- I'm still in grad school and I still love it.
- I'm still running. In fact, in the past few months I have ramped up my mileage and my pace significantly. That's because I started running with a group of people who are faster than me. Every workout is hard, but I definitely see the results. And that makes me happy.
- I'm still cooking a lot - because I enjoy the smells and tastes and sounds associated with food, and because that comforts me.
- I still have my awesomely amazing little family around me. I love them.
Some things, however, have changed:
- I passed my comprehensive exams, wrote my dissertation proposal, passed my qualifying exams, and am now a full-fledged Ph.D. candidate. This all happened within a span of ~5 months, which is a little hard to believe. But I did it.
- I went vegan. So now I'm a gluten-free vegan. It's actually been really easy. The only tricky moments are when I am traveling, particularly within the US. We are still a country highly dependent on processed foods. I hope that will change.
- I started taking medication. The psychiatrist at the student counseling center diagnosed me with PTSD and major depression and then put me on Zoloft. It worked fabulously for about three months. I felt like a new person. I felt like I had come back to myself. I wasn't overly happy, I still got overwhelmed and irritated, but I felt like ME and I was able to let go of things more easily. I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt that way.
- I re-started regular therapy sessions with my old therapist. He is charging me an abominably low fee for each session, which I appreciate so much. Now I know why good therapy is so expensive; I wish I could pay him more.
Last week, I had another episode of depression/detachment that lasted for days. I spent the majority of time in bed. I'm not sure what's worse: feeling really, really low, like you are the scum of the universe; or feeling like you are watching life from a distance and can't get yourself integrated into it. For me, I think I struggle more with the latter. Depression is so awful, but I can kind of muddle through it knowing that it will get better. I can usually make myself do things like run, make dinner, and communicate with my son. The detachment, however, is scary because it affects my ability to think rationally, feel secure, or communicate with pretty much anyone. When I am detached, I struggle to put words together. I have a hard time remembering stuff. And I feel like I have little control over anything. Honestly, I feel really stupid when I am that detached. I WANT to get back to myself, but it's not something that I can do just by sheer will.
This episode occurred after I'd attended a pretty big conference in another city. It was weird because from the outside - and even somewhat from the inside - I looked I was doing well. I talked to people, gave a presentation I was proud of, socialized, went for runs with my friend, ate healthy and delicious food... But all the while I could feel the mental seams straining and then suddenly pulling apart. And then I had to rely on the thing I do where part of me is getting things done and looking normal, while another part of me is just trying to survive. It is a weird contrast. It seems like that sort of thing shouldn't be possible, but because I have been doing it for the majority of my life, I'm pretty good at it. Sometimes I hate myself for it. People think I'm fine, and I'm not, and I resent them for not knowing, but I don't WANT them to know, but I want help, but I don't want to appear weak, so I continue on in robot mode... The crazy thing is that I manage to get things done in robot mode, and often I do them well. I don't quite understand how that happens.
I feel like I'm slowly coming out of it now (finally). I've had a lot of support from my family, therapist, and psychiatrist. We increased the antidepressant dosage a bit, which may help (though I guess now I know that medication alone isn't going to fix everything). I told my advisor about the PTSD, which at the time seemed like a good idea but which I am now kind of regretting. (Why is it that when you have pneumonia, or cancer, or some other physical illness/condition, no-one blames you for it, but when you have a mental illness, they think you just aren't trying hard enough to get better? I don't want to be treated any differently, and I don't want him to assume that I can't handle things... I just want him to know that sometimes I might need to take a day off, the way people do when they have chronic migraines or something else along those lines.)
I want to change. I want to believe that I CAN change, that I don't have to live my life feeling like I am in a bubble, separated from everyone else. I've been working on that for more than 2 years now, and sometimes I feel so discouraged that I haven't managed to "fix" myself.