Moderate depression is irritating. I’m on day 3 of a jag. Friday I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. I wasn’t totally incapacitated and screaming and moaning and writhing like I get when I’m severely depressed, but it still took me two hours to get up. Then I kept dissociating all day. Ran some errands and I didn’t even know where I was. Watched six hours of movies. Saturday watched the snow come down. Today woke three hours early and every minute I’m just on the verge of tears but I don’t cry. I don’t know what the point of my life is but I can’t be bothered to think about suicide. I bake some Toll House brownies even though I already have some just so I can binge on the dough. I play with the kitty and dissociate and come back and dissociate again. I’m tired but jittery. Depressed but anxious. And irritated as hell.
Light depression is just a touch of the blues, almost wistful. Severe depression is absolutely crippling. But this moderate crap is being right on the knife’s edge and just standing there, wavering. Stuck.
I’ve been listening to my “moody musik” playlist (right now it’s Barber’s Adagio for Strings), which keeps me going but mellowly. Books on depression tell you to listen to happy music when you’re depressed but that just makes me want to throw things. I remember a music theory class where the instructor told how he was once playing piano for a group of developmentally disabled people. They got increasingly agitated so he switched gears completely and played something which he thought would soothe them. Instead, they went completely berserk. That was when he realized mood regulation needed to happen gradually.
Since The Bad Thing happened in 2000 I don’t really cry anymore. Even when I’m severely depressed, I cry for 10 minutes and then I scream for a while and then I cry for 10 minutes—it’s never 20 minutes at a time. When The Bad Thing happened I completely dissociated. I never cried about what happened. And since I have PTSD from it, I am stuck in that time and so keep repeating that loop of reaction. I can’t move on. So I get these urges to cry but then I just go away.
I had a hard time understanding PTSD when mytherapistlynn first diagnosed me with it. I always associated it with ‘Nam veterans and it was even a joke among my friends. I could understand how someone who’d been under fire would be triggered by police sirens and relive wartime experiences in a flashback, but I didn’t see how flashbacks applied to my life. Mytherapistlynn says I live most of my life in a flashback. I started dissociating as an infant and I keep reverting to that.
My mom once told my sister that her way of dealing with our crying jags as babies was to leave us in our cribs until we were all “cried out.” So apparently I learned early that my needs didn’t matter. Mytherapistlynn says there’s research to show that infants do this—it results in “failure to thrive.” I don’t know how it’s measured (how do you measure the psychological state of a pre-verbal being?), but I know that I have always struggled with even identifying my emotional needs, much less asking others to meet them.
Though I do recall one experience that stands out. It’s the experience that doomed my relationship with my fiancé. He and my friend Brad and I (for some reason I will never understand—I’m terrified of heights) decided to cross this big ravine via an abandoned railroad bridge. As we moved out towards the center of the track, the spaces between the ties got wider and wider and the ties themselves were more rickety. I became totally paralyzed with terror, setting down on the rail and clutching on for dear life. My fiancé and Brad were already across the bridge before they noticed I wasn’t with them. And my man, my beautiful man, came back out on the bridge to help me. He was so gentle and reassuring and patient. He just talked me through it, in no hurry, totally taking it at my pace, getting me to inch forward. It took years to get me across that bridge but he never showed impatience, only love. I had never experienced anything like that before. And once tasted, I wanted more.
Throughout most of our relationship, I was in therapy (of course, when am I not in therapy??), and there were times where he would come in and my therapist would help him see what he could do for me. But what I never asked was what I could do for him. I had that taste of having a survival need met and it triggered an over-powering, infantile NEED to be loved in that way again. Completely. Thoroughly. Safely. Kindly.
On the night of 09 December 1996 he told me he couldn’t take it anymore. He needed me to get my own life. That’s a whole long story which I don’t need to go into now. Suffice it to say, I did what he asked. Not because he wanted it—because I wanted it. And it made a dramatic difference in our relationship. But when push came to shove he left—for other reasons. Devastating. But that’s not the story I’m telling today. I’m thinking about needs and how they get filled or not.
My guidebook to that relationship and one other was Harville Hendricks’ Getting the Love You Want. His theory was that we are attracted to people who can fulfill our childhood needs but who unconsciously don’t. The goal of the book is to bring us to consciousness so that, in the context of marriage, we fulfill our own needs and the needs of our spouse. I focused on the bits where I listed what I needed and what my fiancé was supposed to do. I wanted that experience on the train tracks over and over. It wasn’t until after he told me he needed a change that I started implementing Hendricks’ other suggestions. It totally transformed our relationship. I really recommend the book to people in long-term committed relationships. Pretty amazing results.
Mytherapistlynn has told me about “attachment parenting” (just glancing at the page this links to makes me tear up) which sounds like some bizarre, Martian, impossible method of parenting where you actually pay attention to your child. You try to meet your child’s needs. So if your infant is crying, you soothe the child. By your soothing the child, the child learns to self-soothe.
This is just beyond my comprehension. One of the many reasons I can’t have kids is I would be like, “Crying? Get a job!” I don’t think I’d be able to transcend my training.
My sister somehow did it. Her kids are 18 and 20 now and they talk about just about everything. They have their rough patches, but they trust each other. When I was 18 and 20, I wasn’t on speaking terms with my parents. I don’t think I really let them back into my life until I was 30, after my Saturn Returns. I like to think that, in the context of a loving and supportive relationship with a spouse, I could find a touch of my sister’s patience and understanding and Libraness to break the stranglehood of my Capricorn sun sign and five-planets-in-Virgo-holy-hell-Batman. But that’s all academic. No babies for me.
Now I have it—it’s a Kurt Vonnegut kind of day. “And so it goes.” No high highs, no low lows, just this gentle feeling of there being no point to life but, to your bewilderment, you find yourself alive anyway.
Let’s end with music, shall we? Here are some excerpts from my moody musik playlist.
Radiohead: Talk Show Host
Cat Power: Cross Bones Style
Nouvelle Vague: In a Manner of Speaking
Madonna: Paradise (Not for Me)
Portishead: Wandering Star
Have a day.