When supporting starts to hurt

It’s me again. Ziya’s recent posts should be enough to show that lately, things have been far from easy.

Indeed, it has to have been (and still be) hard for Ziya. But sometimes I wonder how often the effects of the depression are shown on the people supporting the person facing it. Case in point:

Ziya and I have been together for very close to three years now. And for a good chunk of that time, we’ve spent enough concurrent time in the same location to make sharing a bed make sense. And for most of that time, we’ve generally been able to go to bed at the same time, and wake up around the same time (give or take an hour or so). I’ve gotten used to that: it’s part of one of the reasons I proposed to Ziya; I want to wake up next to zir everyday, for the rest of my life.

And prior to the new sleeping habits, that helped to at least give some semblance of “normalcy” to the end of the day, and has typically allowed my own depression to show up far less frequently and with less of an effect. That relational pattern was enough to help me (at least somewhat) with my own emotional regulation. But the new sleep pattern is proving to have some nasty effects on me as well.

I no longer expect to wake up alongside Ziya. Instead, I’ll wake up three, four, sometimes five hours later than zir; and when I wander out to find zir, ze tends to be in the living room, having already logged a few hours in Oblivion. And that tends to throw off my energy for the day: leaving me capable of little more than basic hygiene needs, food needs, and watching hours of Youtube videos. I’m usually in a slightly better boat than Ziya in some of these areas: I’ve been doing the bulk of the cooking (at least, as far as our shared meals go), and there are certain chores related to household keeping that I have been able to do with decent consistency.

But on my own bad days, forget it. I’m only able to suggest food when I’m starting to get really hungry; and by then, Ziya’s usually been significantly hungry for a while. On my low energy days (which are occurring with more frequency than I’d like lately), it takes me a stupidly long amount of time to suggest that maybe we should start getting ready for bed before one/both of us are stupid tired (assuming I even get to that point before Ziya starts to fall asleep during whatever ze’s doing). And unless we’re both stupid tired, the general lack of down time (and activities) kill my ability to get to sleep with any sort of speed.

At its worst, nights like tonight happen. Ziya fell asleep within maybe ten minutes of climbing into bed. That was about two hours ago now, and I’m still awake. And I know it’s not my normal speed for falling asleep: that usually takes about twenty minutes or so, and that’s fine. No… this is overwhelming sadness keeping my brain from letting me sleep.

It’s sadness about the relational things that used to be common; but have become increasingly rare: things like cuddling before turning off the lights, waking up next to each other, even other forms of physical (and emotional) intimacy. Ziya’s depression has seemingly left enough room (at least lately) to play Oblivion for hours on end, grab easy food for hirself, and sleep; with little left over for the interactions that used to be more common. And to be honest, that’s probably what hurts the most: I know that Ziya doesn’t mean to do these things; but the depression is none-the-less leaving me to carry more of the relationship. At least, that’s how it sometimes feels…

But the pattern continues, and I feel like I’ve gotten caught in it too. Ziya tries to include me and interact with me during the Oblivion sessions: and I’m happy to help look things up and contribute. And the cuddling close during these sessions does help greatly. But that still doesn’t help the part of it that I feel is most effecting my own depression: the dilemma of how much time I should spend tuning in, and how much of it I need to spend completely under my own headphones shutting out the sound of the game.

Because of this dilemma I feel like my emotional batteries have been woefully under charged  for the bulk of the last few weeks. And usually, a few hours of video watching is enough to bring me back up to full (or near full) again. And most of what energy I do manage to recharge gets spent trying to help Ziya get through the day: gently pushing/encouraging zir to complete the few important tasks that are on the docket for that day. So it feels particularly devastating when the videos I am able to get something off of fill so little (particularly compared to what they used to). And this is not counting the other stuff of life (job acquisition steps, internship acquisition steps, etc), that I desperately need to focus on myself.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not attempting to pin blame for the pattern (or its effects) on Ziya. I play just as much of a role in keeping the cycle going, especially when I stupidly don’t speak up about my own needs. Nor am I saying that Ziya isn’t trying; ze’s been sure to tell me that ze loves me and is vocally appreciative of at least a good chunk of what I have been doing. But in the midst of an episode, even those efforts don’t feel like enough. And all of the during game cuddling in the world doesn’t fulfill the needs that aren’t being met.

I can find some relief in one thing: the worst of these episodes are nothing compared to the handful of horrible ones I’ve had in the near-distant past. Those were something else, and it would take a really drastic trigger for one of them to spawn again. And I can count myself lucky that, even those could only nearly drain me of energy. I’ve never had to deal with an episode that involved self-harm thoughts, and the extent of my self-deprecating thoughts deal entirely with my problems not being worth burdening Ziya with. I’m amazed (based on what ze has told me, and what I’ve seen) at the strength that Ziya’s shown so far.

But ultimately, all the comparisons and analysis in the world don’t negate the fact that hir depression is hurting mine. I don’t like to say it, but it needs to be said: I’m hurting too. And it’s not good that I’m able to hide it as well as I have been able to.

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.