Chasing mental health: The first week

Today is day eight of fixing my brain. Though, after reading Lost Connection I'm not so sure that it is my brain that needs fixing. Re-reading the book has touched me, hurt me, and inspired me. It has started a journey of looking deeper.

Yesterday at therapy, I talked about my parent's divorce. For all of my adult life (and my teenage years), I maintained: "I might be a child of divorce, but I'm not broken." I haven't talked about it, really talked about it, in a decade.

Today is day eight, so the first week of trying to get myself on a path to feeling less like shit is over. If you are here for a success story and expecting me to tell you that I'm fine and happy, you will be disappointed. I'm barely better but I am beginning to understand.

There's a pattern to how I feel. The mornings are the worst part of my day. I wake up all night to strange dreams about things going wrong. I don't remember the details in the morning, but I remember the feeling the dreams left me with. I lie awake for a while, questioning everything, wondering how I will ever get better until I force myself to start reading. I often have to backtrack multiple pages when I realize that I've been thinking instead of reading and have no clue what happened on the last few pages. Slowly, I comprehend more of what I read, think less. As I force myself to tackle my tasks, I get distracted, sometimes even into flow states. As soon as I take a break, I start to feel worse. Thinking is the issue. First, I tried to distract myself more, but I think I'll have to face those feelings, thoughts, emotions. I can't keep myself distracted forever.

My mom gave me a reading chair for Christmas (and my birthday) and as Christmas is canceled this year anyway, I was allowed to pick it up yesterday. This morning, I made my way out of bed earlier to read in that chair. I cuddled up in a giant sweater and under a blanket and read. Now, I'll need a new way to tell the time while in bed. My kindle will stay down here.


For the past week, I have kept a journal with a lot of detail. You've read the first two days on this blog already. Instead of publishing days three through eight in the same fashion, I have decided to combine them in one post. So the below is a selection of those days:

THURSDAY

Between the storm raging outside all night that lifted that damn plastic foil on the carport roof every few minutes, people shouting outside (why did I move to a rural area again?), my increasingly unbearable joint pain, and random panic attacks about dreams I can't remember, I didn't sleep much last night. This morning, I refused to get up when the lights turned on. I didn't read. I lay around, trying to get some more rest for another hour before negotiating my way out of bed. I didn't exercise either. I was in too much pain to move, let alone exercise. I didn't even brush my teeth (though I plan on doing so later) or my hair. Essentially, I refused to start my day.

It's now almost 10 am. I sat down at my desk two hours ago to write. While I managed to finish the introduction blog post to this series, I was constantly distracted. I created a spreadsheet for my symptoms on Lexapro that I'll likely never look at again (though I plan to). I walked the dog. I didn't go to my cell bio lecture. I don't have to go. I can watch the recording later, but I had planned to attend.

Plans. They are pesky little things. On days like today, my plans rarely turn into reality. I just told my husband to remind me about brushing my teeth. At least, I still have enough brain power to know that it wouldn't happen otherwise.

***

I'm absent at lunch. My husband asks me if I'm okay and I don't have an answer. There's nothing wrong. I just feel spaced out and have a headache. He suggests a nap. As I still have twenty minutes left from my lunch break, I decide to lie down on the couch and rest for a bit. I get up ten minutes later, annoyed by noises outside.

***

At 3.30 pm, my podcast is uploading to SoundCloud. They still have issues with the repost login, so I can't distribute the podcast yet, but at least it's ready whenever their system works again. A nagging voice at the back of my head wants me to be annoyed by the fact that something else isn't working out, but I'm too tired to be angry right now. The lack of sleep is catching up. I need a nap but I know that I won't get sleep until tonight. I'm already sure I won't get much sleep tonight either.

FRIDAY

Could this be getting better so quickly? I'm suspicious of how fine I am today. Sure, I have a headache and every part of my body hurts, but I'm not crying and when my husband made a careless comment about unfolded laundry that would have derailed me just a few days ago, I didn't fall apart.

When my lights turned on, I didn't feel like getting out of bed. I know, this is becoming a theme. But, I didn't have anything on my schedule until eight, so who cares what I do until then, right? I really got into my current fiction read, We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor and lost track of time. It was shortly after eight, when I realized that I should really get up.

I didn't even consider working out, as it would further delay things. I was also scared of another breakdown if it didn't work out. I really should get back to exercising regularly. Should...

***

Reluctantly, I switch from my fictional Roam to my daily Roam and start the lecture notes for evolutionary biology.

Five minutes later, I find myself on Twitter. How the heck did I even get there. I publish the tweet and force myself to close the page. I was studying, for fuck's sake.

Way past my intended time, I'm done with the second lecture of evolutionary biology. Damn that stuff is interesting. I'll be so glad when I make it through the first two semesters and get to the stuff I actually care about, especially the first. Next semester, I still have to suffer through chemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology. Genetics should be interesting, though, and I'm continuing evolutionary biology, so that's a plus. I'll survive. And after that, things will be much more to my taste. Can't wait to learn all that ecology stuff which was the reason I signed up for this thing in the first place.

My brain hurts, so I'll call it a day, but I have (an hour late) finished everything I was supposed to do today. That makes two days of finishing my intended workload. The only thing left for this week is my next youtube video, which is already recorded.

I know it's not realistic that the SSRI are already working, but I'm feeling a lot better today. Could all this time blocking stuff actually be helping?

As always, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

SATURDAY

Note: I wrote this entirely in the evening when I was feeling better, so pardon the change in tense.

As expected, things took a turn for the worse. I don't know if it's because I was expecting this or because I was just overdoing it. Either way, I crashed. Spectacularly.

When the lights in my room turned on, I went to the bathroom, turned them off and curled back into bed. I wasn't ready for the morning to start. Two hours later, I woke up again to the real sunrise, and started reading. Lost Connection really isn't the ideal book when you have just started taking SSRIs. Part of me wants to stop taking them before I've really started. I had already known all of the facts he presents in the book but re-reading them while suffering from the often-mentioned side effects made me feel like a loser for taking them anyway, for holding out hope that they would work anyway. Placebo even works when we don't believe in the medication. Or so I kept telling myself.

One line resonated especially deeply.

"Somebody once told me1 that giving a person a story about why they are in pain is one of the most powerful things you can ever do."

Fuck. Was I feeling better because someone had given me a story? My kindle turned off while I lay there, thinking about cause and effect and scientific methods. When I had started taking Opripram, I hadn't meant to change anything else but coincidentally it was also when I started eating Paleo (as it had made me feel better while in New Zealand), started taking Ancestral Supplements (yep, that's freeze-dried organs for a pretty steep price)

After yelling at my husband for no reason whatsoever, I curled up on the couch in a ball of tears. I doubted every life decision I had ever made. I again considered dropping everything and running. Running away from my marriage, away from my responsibilities, away from my debt, away from my illness. I knew flight wasn't the way to deal with this, but this frozen state of paralysis didn't feel any better. I knew it was time to fight but I didn't have any fight left in me.

It took hours to recover and get back some semblance of life energy. The day was almost over when I managed to get myself off the couch. I still didn't feel like company, so we both went to our separate rooms (I'm so glad I have my own personal space) and I edited my latest video. When it was done, I started writing and didn't stop until my dog begged me for a walk.

Tomorrow, I'll take it slow and, maybe, manage the day without breaking down. Hopefully.

SUNDAY

On Sunday, I didn't journal. I slept in, went for a long walk with my dog and husband, and watched a lot of TV. The walking and the chilly fresh air felt good but I didn't enjoy the landscape as much as I knew I usually would have. If disconnection from nature is one of the causes of depression, it's really unfortunate that depression makes you appreciate and enjoy nature less. I didn't break down again but I felt sore emotionally. It was like sore muscles after working out too hard, so I pacified myself with TV. Distraction keeps the thoughts at bay. I'll have to deal with them at some point.


I have one more journal entry for Monday but I'm still wondering if I should release it, as it goes quite a bit deeper than any of the previous entries. Maybe I should put it on Patreon or on the private podcast instead. Maybe I should just publish it. I'm not sure yet but I will make up my mind soon.

I also wanted to thank those of you who have reached out to me. I appreciate your support more than you can imagine.

It's 8:51 am, as I finish this article, so I should really go get that shower.

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is a writer, youtuber, and podcaster about sustainability, minimalism, and living a life worth living.
Germany