I realize I was very late in updating yesterday’s NaNo word count, but as I got a little distracted by homework I had a good reason. I’m still being distracted by homework, to be honest. At present, I’m taking a break in-between things on my to-do list during this all-nighter, which I’m trying to use to catch up on some stuff on which I’ve gotten a bit too behind.
Behind, you say? Yes. Due to a bit of a self-destructive, depression-related paralysis over my three day weekend, I didn’t get as much done as I wanted to – or needed to.
How do you fix this? I stay up all night to get as much done as I can before social obligations force me to get ready and leave my house in the morning. I know this is probably not the most healthy way to deal with this (my girlfriend tried very hard to talk me out of it last night before she either went to bed or just gave up on trying to talk sense into me – either is fair, really).
Why are you ignoring good advice and staying awake tonight? I do not know another way around some of my issues.
Here’s the thing: once I get started, I can go on indefinitely unless I hit a block (usually something really difficult for which I need help to get around). Starting is the hardest part, of course, especially for those of us who suffer from things such as anxiety and depression (though I have it on good authority that even people not fighting said issues have difficulty with that beginning part). So once begun, I don’t want to stop for fear of losing that traction.
This semester has been rough for me since the beginning. The trouble my school is currently going through concerning our accreditation has affected everyone, from the top down, and it’s been hitting students more heavily than most other things because we have felt for the past year that it fell to us to save our school, during a time when limited faculty and staff seemed to be getting involved. (If you don’t know about the sinister and illegal actions of the ACCJC in California community colleges lately, read this, this, this, and any of these.)
Now as a result of this issue, many of my professors, their department heads, and my fellow students have been feeling the weight of this threat hanging over us as we attempt to continue our education. A number of part-time professors have been laid off, more than 20% of our classes have been cut, and much needed building projects have been put on hold – all negatively effecting the school and its inhabitants. The ACCJC put us under threat illegally, and is currently facing three lawsuits and an audit as a result of it. This, unfortunately, might not stop them from shutting my school, which would suck as I need a full semester after the closure-period to finish my transfer requirements. (Seriously, why did I decide to double-major?) So I’m nervous – anxious; stressed out.
Now take these problems and worries, add to them my chronic depression and anxiety, and I have a semester I really should have taken off, if for no other reason than the stability of my own mental health. Needless to say, I’ve been struggling. Depression, anxiety attacks, apathy, paralysis, and apathy-induced procrastination are just some of the symptoms of this chronic issue. Depression leads to apathy, apathy leads to paralysis and procrastination, the two P’s lead to increasing tasks on my to-do list, large to-do lists lead to anxiety fuelled avoidance, and the combination of lengthy to-do lists and avoidance cause anxiety attacks.
This process led to such severe anxiety attacks that, for a period of over a month, I was having 4 or more per week. The anxiety attacks led to chronic fatigue and other health issues, of which I’m just now beginning to rid myself. It’s been a hell of a semester, and it’s not even over yet.
I haven’t talked about any of these things much on this blog because for a long time this place hadn’t felt like a safe platform for personal issues, and the few times I did post about them here happened years and years ago before I’d even identified the source of the problem. All I knew then was that something horrible was going on in my head, but I had no idea what or, consequently, how to stop it. (This is turning into more of a testimonial than anything else, but apparently I need to air some things out.)
Thanks to my girlfriend, who recommended SuperBetter.com, I have a site to go to when I’m feeling any of the things that have been plaguing me from that list up there. SuperBetter helped me understand my problems, which I originally just thought were chronic anxiety and the resulting fatigue. It helped by educating me, defining the bad guys I needed to fight (or made me more aware of the ones I was already fighting), giving me ways to combat them, allowing me to invite allies to encourage me and/or for me to encourage, and, on top of all that, SuperBetter is designed like a video game that rewards me for every single thing I do in an effort to surpass these conditions. (Honestly, I recommend this site to anyone battling a personal condition or issue of any kind that does not require a doctor’s care… they seem to have something for everything, though I went for a very specific reason so I can’t be entirely sure they help with everything out there.)
I started my account on SuperBetter.com a month ago now, and, due to daily efforts on my part (logging in every day to add power-ups, fight bad guys, complete quests, chronicle my journey, and continue to educate myself about my problems as well as the ways to combat them), I have not had an anxiety attack for a whole week. This is a pretty big deal to me.
Anxiety, as my girlfriend would put it, means “Lions!” (This is term she coined for her anxiety attacks, later applying it to mine. For those who don’t suffer from anxiety or anxiety-attacks, the word ‘lions’ refers to the flight or fight reaction anxiety induces in the human body, ‘as though you’re being chased by lions,’ during moments when there is actually no life-or-death danger present.)
The lions were chasing me every single day for a while, then they backed off to every other day. After that they were only there on days I had to go to work, or on a day I’d slept through or skipped class for some other reason. Eventually, they moved off to a corner, watching me, and jumping up to close the gap between us if I got so confident in their distance that I stopped actively trying to keep them behind the breathing and mental-resistance fences. Now, or at least for the past week, I’ve been feeling anxiety only during social interactions (I’ll deal with my social-anxiety later), and before doing something I’m unsure about – you know, normal anxiety stuff. I haven’t dealt with ‘lions’ in over a week, an accomplishment of which I am beyond proud. I’m also quite relieved that it is something I can combat (with a little help from SuperBetter.com and my wonderful allies). I know this doesn’t mean that I’m completely cured, but it is the most progress I’ve ever seen in my personal development in such a short period of time.
In fact, it is as a result of this work that I realized the underlying issue of the anxiety attacks is my chronic depression. I’ve always known about this aspect of myself to some extent, but I kept ignoring it, not in the way that one sees a problem and chooses not to look at it in the hopes that it will go away on its own though. I continued to ignore it because of my continued battle with codependency, which led me on a subconscious level to constantly search out those who would make me responsible for their happiness.
Codependency, for those who don’t know the term, is “an emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.” (quote via Codependent No More by Melody Beattie)
It is usually found in people who have lived or had close relationships (whether romantic, familial, or otherwise) with alcoholics, mentally or chronically ill individuals, irresponsible significant-others, those with behavior problems, and the like. It also develops in those who were in oppressive family situations similar to living with any of the above persons, or who were made responsible for family members or acquaintances at a very young age (usually when arguably they are far too young to take on such responsibility).
These situations leave an imprint on a person so that they learn to see themselves through the lens of other people’s opinions and expectations of them. Codependents tend to think that they are worthless because very few people see their true worth, or because they spend all their time trying to prove themselves to people, living to carry the responsibility of someone else’s happiness because they don’t know how to be happy for themselves. To codependents, happiness when sought for oneself is an act of selfishness, which is the worst act they can imagine. They become completely dependent on others who tend to take them for granted as a result.
No one will ever love me as much as I love them, I will never be happy. I will never find love. Everyone always takes me for granted. I put more work into this relationship than they do; I will never find someone who loves me as much as I love them. Why do I keep dating the same types of people? Why do I keep doing this to myself?
Even when we begin to see a pattern, it’s difficult to rid ourselves of it because the act of looking into the causes only serves us, which would be considered selfish. I, for example, noticed a long time ago that I kept dating the same types of guys and that each of these guys were controlling, verbally abusive, or did something else negative or harmful in my life. I never saw myself as someone who suffered from low self-esteem or self-image issues, but I kept getting trapped in these situations so, I thought, maybe I didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did. I wasn’t wrong there, but at the time the term ‘codependent‘ was still a new one, just being considered as a condition by those in the mental health industry. (I only found out about it a few months ago because my grandmother found the book Codependent No More, read it, and realized it applied, in one way or another, to all three of her grandchildren, for one reason or another.
I haven’t finished reading it yet because, one, it frightened me with some fundamental advice (“you’re allowed to be selfish”), and, two, school started, which became the perfect excuse to set the book aside.
When I set something aside, I forget about it, my subconscious protecting my conscious mind from yet another nagging item on my to-do list that isn’t getting done. So I forgot about the book, buried it beneath a mountain of school books and class handouts and unused notebooks and NaNoWriMo notes. I neglected its very existence for months… until SuperBetter progress led me to the realization that some of my issues stem from my briefly examined and unconquered codependency condition.
So, I suppose, I have two conditions from which I am getting SuperBetter: chronic depression and codependency. Day by day, breath by breath, I will struggle against them, until I am completely better, or at least entirely functional. Join me, perhaps, or wish me luck? I can’t complete these quests alone, and everyone needs an ally to encourage them on their most personal journeys from time to time. Post a reply below, including your email address, if you’d like to join with me as allies on SuperBetter.com.
For those who made it through the long and winding road that has been this blog post, I thank you. Future updates on these subjects are likely to be much shorter, assuming I don’t neglect them for so long. May you find victory in all your personal battles! Have a lovely day!