Feelings

I think I feel too much. That is what autism is most like for me. Autism is feeling everything acutely all the time. I literally feel everything. I feel every object in a room. I feel sounds and smells and tastes. I feel words. I feel emotions. I can’t say I feel differently than you because I don’t know exactly how you feel. I have never been you. But I can say that I feel everything physically. And it is exhausting…

I was telling a friend today that I think I love too much. Love for me is overwhelming. It makes my whole body tingle. Love is a burst of energy that penetrates every fiber of my being. It feels like it literally changes my DNA so that I am now connected to a person in a way that they are made a part of me. I love hugs because it feels like the energy inside of me finds a place to belong. Like the love inside of me connects with the love inside of someone else, and for a moment, I feel whole.

Joy is like that too. Joy is like a spring inside of me. It makes me feel like every particle in me wants to jump up and down. This is why I flap and jump up and down and smile like crazy, because the joy in me has to have somewhere to go. When I am “flapping happy”, I feel like I am flying. It is like the joy inside of me has come out of my skin and when I jump or flap, I’m releasing that joy into the world. It feels like the joy springs from me and dances in the air, and when it lands, it becomes peaceful, like it is lying on the ground watching the clouds on a cool spring day.

Unfortunately, depression and darkness are also things I feel acutely. Depression is like millions of tiny weights hanging from each hair, each skin cell, weighing me down with an enormity that cannot be seen from outside. And if the weight wasn’t already enough, it feels like there is a black hole in my chest. Opposite to the feeling of joy wanting to come out of me, depression feels like it sucks everything into me. It is a constant sucking force that seems to suck all of the air and light out of a room, making it difficult to breathe and to see anything other than the darkness inside of me.

Fear, joy, sadness, disgust, anger, and every other emotion that ever lives inside of me all have their own physical feeling attached to them. Each one is so powerful and all-consuming that I can hardly do anything else because my body is overcome by the feeling of each emotion. I think that this is why I shut down sometimes, because constantly feeling everything wears me out. And after feeling so many strong emotions, sometimes it is simply painful. Pain for me is like an exploding of every emotion. It confuses me, and I don’t know what will come out. I feel like Cyclops from the X-men before he learns how to control his powers. Everything comes out and I don’t even see what I’m destroying until after it’s done.

“Watchman, what of the night?”

I cannot sleep tonight. It’s the first night since I’ve been better that I haven’t just drifted off in peaceful bliss. One rough night doesn’t mean that you have slipped back into depression, but when depression has been such a constant in your life, one night can bring back so many reminders.

My mind is like a floodgate. Once the gates of self doubt or anxiety or depression or feelings of worthlessness open, the thoughts come bursting forth like giant waterfalls flowing along the well-worn paths they have carved in the landscape of my mind.

Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m thinking because I’m thinking so much that I can’t even process it. My thoughts choke me. They suffocate me. I gasp for the peace and reassurance I felt just a few hours ago. Where did it go so quickly?

There’s this scripture I love in Isaiah that says, “Watchman, what of the night?” It basically means, “how long will the night last? When will the morning come?” Sometimes the night seems to last so long, but morning always comes. Tonight, I am asking, “when will morning come?” But I know that it’s there, just on the other side of the darkness.

A New Person

It has been about a month since I last felt depressed. Realizing that I am not a bad person had a lot to do with that. Most people who know me would probably think it is strange that I would think of myself as a bad person, but it was the one belief that overpowered everything else in my life. It influenced every thought, action, and relationship. It ruled my life for so long that I hardly even recognized its influence because I was so accustomed to thinking that way.

I feel like a great weight has been lifted off me. I feel free. I used to be so scared all the time. I was scared of doing good things because I felt like a bad person so doing something good seemed hypocritical. I was also scared of not doing good things because I did not want to be a bad person. I was scared of getting close to people or making friends because I felt like it was just a matter of time before they found out how terrible I really was.

Looking back, my thoughts seem so strange. They did not make any sense. How could I be a bad person if I did not do anything to be mean or malicious or disrespectful? How could I be so bad if all anyone else saw in me was good? I guess that is how mental illness works though. Your thoughts are not inline with reality. Your thoughts directly contradict reality sometimes, but at the same time, your thoughts are reality. The way you see and think about the world is your reality, even if it is not true from the outside.

Now, I can look at how I used to think and see the flaws. I understand how I came to those beliefs and why I believed I was a bad person, but it is still difficult for me to believe I felt that way for so long. I mean, you would think that I would have noticed earlier. You would think that I would have recognized that these thoughts ruled my life. I guess I did recognize it to some extent, but I did not know how to change it. I would tell myself that my thoughts weren’t true, but I didn’t believe it. I believed my thoughts, not whatever I tried to tell myself.

I am not exactly sure what finally changed my thoughts. I had been going to therapy for a few weeks, and we were working on recognizing mental distortions.  I sat down one night and drew out my life and realized how and why I came to see myself as a bad person. I talked to my friends about it, and briefly to my therapist. Then one day, it was like all the pieces fit together in my mind. I recognized the lie and saw the truth, but, more importantly, I believed the truth.

I have felt like a new person since that time. The world seems brighter, more friendly and happier. I feel at peace with myself and everything around me. It is like clouds of darkness that had been there for years finally dispersed, and I can see the sun again. The strangest (and possibly most wonderful) thing is how I see my past now. I used to see hurt and sorrow and loneliness in my past. There were good times in the midst of that, but my general feeling was that the past was too painful to remember. Now, I see so much hope and light in past experiences. Even in the darkest times, I see the brightness of hope that was just beyond my view back then.

I am the happiest I have ever been! I wake up every day with a newness of life! The world seems wonderful and amazing! I see the beauty in everything! To someone that has been depressed for the majority of my life, it seems like a fairy tale and I am waiting to wake up or climb out of a rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. But this is real! The feelings are real because I have been freed from beliefs that weren’t real. It is not that I stepped into a better world, but rather that I stepped out of the darkness. I stepped out of a prison cell I did not know I was keeping myself in. Now I have a chance to be free, to find out what the world is really like without distorted lenses. I can’t express how truly excited I am to be alive now! The world is a beautiful place, and I am so excited to experience that beauty for the first time without anything distorting my view!

 

Making Progress

Most people feel good when they do something for someone else.

I have thought about that a lot over the last few weeks. I used to hate myself when I did something for someone else. I would get home and just cry for hours after I dropped off an anonymous gift at someone’s house or gave someone a letter or took food to someone.

People always say that when you’re depressed or having a bad day, you should serve and help someone else because it makes you feel better. It didn’t make me feel better. In fact, I had to stop doing things for people for about a year because I was so depressed that doing something like that would have pushed me over the edge.

Yesterday I did something good for someone. I didn’t even do it anonymously, which is usually the only way I can handle things like this. I did something kind for another person, and I didn’t hate myself afterwards. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t curl up on the floor and cry for hours. I just felt good. It was such an amazing experience.

I want to feel like this every day. I want to feel like I can be myself and see the needs of someone else and not be terrified to do something about it. I want to love myself. I hope this feeling lasts because I so desperately want to love myself. I don’t want to have to forgive myself for acting on my generous thoughts. I just want to do things without even thinking about it, without wanting to punish myself for it. I want to be okay with who I am. I want to feel good when I do something. I want this feeling of peace to last forever.

Suicide

People who are thinking clearly do not want to die. Even those who consistently think about dying do not really want to die; they just want the pain to be over.

I think about suicide a lot- nearly every day, usually multiple times a day. However, it is just a thought. It comes and goes like a wave on the shore. And as long as I have moments of peace in between, I’m okay and I won’t hurt myself. But every once in a while, the tides are high and the waves don’t really leave and you drown in it.

Last night was one of those times. I had done everything to feel okay. I had read scriptures and prayed and read positive notes from friends and colored and ate chocolate. I did everything I could think of to save myself, but at the end of the night, it was not enough. I looked up the suicide hotline and wrestled with the thought of calling for half an hour. But when you can’t call the suicide prevention line because you’re crying too much before you even dial the number, you know things are bad.

I kept telling myself I don’t normally feel like this. It’s just a night. It’s just a moment. Maybe I should call to get me through… But once I finally pushed the button and saw the call going through, I panicked.
“I can’t really be calling the suicide hotline… That means these thoughts are real. That means I’m actually considering acting on how I feel.” That means that I’m not as well as I think I should be.
These were the thoughts going through my head.

But I have made promises to stay safe. I have made promises that if I am ever in danger or think I might be in danger, I will let someone know. So I did. I didn’t know if they could help or how they could help, but I knew that if something happened and I didn’t at least tell them, they would be hurt.

It took another half hour of talking with them before I felt okay again. I kept hearing in my head that I had a friend and that things were going to be okay until the darkness dispersed. I felt the thickness and weight of a dark fog lift off me. I still hurt beyond belief, but I no longer felt like I was drowning.

I know you can’t completely understand unless you’ve been through this, but I want you to know that we try. Anyone who has depression and attempts to end their life or contemplates suicide tries to be okay. We try to find ways out of the darkness. We try to get help. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work, or we don’t know what resources to turn to, or we can’t seem to find the capacity to use the resources.

They say that suicide is selfish, and maybe it is, but I want you to know that getting to that point doesn’t just come. It’s a struggle. It’s a fight for your life. And if you know someone that loses that fight, I hope you also know that they probably tried everything to be okay. They just didn’t know what else they could do.

Chocolate

They say that people who eat chocolate every day are happier. I am starting to believe it. I have never been a chocoholic. In fact, I have never really liked eating a ton of junk food or sugary food. I splurge every once in a while, but then I get sick of it and just want to eat fruits and vegetables for a few weeks. But I have discovered that a little bit of chocolate can really help offset a depressed mood.

There are times when I just feel heavy. Nothing bad happened that day. There are no reasons for me to feel down, but I do. I feel so heavy that I don’t want to go on. I don’t want to do anything or try anything. I don’t want to go outside or go to work or eat food or read a book or draw a picture or anything. I just want to curl up on the floor and forget about everything and pretend like the world doesn’t exist for a while.

Recently when I had an anxiety attack, I ate some chocolate and it seemed to help calm me down a bit. I remembered that today when the heaviness returned and life seemed almost unbearable. So I had a piece of chocolate, and it helped. I mean, I wasn’t jumping up and down or smiling or laughing or anything, but the heaviness eased up. I felt a little lighter, a little more able to bear the weight of life, a little less isolated from the world.

Depression is such a difficult illness. There are things that help, and you get better, and you have hope, but sometimes it just doesn’t go away. I have chronic depression. I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t depressed. The longest I went without long periods of depression was one year, and I still had moments of depression within that year. I described depression to a friend once as pain that grips you, and some days it grips you so tightly that you can barely breathe, and you feel so weak and heavy for no describable reason.

So, no, chocolate won’t cure your depression. But maybe it will help. And when every day is a battle for your life and you feel like you don’t want to fight anymore, anything that relieves the burden in the slightest is a blessing. So eat chocolate, eat ice cream, eat pizza, do whatever makes you happy, because life is too short to not feel better.

When Someone Understands

My entire life I have dealt with not being okay. There are different reasons why I might not be okay- maybe it is too loud or too bright or too hot or there are too many people or there is too much going on or I am hungry or tired or anxious or just not okay for some other reason. Sometimes I do a pretty good job of getting myself to become okay again; other times not so much. I have learned over the years that there are times I simply cannot handle a situation in a positive way because of how I feel. I have also learned to find a way to escape when I feel this way so that I won’t do something I would regret. But, until recently, I was generally alone in figuring out how to deal with all this.

A few days ago I was at a family event that was overwhelming for me. I felt crowded and hungry and the noises around me seemed extra loud. I went to a chair in the corner of the room and tried to pretend like I was okay. I didn’t really expect anyone to notice or do anything. I was just trying to disappear into my head. But, my sister did notice. She asked if I was okay and if I needed to go to a quiet place to be alone for a while. She and her husband hugged me and told me that it was okay that I was having a hard time. They showed me where I could go to get away from everything for a bit, and while I was away trying to calm myself, my sister made me food and brought it to me.

It felt so amazing that I cried. I cried because people are starting to understand. They are starting to realize when I’m overwhelmed and need a break, and they are helping me. When someone understands it changes everything. It is easier to become okay again when others don’t expect you to be okay in the moment. If they get upset with you or frustrated or scared or react in a way that makes you feel abnormal, it invalidates your feelings. You get upset with yourself because you should not react in that way, you should be able to control yourself, you should not be overwhelmed by the situation.

I feel like I have pretty good self control. I can generally hold in a meltdown until I get to a place where I am alone. I can generally calm myself down enough to get to another room before I get overly upset about a situation. It is hard though. It is hard once you are not okay to do everything on your own to become okay. It is hard to be alone, yet that is often how we believe we must deal with how we feel.

Over the past few weeks, I have had a lot of times when I was not okay. But I have been amazed at the positive, helpful responses I have received in these times. Not everyone has responded positively, but a few people have let me be not okay with them for a few minutes so that I could get to a point of being okay again. It has helped me to become okay so much faster and be able to still participate because I didn’t have to leave before I really wanted to go. Maybe it is not always that easy. Maybe sometimes other people can’t really do anything to help, but if someone can understand, if they can let you know that it is okay to not be okay, that can change everything.

 

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