Another Cancellation

Today’s session had to be moved to next Thursday, so that will be a full six weeks since the last one. I’m not angry or disappointed, just getting really… impatient. I just want to discuss certain points so that I can finally move on from them – the mental list of stuff I have to tell in the session isn’t getting any shorter.

But, as I said, I harbour no negative feelings; my therapist sounded regretful in the message he left on my mailbox and said there had been a problem – that’s the trade-off for being treated at a hospital: there’s always something that can happen unexpectedly.

Usually, I get both a phone call and an email when something important happens, and in the email my therapist asked me for a short update. Here’s what I wrote:

I’m pretty well so far and managed to stabilize at a niveau just under ten points. I am enrolled for GeoSciences now and start lectures on October 10 – the administrative business still makes me nervous, but in the end I got everything done without burying my head in the sand.
With my family I was in southern Germany for a week, which was partly wonderful and partly very emotionally exhausting, and a week ago I spent four very nice days with my aunt and sister in Weimar.
Generally I found that I could internalize what I learned in therapy even more and utilize it almost instinctively; further I feel like my cognitive abilities improved significantly over the last couple of weeks and that I will be able to handle university intellectually now.


Once Again, Back Home

Sunday evening I returned from a short trip to Weimar, a small German town with a rich cultural heritage: (in some cases temporary) home to Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Nietzsche, Liszt and many more, founding place of the short-lived first democratic German republic and the Bauhaus movement… Those four days have been filled with a lot of programme – too close or already beyond overkill for many other people, but I really enjoy this kind of intense involvement with topics I am interested in. Beyond the pure joy, I got out of it with a lot more confidence into my cognitive abilities. My sleeping brain is waking up – there was no problem handling the wealth of information.

Apart from all the pleasant things, a visit to the former concentration camp of Buchenwald was scheduled for the last day too. I visited Auschwitz in 1998, so I had a good idea of what to expect and the kind of effect such a day can have on the overall mood. Back then, I experienced a major backlash over a week after the actual visit, becoming furious at all the people around me, in my head silently screaming at them because they dared going about their comfortable everyday life when such acts of inhumanity were reality.

Admittedly, I didn’t really feel like paying Buchenwald a visit, not because I want to close out what has happened – on the contrary, I find it extremely important to educate people about this – but because I don’t want to jeopardize my new and relatively stable mental health. Since the rest of the group wanted to go, though, I joined them and assumed a somewhat distanced perspective, not unlike watching the news: intellectually, I took it all in, but tried to keep my emotions out of the experience. It seems that this approach worked, because even though I find my thoughts wandering back to what I read, saw and heard there, they don’t take over my imagination.

Overall, however, it was a great trip with very little room for depressive thoughts and worrying – just what I need(ed). And next week I will finally have a therapy session again: even though I’m getting by quite well without, I miss them and talking to my therapist. It seems longer than just a month since I last saw him and I do believe that he’ll find me different from the last “version” he met; at least I feel like I have changed during the last few weeks and shed even more depressive behaviour and thoughts. I feel more self-confident and more secure.

Another Short Trip

Tomorrow I’m leaving for another short vacation, together with my sister and my aunt, who is only 12 years older than me and in some respects acts like an older sister rather than an aunt. I’m actually looking forward to these holidays – we already went to Bavaria together last year and it was great fun. In fact, it was one of the rare breathers during the half-year between starting antidepressants and starting psychotherapy.

I don’t have to pay for this trip as my sister won a hotel voucher, so no monetary worries either. It’s the last time off before going back to university and I’m hoping that it will give me a further boost of good spirits and lots of energy.

Back Home

View from the bedroom window(Please click image for a bigger version.)

This picture – which shows the view I enjoyed from the bedroom window for the last week – is a rather apt illustration of what the trip was like emotionally: equal parts sunshine and rain, with distant thunderstorms.

Travelling with the family is difficult, because you cannot just pick the wonderful moments and avoid the rest, it’s always a package deal. I would steal away for an hour in between and actually had two afternoons for myself entirely, which I credit for the fact that my mood did not crash as it had last time, in April.
I love my parents, I really do, but sometimes their behaviour stresses me out so much that I have to physically remove myself from their presence. For example, they argue with each other over the most insignificant details or facts, utterly unwilling to move a mere inch from their position and apparently unable to see how ridiculous this becomes after a while, because regardless of who got it right, it would not make any difference at all.
My mother uses a kind of vocabulary that can turn aggressive quickly – my therapist once told me the professional term for this was “invalidizing speech”, because it literally disables the people it is addressed to. I do not think she’s actually conscious of just how hurtful her choice of phrasing can become.
My father just turns entirely silent. He cannot communicate his emotions at all unless he’s had a certain quantity of alcohol – I think this is why I never learned to deal with my mother’s berating, because I never saw anyone effectively deal with it. My father just doesn’t say anything at all. And if he’s had a drink (or more), there is a short window where he’ll turn extremely chatty – the exact opposite of his usual behaviour. If he misses this point, the alcohol just turns him aggressive and loud. There was a time when he drank entirely too much and too often, about ten years ago…

So there was quite a bit of baggage travelling south with us, and more waiting. My grandmother is doing better physically now that she is in a nursing home, because they take care that she really eats, for example, and doesn’t hide the food instead. But the Alzheimer’s is progressing and she doesn’t recognize faces anymore. If you tell her your name, she’ll sometimes have an idea of who you are then, but that’s up to chance. I haven’t gone visiting this time either and am still dealing with guilt over this fact.
My great-aunt had a neurological emergency surgery the day before we arrived – apparently some kind of haematoma was causing increased intracranial pressure which had to be relieved immediately, so that caused quite a stir as well.

I’m really glad about having my privacy back, and as much as I enjoy being in the countryside, as an entomo- and arachnophobiac, dealing with all the insects living there was a handful. Starting with locusts in the folds of the curtain in my bedroom and fat spiders in the bathroom, ending with giant moths suddenly sitting on the TV screen and two dozens of mosquito bites, I was confronted with this special kind of anxiety every day. I am too afraid to remove said creatures myself, so every evening I would check the entire room before the rest of the family went to bed in case I needed help… The longer the legs and/or wings of the insects and the faster and seemingly erratic they move, the more afraid I am of them. While a ladybug sitting on my arm is vaguely unpleasant and requires immediate removal, I can do it myself and just snip it away with two fingers without panicking. A grasshopper, however, would make me scream and flail my arms like a maniac, for example, and I would be noticeably shaken for a couple of hours afterwards.

However, there also is a part of me which is sad that we had to go back again. I live in more urban surroundings at home, which reduces the insect attacks, but also replaces the sounds of nature with traffic noise and chattering pedestrians. I got a lot of sunlight and fresh air last week, and literally caught the moment when the last glow of summer turned into the first foreboding of autumn, when the foliage only just started to turn. Here at home, I am too removed from the daily changes in nature and autumn usually just sneaks up on me: suddenly, I see a golden leaf fall and wonder when that happened.

Escape To Paris

Just a few hours ago, I came back from a trip to Paris, which lasted from Saturday morning until Monday afternoon. At first, I wasn’t certain if that would be a good idea because I was so miserable and thought I’d ruin the trip for my company, but since I didn’t have to pay for it and all I wanted was to get away…

It worked. Once I got there, I went into “holidays mode” and my usual life was removed for 60 hours. I even enjoyed situations that would usually stress me out – like talking French in shops. I only took it for three months in university, ten years ago, so there was no extensive vocabulary or knowledge of the grammar I could utilize, but it gave me a certain satisfaction to see that I could still get what I wanted even if I had problems understanding and expressing myself in the language.
There were a few slip-ups, like the time I wanted to order ice-cream “avec nappage saveur chocolat – with chocolate-flavoured coating” and said “avec nappage sauvage chocolat – with wild chocolate coating”. The moment I said it, I realized the mistake, but the guy who served the ice-cream did not even blink. Amazingly, it didn’t even bother me as it would if something of about the same consequence were to happen here at home.

Right now, I just want to hold on to that feeling, even if I know that it’s bound to fade away over the next few days.