Stigma Fighter : Kate Byrne

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Stigma Fighter : Kate Byrne

Baby Steps

I have a full time job. I work forty plus hours a week. Four ten hour shifts on any combination of days, but at least two off in a row. I have benefits. I work with some good people. I work doing a good thing that helps people. But the two days I have off in a row are constantly a battle. Not just a fight to do something productive, but a fight to get out of bed. I know this is an aspect of major depression.

I have several friends fighting the fight also having a tough time getting out of bed, but my last day off was remarkable even for me. While this last weekend was three days off in a row I had a tough time turning off Netflix and just getting out of bed. It’s not that I don’t have things to do — laundry, writing, dishes, cleaning the car — it’s that I am having such a tough time just getting out of bed period. I spend time messaging with friends (text, Facebook, Twitter, email). I often have a book open at my side. I’ll play more than a few hidden object games. But I won’t, don’t, and can’t do anything that could be construed as productive in anyway.

This is why one of my last days off was so darn remarkable. I could have spent the day in bed. I would have been okay with that. I could have finished my pound of M&Ms™. I could have finished another pack of cookies. I could have watched more episodes of Criminal Minds. I could have done exactly what I’ve been doing on my weekend for the past six months (thirty-one years). Instead I got out of bed. I got dressed in my newly clean clothes (I did do laundry). I left the house and drove down to a Starbucks I frequent. I even ran a couple more errands. Even after that I had a Taco Bell™ date with my best friend from high school so I spent the vast majority of my time outside of the house on a day I didn’t need to.

And it was as daunting and overwhelming as I feared it would be. A constant struggle to not just run home and curl back up in my nest.

This is one of the things people who don’t suffer from major depression don’t always understand about we who do. Us leaving the house when we’re on a downswing, or even when we’re on the upswing from a downswing, is so flipping remarkable and so hard to do. I’m not in the same place I was a month ago. I’m healthier than I was last month, but that doesn’t make me healthy and it doesn’t mean I’m okay. It means I’ve once again internalized a lot of thinking and feeling so, again, I’m more okay than I was last month. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be more okay than I am today, but overall thinking further out than the next six hours is a little panic inducing.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to get past the point where planning is overwhelming. And I know it’s okay to just plan five minutes out. Enough series of five minutes eventually adds up to hours which eventually add up to days, weeks, months, and (fear inducing) years. But this eventually turns into another “do as I say, not as I do” scenario. I can look at the words I just typed and know that’s what I should do. I can look at the words I just typed and know that doing so is okay because it means I’m getting by. I can look at the words I just typed and know it’s what I’d say to other people. I can look at the words I just typed and know it’s what I have said to other people, but that’s so wholly different than feeling and believing their truth for me.

I can’t pretend to understand why that is. I don’t. I never have, I never will. I just know that too often I’m finding anxiety traveling hand in hand with my major depression. And you know what? That freaking sucks. As I’ve alluded to in other places, sure it’s what makes me me so it’s hard to say I don’t want these feelings, but I would love to not feel threatened with drowning on a near daily basis.

The best metaphor I can think of so that folks not affected by mental health issues can understand a little bit better my (our) holing up is this. Think of a baby just learning to walk. You know that a lot of times, after a walk from the chair to the couch, the kids conk out for a nap. Automatically. Boom – out for the count. You might find yourself wondering why. As a thirty-one year old I’ll tell you. It’s because baby steps, even when not covering so much ground as your more adult/(theoretically) competent strides three feet or longer will eventually cover, are freaking exhausting.

This is a contributing factor as to why, on my weekends, I don’t do a damn thing. There are friends I have where our relationship is solely online. There are friends I have that I only see every couple months. There are friends I have I haven’t seen in years. These are all friends that I would classify as part of my inner circle. I talk to them via various private messaging about real things even when (perhaps especially when) I don’t want to speak to anyone face to face about what might be going on in my head, in my heart. I’ve written about these relationships

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Fighting the fight.

Kate can be found on Twitter

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  1. Marty Baker May 2, 2015 at 8:00 am - Reply

    This is courage. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Allison Strong May 2, 2015 at 11:52 am - Reply

    I think that because we are somewhat impaired and behaviorally unhealthy that we are also on the lookout for areas in our lives to should ourselves. I have saying I made up “If you feel bad, hit yourself over the head with a 2 x 4, it will make you feel much better. But even the ancients have used this technique to accomplish things. for example, if an elephant used for circus got a nail in it’s hoof, trying to extract it would become a dangerous thing. So they would put a hot chili in the eye of the elephant, who would become so focused on the irritation in the eye that he’d forget all about his foot, and extracting the nail was a cinch. Then, quickly, his keepers would rinse the eye. There is no point to this that I can see, no moral except that things can always be worse. I understand, I think how you feel. I’ve been trying to write a book for a year. I’ve never tried to do fiction before, nor have I ever done diary format. It’s based on truth, maybe. You would not believe what I go through when my little short stories get rejected here and there..(I have a fifty fifty acceptance/rejection rate and I self reject nowadays because I don’t think I write enough from the heart. I also think I write too much. And I should myself all day long. Once I am finished writing this project, published or uploaded to Amazon or not, I can begin with the more authentic work that’s a pure memoir that I was holding off of until I took DBT and Dad had passed. But now I’m shoulding again after reading something Allie or Wendy K Williamson had written about the truth. If it’s not the truth….why write? I have encounters with people at consumerrun Peer Drop in Centers and they help people, work under umbrella of hospital, and are probably so worn out by week’s end that watching TV and M&M’s is probably just what the doctor orderd for them! I thank you for sharing your shoulds

  3. […] my mental health issues on my Facebook, on my Twitter. On my personal blog. On the HuffPo and Stigma Fighters. On rare occasions I even talk about my issues person to person with my Inner Circle. Every single […]

  4. […] me — I promise I’m wearing close toed shoes with socks, Mama Suzy). For example. When Stigma Fighters contacted me on Twitter asking if I’d be interested in writing for them, I kind of flipped my […]

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