Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chicken or the egg?

People (my husband, bloggers) keep telling me that I need to get in a better place, to get my head sorted out, or something along these lines.

Here's the part that I don't understand, though. I've been grappling with these same issues (depression, suicidal ideation, etc.) since I was a preteen. This is the first time that things have really come to a head and made me feel like my life is falling apart. The thing is, before I overdosed, I wasn't depressed. I wasn't thinking about suicide constantly. Although I was exhausted, I was usually happy.

Do I really need to eliminate stressors? Is that really going to make life better? I feel like it's just the opposite. Stressors are usually what motivate me to be productive. They make me feel useful and provide meaning in my life. I always thrived off of being challenged and being busy.

I only started feeling really content after I started going to Oberlin where I was surrounded by musicians, convinced they were all better than I was, and scared shitless half the time. It was intense, but it gave me a reason to live. I know that having a kid and a family should be a way more important reason to live, and I don't know why I don't feel the same way, but, as Kara mentioned to me, time does move in slow motion when you have a child.

I guess I always thought not that I was depressed, and that working really hard was my coping mechanism, but instead that working hard, being challenged, and learning were what brought meaning into my life and gave me control over my mood.


  1. It seems to me, from posts from a WHILE back is that those same stressors that you say motivate you to be productive, put you over the top and when you were juggling work, school and parenting, you wanted to get out. That's if I remember correctly reading your posts.

    I feel like stressors in moderation might be beneficial, but definitely not an over-scheduled, over-worked, under-slept and uber-tired mommy. That ruins your circadian rhythms, hormones and definitely stresses you out emotionally and puts strain on your physical body.

    Forgive me, I truly don't know what people mean being in a happy, better place. I think it's hardly possible for everyone, anyone to be happy 99% of their time. And although it would nice to have a "better" place emotionally and physically, unless you create it yourself, with your own two hands, it doesn't just land on your lap. I'm still waiting if that's the case.

    I guess what I've always thought people meant by that therapeutic talk is that you should find inner motivation to live your daily life. My guess for you it would be going to school, being a mother, being a wife, doing your own things for you that make you YOU. You won't be happy all the time. I'm sure you know that. But finding inner peace with your conflicting thoughts is what you need to do. If that means, writing out a list (if you're a list kind of gal) of what's good and bad, what you like and what you don't, what drives you to live (or not). And see if you see a a pattern, a goal and maybe the picture will paint itself into a "happy place" that everyone is talking about.

  2. I agree with K, having stuff to do can be beneficial. But I've also noticed that you tend to over-pack your schedule. That is not necessary for anyone and that may well be a symptom. I'm learning in my literature review class (we're focusing on depression this semester!) the psychomotor symptoms of depression can be hyperactivity (agitation), not just "can't get out of bed" lethargy.
    Just an idea...

    Second, I think it's okay to hate your life. Or think it sucks, or wish it was better. I think the whole "wishing" part is the key, though. When you long for something there is motivation and hope.

  3. PS - I hope my last comment isn't coming across too harshly. I know some people do in fact need to overpack their schedule but to clarify, if one can help it, I think it's best not to cause more stress. :)

  4. I think what I meant by "get your head straight" is that you are still falling into these slumps where you're saying you want to kill yourself. I know you said you've felt like this for years, but guess what: that's not normal. Med school = shitty idea if every other day something makes you want to kill yourself since there are lots of things in med school that will also make you feel that way. You need a more productive coping mechanism (which is not sleeping 3 hours per night to get everything done) before you take the med school plunge.

    Also, I want to point out that if you're chronically depressed and frustrated with your life, I suspect that while you think med school will solve all these problems for you and make you feel good again, it won't. So.... I guess I'm saying the thinking that you're doing -- that you're financial and family situation is keeping you from pursuing your dreams and that all would be better if only that could be fixed and you could just go to med school -- probably not true. You may not be where you want to be in every respect of your life right now, but to me it sounds like you at least have some ingredients that make people happy.

    Also, I completely agree with medcouple: you totally over scheduled yourself last semester. Perhaps some people could have handled the trifecta of mommy+2 hard science classes+full time job+3 hour daily commute, but doubt it. And while some make it sound like that is what med school is like: IT IS NOT LIKE THAT. You need to find a sustainable way to make this work so that you can succeed. If this means taking it a little slower, so be it. You'll get there eventually.

  5. In a way, I think that work and the challenges that come with it are sort of like food. The right amount of food, the right kinds of food and things are fine. Eat way too much or way too little or only the wrong things, though, and there are going to be serious problems no matter which road you follow.

    To continue the simile, I also think that working as a way to cope with depression is like overeating to cope with it-- it may feel better in the moment, but it doesn't address the underlying issue and it adds its own problems.

    I don't think that you ought to stop working or pursuing other goals entirely, any more than I think that someone with a serious overeating problem ought to stop eating entirely. I think that the right kinds of challenges in work and in life do keep things interesting, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's more that there has to be a balance.

    I'm really glad that you have an appointment to see someone who might help you find your own equilibrium. Speaking as someone with her own history of overwork and ignoring underlying issues... I can't say that I do things in the world's most balanced way myself even now. But I'm seeing a counselor, and it's helping me sort out my thinking and approaches to things. Maybe this next person will help you do the same.

  6. Have you thought about getting into music again, as a hobby? I don't know what instrument you play, but you might be able to find an amateur ensemble in your town, or a band you could play with. It might be nice for you to do something for yourself that doesn't carry the stress of deadlines, meeting others' goals or being forced to attend when you can't really take the time.

    Just a thought.

  7. Lol oh, my bad, I just scrolled up to the top and saw 'Classical Singer'. I guess that solves the question of which instrument you play.