Today was positively gorgeous. A tad chilly, with a very invigorating wind, just a handful of clouds in the sky. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
I wanted to get outside; while I was out I took the opportunity to clean up the plants in our garden. Most of the leaves on the basil have turned white, so I cut them away. This allows more resources to go to the healthy green leaves near the tops of the plants, and allows more sunlight to reach the newer, healthier-looking sprouts that have emerged. When I was done with the basil, I similarly cleaned excess, dead-looking stuff off the cucumber plant.
Once I was done pruning away the dead or sickly stuff, all that was left were (mostly) healthy plants, full of life. I thought, I wish I could do that for myself. Get rid of all the dead stuff, the clutter, and just keep what fills me with vitality.
So I went back in the house, opened all the windows so it would be full of fresh air and sunlight from this beautiful day, and proceeded to clean. I started with the bathroom and cried as I scrubbed the bathtub. I fought the mean voices that told me I was either in my rightful place as a woman (on my knees cleaning) or that I was demeaning myself by doing housework. I reorganized items so the sink looks presentable and the contents of the medicine cabinet are useful, not past their expiration date. I got that picture I don’t like off my wall, and cleaned up the stains it was covering (using white vinegar diluted in water, a paper towel, and some elbow grease).
When I was done, I moved to the kitchen. I started by reorganizing all the plastic containers we keep for storing leftovers, so they’re mostly on one shelf, sorted by shape and size with lids readily available. They look neat and there’s most of a cabinet free for storage of additional items – which is good, because the house as a whole is still intolerably cluttered. Soon after Fox got home he took care of the dishes, while I sorted through trash and recycling, found homes for items we wanted to keep, and cleaned surfaces. Before long we were sitting together in a very pleasant, relatively clutter-free kitchen, sharing a simple but delicious dinner. It felt so good to finally be at peace with my environment while in that room.
I did a lot of good work – quite the accomplishment, especially considering I didn’t see much point to getting out of bed this morning. But I’ll admit, I’m a bit disappointed that the only cleaning I got to in the living room and bedroom was trying to remove the dirt from the windowsills. (Seriously, how does dirt get on windowsills? It’s not dust, it’s dirt, like the stuff on the ground with grass growing in it outside! And it’s thick and hard to pick up. Gross!) I really wanted to change this space, make all of it more liveable. But I guess I just need to be patient with myself. Patient, and persistent.
It drives me nuts that unless we make a constant, conscious effort to maintain this, it’s just going to get intolerably gross again.
I don’t know how to assess my depression. Fox thinks the SAM-e is making me more irritable and anxious; I think he has a point. Last night I almost cried myself to sleep because I saw no point in living, no reason to care about sleep, waking, no point to even trying to do anything … and I felt trapped. I can’t end it, there are too many people who would be hurt. The thought of just going on, suffering horribly, my whole life pointless, just so my loved ones would be protected from the pain my death would cause … it was too much to bear. I couldn’t help crying.
Fox heard me, of course, and asked what was wrong. I started telling him all this stuff and somehow the conversation turned to composing music. I said, “I really like exploring different sounds. That could be a good reason to live.” Next thing I knew, I had a melody in my head that wanted out. I got up and started writing; a few hours later I had the melody written down, a list of instruments with timbres appropriate to the mood I want, some ideas for harmony and counterpoint, and the beginnings of a composition in Notion. It felt so good to be intentional in making choices that created the effects I was looking for, while also allowing for spontaneous creativity (e.g. a second melody that practically wrote itself).
So I have severe symptoms of depression and anxiety – including some suicidal ideation – alternating with incredible energy that I can consciously direct: last night into a new piece of music; today into improving my environment.
It doesn’t make any sense. It seems horribly contradictory. … or is it?
Unpleasant as they may be, those intense emotions are overflowing with energy. At their core is an intense desire for (possibly mixed with a fear of) change. “I can’t live like this anymore!” really amounts to “I want all these things – maybe even everything – to change!” And what greater change is there, than death?
We have to admit, looking our fear in the face and accepting it, taking direct action to cause such a huge change – THE huge change we are wired to do everything in our power to avoid – that is an incredibly powerful act. Not a good or desirable or advisable act, mind. But a powerful one, nonetheless. Like Voldemort.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I’ve had the support and force of will to take that power, that immense energy, and channel it into something less self-destructive than suicide. Even something creative. Last night, for better or worse, a new musical being entered the world. In the past I’ve sculpted and drawn and improvised music. Today I removed a lot of gross dead stuff that was standing between me and the life-giving sun.
If the price of such power is suffering, well, I guess I’m willing to pay it – as long as I can still have my moments of joy, which I do. I’ll take this power and put it toward making the world a better place. For myself by cleaning my house, and beyond by doing Spock knows what. I have the power – the raw energy – to do it. I just need to get better at using it instead of feeling overwhelmed.
I’m so happy for you that you were able to do so many productive things to take care of yourself.
Cleaning is important work, and it *is* work. Can you imagine if nobody ever cleaned? It would be so frustrating to live in that kind of environment! Historically, cleaning was “women’s work”, and it’s not good for anyone to be forced to do something just because of their birth sex. Anyone who wants to and is good at it should be able to, say, be a scientist, or have a leadership position in the corporate world, and also anyone who wants to should be able to be domestic. It doesn’t matter your sex or gender, you should do what is important to you. The idea of historically “women’s work” being “demeaning” is, in itself, internalized sexism (which I don’t fault you for having; it’s hard to combat the influences of society). My interests are very stereotypically feminine, but I think of following through on these interests, despite this, as a feminist act. It is a way of saying “there is nothing WRONG with ‘feminine’!”
“So I have severe symptoms of depression and anxiety – including some suicidal ideation – alternating with incredible energy that I can consciously direct: last night into a new piece of music; today into improving my environment. It doesn’t make any sense. It seems horribly contradictory. … or is it?”
Are you familiar with the concept of sublimation? Yeah…that. 😉 Emotions (even the most painful and severe of them) fuel passion, which fuels creativity and awareness. “Crazy artist” is not a stereotype or a myth, it’s a *scientific phenomenon*.
I am not going to fault you either for having suicidal feelings. You didn’t choose to be depressed, and accusations that suicidal people are selfish piss me off like nothing else. I can empathize, here, as I have been suicidal myself and even have made suicide attempts (which is how I ended up in a mental hospital, getting my stomach pumped). I will tell you, though, that it is not *just* your friends and family who would miss you — you have qualities, important and powerful qualities, that I’ve never seen in all the mental health professionals I’ve worked with. I know you wouldn’t, for instance, demean or patronize patients, or treat them as less than human; you would *empower* them.
I know right now, with the struggles you’re having, you’re probably going through life one day at a time (as you should be). But if it gives you any hope in your darkest moments: when you finish your degree and go into your field (which I have no doubt whatsoever that you’ll be able to do), not only will you be fantastic to your clients, but you could improve the field as a whole. And I think you’d enjoy it, too. I think you’d find it fulfilling, and even if you still have these scary voices in your head from time-to-time, even if life continues to be hard (which it will be), fulfillment is what makes all the bullshit worth it. Coming from someone who’s been in your boat (many times), if you’re feeling suicidal, choosing to live another day solely for the sake of living will not be enough. That will drain you of energy eventually. You need motivation; remind yourself *why* you are here, what you truly love about life, and what you can contribute to the world. (*hugs*)
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