Today’s Daily Prompt is: Write an anonymous letter to someone you’re jealous of.
Dear Everyone Who Is Not Me,
You walked past me on the street yesterday. I doubt you even noticed me. But I noticed you. Your confident walk. Those designer sunglasses. A uniquely crafted handbag swinging by your side. Your beautiful outfit – stylish but not trying too hard, just right in fact. As if you had been let in on the secret style formula that constantly evades my grasp. By comparison the “cute tee” and jeans combo I chose this morning is decidedly “mumsy”. I hate the way that my hair sits three weeks after my haircut; no matter how hard I try I just can’t get it to look like it did that day in the salon. I never seem to be able to find such unique accessories, I always make the wrong choice & choose a bag I grow to hate or an impractical clutch. I envy you.
You sat across the crowded pub from me last week, surrounded by your friends. You laughed in all the right places, a real feel-it-in-your-belly explosion of mirth, not a fake insert-laughter-here chuckle. Your friends listened to your stories, enraptured by your obvious wit and brilliance. You hugged newcomers and kissed departing pals, confident in your place in your social group and surrounded by those who enjoy your company. I never seem to be comfortable in social situations. Am I talking too much or am I saying too little? Are my stories interesting? Is that a look of polite boredom on the faces around me? Fatigue creeps in all too often and I long to return to the solitude of my flat, to my undemanding but understanding internet friends, away from the social minefield that is every bar and restaurant. I envy you.
We worked together on a project last month. You were assigned to share your expertise while my team learned from you to improve our work. You are so intelligent, so knowledgeable and so articulate. Your ideas are innovative, yet profitable. Your style is relaxed, yet persuasive. You had my colleagues on the edge of their seats, torn between missing a word that you said and scribbling copious notes lest they forget any of the wisdom you were imparting. As a fellow female in a male-dominated industry I silently saluted you. I will never sit where you sit. I lack the business acumen and the ability to articulate my thoughts in such a logical and convincing manner. I could never persuade others to believe in me as you have, regardless of the value of my ideas. To pay just to be in the same room as me. I always seem to get in my own way, doing enough to be appreciated but not quite enough to stand out. I guess I’m not destined for professional brilliance after all. I envy you.
A recent article on the death of Cory Monteith describing him as an atypical “junkie” who didn’t fit the stereotype got me thinking about the concept of a “high-functioning” addict. This is a term I hadn’t come across before until quite recently and it certainly never occurred to me until now that the term might be applicable to myself – a high-functioning depressive.
I guess in order to apply any definition to oneself you have to analyse what exactly does it mean. What is “high-functioning”? I suspect that this is something that will differ from person to person according to their beliefs and values, but for me it means:
Being able to work closely with colleagues without them knowing about my illness and excelling at that work
Some people might define high-functioning more emotionally – being stable more days than not, not doubting oneself, not being dependent on medication for balance – but for me it’s the ability to be a functioning member of the 9-to-5ers that is valuable. I guess that comes down to my high regard for the opinion of others, good or bad as that may be. I have often been described as a Type A personality and a counsellor once said that perhaps my upbringing and the focus on working hard and achievement mean that these are now the measures against which I score myself. Regardless, it’s important to me that I am considered strong and capable. I have a high-pressure job with a lot of people and money balanced on my ability to perform, so any instability would not be looked upon favourably. I love my job and I know I can do it better than a lot of other people – I don’t want to introduce any element of doubt or second-guessing into the mix. I want to be Mina. Not Mina-question-mark.
Maintaining what I deem to be a good social life, though to others it may look entirely antisocial
Again, I think this comes down to personality and values. I value a good meal, a movie, a chat with friends. I no longer think hungover is a good way to spend a Sunday and I don’t like how I feel when I drink on my meds. My move to London was also relatively recent so my social circle has contracted significantly and I spend more nights in than out. However, on the flip side, I spend more days out than in. Something that was unheard of in my 20s. Weekend days especially were for recovery or pre-party preparations. Now I go to museums, I brunch, I sip cappuccinos and read my book while my other half relaxes with his newspaper beside me. And I love love love restaurants.
Having a successful, mutually supportive relationship where I both give and receive love
Well, who doesn’t want that! I suppose the key here is “mutually”. I don’t want a kind, loving partner who strokes my hair and looks after me. Well I do, but I with two caveats: 1) I want to be strong enough to do the same for him and 2) I want him to let me. For several years I was in a relationship with a man who didn’t need me and he would freely admit it. Coupled with the fact that I really needed him at several points during our years together, the relationship was doomed to inevitable failure. Having found a healthy give-and-take relationship it’s important that I strive to keep it as such and not let my illness turn it into a one-way flow in my favour.
I guess you can look at this post in two ways:
- Think I need to be good at everything (cheers Type A personality!) and so I can only live in a world where I perceive myself to be really good at having depression and therefore I should shut the hell up with this high-functioning nonsense; or
- Consider that it’s good to have points of reference for yourself, that can only be defined by yourself, that you can check-in with from time to time and see how you’re doing.What do you think of the high-functioning concept? If it strikes a note with you I’d love to know how you’d define it for yourself.
Recently I discovered that an old favourite of mine, Allie at Hyperbole and a Half, had written a new(ish) post – a follow up to her amazing 2011 Adventures in Depression.
When I was first diagnosed and nosing around the interwebs to find comfort, information & maybe even a silver lining in this whole crazy thing, her post was one of the first things I read that really struck me. It made me feel so much less alone, so much more “normal” and I realised that there were actually other people in this world who felt exactly like I did. That’s a pretty powerful thing when you’re at your lowest point and you feel that no one understands you. To find a person who gets the “hidden” you that you struggle to hide from most people is pretty rare – for that person to be someone on another continent, who you’ve never met and who doesn’t even know you exist….well, I did say I was crazy right!
Allie struck a chord with me because she expressed my thoughts and feelings better than I ever could and with so much humour and creativity. Then I realised she also drew me! Right there in part two. This is now my phone screensaver, because the instant I saw it something in it connected with me. I love my coffee, I love to hang out in cafes & I always glare at people who are making noise or daring to have fun in my vicinity. Why are they laughing? Why are their lives so easy and mine is so hard? Are they laughing at me? I’m such an outsider. Nobody likes me. STOP MAKING JOYOUS SOUNDS OUT OF YOUR FACE.
Since I started this blog I’ve had 42 follows and a handful of comment-exchanges with others. I have made a teeny tiny wave in the world and I have interacted with people just like me, something my “real life” never gives me the opportunity to do. It might not seem like much, but to me sitting in my home, trying to make sense of the hand life has dealt me, it means the world.
I’ve just returned home after dropping my sisters at the airport after a weekend visit and I feel….uneasy, I guess is the best description. Waving my sisters off wasn’t about to send me into a spiral of depression but it was definitely a sad moment, especially knowing that I won’t see them again until November. For the first time in many years I don’t know the daily ins and outs of their lives, as busy schedules and the ocean between us challenge communication styles. My life decisions have meant that I am now removed from their lives and I foresee no situation in which I will return to the proximity we once enjoyed and even took for granted. In fact, it is likely that my life path will mean that our meetings will become less frequent and my status will become increasingly that of “visitor”.
I am acutely aware of all of this and yet all I feel, sitting in my now strangely quiet house, is a sense of something being “not quite right”. The medication I take so that I can enjoy the wonderful life opportunities I have been given have a flip side – just as efficiently as they destroy the Down they also destroy the Up and the In Between. It does not distinguish between emotions. SSRI is not a fancy name for an administrative system that sits in your brain, filtering emotions and deciding which ones to file in the “okay to experience” pile. Instead it is akin to a joke I saw once, where somebody had placed a shredder directly under their letterbox – every emotional signal received is shredded irrespective of type or your ability to cope at that given moment.
I’m torn between knowing that this medication is vital for my life and my lifestyle and wanting to experience the depth of emotion that I know is within me this morning. Or any morning. Is this a signal that I am recovering? Is my mind telling me that I can cope with more? Or are these the thoughts we are warned about when told not to stop taking our SSRIS – that once we begin to feel better we should not mistakenly label ourselves as “cured”?
I don’t know the answers. But today I have a hell of alot of questions.
I spend a lot of my time convincing myself that I really do want to leave the house & socialise. I remind myself it’s my illness talking when I say I don’t want to go. So when I’m actually looking forward to leaving the house & something else gets in the way I seriously resent it.
For the last two days I’ve had the most painful headache. Not a headache actually, more like a skull & brain ache. It hurts to use my eyes, to close my eyes, to lie down, to stand up, to be awake, to sleep….you get the idea.
Today I have a social event and as I sit here having gotten dressed nicely, done my hair and covered myself in SPF 50 all I want to do is go home and crawl under my duvet. And it’s not my brains fault this time. Well, okay it is my brain….but it’s not my Mind! And boy do I resent it. Sometimes it feels like I can’t win. Just as one part of me plays the game of life another part of me throws a tantrum.
Like a child I want to stomp my feet and shout “not fair not fair”. Except doing that would hurt my stupid brain.