Now I don’t know how to stop…

In the two weeks since my last post, I played The Sims 3 to the point where the offspring of the original young adult couple are young adults themselves, recorded over 400 memories (with carefully-composed screenshots), and 10 seasonal greeting cards. The mother is an elder, the father is a vampire, the older daughter is dating a female vampire, and the younger daughter wants to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps. I’ve decided to set it aside for now because I made the sims’ lifespans too long (180 days, for anyone who cares). Playing that game has become unbearably tedious.

A 4x3 grid with 10 images. Changing seasons are depicted left to right: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. At first there is a heterosexual young adult couple. Then the family grows to include a child and teenager. By the last image both children are young adults, one of the original young adults is an elder, and the other is a vampire.

The 10 Greeting Cards: Here you can see the family change and grow in conjunction with the cyclic changing of the seasons.

Now I have a third version of that family, but with shorter lifespans (130 days). I built them a much better starter house than the previous versions. The front room is one big open space with both living room (left) and kitchen (right); there is a counter island that separates the space. Walk about halfway into the house and the door to the bedroom is on the left; to the bathroom is on the right. A door between the kitchen area and bathroom provides an alternative entrance/exit and passage into a new addition to the house, should one be built (which will happen eventually). I’m sorry I don’t have a screenshot because it’s really, really nice.

What I do have are the first seasonal greeting card and 13 memories for each of the sims in my new game. I’m really not sure what would be the best way to present them, and I don’t want this to become a The Sims 3 blog! But I feel like there’s gotta be a reason I’ve become so obsessed with this stuff, something I’m trying to express through it. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m just trying to avoid reality as much as possible. All I know is I’ve pulled an all-nighter and I feel like if I go to bed without writing this, when I wake I’m going to get all caught up in what other people want me to do and never get around to posting it. It has to happen now.

Here’s a thumbnail grid with the images in as close to chronological order as I could get them.

One thing I’ve noticed so far is that Angelo seems to be happier than Maria for two reasons: 1. He starts out doing something he loves (not something he hopes will lead to something he finds fulfilling). 2. He focuses on his area of success (receiving 6 credits toward his degree) instead of feeling disappointed about something he didn’t get (a scholarship). Maybe there’s something I can learn from him.

From a supporter’s point of view

Ziya has written a lot about hir reactions and experiences with the depression, and its effects on hir life. But, I think that there is something valuable to learn from the supporters in the life of a person struggling with depression.

I’ll admit: I’ve had a few significant, yet minor (comparatively) depressive episodes in my lifetime. So I can’t strictly speak from the outsider’s perspective. But my day to day emotions (range, strength, etc) are usually stable enough that I can’t (and, more importantly won’t) claim to fully understand what Ziya goes through. I see much more how the depression effects hir behavior, mood, and ability to function. After all, I’ve been with Ziya for close to three years now.

A short “glossary” before I continue: drs = depression supporter. Anyway, onto the rest of the post.

As a drs, I get to see Ziya at hir best (ie, the moments when ze’s functioning “normally”, able to experience genuine happiness, complete common chores and generally have fun)… you know, how those of us who don’t have to deal with serious depression issues are usually able to. But then, usually unexpectedly, it’s as if someone has flipped a switch in hir brain and… boom. The lows become very low: things that leave me sad for a little bit of time have the potential to knock hir out for hours on end. Hir energy levels drop dramatically, and the very chores that were relatively easy to complete earlier become Herculean tasks.

For example, just a few days ago we were getting ready to go to a church I’ve been attending recently. It wasn’t a particularly nice day to begin with (rainy and gross; the fact that my glasses had broken the day before didn’t help much either). And, a few minor blips aside (namely our normal, early morning slow warm up), it looked to be going pretty smoothly. Until it happened.

I was almost ready to go, and basically waiting on zir; when hir anxiety flared up. I’m certain that said anxiety is tied into the depression: the two tend to go hand in hand with each other. In a matter of moments, ze went from being nearly ready to go to needing to back out; and feeling really bad about doing so.

Several thoughts/things ran through my head at that moment. The first was concern: would ze be okay if I went on my own (like I had the previous two weeks)? Or would the intense guilt lead to thoughts of hurting hirself? The second was hurt: not that ze had backed out last minute (although that was disappointing), but instead that ze was hurting. The third, to be honest, was a little bit of annoyance: this has happened before, and often when we’re heading off to something important to me. But to be honest, the third feeling was very small compared to the other two; and I do believe that those frozen moments have become significantly less frequent than they used to be.

There’s another change I’ve seen sometimes too. Rather than flipping to depressed and anxious, I’ve seen Ziya flip to something akin to manic. This is the Ziya that comes out when six+ hour long Sims sessions occur (particularly late at night) or when a sudden creative project (like a new Let’s Play) seemingly comes out nowhere. Ziya tends to get hyper focused during these moments, and I’ve found ze seems to ignore things like sleep. These “episodes” (I suppose one could call them that) seem to be less frequent than the depressive ones; although I’m certain the lack of sleep that comes from them does nothing good  for the depression as a whole.

But then there are moments like now. We’re sitting on the couch together, each at our own computer; each composing an entry for this blog. And Ziya is bright, cheerful and happy: ze smiles when we make eye contact or the little touches that we both find reassuring. There’s a natural seeming energy behind zir: an excitement over the new information ze found that reminds me of one of the reasons I fell in love with zir. Despite the late (early?) hour (which isn’t so unusual for us these days) that this is happening during, today felt like a good day: we were able to run a number of important errands (including finally getting a tv for the apartment… yay!), and we were both really productive.

If only more days could be like today, with more happiness than the sorrow; where we’re both on the ball concerning what we want to accomplish… My hope is that as Ziya continues to work through the depression we’ll have more days like today, and less like how Sunday started. And as long as ze is willing to work through it, ze’ll have me by hir side to support zir however I can.

What If …

“I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity.”
– Igor Stravinsky (1936)

Igor Stravinsky’s quote above expresses a major component of what I aim for this blog to be: a kind of snapshot of how I’m doing on a particular day, what I’m thinking about or struggling with … or how I’m succeeding. If depression has taught me anything, it is to live one day at a time. The joy I feel today might be replaced by anguish tomorrow. A day it takes all my strength to get through (probably because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before) might be followed by one of the best days of my life.

My emotions are intense, but they are also temporary. In the worst moments of my life, survival can take the form of remembering, “This too shall pass.”

from dreamstime.com

from dreamstime.com

In the moment I might feel like ripping off my skin, but knowing it is (probably? … hopefully!) temporary allows me to be in it. I can breathe. I can keep myself from doing something impulsive and stupid and … irreversible. I might even be able to learn from the experience.

There is great power in feeling the full force of one’s emotions, including the compulsion to act on them, and knowing that – as unpleasant as it may be, and that’s a terrible understatement – it’s okay to feel this way. I don’t have do whatever it takes to make the bad feeling go away. I might hate it – that’s okay too – but I can be in it. And if I can be in it, then I can get through it … whether through my own strength, or by calling out for help, or by going to sleep and hoping things are better in the morning.

But on Wednesday I read something, and now the “What if …” bug is buzzing around in my head. I asked for feedback on the look and feel of my blog on The Daily Post‘s post, Branding Your Blog: Let’s Get Visual. In one day I had 86 visitors to and 154 views of my blog, blowing my previous records out of the solar system!

I want to thank everyone who dropped by, particularly international visitors, and especially those who signed up to follow my blog, commented, or liked a post. Your engagement means the world to me!

It's so inspiring to know people from all over the world are reading my blog!

It’s so inspiring to know people from all over the world are reading my blog!

I would especially like to thank two fellow bloggers who helped me out with a day with depression. Wander One Day suggested that I change the background color to the lovely bluish-grey it is now. She also put into words an aspect of my experience that I wanted to convey through my title, but hadn’t quite put into these terms:

I think the fact that it is a “day” with depression, rather than “life” with depression or something more permanent, shows that you are not content to live with it forever – it is something that is transient.

Somehow I doubt it’s realistic to expect to walk away from depression completely, but I can come to a point where it no longer has a significant impact on my daily life. I need to develop and will need to maintain better habits, such as my efforts to overcome codependency and getting 8 hours of sleep every night. I might have to be on medication for the rest of my life. But yes, my hope and my goal is for my current experience of depression (as an illness that limits my engagement in society and sense of self-actualization) to be transient. This is what I mean by my (current, as of writing this post) tagline, “… and hope for recovery.”

from focusonrecovery.org

from focusonrecovery.org

In a somewhat similar but more provocative vein, Sandra Conner really got me thinking about what I’m striving for – and succeeding in. Her reply to my request for feedback is a bit long to quote in its entirety here, so I’ll share the parts that inspired the “What if …” bug:

[…] As I read over some of your posts, I feel [that] your sense of taking hold of life bravely and moving forward at every opportunity are two very strong elements in your personality and character. They seem to identify you much more than the depression. I keep feeling you should focus on your success in moving forward toward recovery.

[…] what I read on your site indicates that you are well on your way to not being imprisoned by depression at all. I would let the title celebrate that fact.

[In a follow-up comment:] I definitely do see in your writing and your lifestyle a great deal that is positive and indicative of having overcome depression.

I don’t always see myself in such a positive light, so it’s very helpful, inspiring, and motivating to receive this kind of feedback. It’s easy to get trapped in seeing the aspects of my lifestyle that are unhealthy, to the exclusion of the ways in which I’m doing the things Sandra describes.

What if  instead of seeing myself as a person who struggles with depression, I see myself as a person who successfully lives with depression – one day at a time?
(This is a component of narrative therapy.)

Somehow, suddenly, “the road to recovery” seems a lot shorter! I’m already doing what I just said I want to be able to do … perhaps just not quite as consistently as I would like. That is to say, some days I live with depression more successfully than others; I’d like to – and can! – increase the percentage and frequency of “good” & “okay” days.

Which brings about another question; this one is a bit more hypothetical. But we’re in the land of “What if …” – where anything is possible!

What if  I have recovered from depression?
(This is kind of like the “miracle question” in solution-focused therapy.)

… … …

My shoulders relax; it is as though a weight has been lifted from them. The corners of my lips creep upward – a hesitant, but growing, even glowing smile. I feel a sense of peace come over me as I breathe in more deeply. I am tired, but not sad.

I know I will be able to handle whatever tomorrow brings … especially since I’ll be practicing my maintenance habits and getting 8 hours of sleep tonight!

… … …

Now that’s a good feeling …