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 ♫

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 ♫

Pain

I’ve never considered cutting. It just didn’t occur to me. I guess because I’m terrified of pain, and not too wild about blood or broken skin. Scabs maybe, but not the raw stuff. But I do get the thinking behind it … probably because it’s the space I’m in now.

My teenager tells me everybody cuts, and that it’s no big deal. Unfortunately, one of her crowd took it over the edge and ended up in hospital, but that’s not my story to tell. My story is … well … feeling so much emotional hurt that a physical outlet seems better. It’s an inkling that if I had something tangible to focus on, then it would dull the torture inside.

Some people cut for the opposite reason. They’re so numb and dead inside that physical sensation – even the negative kind – will remind them they’re alive. Seeing their blood flow out proves that they’re still breathing. But because those dark spaces are cyclic, they keep needing the razor-sharp mnemonic. And anyway, beer is better, so if you’re cutting, you can get cheap-to-free non-judgey help at Amani Centre of Befrienders Kenya.

I’m big on MBTI and I’m a feeler, so I’m supposed to prefer ‘feeling’ over ‘thinking’ and be comfortable with my emotions. My best friend is a thinker, so it’s always been my assumption that I can handle sentiment better than he can. Turns out it isn’t the case. See, he … feels things. He doesn’t try to figure them out, because digging into feelings is exhausting. He prefers logic.

So when he feels something positive, he goes with it. When he feels something negative, he sits still and waits for it to pass. It’s a lesson he’s trying to teach me, because I give so much weight to my feelings that I’m obsessed with understanding them. So I analyse them to breaking point, and if they’re illogical (which feelings generally are) then I suppress them.

Here’s the thing with the stuff you suppress. It eventually pulls a coke bottle on you, and the sight is never pretty. I thought I had learned this lesson already – especially since my therapist made repeat the exercise so often. Turns out I wasn’t paying attention.

I’ve been holding in a lot of shit and it’s coming out explosively. So then I just started tuning it out with beer and weed cookies, but that just pushes it down further. Also, it makes me wake up with cramps. So this week I decided no cookies, no beer (also, I was super broke). I decided I’m just going sit with this shit and feel it. And you know what? Feelings suck raw eggs. Send beer.

♫ Basket Case ♫ Green Day ♫