Monday, September 11, 2006

Dark victory

Sometimes I wonder whether I get depressed because my life is objectively worse than other people's. And sometimes I know I do. Today I went to see my doctor, and found out that my knee injury is so bad that I'll probably need major, disfiguring surgery. I wanted to slit my throat.

I don't say that figuratively. On occasion, when my bad luck rears its ugly head yet again and I'm already mildly depressed -- days like today -- I feel a visceral tug on my head, pulling my head back, exposing my neck so I can slash it. And my right hand wants to hold the knife, and cut. I don't stop and rationally think, "My life is never going to get any better; I should just die." It just hits me like a kick in the head: I want to die and end this misery.

That's on top of the fury and misery I feel that yet again, I've wasted time and money only to injure myself severely. Yet again, nothing goes my way, and everything I touch turns to garbage.

My G.P., who is an internist and a gastroenterologist I've been seeing for years -- call him Dr. Cool, because he's been very supportive and funny over the years, and always forgets precisely how old I am -- told me to see an orthopedic surgeon, and of course I'm getting the runaround; I can't even reach a person to set up an appointment. I'm trying to cancel the block of training sessions I just bought and haven't yet used, and of course they're making me jump through a dozen hoops. I feel even more angry and helpless -- the perfect recipe for depression.

And part of me just doesn't think my life is ever going to get any better -- my life will always suck, and is not worth suffering through. I'm so sick of contending with not just emotional difficulties but innumerable physical setbacks.

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression that, once experienced, come back with alacrity. Because I've not only had suicidal thoughts for more than a decade, but actually once acted on them, they're more likely to hit me.

It's strange to imagine that your thoughts are beyond your control, but depression, while not always a psychotic disorder, is marked by disturbances in cognition. People who are depressed tend to have negative thoughts about themselves, their environment, and the future. In my case, I thought that my health would never improve, that my attempts to improve it would only make it worse, and that no one would help me -- instead, everyone would only make my situation worse.

I'm in good contact with reality -- I don't think that the CIA is trying to hurt me by sending an agent to serve as my trainer and work me beyond my capabilities, resulting in injury -- but after my doctor told me I needed to see an orthopedic surgeon, my mood plummeted, and thoughts of killing myself just came to me unwittingly. Not because I performed some kind of cost/benefit analysis in my head concerning whether it pays more to live or die. In that moment, I just wanted to die.

Fortunately for the people who want me to stay alive -- a group that, right now, does not include myself -- I'm not going to do anything self-destructive. I know that at some point I'll feel better, and I'll do whatever I can to cope. I've got mild tranquilizers and moderate painkillers, and I'll take as many of each as I have to. I might order in something nice for dinner, although right now my stomach is in knots. I'll do some deep breathing. I'll try to call a friend who knows about my illness and get some sympathy.

It's ironic. Today I was feeling extremely proud of myself because I took out the garbage and cleaned my bathroom. When I'm depressed, even mildly, it's very difficult for me to take care of my apartment. Bills and other mail accumulate, dirty dishes pile up in the sink, the recyclables don't make it to the curb, vacuuming is a distant memory. So when I actually do clean, it's a real accomplishment. It's not a chore -- it's overcoming the illness.

Before my doctor's appointment, I had a ton of reading to wade through. When I needed a break, I decided to clean the bathroom instead of logging onto the internet or watching TV. So I cleaned, and I felt so proud of myself. Then the bad news from the doctor shot that all to hell.

I have to remember what one of my therapists told me. He wasn't a fan of touchy-feely therapeutic terms, but he said that for me, every day is a victory. Every day that I get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, and do what I have to do -- school, work, synagogue, homework -- is a day that I didn't spend paralyzed in bed, sleeping or watching television, ignoring phone calls and e-mails. Every day that I accomplish what to most people is mere routine is more than routine for me. It's a victory; a victory over my illness. And today is a greater victory than usual, because choosing not to die is a difficult choice right now.

Today it's really hard to feel victorious. But the tranquilizer is kicking in. I've got plenty more reading to get through, and hopefully having to concentrate very hard -- psychology textbooks and journal articles are pretty dense reading -- will distract me from the thought that I'm badly hurt, I might need disfiguring surgery, and it's going to be even longer before I can really try to lose the weight I need to lose so I can be attractive again.

It's funny -- I was worried that this blog would degenerate into a bunch of gripes about my sad, lonely singledom, and that it would lose its unique educational value by not exploring my illness fully enough. Now I'm not so worried. I know it's not normal to want to kill yourself because your doctor says you probably need surgery. I also know that not acting on that impulse is a victory.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Oy...I feel for you. Some days (okay, for some of us, most days) it just feels like life will never stop giving us a raw deal. Personally, I've never acted on any of my thoughts of suicide, but sometimes it's taken a tremendous amount of willpower not to.

    Chizki v'imtzi, and please keep us updated.

  2. your old high school pal9/13/2006 12:40 PM

    A book that I have found helpful is "It's All a Gift" by Miriam Adahan. Mental exercise is more important than physical exercise in determining your attractiveness!

  3. I agree with high school pal - you can't say things about "being attractive again" without implying that you're no longer attractive. And that's simply not the case. It's easy for a 'neurotypical' to say "buck up! Have a positive attitude! Do some self-affirmations in the mirror!" But I think it may have some value to just reinforce to yourself, verbally, that you're a valuable and vibrant person. Of course, then people will think you're all strange, talking to yourself. So never mind.