressed
  • September 9th: binged, had suicidal thoughts
  • September 10th: binged on food and alcohol

There you have it. That’s the last month or so of my life. Since July 29th I’ve binged on food nine times and on alcohol twice and experienced suicidal thoughts four times, and I went through seven cycles of depression. What does this all mean? Sometimes I wonder if writing about it even helps? I’ve taken my thoughts, feelings, and emotions and quantified them in the hopes that I, and others, can understand them better. I’m taking this information to my psychiatrist and psychologist, and I’m thinking of sending this link out to family and friends. I want empathy, not sympathy. I want people to understand what I’ve been through and what I’m currently going through. I want them to understand why I’ve been so reclusive at times. I want them to understand why they haven’t really connected with me. Most importantly, when I see my psychiatrist on Tuesday, I want him to see the things I can’t tell him so that I can get the best treatment. I’m tired of hiding behind a wall of stoicism and certainty, while my insides crumble. There you have it.

Now you know my secret.

***

Finally, welcome to Unhappy Happiness. Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in reading further, please check out my previous blog. I’ve also stated on the About Me page my intentions for this blog and my reasons for abandoning my previous one, as well as some background info.

Oh and if you understand the difference between categories and tags please let me know. I’m confused!

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One response to “unhappy happiness

  1. Pingback: cyclothymia « Unhappy Happiness

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