New Year, New Me – NOT!

I had high hopes for 2017.

I felt that, finally, I was making some real progress. I was busy at the lab – hoping to graduate this summer! – but for the most part, I was handling that well enough. I felt there might be some real hope for me after all. Maybe I was really beginning to see an upswing in my fibro journey!?

But of course, that was not to be.

I was excited about some progress I had made towards taking my art in a more abstract/figurative direction – all in the “new year, new me” vein. But in retrospect, I see dark shadows in the face of my Anima and colors which speak of angst and struggle.

87_anima
Anima (8X10, oil on canvas)

With a change in weather, mounting work pressure, lack of adequate rest time, and no physical therapy, I soon found myself in another fibro rut. Except this one is compounded by a resurgence of my depression.

Usually I can attribute my depression to a side-effect of a fibro flare. It is no fun to feel tired and achy all day long; like you’re pushing yourself through a busy work day when you have the flu. And after a few days . . . weeks . . . of it, it really starts to mess with your head. With little time for rest, the body takes a toll on the mind.

A few weeks ago, a feeling of “meaninglessness” overwhelmed me. I just couldn’t see the point of doing the things I do. Like I am just going through the motions like a mindless robot. And I didn’t just feel that way about my research. It was my entire life. I guess I don’t see the point in my existence. What am I really here for? What have I really accomplished? Why do I do the things I do, feel the way I do, think the the thoughts I do?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not suicidal. Not even close. In fact, if you saw me, you would probably not even know I was depressed.

In true scientist fashion, the problem-solver in me jumped up and tried to find solutions to my “meaninglessness.” The easiest thing to do was find a job I really cared about. I searched high and low for chronic pain researchers who might be able to use my existing training, but without much luck. Now I am just job-hunting everyday, trying my best to only stick with those types of science which really ignite a passion within me. But that kind of passion is hard to feel when I am low. I see problems in everything I find. I see every reason why I might not be a good fit. Though I know that I will have to put in some on-the-job training for certain techniques – and I know I can do it, I already have, and successfully, many times in the past – when I’m depressed, it is hard to feel the confidence to be able to do it in a new, unfamiliar environment. And that lack of confidence is hurting my self-image, and adding to the meaninglessness of my everyday “chores.”

It would help if I knew what would add meaning to my life. It would help to know what I really wanted to do. But I don’t. All I truly want is to feel better. To feel relaxed, carefree and pain-free, like I did on my vacation. I want to take off the heavy chains I feel I am carrying around constantly. I know that nothing I do differently would eradicate this feeling. The “meaninglessness” is a state of mind I am in, and that would pervade any physical or mental activity I engage in.

jacob-marley
Jacob Marley in chains is my analogy for what depression feels like. (Image from “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott & Frank Finlay)

As a coping method, I have taught myself to suppress pieces of myself, as needed, so I can continue to function halfway normally in the world. The trick for me is to keep other parts of my brain constantly engaged. Try not to give air-time to the part that is depressed. A “try-not-to-think-about-it” attitude. It actually makes some sense, because this is one case where thinking does not resolve the issue anyway. There is only one caveat to this effort in suppressing the part of me that is depressed and wants nothing to do with the world, turn inward into the mind, and stay there. It requires constantly being on guard! And that is exhausting. But what other choice is there?

My previous experience suggests that “fake it till you make it – and believe in it!” is a reasonable strategy. It has worked in the past (sort of). So I am pushing myself to stay open to new possibilities, brush away any feelings of inadequacy or lack of confidence that crops up. I am trying to keep my job search to fields where I think I could find some satisfaction in, and could contribute without running myself ragged in the course of it. Most of this is running on auto-pilot. Like I am running an automatic algorithm inside my brain to do things for me, because the real system administrator is absent.

I know this phase is temporary. This too shall pass – as it has before. In the meantime, all I can hope is that I programmed my automatic algorithm well enough to keep me on the right track. It has not failed me before (within a reasonable margin of error, of course). And I hope that it will not now.

Love & Hugs,

Fibronacci

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4 thoughts on “New Year, New Me – NOT!

  1. I am sorry to know you are going through a rough phase… I was in school when I came across this poem, and it blew my mind away. By that time, I have already faced my life’s first depressive episode (precipitated by the trauma of a relocation). I had spent 2 years without talking at the new school, which would be diagnosed as selective mutism now, but back then the teacher called me the quietest girl in the school. And I had all sorts of struggle with my autism as well, and this poem became my raft.

    Our best laid plans go awry and seemingly good things sometimes turn out to be not so good, and an option you had been less enthusiastic about (but were forced to choose because there was nothing else) turn out to be fantastic experiences later. That is what I understood from postdoc stints of people I have known. So I truly hope that you will find something good, and however it seems at the outset, I hope it will turn out to be good for you and your health too.

    Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Poetry and music often have a way of carrying us through a lot, and then becoming permanently stuck with us for life as an association to that period. During my worst depressive episode, about ten years ago, I hung on to John Donne’s sonnet “Death be not proud” (for so many reasons, on so many levels…). Many pieces of music are associated in my mind like that too, with good periods, and not-so-good periods. And whenever I hear them now, it takes me back to that period. Depending on my mood, it either makes me think of how far I’ve come, drowns me in the sorrows of the time or are simply nostalgic.

      I agree with you about embracing opportunities, however we may feel about them initially. I have already had experiences where what seemed not a great option at the start, turned out to really work out for me. So we never know what’s to come in the future. And I don’t believe the “future” is one road ahead of us either. Probably just several probabilities, and depending on choices we make now, we choose one probable path or the other. Either way, we will encounter some good, some bad. But chances are we will come out on top of it all anyway.

      Thank you for your best wishes. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with meaninglessness. I often have that too – especially when I’m watching TV and the commercials come on! Nothing like a commercial to make me think I’m wasting my life. 😛 I think Mother Teresa once said something about how it’s not doing big things or particular things that matters so much as loving the people in the world around us. I often find if I focus on love that gets me through until I find something a little more concrete to be doing physically. Although it is still a struggle.

    Anyway, I hope your feeling of meaninglessness will pass soon! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing the beautiful thought by Mother Teresa. Love can indeed provide meaning in people and places where there otherwise would have been none. I will try and keep that thought in mind. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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