Completely Mental Part I: On Finding Water

Beware: Falling Serifs

This may end up being a small series of posts about my journey, but a lot of it is hard to write about. May as well get started.

Completely Mental, I Must Say

Hello, my name is Emory, and I have a mental illness. More accurately, I have a couple of diagnosis, but specifically I have Depression with a side of Anxiety and Panic Disorder. It has been something that I have been thus far unable to get a grip on and have elected to paint over the worst of it with medications or what-have-you, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that this illness has dictated parts of my life since 1999 and that it has to fucking stop right fucking now.

I am hoping to hold myself accountable to my support group and the public at large by writing about this, because I’m so unbelievably sick and tired of being too exhausted by life to not be a complete asshole to everyone I love, and my inability to score anything better than “Molly, you in danger girl,” on a Burns Anxiety & Depression Inventory signaled pretty loud and clear to those concerned that I needed to take some dramatic actions.

So I put my laid-back therapy schedule on hold and got admitted into a Partial Hospitalization program at my local hospital.

I was, naturally, welcomed by my fellow patients as one of their own.

Patterns & Loops

Everywhere I turn, I need to break habits and patterns. I’ve been living in a series of nested time-loops, forcing other people to adopt to them and repeat it all with me. I’ve had an intense deep-dive into various types of therapy: ACT1, CBT2, DBT3, IFS4, and others. I am getting all the therapies. I find myself reading multiple books about IFS and CBT in particular, and I’m annotating the shit out of them. I’m paging between four books on my iPad right now because I have an appointment on Wednesday and it’s going to get pretty real.

The upside to this burst of structured activity is that I’ve built enough speed to get momentum. I am finally feeling like I’m going to change my brain’s circuitry. This is scary, because I don’t remember myself any other way anymore. I don’t even know if I’ve ever been a completely whole person. I have no idea what to expect when I get there, but that’s a good thing. For years I’ve been listening to a torrent of negativity constantly pouring through my head and I’m only now starting to learn how to reverse the water-wheels of doubt and fear. It feels like there is a conspiracy to break me sometimes, but I can already see measurable improvement.

Meanwhile, the stakes have become even greater. I’m told something that part of me has longed to hear for years and the rest of me howls against in agony. In the process of trying to decide how to proceed with what is the most important, I leave the Partial Hospital program and focus entirely on my other therapy efforts.

Finding Water

Over the last couple of years in particular, I’ve seen echoes of my struggle in many people around me. Something I once heard about goldfish is that they have a memory of three minutes but take five minutes to die out of water. The entire life of a goldfish out of water consists of flopping on the ground desperate and suffering for something they don’t even remember. I am starting to become that goldfish. I must find my way back to water or I will die. I created a Facebook group populated with some people that are also waging holy jihad with me against the darkness, or those that have been victorious and can light the way. It was smart to carve out this secret space under the stairs where we reach for something better and plot new routes for our brains. It’s where we gather our strength to fight a common enemy.

I’m Not Being Brave

I recently turned forty and in my lifetime I’ve never felt stigmatized by my depression and anxiety. It’s been even further normalized over the last twenty years so that younger people have never even heard about it as a whispered condition shamefully hidden away, and that is a great thing because it is a disease that has probably killed as many people as cancer.

I am of the opinion that depression and anxiety have always been prevalent but only in the last fifty years started to be something people would talk about or seek treatment for. Depression is probably the disease behind most suicides in the United States and therefore the largest contributor to gun violence in our country5 as well. It’s an insidious, scheming illness that attacks the very core of your being, distorting the world around you into something unrecognizable by anyone else in it, unless of course they are also battling depression.

Suffice to say while I was in Partial Hospital, I met people far braver than me and yet there were moments when they would look at me with compassion and sorrow in their eyes and I can’t even put words to how that felt. It was humbling to say the least.

Ed Grimley playing a triangle.

My Depressed Life

I was always a moody and sensitive kid. I have a hyperactive sense of empathy that I treat as any of the five senses, like my sight or hearing. This is part of why it was so easy for my brain to inundate me with negative self-talk; I was already comfortable experiencing life based on things that weren’t seen or heard. I am a Myers & Briggs ENFP6. I’m a Capricorn with Taurus ascendant7. I hold on to my wounds for a very, very long time. My parents divorced when I was two years old, and I have no memory of my parents in the same room with me happily until my wedding day.

Sidebar

On top of that, there was a long stretch of my childhood that was quite traumatic, some of which I hint around at occasionally, even with strangers. I've come to terms with some pieces of it, and I'm still working on the rest. It's all ugly, horrific, and brutal shit, but manages to be out of scope while I'm writing about getting better™. Go figure.

My diagnosis revealed itself fully to me in 1999. I was at dinner with some friends and I had a horrible sensation of dizziness and nausea. I’m drenched in sweat and I hide in a bathroom while my friends were probably wondering why I had been away from the table for at least 40 minutes. My party checks in on me repeatedly, and eventually I make it out. On the drive home it feels as if my entire body is trying to buck my conscious mind off my brain like a mechanical bull.

I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t eat more than crackers for a few days. I would leave work for lunch at home just to be away from the world around me for thirty minutes. I lose about 45 pounds in two months.

This was something that probably concerned my girlfriend a great deal, but I was largely not aware of it. I was swimming laps in Lake Me, and life was something being done to me. I’ll be horrible to her soon enough.

Medical Advice

I was having a battery of tests run on my precious bodily fluids and I got the bad news while I was in Chicago for the Y2K new year:

Your thyroid function test is perfectly normal. In light of your test results and examinations, we recommended seeing a psychiatrist.

Soon after, when I arrive back in DC, I meet The Hungarian.


This is one post of a collection I call Fuck Depression aka I’ve Been Sad.

  1. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy 

  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

  3. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy 

  4. Internal Family Systems 

  5. More than 60% of people killed by firearms are suicides.

  6. Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception 

  7. But I’m not really into astrology. 

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A Renaissance man eagerly awaiting the next Renaissance.

Emory L. avatar