Worries in the Night


Night is not a good time for me. The time when I've finished reading all my feeds, and all my online friends in other time zones were in bed hours ago, and finding something to occupy my mind becomes more difficult. Or even worse, when I'm settling down to try and sleep. It's not always a good idea to leave me alone with my thoughts, with nothing to keep them at bay.

Last night, specifically, was a bad night. As sometimes happens, a song I'd put on gave me the urge to pick up the guitar and start singing. Now, I love to sing. I have my whole life. Alone in my room, there was certainly no reason not to. So I did. Only... it didn't last long.

Because there is one thing that most assuredly does not love me picking up my guitar and singing.

Here, I'm going to tangent for a bit. Recently, in this post, the Bloggess linked to 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed. The post was inspired by 21 Habits of Happy People, which Rosalind essentially called out as unhelpful bullshit. And it is - is it ever! Because much as people tried to backpedal once confronted and claim that the list was not targeted at those who actually have depression, we need to be realistic about this.

People who are down right now, for whatever reason, but do not actually have depression, do not need your lists. Life sucks sometimes, they'll be down for a while, and then they'll carry on. They don't need to be told to "enjoy the little things", "be optimistic" or "appreciate life". Even if they've lost sight of those things right now, they'll work them out again eventually and all well and good. Without your help.

Take this quote:

Happiness is one aspiration all people share. No one wants to be sad and depressed. [...] I’m not saying happy people don’t feel grief, sorrow or sadness; they just don’t let it overtake their life. 

 Quite clearly, this is not aimed at people who can manage happiness by themselves. Therefore, it is aimed at those who can't. And, what do you know, there's a reason for that. They're quite right when they say no-one wants to be sad and depressed, which is why, if the answer is as simple as "buck up and think happy thoughts", that person does not tend to stay depressed. So automatically, anyone for whom the listed strategies are not horribly unhelpful and insulting, isn't going to need them.

The bit that gets me most on these lists - which I'm sure Rosalind directly addressed at some point, but I can't seem to find the relevant bit - is the "do what you love"/"make time for things you enjoy" piece of advice. Especially for those with chronic (as opposed to acute) depression, there's one big flaw with that particular suggestion.

Depression takes away your ability to enjoy things. How can you do what you love when you can't love what you love?

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I can remember a time where I could regularly play the guitar for more than two and a half songs (on a good day) without being overcome by an overwhelming wave of apathy. If I've got a set performance, with specific songs I need to play and finish to show people, that's one thing. But just sitting down and enjoying playing guitar? I can't anymore. Sometimes I can make it through two and a half songs... sometimes one and a half... sometimes I'll start five different songs and sort of trail off halfway through each one because I just can't bring myself to finish them.

Last night I think I made it halfway through the second song and somehow managed to barely limp through a couple more before I finally gave up. Last night, it got to me.

I'm tired of not being able to enjoy the things I know I love, that I should enjoy. I tried to get medication, once, several years back. Basically walked into the doctor's office and said "Please put me on antidepressants. Now." Unfortunately, I was a somewhat suicidally-inclined, autistic teen, which the doctor took one look at and returned with "How about we get your parents in? And take a look at other options? And literally anything we can manage that does not include putting you on these drugs?"

I can't say I blame the man - it's a fairly alarming collection of contraindicators. Due to the changes in brain chemistry that teens undergo, depression is very common and frequently temporary, tapering off along with the end of puberty. They don't like to risk a life-long addiction medicating something that could very well just correct itself. They also hesitate to medicate anyone with suicidal tendencies because anti-depressants tend to make things worse before they make them better. Lastly, we have autism. Due to the quirks in brain wiring and chemistry, any drug that affects either of these things have been known to go a bit... awry in autists, from time to time. Even worse, frequently not even in the same ways from one autist to the next. Anti-depressants are already a very hit-and-miss, keep trying until you find one that works for you kind of drug. It makes that search all the more difficult and risky when any given one just might act as, say, a psychotic, for no really discernible reason.

So while I still seriously consider anti-depressants, I'm not sure I much like my chances of getting any now, either.

Frustrations over not being able to enjoy much anymore, though, is not what caused the rest of my night to quickly devolve into clinging to my husband crying for at least a good couple of hours. What did that, was fear.

I am currently well into my second trimester. Sometime around the end of July, all going well, I will be bringing a new baby boy into the world. What had me in tears last night is the fact that I have no idea how I'm going to be able to be any good as a mother.

I'm not feeling as bad right now, but I can't say I really know the answer now either.

See, my dad taught me to play guitar... at first, anyway. Thing is, he has clinical depression too. I have no idea how hard he had to work to manage that... I do know, however, that eventually it just became too hard. Over time, my requests to play together got turned down more and more, until eventually I had to resort entirely to self-teaching. I wasn't a little kid when this happened; dad didn't hide the reason for it and I was plenty able to understand by then. But still, it sucked. There wasn't an awful lot I really got to share in with my dad, and it made me sad to lose something we did together.

I've never doubted that my dad loves me, and cares for me. I've certainly never felt unloved or neglected by him, or any such thing. But I do feel distant. I don't remember a time I ever really felt all that close to my father, and a big part of that was depression putting a barrier between us. Not just his, either. My own became noticeable to me somewhere around eleven, and I'm sure it didn't help matters any either.

I don't want my son to feel distant from me. I don't know how I'm even going to manage as much as dad did,  though. I can already barely play guitar at all; how am I ever going to hang in long enough to teach my child? Especially if, like me, it's another decade-plus before he's ever interested enough to actually learn? In another decade, am I even going to be able to pick up a guitar anymore?

Obviously this isn't the only thing in the world to share with my son, and it's full well possible that he'll never be interested in guitar anyway. This might never become a relevant point... at least, not directly. But the problem isn't the guitar. It's what it represents. It's one of the things I've managed to hold on to the best, for the longest, and even that's slipping away from me now, and has been for some time. It was the one, clear thing that made it really hit me: this is going to affect my child. It's going to affect my ability to be a good parent.

And god help me, I don't have any idea what to do about that.

  1. Okay, listen to me. You are THE BEST PERSON EVER to be a parent.

    And that's not just me being biased. I just know you as a person. You don't talk down to kids. You treat them as intelligent, highly-capable, human beings. That's such a small thing to do, yet it makes a huge difference.

    And from what I've heard about your husband, he's the same way. Believe me, your child will go far in that environment. To give you an idea, here's something that I posted to the Internet FOUR MONTHS AGO, before this blog was even made: https://twitter.com/ryanstoler/status/289644527411671040

    And yes, that refers to you. It's honestly gotten to the point where my parents are appalled at the fact that I won't treat my (hypothetical) children as mindless subservient idiots.

    You're going to be a great mother. You're the most qualified person that I know for that position - by a long shot. Don't you ever go doubting yourself.

    As for your guitar, I think that if your son ever wants to get into it, you'll get back into it too. What could possibly bring you more joy than being able to spend time with your son doing what you wanted to do with him from the beginning? I think that'd be a huge whiplash out of the depression. And the same goes with anything else that he's interested in that would involve you teaching him things.

    Oh, and protip. Get anti-depressants. Yeah, unlike my hypothesizing above, this actually has some experience behind it from my angle. I was so depressed and suicidal that I was forced to drop out of school and basically put my life on stasis for an entire year. After I started taking these, things IMMEDIATELY got better, and I'm getting my life back together, returning to school in the fall. Trust me, those things help a ton. I don't know how I even managed without them (Most likely, I didn't).

    And since you've already considered taking them, that means it does have some lingering in your mind. Just trust me, it helps. It's even gotten to the point where my therapist isn't even that helpful to me anymore because I'm just not getting saddened anymore.

    Now, to be fair, I've never been pregnant (for obvious reasons), so I don't know if there are any nasty side effects or whatever, but I imagine the doctors will consider that when choosing what to prescribe to you.

    Oh, and as for that doctor that you saw when you were a child, who desperately tried to avoid giving you the medicine you need? Do me a favor and kick his ass for me if you ever see him again. No person in a position of medical authority should ever do anything to stop a patient from being treated. Especially if you still live in New Zealand - their health care system is the best that I've seen in my research (though that may be slightly biased).

    And lastly, you know me quite well. You know that I have stayed up late at odd hours of the night just to be able to talk to you. If you ever need anything, you can contact me. You have my Facebook, Email, Twitter, Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, etc.

    I will always be there for you. In fact, I'm going to get on Skype right now. I haven't been using it since I don't really have anyone to communicate with much, but if you're active there (as is implied by you giving out your Skype contact up above), then you can just drop me a line any time.

    My door is open to you, Athena. Step on in anytime.

  1. Adding to this: You're going to be a good parent *because* you think you won't be. You are showing concern for your child - and he hasn't even been born yet. If you weren't concerned, then that would be more concerning, if that makes sense.

    And losing interest in guitar is really no big deal. People lose interests all the time. We always find new ones to replace them.

Post a Comment