Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On getting help

A couple of years ago I admitted to feeling depressed. I was at a job without much to do, so I was bored and felt useless and began to blame myself for the way I was feeling. Nothing would really lift me up like it used to. For 4 months at school, it was just hard to motivate myself, but I figured that was an adjustment period. For the 4 months after, when I was at home for summer, I had no explanation. I tried to ask for help and was told to "think positive thoughts" and this dissuaded me. I went back to school in the fall and felt better and didn't question it.

I'm not sure if it came back again until this summer. Same deal- a job at which I often had little to do, or was stuck doing small tasks. I felt useless and judged, like I wasn't behaving appropriately or saying the right things. At least once a week I would get so overwhelmed by my own thoughts I would just go to the bathroom and cry, and only once was that noticed. I tried to stop hurting myself. Most of the time, though, I felt okay.

This semester was fine, midterms were stressful, but I did well. But as the year wears on I only get more and more aware that this is the end of the certainty of my life. From here on out, it seems, I am destined to stumble around clumsily trying to find a place in the world. There is no script, there is no thing I can just do because it's a common thing to do, like university after high school. Even if grad school technically counts as that for some, the entire process of getting INTO grad school is unlike anything I've ever dealt with before, and last week it all kind of came to a head.

I think everything was set off by an email I got from the very prof I worked for this summer. I wrote to him and asked for advice for applying to graduate school. This is something I'd done with many other profs I knew well enough to ask, and they all gave me the same kind of advice- just secure a supervisor. Email them, get to know their research, set up a meeting, and then you go about applying for admission and grants. This prof, however, went overboard.

The suggestions seem insane to me. Read all the recent research I can get my hands on from these profs, and write a one-pager detailing a project I'd like to do in their lab. Make them want me, email them updates about me presenting posters (which I currently do not have an opportunity to do) or getting my name on papers, or updates about my grades (the example he gave was "just finished the semester with a 3.9 GPA!" which is unfathomable to me). For someone who already feels like she is overloaded by trying to keep up with a heavy full-science courseload, including a course that is a research project and therefore demands daily attention and constant planning, I think it was just too much, and I broke down completely.

Last week was very, very bad. I've never been that depressed in my life. Almost every waking moment was consumed with sad thoughts and unlike before, I couldn't seem to find a way to dig myself out. I didn't do a damned thing all week besides go to class and to the lab, paying attention about half the time. I managed to get into the peer support centre here- which is really just lightly trained students who listen and direct you to other resources. I thought I had finally accepted that I need to see some kind of mental health professional- a therapist, counselor, psychologist, whatever.

This weekend I went to see Freckles' choir concert in her uni city, and now that I'm back I feel... strangely fine.

This, of course, is making it really hard to book an appointment to just even get a consultation at the counselling services on campus. I don't feel like I can accurately explain why I feel I need help when I don't feel like I need help. I got so many things done today. I drank enough water. I even got up early enough to have a shower and make it to class mostly on time (I never shower in the mornings). I just feel... better. And it's so weird.

First of all, it's frustrating, because it makes the whole thing seem fake. You're making this up, it's not real, quit lying for attention, you don't really want to feel that way. But it's like all those destructive, horrible thoughts are still there, just.. in the background. I don't have trouble getting up for class anymore. Sometimes after class I still sit to wait for the between-class rush to die down (if I can), it's still overwhelming. And humming just out of focus are the other thoughts. Jesus, if you can't even handle this much work now, how are you going to cope in the real world? Whiny baby. Oh, poor you, you don't want to do this? Too bad! You're overwhelmed by THIS? And you think you can handle grad school? Grad school will eat you alive if this is too much. In fact, all of real life will eat you alive if this is too much. You're not equipped for life, you're not going to make it in the real world. No good experience and if you don't get into grad school? If you fail? All your future is is struggling to get a minimum wage job and disappointing your parents. And if you're out of school you'll never get into grad school ever and all your hard work will be for nothing. So why even bother trying?

But it's like, this week, I am a little more aware that those thoughts aren't realistic. So I'm able to function. Which makes me feel like I don't need help, and furthermore, that if I were to ask for it, I would be turned away because I don't really need it, until this happens again and it's worse, so I can't ask for help then. I'm so frustrated, I don't know what to do. Was that email just some kind of trigger or something? Did it somehow tap into all my fears at once, overloading my system? And if so, how did I get it out? Was it being away for a weekend? Was it taking some time last week to just... recover? And worst of all: will this happen again? And next time, will it be worse?

I just want to feel consistent here. This rollercoaster is exhausting. And it's not like I'm riding some kind of euphoric high right now either, I just think... well, I'm going to do things. I feel like I'm in denial, and whenever I'm like "well last week you were worried about x, y, z" my brain just shoves that thought into a box and says "Nope! We're not going to contemplate the uncertainty of the future right now! Save it for later!" which is what I have been doing for the past 3 years. Only now I can't avoid it anymore and it keeps pushing its way to the forefront.

I think writing this, though, has reminded me a little of how I felt. Which sounds bad, like why am I trying to induce this in myself? And I'm not. The feelings of last week feel hazy somehow, like I'm feeling them from the outside of the snowglobe where they reside. I can see them, I can shake them around and see what they do, but it's not the same. But I guess they're still there, so that's something.

I promise I'm trying. I'm still here. People know what I'm dealing with. I'm not alone.

yer pal,