What did you do?

The advantage of having a best friend that shares your mental health issues is the sense of understanding. My best friend has been through a lot of the shit that I have, both in our minds and in our lives. It helps to talk to someone who gets it, gets me, and cares about me, because their advice goes beyond the well-meaning and into the applicable, the actionable, the live-able.

In the past few weeks, I’ve binged on In Treatment. It’s a show about therapy, and the episodes are based on psycho-analytic sessions on the couch. It’s derived from the Israeli show Be Tipul, and many episodes are word-for-word translations, except for replacing Civil Rights with Holocaust.

The show is dark, and I don’t like how the female characters are written, but it’s caught my attention, because I can relate to a lot of the issues that come up, and I want to see how (or if) they get resolved. This isn’t the same kind of therapy I had for two years. Mine was CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It’s less focused on the past and more on changing current and future patterns of thought and behaviour. It gave me tools to actively deal with low cycles, but didn’t dig into the past events that formed my recurring depressive patterns.

Season 2 of In Treatment has two characters I feel connected to – April and Walter. They both have issues arising from a childhood sense of self-blame that shaped how they deal with the world, especially their careers and intimate relationships. They both push themselves to ‘save’ others at the risk of their own well-being. They suppress their own need and pain.

Following their in-therapy examples, I dug into my own past to see what was the cause of my self-blame, and I found that like many people who experienced rape, I blame myself. But because it happened in childhood, the sense of blame is far more pervasive. It makes me take responsibility for everything and everyone in my life, blaming myself for everything that goes wrong and carrying the weight of trying (and failing) to fix it.

I was talking to said best friend about a particular issue I’m currently blaming myself for, and he asked a seemingly simple question. ‘Okay, so it’s your fault. What exactly did you do wrong?’ The question froze me. Because at first, it seemed silly. I opened my mouth to respond. Closed it. Rinse and repeat. It’s my fault, yes. But how can it be my fault if I haven’t done anything wrong?

I still feel like shit is my fault, but I feel like this is a good base question – what did I do wrong in this situation? Of course there will be times when I did do something wrong, then I can identify it, apologise, and correct it. But other times, many times, the self-blame will be all in my head, and maybe this question will help me tell the difference and keep me just a little more sane.

♫ In the end ♫ Linkin Park ♫

Whisky, water, and things like that

According to the almighty oracle Google, whisky relieves cold symptoms. I didn’t believe it of course, but on Day 1 of the cold from hell, I worked my way through a pack of serviettes, a roll of tissues, a mug of oily chicken soup, three litres of cinnamon-and-honey, and lots of flavoured tea.

On Day 2, I gave in and drank some Black & White whisky. I took the first dose in my tea, and noticed that while my throat still itched, I was using a lot less toilet paper. For the second cup – on my bff’s advice – I took it with plain water. It helped that by this point, my taste buds were dead, because I’m known as a cheap date with bad taste and worse taste buds. In fact, the only reason I could stand the whisky at all was because it tasted like nothing.

Still, it worked. I haven’t blown my nose in an hour, and while my throat is still ticklish, I feel pretty good. Of course I’ve also swallowed 3 piritons, 6 cold caps, and more flavoured tea. And it’s possible the virus was on its way out anyway, but I choose to believe it was the cheap whisky.

So the next time a cold rears its ugly head, I’ll reach for the cold caps, the soup, and a bottle of bourbon. Or something. Even if it doesn’t cure me, I might black out until the cold is gone. Also, does anyone now a cure for cold sores? Because Jesus Fucking Christ I hate those things. And I hear once they get into your system, you’re stuck with them forever. Like HPV. Or something. Oh well. Cheers yoh! Also #SaveLucifer #LuciferBR

♫ hold me tight or don’t ♫ Fall out boy ♫

 

Of cats and stuff

One of my favourite songs at the moment is Say something by JT and Chris Stapleton. Another is Nowhere Fast by Eminem and Kehlani. I looked up the lyrics and noticed Google is kind of shortchanging sites like Az lyrics. I like it coz it’s purple and well laid out, used it for years. It was almost always at the top of search rankings.

But nowadays Google puts lyrics on its own home page, so you don’t have to click on the lyrics sites. I get that it’s about monopoly easy access, but I feel bad for all the sites that are losing traffic over this. My entire income model is based on helping businesses get more web traffic, so I feel kinda sad when the machine turns against them. It’s kind of like the twinge I feel when I search for mpesa rates and the first five hits are from a website that isn’t Safaricom.

#BiacharaNeBiachara

♫ But if at times my heart it seems like it’s in the wrong place ♫
♫ It’s probably ’cause it’s on my sleeve ♫

I’ve dated a lot of younger guys who were mama’s boys. It’s probably a Freudian thing, but that’s not really the point. I told one of them that I like Eminem. He said: ‘You like a guy who insults his mum?!?’ I said: ‘I don’t like that he does it … I just like how he does it.’

Because Marshall talks a lot of shit about a lot of stuff. Stuff he really shouldn’t be talking shit about. But the way he does it, Lord! I love a word-smart man, that’s all. And Marshall can play with my words anytime.

Sometimes I think I’d like to meet him. I think a man that plays with words like that must have a beautiful mind, and I’d like to get inside that head. It’s what draws me to a lot of the guys I end up with – their ability to turn a phrase. It shows a very specific kind of intelligence, and those smarts turn me way up. Of course they also tend to be mean-spirited and aloof, that’s the downside of their genius. That’s probably a Freudian thing as well.

I’m listening to music again. That’s good, I’m excited about that. I’m not all there yet, but music is a good sign. Also, I’m buying a freezer. For my cats. Because they eat a lot, and I don’t have a car yet, so I have to go to Gigiri every two weeks to get them frozen meat. With a freezer, I can go once a month and save 1K on uber. Yes, I’m bougie like that, and yes, I’m a cat lady.

Meet Tux, Arya, and Remi

I usually jav to Gigiri and uber back, because it’s hard carrying 20kg of cat mince in two matatus on opposite ends of the CBD. I recently discovered I can have the cat mince delivered by nduthi, but it still costs about a K, so either way, cutting down the trip to once a month saves me a lot. It also gives me extra space in my fridge, which is almost always full of cat food.

So I’m buying them a separate freezer. Because I can. And because I want to. It’s a lesson I’m learning of late. That I don’t always have to second-guess or justify my actions. Sometimes, I can just do shit because I can, and because I want to. It feels kinda nice. A form of self love I suppose.

When you have cyclic anxiety and depression, sometimes, life doesn’t seem like it’s worth living. And that sense of hopelessness is triggered by the tiniest things. A missed call that wasn’t returned. A bounced date that wasn’t rescheduled. A sharp look from the teenager. It’s scary how fast you go from, ‘Well, that wasn’t very nice,’ to ‘Maybe I should jump in front of that bus.’

It’s not a conscious mental progression. It’s reflex, automatic. It’s how the depressive brain is wired, and it’s something you have to live with, forever. Getting better isn’t about stopping the reflex, coz that never stops. Recovery is about spotting the thought, noticing it’s there … and choosing not to act on it. It’s a part of you. It’s a part of me, But it’s not a part we have to act out.

♫ Rumour has it ♫ Adele ♫

Love is work

I’m of those people that thinks love hurts, so I try to keep it out of my way. Unfortunately, I’m also one of those cynical romantics with a massive heart and an overwhelming capacity for affection. Also, I don’t ‘fight for love.’ You don’t have to fight for what’s yours. But … I’m realising there’s a difference between ‘fighting’ and ‘working’. Because love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice. And sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to stick with what you chose, especially after the ‘feeling’ dies.

Sometimes, my seeming polarities confuse me. Because while I often come off as the warmest person in the room, I’m probably the coldest. I’ve always preferred to see myself as friendly but private, welcoming but isolated, a charming misanthropist.

But I’ve been exploring my psyche, with a lot of help from my best friend, and I’ve found that I really don’t care about people. My ‘niceness’ is a way to make up for that. In the past, people have accused me of being a ‘pretender’ and I took offense at that. Deep offense.

And yet … they were right. I need to see myself as nice. I need to feel morally superior. Because in my heart and soul, being ‘nice’ makes up for not giving a fuck about people in general. And I suppose that’s the worst form of pretending, because when the person realises I’ve stopped being ‘nice’, they start to wonder what they did to offend me.

Unrelated, romantic love isn’t the only thing that has a honeymoon. Other relationships do too. At work, at home, in platony … they all have a period where everything is sunshine and rainbows. That season lasts about 3 months, and then real life sets in. I’m realising that, because it explains my struggles in the past few weeks. One of my most important (non-romantic) relationships has hit a point where I have to work.

Because it was so easy before, I thought this forced labour meant the relationship was broken, and that it was only a matter of time before it faded away. Fortunately, my beloved is tenacious and kind, in the tough-love type of way, so we’ve agreed to both do the work. It’s not easy, but he’s worth it.

I suppose that’s what you really have to ask when you find yourself in that position. Is this person, this job, this situation … is it worth it? And am I gaining from it? Is there still value in this? That’s what he asked me. ‘Do you still see value in this? Because as long as you do, then we need to fight for this.’

That second portion is really important – the value. Because a lot of people in dangerous, abusive situations due to a mistaken conviction that it’s worth it. And you cant decide for someone when it’s time to go. Only they can do that.

Believe me, I know. I was in an abusive relationship for 7 years before I took my child and left. And until someone gets to that point, no amount of begging and pleading will move them. They might get out of the abusive physical space, but until they’ll fully ready, they’ll just keep coming back.

In my case, he makes me happy, and he makes me better. And even when he’s making me sad, he still makes me better. Yes, I realise it’s unhealthy to make someone else the reason for your happiness or sadness. You’re supposed to be your own reason for sit. But here we are, and I love him for it.

My current situation isn’t abusive. It’s not even romantic. It’s just challenging. This deep meaningful, platonic personhood used to be effortless and easy, but now it’s hard, and it hurts. A lot. It’s also one of the most important relationships in my life. And I still see the value, so as hard as it it, I’m putting in the work. It feels good to know that I’m not working alone.

♫ Nowhere fast ♫ Mary J Blige ♫

Letting shit go

I’ve been in a depressive spell for a few months now. It’s different from the ones I’ve had before, although to be fair, every low cycle has been different since I started therapy. I guess they just manifest in a different way.

The symptoms are the same. Persistent exhaustion, skipped showers, lack of appetite, lost interest in reading and music. The things that make me happy no longer do. And lately, it comes with inexplicable anger.

My therapist says anger is a secondary emotion. It masks something I’m not willing to deal with. In my case, it’s grief. I feel like something very dear to me is gone, and even though I know it’s all in my head, the feelings persists.

Feelings aren’t facts, but they still do a pretty good job of fucking shit up so …

And so I find myself resigned. Waiting for the end. What you resist persists, right? The funny thing is … it’s a cycle. Fox chasing tail. I once read about ‘the leaving dance’. It’s like when you’re on a date, or a party conversation. You’re both enjoying it and nobody wants to stop, but it has to end sometime.

So you start to do the leaving dance. Straightening your skirt or tie, glancing at the door, your watch, the waiter, the people around you. You begin to fidget, shifting from one leg to another. Your feet face the door then turn back to the person you’re with. Your fingers twitch, you can’t relax.

You know you should go, but you want to stay, and you’re both wishing the other person will make that decision for you. You want them to gather the courage to leave, or give you a reason to stay. But you’re both stuck.

I feel like I’m doing a leaving dance, and it sucks. I keep hoping to find a reason to stay, but the more I fight the feeling, the deeper it nestles in. I suppose it all comes from a fear of abandonment, so I Googled how to deal with it. Google offered this article with a helpful list of do’s and don’ts. It starts with everything I’ve been doing so far. It’s all subconscious, and detrimental:

  • Expecting too much from your person.
  • Squashing your insecure feelings.
  • Manipulating them into validating you.
  • Masking insecurity with coyness and anger.
  • Altering your personality to keep them.
  • Making them responsible for your feelings.
  • Hating yourself for being so insecure.

The article then suggests a few things you should do instead:

  • Cut yourself some slack. You didn’t choose to be scared. You just are.
  • Everybody’s scared of something. You’re not weak. You’re human.
  • That said, you can choose to stop putting them in charge of your feelings …
  • And don’t ask them to make you feel better, even if they triggered it …
  • Because triggering something isn’t causing it…
  • It’s just reminding you of something that happened before.
  • So maybe deal with that thing. The one that happened before.
  • Though you have to figure it out first.
  • Also, rely on yourself emotionally …
  • But don’t isolate. It’s not the same thing.
  • It’s about finding peace inside, not shutting everyone outside.
  • (I have no idea how to do this, and neither does Huffpost.)

Point is no matter how much someone loves me, it’s not their job to make me feel secure. It’s mine. And if I outsource to them for too long, they’ll get tired, give up, and leave. Self-fulfilling prophesy. Oddly, fighting the insecurity makes it stronger and widens the wedge. The trick is to discover why I feel insecure and fix that instead. Not the insecurity, but its root source. The source has nothing to do with this situation, it just inadvertently triggered it.

The leaving dance puts the other person in charge. It makes it their job to extend your time together. And if you both dance, then you both lose. So maybe you take a chance. Maybe you ask if you can stay. And maybe the next time you dance, they’ll do the asking.

And even if they don’t, it’s okay. You don’t have to blame them. You don’t have to blame yourself. It doesn’t always have to be somebody’s fault. Sometimes, shit just doesn’t work out, and that’s life. As they say on twitter, ke sera sera. #Sic #NoTypo #KOT

They say people learn to be incompatible. During the honeymoon stage, everything is roses. But with time, everything about the one you love feels … wrong. They haven’t changed, and neither have you. It’s just … well … the pheromones are gone so you’ve stopped masking their flaws, and they’ve stopped masking yours. At this point, you can make an active choice to work shit out. But … turns out some things are just too deep to resolve.

I told myself I’d know the depression was starting to lift when I actively sought my earphones. And as I type, I’m listening to music for the first time in more than a month. Except … I don’t feel lighter. I just feel … resigned. Maybe I’m looking for something I can’t have. And maybe it’s time to give up.

♫ Say something ♫ justin timberlake ft chris stapleton ♫