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System Shutdown

The weather has been beautiful these past couple of weeks: bright sun; blue sky; green, lush trees; and blossoming flowers. Squirrels and birds are out celebrating the spring. I, too, do not let a sunny day go to waste. I go for long walks; I grab my laptop and work outdoors; and I take my phone calls in the balcony. In short: I follow the sun, like many of us do. However, what’s odd is that I have not been wearing my shades. Despite being migraine-prone from harsh sun exposure, something in me refuses that I wear sunglasses, and it chooses to soak in all the vibrant colours…and, though intrigued, I let it be.


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How I’ve been feeling this past month on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 = having a spring in step) is an average of -7. My highest has been a 1 (this past Saturday), and my worst a -15 (the following day). My lows – feelings within the spectrums of sadness and fear – are monstrously amplified, and my highs – those within the spectrums of happiness and excitement – are adamantly stifled. Anger is often displaced by despair. Despite averaging a 4 in the winter, my gut predicted this decline. So, I was not surprised that I have been drowning this past month, and scrambled to find some footing.


I deal with overwhelming situations by seeking to objectively understand how and why things happen, and what the different outcomes could be. Equipping myself with knowledge allows me to identify expect and to accept it. (It also allows me to keep matters at arm's length). So, earlier this week, I started a medical conversation around depression with a doctor friend. To my surprise, however, he shed light on my inner thoughts, not the disorder…


My friend used a little bit of science and a lot of insight to help me realize that I have not yet fully accepted my diagnosis. Yes, I acknowledge that I have been feeling terribly down and fit the description rather perfectly, but it is still very difficult for me to accept the label. In the past, I have had several prolonged episodes where I was “feeling down” and showed other symptoms, so logic argues that it is very likely this is happening again. I recall my first experience of a depressive episode at the age of eleven. Then again at fourteen, fifteen through seventeen, twenty, and at quarter-life. And…now. They each followed a traumatic life event. And what I remember is that, like my friend put it: my slumps are much lower than the average person's, I (unwillingly) dwell in them considerably longer, and it takes me significantly more energy to get back up. My brain switches off. I see life through the lenses of very dark shades. I lose my appetite in food and life. And, I resign to my bedroom. Hence, the very clear diagnosis of depression.


To recover from these episodes, I would exert an insurmountable amount of effort to pick myself up again, unbury my genuine smile, muster a sincere feeling of hope and joy, and live life feeling inspired. Throughout my life and until today, I proudly wore those moments of resurrection as medals of honour, symbols of my strength, and tokens of hope that carry me through life. Perhaps I am attached to them because of the extraordinary internal work it took me to achieve them. And, perhaps, it is also why I am resisting my diagnosis. After all this work, have I fallen again? And fallen hard? Have I not really learned how to navigate life’s challenges? Am I not strong enough to weather the storm?


It’s quite disheartening; like life is kicking me when I’m down. Not only have I been through a new trauma, but I am also feeling like all the strength I meticulously built during the previous episodes has dissipated. Like it is not long-term strength. Like I am back to square one, and have to fight all my fights again, combined, and build myself up all over again.


So, I struggle...


I struggle to accept.


Currently and for a long while, my brain has been in shutdown, and I am trying to revive it. I have done it in the past, so I should be able to do it again. But, it is harder this time around. And maybe there’s an easier way through. I have decided that I will trust my gut more, including on how to navigate this territory. I think my gut refuses that I wear shades under the sun because it tries to soak up any vibrancy it can—visible or otherwise. I think my gut also wants to me to take the path of least resistance in life, so I am open to working to accept my diagnosis, and open to being open about different management strategies.


And, finally, I think my gut wants me to take life easy, so I am taking a couple of months of school and following the sun.


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This is what I learned over the past week. And, to me, it seems significant...

 

Photo: The vibrant colours of spring I tried to soak in last week.

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