Going Back On Antidepressants?

(For the past couple of days, I have been under the spell of a virus infection which is currently on a rampage in my neck of the woods – sneezing, coughing, sinus pains, yadda yadda yadda. Not that I really dare complaining; having suffered through a real influenza two years ago, I know how bad it can get and how far away I am from that still.)

For a little while now I have considered going back on antidepressants. Taking citalopram was a mixed blessing, which I have written about in one of my first blog posts and in the Pre-Treatment Diary, and for a long time I was adamant to not go back on medication. However, my perspective on it has changed since: To begin with, I believe I was too depressed in 2010 that antidepressants alone could have “cured” me – even on medication, I still was severely depressed. After two years of psychotherapy, I can feel and tell apart varying degrees of depression, even within the same category of “severe”, “moderate” or “light” depression, but was not attuned enough for doing so two years ago. I can also tell where citalopram worked for me and where it did not, and it undeniably helped with the panic attacks, even if it could not eradicate the depression enough to make a difference.
Maybe a different brand or class of antidepressants will work better than the citalopram did.

The reason why I am even considering going back on antidepressants is that I feel myself slipping – very slowly, but it is happening – into another episode of depression. My energy levels are getting lower; concentration lapses; the cognitive deficits are becoming worse; insomnia. I just want to curl up on the sofa, hide from the world. (And none of that has anything to do with the cold; it has been going on for a much longer time than this.)
What worries me is an unpredictable sadness flooding me out of nowhere, making me tear up from one minute to the next. It is so difficult to explain to other people… sometimes, it is as if I am in a bubble, and inside it time goes by much slower than for everyone else. I am too slow, too lethargic to keep up with the rest of the world….

Due to my husband’s integration class finally starting and me being unable to fall asleep, he has gone to bed earlier than me all week long: I would just stay in the living room and join him a couple of hours later, so that I would lie awake only one or two hours in bed instead of four of five. Sitting around at night all by myself has somehow emotionally transported me back to the times of my deepest depression, and I always had a pattern where my mood would tank over the course of the evening. The sadness increases with every hour, and I feel more and more lonely until I fall asleep. It is like being the only person in a vast, empty land, with nothing to distract or occupy the mind, where only bitterness and desolation thrive. Everyone around me is asleep.
I went to bed at two o’ clock in the morning, hoping I would be able to sleep. Instead, I found myself falling into sadness again – so badly that it cost all my self-control and restraint to not wake up my husband. I knew it was silly; after all, I was lying right next to the person I had married, no reason to feel lonely. And yet, there was this strange sensation of being completely isolated from everyone else in the world.


Looking Back At 2012

The first half of the year is characterized by a very tight and stressful schedule regarding both university and the bureaucratic acts of getting married and starting my husband’s immigration process. Eventually, this proved too much activity, and at the beginning of the second half of the year, I fell into a pit of lethargy and low moods. With the end of the summer, I began working my way out of that, and tried to maintain a healthy equilibrium.
The most important facts of what happened in 2012 are all in this blog, even if not always in as much detail as planned or wished for. On top of that, I already had two retrospective posts this month. Due to this, I decided to employ the form of last year’s review and “count my blessings” by writing about what I am grateful for in this year past. After all, it is a good exercise in shifting the focus on positive aspects.

My husband: I am thankful for his company and for his willingness to embark on the adventure of immigration. For waiting so many hours together with me in front of various offices, even when his presence was not required. For talking to me at 2 AM even though he was tired. For not talking to me in the mornings much, because that is when my brain does not function. For making sure I don’t oversleep. For comforting me many mornings when I would cry because I did not want to leave for university. For foot massages and back rubs. For accepting me the way I am. For encouraging me to pursue what I enjoy. For understanding how depression and anxiety work. For saying sorry and meaning it. For not feeling threatened by the feminist and lesbian blogs, websites or videos I read and watch. For hours upon hours of discussion on Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, The Hobbit, etc. For paying honest compliments. For believing in me. For making me smile. For making me laugh.

My friends: I am grateful for them reaching out when I retreat too far from contacts. For listening. For taking me out of my own mind. For making me laugh. For sharing their own experiences. For their kind and comforting words, even when they cannot do anything about my problems. For their encouragement. For providing a faithful readership for this blog. For rooting for my husband and me all the way through the bureaucratic labyrinth to marriage and immigration.

My parents: During the first months of the year, there was a lot of friction between my mother and me, so I am especially appreciative of her becoming generally calmer over the last months. I am thankful for the financial support from my parents. For being so nice towards my husband on Christmas. For their occasional donations of food / groceries and clothes. For increasingly trying to understand what is going on with me.

My sister: The day before my wedding, we had a major fallout, and for months afterwards I carried underlying resentment with me, because she would never apologize for the things she said that day. As a result, I am really grateful that she appears to have mellowed out since. That she is seeking professional help from a psychiatrist now and taking medication which makes her moods more stable. That she took us out on her birthday and thus allowed my husband and me to enjoy something we could not have afforded otherwise. That she is becoming more approachable.

My niece: I am grateful for her being the kind of person she is: kind-hearted, quirky, bubbly, never shy to express her fondness. For her not hesitating to extent the same sentiment towards my husband despite the language barrier.

My mother-in-law: I am thankful for her financial support and for her friendliness towards me, a person she has never met.

My husband’s daughter: I am grateful for her being in my husband’s life again. (It’s a long and complicated story, but not the right place to tell it.) For her being the friendly, funny, open-minded person she is.

My therapist: I am grateful for his continued professional support, both in the sessions and via email – especially when I am at my worst. For helping me grow. For encouraging me to try myself out and providing a safe environment for that.

A very happy 2013 to all of my readers!

Happy Holidays

The official part of Christmas is over – visiting relatives left, the big dinner is eaten, all the presents are exchanged. And for the first time in many years it was a really happy holiday for me: neither did the stress prior to Christmas Eve get too much to handle, nor did anything happen which threw me off balance during the celebration.

It was the first time my parents would officially have my husband over; they had met before, but never longer than for just a few minutes. Since my parents do not speak English and he does not know enough German yet, they cannot really talk without a translator, which is part of the reason why this was only happening now, but in the end it went really well.
My niece, who comes to visit us quite often and is not bothered by the limitations of her school-English, helped bridge the first few minutes of shyness, and my former brother-in-law can converse in English as well (my sister had it in school for a couple of years, but never became an actual active speaker), so there were no awkward silences. That was what I had worried about the most;  I knew everyone would be friendly and civil to one another, but was afraid that it might turn into a strenuous affair. And while for my husband it was all about meeting people he did not really know and wanting to leave a good impression, it was also an unusual and new situation for me because I never before brought any girl- or boyfriend over to meet my parents, ever! Fortunately, the whole evening was a success.

We’d spent the morning running errands, and in the afternoon my sister, her ex-husband, my husband and I went to watch my niece in a nativity play. None of us is religious and I personally have strong reservations towards the Catholic Church as an organisation, but it was only a lay-service for the neighbourhood and my niece loves playing theatre, and in years past it also proved a good opportunity to get out of my mother’s feet for a while. This year, she barked a bit, but did not bite anyone.
Afterwards, I went to help with the preparations for dinner. On the menu were: freshly squeezed mandarin-orange juice with lemon balm leaves as starter; coronation chicken as first course; the main course was pork filet with Roquefort-sauce, potato gratin and French beans; as dessert we had banoffee pie – all home-made. (For any British reader this might sound somewhat ordinary, but I can assure you that for Germans, there’s an exotic element to most of these dishes as they are not common here at all.) At five o’ clock everything was ready and I went to change into nicer attire and to get my husband.
Since in Germany presents are traditionally exchanged in the evening of December the 24th, we took a break after the main course. My niece was the only child of the group and she likes to draw out the whole ceremony to keep the thrill of suspension alive, so in my family one gift at a time gets unwrapped, meaning that it takes at least an hour until everyone’s finished. My husband and I mainly got practical presents, but given our age and financial situation, we could really appreciate them. Eventually, we returned to the dining table for dessert, and finally just sat together on the sofa for talking and watching my niece try out her presents. At nine o’ clock, we bid the rest adieu: mainly because the cheese-based sauce made my lactose intolerance kick in, but also because I felt that after four hours, my husband could use a break.

On Christmas Day, my aunt and grandmother came over for coffee in the afternoon (to my parents’, that is), and with their departure, the official part of Christmas ended. December 25th and 26th are both public holidays in Germany, and in my family, the latter is reserved for laziness. You sleep in, eat leftovers or meals which do not require a lot of preparation, go for a walk to get some fresh air and a little bit of exercise for your legs (mine start hurting if I sit around too much – they get rather stiff quickly as a result of my inability to relax physically), and otherwise do whatever you want: watch TV, read, play a computer game… Considering the fact that I need a lot more time for recharging my batteries than the average person does, I really appreciate this opportunity for relaxation after a busy and exciting start into the holidays.

Just A Quick Update

I’m still alive, but very busy. Lectures at university started again – not that I had a lot of free time during the “break”. I attended an extracurricular class in zoology and passed the exam for that, and I didn’t pass the second attempt of physics because I was just too burned out and my brain didn’t cooperate at all. As a result, I opted out of taking maths again.
Currently, I’m writing a report on the field trip I took in February; the text is as good as done, but I still have to put in pictures and so on.

Then, of course, I got married and had a lot of family drama going down the day before the wedding, all of which deserves a dedicated post.

Finally, my therapist invited me to join a class for psychology students next week – as a “living exhibit”. They’ll present my data, including the clinical tests I took (the results of which I’ve never been told), and I’ll be there to answer questions. Bring the person to life, I guess, because according to my therapist, most of these students have no real idea of what it is like to be depressed and what it is like to undergo CBASP therapy. Besides the scientific data, I can provide insight into all of that. Strangely enough, I’m looking forward to this.

Wedding Bells

There are quite a few things I would have liked to write about here, but didn’t because I was too busy with other stuff – or too tired to put much thought into formulating a text. All of that will have to wait until another day, though, because today I have something important to write about: after almost a year of paperwork and waiting, the bureaucratic application process came to a finish and in about two and a half weeks, we are going to get married.

It feels almost surreal to me, because we had been waiting for so long that I got somewhat used to this event in the future which never actually arrived. And now, there suddenly is a date – before the end of the month!

It’s going to be a very low-key affair: no guests, no wedding dress, no rings etc. Just a legal act at a town hall office. And after the wedding, we immediately need to apply for a residency permit for my boyfriend. Certainly a very far cry from your stereotypical nuptials, but we are just so very glad that it really looks like my boyfriend can stay for good this time around.

On Discomfort & Comforts

After the drama at the beginning of the week, I had to pull myself together for the crystallography exam – successfully enough for passing. The results were in after 24 hours and thus I know that despite waking up to my head spinning with vertigo and my dysfunctional memory, I put that class behind me for good. The results for physics and mathematics still haven’t been put online, so in that regard I’m still biting my nails.

Friday and Saturday I was on an excursion to local sites of geological interest. Since most of the geological outcrops didn’t offer enough space for huge crowds, we got divided into groups of twenty-something people, and each group had slightly different routes and sites to visit. Our guide was very nice, but unfortunately his tempo was so insanely fast that a few of us got close to a physical breakdown. My metabolism is very slow (as a result of both depression and Hashimoto’s) and soon my head started spinning with vertigo. Another girl had an asthma attack, and together with others we soon fell behind. After realizing the effect this had on us, our guide apologized and promised to slow down, but we still kept lagging behind, desperately panting uphill hour after hour. At one point, about ten minutes before reaching the highest peak of the day, I paused and stared into the forest stretching below me, thinking: “Why couldn’t you pick a different subject? Something where you do not have to go on field trips…”
The only thing which kept me going was that we were in the middle of a nature reserve and thus the only way “back to civilization” was to continue walking.
The second day saw us climbing up a mountain through vineyards; not nearly as long a walk as the day before, but so steep that we had to clutch onto the wires for the vines and descend sidewards to prevent falling down the cliff-like slope. In the early afternoon I had to admit defeat because of a black-and-blue toenail – I simply could not walk properly anymore due to the pain. I’ll have to wear open shoes for the next days – very inconvenient, since the weather is rather wet, but that is the only way I can walk without a severe limp – and somewhat embarrassing. I will be rather self-conscious about it tomorrow, but it is my only option.

The best aspect of those two days was coming home to someone. I got served dinner and could rest my legs on my boyfriend’s lap while he massaged my sore feet (and legs and back). Even though most of my body hurt, I actually felt pampered.
He helps me staying in the present, to not worry about the future or think about the past so much. He comforts me emotionally and mentally. I think I wrote in an earlier post already that my idea of happiness is spending an evening on the sofa with him – it might sound utterly boring, but I really enjoy this very dullness. There is enough drama in my life and I am grateful about every time I can just wind down and bask in the warmth of our shared life together.

302 Days

That’s how long my boyfriend and I were geographically apart and as I am writing this post, my boyfriend’s done with the first and on the second of a total of four flights – the next one will end in Europe already. Fortunately he didn’t travel via Chicago or the North-East of the States, so he wasn’t affected by the snow storm. Each stroke of the keyboard means he is a little closer to me. Most likely, today will be the last day of living alone for… well, perhaps not for the rest of of my life, but at least for years to come. It’s an important step not to be taken lightly, but one we are both ready for.

We already said goodbye yesterday, because we knew it would be difficult for him to find the time this morning, and I was rather busy this afternoon too with trips to the supermarket and farm shop. For some people, it might sound really dull and more like a chore, but I do enjoy buying groceries for the two of us. As opposed to most household chores, which I dislike at best – and in some cases loathe -, shopping for food and cooking makes me feel comfortable. Cooking is a creative process, followed by a social interaction, namely having dinner together. My idea of happiness is a Friday evening spent together on the sofa, after dinner, watching TV. I reckon people who turn away in horror at the idea of such a boring night have no clue how valuable the simple peacefulness of it is – especially to someone who suffered from depression and anxiety.

There was hardly a day during the last ten months when I didn’t imagine what it would be like to see him again at the airport. I’m not usually comfortable with public displays of affection, but just as with our tearful goodbye, this is going to be an exception of the rule. I’ll probably smile and wave like a maniac as soon as I see him, just to throw myself at him as soon as he’s through the gate…

Slaying A Dragon

Yesterday was a very significant day for me – one I had worked towards since April last year: I told my mother that my boyfriend and I wanted to get married. This was problematic in several respects, not only because of the generally difficult communicative patterns in my family, but also because my mother is decidedly against marriage (never mind the fact she’s been married to my father for over 30 years). At her most irrational, she claimed she’d “outlaw” it if she ruled the country. My sister’s failed marriage didn’t do much for swaying her in a more favourable direction either.
In most families, the news that their daughter wanted to get married would be regarded as happy news, but I wasn’t so sure about that and thus the topic had been fraught with a lot of anxiety. The range of possible reactions just was too broad to predict a likely outcome.

To make you understand the scope of this, I’ll have to go way back to spring 2011. My boyfriend and therapist actually met ever so briefly once – hardly more than a greeting and shaking hands – at the visitor lounge at the psychiatric hospital, so my therapist was able to put a face with the name. After my boyfriend had to leave Germany at the end of March because his tourist visa expired, my therapist had assumed a quasi-parental role and questioned me on our relationship in the first therapy session after the separation.
I summed it all up in an email to my boyfriend the next day:

Each of our sessions start with him asking me about my depression index – whether it went up or down, and what I did to get there. The philosophy in CBASP, my treatment programme, is that your mood always is a result of things you do or don’t do (when usually, one tends to assume it the other way around).

I told him that you had to leave again and that my points probably would be lower if not for that. And he said with a major change like this, we must have done a lot of things right or else I would probably have bounced back quite a bit, to 20 or possibly even higher.
So I related to him everything that went down since my last session – how we had looked into ways to get an extended or permanent visa, how we found out that you had to leave again and still tried to make the best out of the last week. I told him about the trips we made […] and he asked what the goodbye was like, whether we cried – whether we *could* cry, because the inability to cry signals deeper depression than bursting into tears. If you cannot cry even though you feel like it, it means your access to your emotions is disrupted: crying always is a good sign in their books.
He went off on a little tangent here, explaining the differences between “primary emotions” like happiness, sadness, fear, anger etc. and so-called “social emotions” to me: the former are understood by all humans in the world and elicit the same reaction, and they are also “contagious” to the people around us. Every time we display one of those, we radiate it off to other people, too. That is why being around happy people can make you feel happier and why sometimes one person can get a whole group down. “Social emotions” are defined by culture. He gave me an extreme example: a member of a cannibalistic tribe will have no problem eating human flesh, while we would have to torture ourselves into it and endure very strong feelings for doing so.

My therapist proceeded to ask about our contact and very much approved of daily Skype sessions, then went on another tangent by telling me that he had a short relationship with an American girl from New York City when he was a student and that the costs for phone calls almost ruined him back then. He even did an internship in New York City and got an unlimited visa for the States then (that was during the early Clinton administration – wouldn’t happen anymore today, and his is not valid anymore because he left the States again). That’s also part of the CBASP programme, that you get to know your therapist on a personal level, because it helps you discriminate between different people’s reactions instead of just assuming that everyone will reject you.

Finally, he asked what we had planned for the future and I told him that you wanted to come back and that there were basically only two ways for you to stay here other than a tourist: either by job offer or by marrying me. He asked a lot of question about you to get a better picture, and I told him that you had worked as a historian and then, recently, for [international company]. He said you must have incredible skills to handle the [international company] job and was very impressed. He wanted to know what social climate prevailed in [my boyfriend’s current location] and when I said “Bible belt” and that originally you came from [city in New England], via [different state], he said he couldn’t blame you for having difficulties. He is very familiar with [city in New England] and called it “my city” – I think he has been there quite a few times on business trips and for workshops, and also said that it was rather European compared to other places in the States he has been to.

Eventually, my therapist came to the conclusion that I already communicated to you yesterday. He thinks that we have a very healthy relationship and that in his opinion, the key for lasting relationships lies in how well you get along in everyday life, and how well you support each other there. Everything else is secondary – no matter how good you are as a couple on holidays, for example, if everyday life together does not work, there’s nothing you can do.

That is only a rough overview; strewn in between were always small “lessons” for me. For example, when I said that our goodbye at the airport was very teary, he asked if I could have cried in front of my mother, too, and I said I wouldn’t. I’d try to hold it back there with all my might.
Or we compared and contrasted our situation with a hypothetical situation where we would not have sorted out all the legal stuff and lived in uncertainty.
In his opinion, we made the absolute best out of what we were dealt.

Anyway… just so you know what we were talking about yesterday. I personally feel very glad we spoke about all this in therapy, because it helps me process, and I am also glad that we had a whole session just for “understanding” what has happened here.

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the first email I sent my boyfriend directly after the session, so I might have forgotten details. I do remember that we focused on behaviour a lot and also that my therapist asked about my boyfriend’s language skills, job perspectives, health management  etc. And I do remember that he advised me to not suppress or try to conquer emotions, and to cry when I feel like it, for example, because “trying to be strong” and suppressing costs too many resources and too much energy. In the end, he came to the conclusion that there were “no pathological structures” in our relationship, with an emphasis on the fact that he’d tell me if he detected anything like that.
Over the following weeks, we roleplayed me telling my parents about it, and he assigned me the task of making a list with reasons why I’d want to marry my boyfriend – because I’d been dumbstruck in the session when he’d ask me that question. “Because I love him” wasn’t enough of an answer, and so I started writing down arguments and categorized them into topics: “Because he respects me as a person: my sexual orientation; my feelings, opinions, ideas and wishes; my personal belongings; my privacy.” [On physical appearance:] “He likes me the way I am and doesn’t expect me to conform to some ideal standard.” [On depression:] “He can handle my depression and endure it, even if I’m feeling significantly better or worse than he does.” I had close to 50 reasons when I stopped.

Another email I sent my boyfriend, about two months after the one mentioned above. In the session, we’d talked about some unexpected news my boyfriend had received and how they’d influenced me:

We had some administrative stuff to sort out then, but at the very end – I was already half out of the door – he asked: “Can I say something about you and [your boyfriend]?” I stepped inside the office again, closing the door once more: “Of course you can!” Inside, I must confess, I got a little nervous at that moment, wondering what he possibly might want to say.
“I don’t know [your boyfriend] personally, even though he has been very ‘alive’ in our sessions through the way you spoke about him. I mean, I have seen him, but I don’t know him from personal contact. Still… I just wanted you to know how very deeply I am touched by the relationship between you and [boyfriend]. In my profession, I see so many relationships every day, but…” – he shook his head here – “…what you two have… this is what is important in life.” At this point I was just stammering ‘thank you’ and how much this meant to me, taken completely by surprise and once again speechless, so that I repeated the same two phrases at least three times. We said goodbye again, and just before I opened the door once more, “I believe [your boyfriend] is a really good person. I don’t know him personally, but I have a feeling that this is the right stuff.” And he smiled.

I remember leaving the therapy session that day, feeling like I was walking on clouds. I was just utterly touched by what he’d said, and the fact he did say it at all. In CBASP, one of the therapist’s roles is to heal emotional-behavioural damage in the patient through making them experience healthy behaviour in sensitive situations, and that was one the most important moments I had together with him. I knew I could completely trust every word he’d uttered to be sincere, that he had no reasons for bullshitting me, and this kind of openness was one of the great “healing moments of my therapy.” There was a lot more going on at that moment than is visible on the surface – every person in love likes hearing nice things about their relationship and partner, but apart from the content of the sentence, I felt being taken seriously and listened to. I felt I and my future happiness were important enough to someone that he’d trouble himself with examining it closely.

With so much support in my back, it should have been easy to just tell my parents – after all, I was in the unique position of being able to cite a mental health professional’s opinion. Nobody could accuse me of being deluded by my own romantic feelings. However, it wasn’t easy for me at all. I made a couple of attempts, but at the last moment, the words just got stuck in my throat.
There was one notable Sunday which I’d looked out as the date when I’d tell them: I’d be alone with my parents in the afternoon, with plenty of time for talking. I bought a cake for us and wanted to create a pleasant atmosphere. Everyone was ready when I noticed I’d forgotten something and ran out of the room, returning literally a minute later, but those 60 seconds had been long enough for my parents to get into a petty argument over something really insignificant. Frustrated, I ate my slice of cake in silence and retreated without bringing up the subject.
Weeks went by, turning into months. Stuck with waiting for some important document on my boyfriend’s end, there was no imminent pressure to come out with the truth – it was something present in the background, but I didn’t feel any need to act immediately, and thus the anxiety prevented my saying anything at all. Only when said document was suddenly approved and I received an express-delivery of my boyfriend’s paperwork, I knew I had to get moving – yet it took almost another four weeks and the flight to Germany getting booked until I could finally realize it. Fortunately, my boyfriend was cognizant and understanding of my difficulties and didn’t push me; he appeared more confident than I ever felt that eventually, I’d manage.

It happened on the way home from a farm shop where we buy most of our vegetables. My mother doesn’t have a driving licence, so I chauffeur her there, and it looked like a good opportunity: we were not going to be disturbed in the car and, in order to ensure the security of all passengers, my mother couldn’t have a complete melt-down there. Still, my stomach slowly twisted into a tight knot and nausea started to rise up. I was only a heartbeat away from breaking into a cold sweat, and there was this imaginary voice screaming in my head: “Stop as long as you still have a chance to do so! Just don’t say anything! Abort mission!”
We were literally two minutes from home only when I swallowed all of the silent terror, took a deep breath and said: “Mum, I need to tell you something… [Boyfriend] and I want to get married.” The rest is only a haze and I do not remember it very well – as I wrote in previous posts, stress and anxiety tend to wipe the memory out. I do recall that my mother said something like, “I thought so, I was kinda expecting that.” And, “You two need to know what you want.” Which I answered with a simple but convinced, “We do.” She asked a few practical questions about finances, health insurance; she was rather anxious about us wanting a huge celebration (which, considering the facts that we’ll get married on short notice whenever the paperwork goes through and that our finances are limited, is not the case at all). What I remember very clearly is that I parked the car in front of our house and that the last thing she said before getting out of the car was: “After that I need a cup of coffee now.” And I replied, with full emphasis: “Me too!”

After I was back at my own place, I updated my boyfriend, therapist and some friends via email. I have to credit one of my friends especially: we had been emailing back and forth this past week and also that morning, talking about my problems opening up to my mother among other things, and she had reasoned with me that the situation couldn’t really get any worse than what I was already experiencing. And she was right.
The huge wave of relief one might expect did not come, at least not so far. Maybe it will take a little longer until I really feel it, maybe that’s not going to happen. That was a huge dragon to slay and a lot of personal angst I had to confront – really one of the most difficult things I did in my life. Intellectually, I’m just glad to be done with it finally, the emotional reaction might or might not come still. Right after talking to my mother, I was in some turmoil as a direct result of the stress: shaking knees, slightly trembling hands and a little agitation, but none of it too violent.

When I turned 30, I looked at the decade behind me which supposedly defines what kind of person you are, and all I saw were missed opportunities, failures and loneliness. Years lost to depression. I don’t want to do the same when I turn 40, and so I try to push myself – no matter whether it takes 2, 20, or 200 attempts to realize my goal. The only way I can ensure a better future is to change something in the present…

Looking Back At 2011

The year is coming to an end and it’s time to take inventory. Over the last twelve months, I have time and again observed anniversaries and compared my life to what it used to be, but it’s because of New Year’s Eve that I feel like I’ve truly come full circle.
A year ago, I was just experiencing the very first days together with my boyfriend, I had just started therapy (but was still in the anamnesis phase, not yet learning coping / healing techniques), was still in the last throes of quitting citalopram. I had an incredibly bad year behind me, full of anxiety and panic attacks, physical and emotional pain, cognitive deficits and side-effects. 2010 was left behind tired and exhausted, but with a tiny spark of hope.

There’s so much I have to be grateful for in 2011:
– My boyfriend. We only lived together until the end of March and certainly didn’t think we’d still be on different continents on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but even if most of the year was spent geographically apart, we’ve remained emotionally closer than ever. If anything, this forced separation has galvanized our desire for being together, and the bureaucratic process – which took far longer and was far more costly than anticipated – proved that we are serious about our commitment to each other.
He’s made me laugh (despite myself, sometimes), held me when I cried (both literally and figuratively), endured my endless therapy talk without complaining or becoming jealous of my therapist once, cared for me when I was bedridden with influenza for weeks on end. Through him, I learned to enjoy life again, learned to want something more out of life again than just the mere absence of pain. Through him, I lost the fear of giving myself to another person.
– My friends. All of them have been incredibly supportive, encouraging and generous with their feedback as well as very patient listeners. I owe lots of laughter to them and many a good idea. After having been largely unable to maintain social contacts, I am grateful that nobody held this against me and that I actually did have a social life again this year.
– My therapist and the team behind him. Everybody at the hospital I ever had contact to has been nothing but friendly and highly professional. A special mention must go to the psychologist who was my very first contact person ever there; who did the phone interviews and various formal clinical interviews with me as well as the two MRi scans, and who coordinated most of the appointments with other specialists for me. Her kindness ensured that I even made it past the initial phone interview stage without getting scared away.
Towards my therapist I have to be thankful not only because of his skilfulness and expertise, but also for his constant support beyond the requirements. In addition to the therapy sessions, we must have exchanged about a hundred emails over the course of the year. He’s helped me getting a sabbatical at uni and wrote to my health insurance. In crisis situations, his response was quick and most helpful. Most importantly, he treated me humanly when I felt most inhumanly.
– My family. That might come as a surprise, but despite all our problems and dysfunctional ways, I want to be grateful for the good times we shared.
– The progress I made. I learned to verbalize my problems, ask for help, selectively trust people, maintaining social contacts better, take care of my needs, find solutions for my problems. I can read books again and am attending university again. I found out what “normal” feels like and was euthymic for the first time since childhood. Over the course of the last year, I gave my life a completely new direction. I learned to have hope. Last but not least, I started a blog which I’ve managed to maintain for seven months already and which brought me much joy.

To my readers, all the best wishes for the new year – may it bring you much happiness and joy!

On My Birthday

It’s shortly after midnight and thus I am officially turning 31 today. In recent years, my birthday has usually been an occasion for sadness and regrets as it reminded me of how little I accomplished and how I was growing older without having the life I wanted to live. Especially the big 3-0 last year I had dreaded – when I was younger, I would console myself that even if the situation was bad then, I would surely be in a better place at 30. As the day approached and it was painfully obvious that my circumstances had hardly changed during the previous decade, it was the final kick into the abyss.

One year later, I’m in a much better place. Not everything is great, but there were enough changes to make me believe that I will eventually get the life I want.

For one, there is my boyfriend and the fact that we finally carried our relationship to the next (“real life”) level. Prior to his arrival in December, I would often be tormented by anxieties about whether we’d actually manage to do so, not to mention the irrational fears that I’d end up as an old spinster, forever alone. Crazy-cat-lady-to-be.
Obviously, I’m not worried about that anymore, and the time we had together was so wonderful, so peaceful. I love him so much…

Then, there’s the fact that I’ve recovered from the depression and made so much progress in therapy. For the first time in years, it feels like something’s happening, that I’m not stuck in a loop.