I think it might be time to get back on the antidepressants. I've been on them before and I haven't taken any for quite a few years, but I think it's time to get back for a bit.
I've been trying to do the things I've been told to do: I've been physically active, running and hiking; I've been pursuing my interests by playing music, trying to record music & trying to take interesting pictures; I've been visiting friends and family who love me and whom I love in return; I've been trying to get out there in the world and talk with people in public; I've been trying out new activities, like camping and spending time at the gym; I've varied my responsibilities at work, even joining up with the school's Pro-D committee.
However, I'm still having trouble climbing out of this hole. Usually Spring lifts my spirits a bunch, but right now it's just not happening. Despite the list above, I'm also doing a lot of laying around, I'm barely able to focus at work, and I'm not really enjoying anything I've been doing. I haven't been calling people to chat. I think the symptoms point pretty directly to depression.
And, as much as I've tried to deal with it myself, my doctor agrees.
In such progressive circles as my own, it's not supposed to be a stigma to take antidepressants. In fact, people seem to laud those who admit to taking antidepressants. In the popular media, Mental Health Awareness Days are legion and it's supposed to be something we can talk about and articulate. On social media, people vulnerable enough to admit to taking antidepressants seem to be lauded as "brave" in their respective networks.
But the stigma's there in spite of it. I, for example, have been checking job boards while simultaneously thinking about taking antidepressants, fearing that admitting it will reflect poorly on my to prospective employers. It's a little nerve-wracking. Am I brave for taking them, or am I unstable? I can't quite tell.
But I also dislike the idea of taking antidepressants in the first place. Running, doing activities you love, visiting with friends, etc.. it should be enough. But for now it isn't. I can go for a run, but my brain still spins as soon as I stop; I can play guitar, but my sessions get shorter and shorter. My current methods, myriad as they are, haven't been working, no matter what I think. I may not like taking antidepressants, but it's probably in my best interest that I do.
There's one catch here, of course. The dominant feature of my life is my kids, and they live ever so far away right now. We're still sorting that out. And although I might be able to move closer one day, the "limbo" I'm in right now is nothing short of dominant in my mind. This separation/divorce process is exhausting to say the least. No amount of endorphins from a 10km run can distract my brain from trying to compensate for that distance, for this separation.
So perhaps it's time to get a little bit of a pick-me-up from some antidepressants. Perhaps that's a little bit fair.
When I was 12 years old, Steve Taylor released Squint, a disjointed solo album that I really enjoyed. The songs were a little uneven, but as a whole I enjoyed them. I was particularly fond of "Smug" and "Sock Heaven," and the opening track "The Lament of..." is a pretty awesome rock track as well.
I was never quite a fan of one of the hits, "Jesus is for Losers," but I accepted the message. The concept of the song is essentially "We're all broken, sinful losers and Jesus came to save us." Taylor was trying to send a classic evangelical message by turning it on its head.
I internalized that kind of messaging hard. I, Jeffrey Nordstrom, was a born horrible and unacceptable, such a horrible being that God had to send his son and kill him in order to make me acceptable.
The issue was, though, that I took it further. When I felt shameful, I assumed it was because I was intrinsically a shame; when people constructively criticized me, I assumed it was due to my sinful, broken nature; when I felt like crap, I felt like I deserved it; when people complimented me or praised me, I talked myself down in order to remind myself of mine and the world's sin of pride. Although I always knew I was an OK person, any time I even slightly felt negative about myself, I had an all-encompassing, supernatural reason to confirm my bias of wretchedness.
In the end, I never stood up for myself. Standing up for myself was evidence of pride. When I'd get yelled at or criticized or told-off, I just thought I deserved it. Sometimes I'd stand up for myself once, but after repeated attacks I'd assume the problem was with me. When I got called names, I'd think "There must be truth to this" and try to own it. It got me nowhere.
It didn't help that this brokenness seemed so virtuous in the religious circles I worked in. I heard so many sermons from so many different pulpits that seemed to back up this message, that I was horrible and only "worthy" if Jesus covered my sins. Being a "slave to Christ" was an ideal that I heard many times, and "turning the other cheek" was seen as a prime directive. Although I've moved on from those beliefs, they still sting in the back of my head every time I see someone act more patient, more generous, more thoughtfully than myself. These beliefs sit deep in my consciousness.
For the last few months, I feel like I've been redeveloping a bit of a sense of self. I'm a little more at peace with myself more than I have for a while. For the last few years, with therapy, counselling, reading, and vulnerable openness with friends, I feel like I've been developing a bit of a... me. I've been learning to accept that I'm allowed to have needs, to set boundaries, and to do things for myself now and then.
But then I realize just how far I have to go. I catch myself cursing myself, calling myself names, the same things I was called through all those years of supplicance. This will likely be a lifetime of deprogramming and trying to learn new systems. I need to set up better routines in my life and need to learn how to use my time more wisely, to motivate myself to do the things that make me happy. I think these things and then I curse myself again and it all starts all over again.
That's all. I have a long way to go because I started at a really low place. But I'm taking steps forward every day. So it'll be alright.
I think it's safe to say that I'm currently working at about 25%. My brain is having trouble taking in new information. It's like my processor has moved into a sort of survival mode, where I'm doing all the things I'm supposed to do to get through hard times... and nothing more.
I haven't been able to sit and concentrate on a YouTube video or television show for months; I can barely take in a podcast; I have no creative or insightful things to offer to anybody right now.
And I have to admit that my students are not getting the best version of "Mr.. Nordstrom" right now.
It's kind-of embarrassing. Understandable, not humiliating, but embarrassing.
I read an article yesterday that summed it up nicely. I posted a section of it to my Tumblr:
Needless to say, I can't wait to get my brain working right again.
I am grateful for practically everything in my life. However, I don't think I express my gratitude very often. I'm out of practice.
Yesterday, while I was reading the chapter on Emotional Literacy in Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, I came to a renewed appreciation for my generally peaceful, stable childhood. My parents and I certainly have our differences, but I think they appreciate me and I am grateful for their attempts to give their oddball, humanities-ish son a good upbringing. I had freedom to move around and make my own choices, and I did—in my own introverted, awkward way. I'm thankful for their efforts and continued support.
This morning, while making my daughters' lunches, I listened to this video by the more-energetic-than-I-can-handle, proud-of-his-teeth Charisma on Command guy:
His "top of the ladder" is essentially a matter of day-to-day gratefulness, of being thankful for the things you have—without fussing over all the things you don't have.I've heard this sort of idea before, that gratefulness for the everyday is the pinnacle of inner peace, and I like the guy's "Ladder" image, so I went searching for some ways to organize some gratitude.
I quickly discovered The Gratitude Challenge, a 21-Day plan for practising gratitude deliberately and methodically. Although I'm not usually a fan of "challenges" like this, I think this might be a good time to take it on. Why?
Over the last couple months, I haven't written much about music. I haven't had much time to think about music and even the band practices have waned in my busyness and lack of clearheadedness. I am not "thinking music" right now; between work, my schooling, my children, my partner, and various other relationships, I have little to no room to get passionate about music.
But I have written a couple times about my first wading steps into Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication. So here are some of the resources I've been using.
I first read about Nonviolent Communication when I first read More Than Two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory two summers ago. (Embedded below is the summary of NVC as described by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert).
To be honest, however, I didn't take it to heart two summers ago because I thought I was a good enough communicator. I mean, as a teacher I have to be a good communicator, amiright?
Apparently I'd self-deceived myself, however; when I have three different people in a three-month window send me to the same resource, you think I'd get the hint. So I'm doing my best to take the hint—despite my continuing busyness. And as my fits of anxiety around communicating my needs and desires have grown more frequent and humiliating, I think it worthwhile to do some deliberate self-help.
As I posted last week, about a month ago I started working through the following workshop (below):
I'm now about halfways through this audio course (below), which I listen to on my walks and when I'm alone in the car.
So far, I feel an affinity to the program for a rather English teacherish reason: I appreciate its focus on behaviour and discouragement of lazy "to be" verbs. This might be a step 1.
YouTube: ephemeral ideas
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