I like to think that I’m not locked into the typical “macho” syndrome and that stereotypical ideas of what is manly or masculine are beneath me. Still there are a number of habits that are ingrained into my behavior and perception of how I behave. For example, only two movies have made me cry (anyone who tells you that Piglet’s Big Movie is one of them is a filthy liar).
Which is why I was surprised when I had a “sadness attack” on Friday.
I don’t rightly know exactly what happened. I can’t recall ever experiencing something like this before. I have had panic attacks recently, and I’ve kind of thought of them as something new, though I can identify a specific moment where I was having a (minor) one as far back as 1995. Back then I was trying to listen to my feelings a lot more, trying to learn to trust them. What a shock it was for me then, to finally realize I had chronic depression and that much of the time my feelings are lies.
Because that’s what they were and are. Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, has spoken of this frequently. She says “depression lies,” but to make it fully clear, depression lies to you through your feelings. You feel terrible and that’s what’s so hard to get through with anxiety and depression. You can intellectually know that it’s all just bullshit and your body/brain have some screwed up chemistry going on, but you aren’t going to feel it’s true, because that’s the definition of these types of disorders. You feel all screwed up, and for someone like me, who was taught to trust his feelings, fully coming to grips with the fact that I have a (or some) mental illness(es) that fuck with my feelings it was a total betrayal of the most destructive kind. Coming into this realization has been pushing me back into the downward spiral in ways that even my favorite medications aren’t helping (Cymbalta is a frigging miracle drug, at least for me, but there is no such thing as a perfect chemical solution that makes all mental health problems go away).
But until the last year or so, my mental illness was primarily limited to a few behavior addictions and depression. So my big struggles were finding whatever it was I was medicating (probably my depression) and trying to justify calling in sick to work because I was “sad.”
I finally was able to identify certain experiences as probable panic attacks, and with the counsel of my friend who suffers from (among other things) panic attacks, went to see a doctor. Though, as I said, I’ve had panic attacks for nearly twenty years, I don’t recall having them with any great frequency. Certainly not as often as the crippling doldrums of depression hit me. But now I have them much more frequently.
Which means my mental illnesses are getting worse and/or more plentiful. That’s not a fun thing for a person with depression to deal with.
I honestly have no idea what that means or where it comes from or what psychological precedent there is for it. It’s probable there’s some explanation for it.
But for me it feels like one more way my mind doesn’t work right. It’s one more way my feelings lie. One more way I can no longer trust my experience of the world. And it feels like it means I’m getting worse.