Monthly Archives: June 2013

Awkward Party Moments

I’ve been to a couple of parties over the last two weeks. And one of the most common conversation openers that people use is “So what have you been up to lately?”

Well, I’ve been rather depressed and hiding myself away and not going out for months. But saying that just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. It fell out of my mouth once last week, and I was lucky that the girl I said it to was lovely and understanding and didn’t look at me strangely and move away quickly.

I can lie a little and talk about my trip to Europe over the summer. That was only five or six months ago, that’s recent, right? And it’s a pretty decent topic of conversation. 

I can just talk about the last week, polishing off exams. That’s pretty safe. I think. I sometimes feel like being a student at 26 is a bit shameful – most people are well shot of university by now. But if they don’t know how old I am, maybe it’s ok.

I can talk about the storm last week, we lost power and had some trees come down 20m from our house. That’s kind of exciting – except everyone around lived through the same storm, so it stops being interesting.

Maybe I should just smile and say “Oh, not much, what about you?”. That’s safe. Can’t go wrong there, right? I guess that works. It seems a bit bland, and it erases my reality, but it’s safe.

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Exams Are Over

All finished, and I never have to go back to that church again. Which is a bit of a relief.

I’m pretty proud of how well I coped, despite my brain wanting to overload and explode. I still wrote two pretty decent exams, and I’m pretty sure they’re good enough for a decent pass.

Now I’m going to go collapse. Dealing with mental meltdown as well as exam stress is exhausting.

PTSD and Exams

I had my first exam today. It was in a subject that I was completely comfortable with, I knew the stuff inside out, and I write good exams even at the worst of times. Well, today was the worst of times.

I’m taking my papers extramurally, which means that I study at home. It also means that my exams are not at my home university, but at the site closest to me. It happens to be just a few minutes drive from where I live. It’s a church building, relatively new, very airy, warm and comfortable.

It is the home of the church my family attended during my adolescence. The place my abuser used to go and show everyone our perfect family and her personal wonderful relationship with god.

Many people in that church, including some of the pastoral team, knew about the abuse. There were even a couple of incidents of assault during church services. So these people knew what was happening to us, and they let it happen.

Sunday church services were always difficult for me. I had to pretend that all was well in the world, and be a good little Christian girl, otherwise there would be trouble when I got home. So I pretended with every ounce of my energy, and I was pretty good at it. But it was hard.

Church was her place to show off how holy she was, how close she was to god. She would sing in the worship team. When she wasn’t on the singing roster, she would dance at the back of the church with flags, while singing in tongues. If people came up the front for prayer she would be there, praying in tongues. Even if she believed it all, it felt like a hell of a performance for a woman who would have been screaming at us in the moments before leaving for church.

Sitting in the church, it all came rushing back. Not just the stuff associated with the church, but waves of memories of all sorts. They crashed over me and I struggled to hold back tears and terror. That was her place, the place she ‘belonged’, and those ties tugged at the corners of my mind.

I tried to block it out and concentrate on my exam. I succeeded to an extent, but every time I finished a train of thought, the memories would come back and try to take me away. I ended up writing a decent exam, I think, but it could have been so much better.

I have to go back there tomorrow. It’s too late to change my exam venue to somewhere else. I really didn’t think it would be a problem, but it turns out that it really is. My exams next semester will have to be in the city, but it’s only twenty minutes drive. It’s worth it to hold on to my sanity.

Rebound

It’s been a busy and stressful weekend. Lots going on, study to be done for two exams early next week, and a couple of unforeseen disasters.

I also went out on Saturday night, and had a really good time, completely sober.

So there are plenty of reasons why my mood might have crashed today. But I feel like it’s my fault for going out. Nothing else was really under my control, and I can let that go, at least in my conscious mind. I don’t know why, but in my mind, it’s the night out that caused the sudden mood crash.

I guess the only thing I can do is sleep on it and try again tomorrow.

First Tentative Steps

I’m going out tonight. It will be the first social event of any kind in the last couple of months, and the first party since last August (I think). It’s been a very long time.

I’m nervous, excited, scared. It’s not a big deal, a friend’s birthday, but to me it’s taken on some fairly hefty significance. Firsts after a period of depression feel pretty big for me.

I’m choosing not to drink, primarily because I live in a location not served by public transport, so I will be driving, and those two never mix. Not ever. I’ve been sober at most of the parties I’ve been to over the last year or so, because I drive. It changes the feel of it though. The social lubricant sometimes helps with the nervousness I feel in groups of people.

This is both a small thing, and a Very Big Deal. I hope it goes smoothly.

Feelings of Failure

I’m currently a university student. I started late, in my early twenties, due to having children early and never finishing high school. I did a diploma in health sciences in my first year, with the aim of going into a midwifery degree, but my university cancelled the degree programme that year. I had to reassess, and start over.

I then started on a degree in English, with the aim of going to teachers’ college. I rapidly learned that I hated university English, but that I was utterly in love with Classical Studies. Well, classical studies is still a high school subject. So I dove into that with a passion, and the plan remained unchanged.

Things happened. Stresses built. Mental illness intervened. And now I find myself at age twenty-six with another three semesters of part-time university work in order to complete my undergraduate degree. It’s taken me longer than most, but I’ll get there. I’m bright enough and hardworking enough to complete an honours year, and I’d really like to do that.

After that though, it gets a bit fuzzy. I’m really not sure if I can go into teachers’ college unless I’ve been stable for several years, and even then it’s questionable. It’s a job that doesn’t take kindly to needing time off because your sanity is crumbling, and it’s a very high-stress environment. I don’t know if I can pull it off.

I feel like all this, all the work that I’ve done, has taken a large portion of my third decade. What will I have to show for that? What job prospects will I have? I may be doing very well in my studies, but I feel like in terms of the real world, I’m doing nothing useful.

I should feel proud of what I’m achieving. Instead I feel like I’m failing at the real business of life. I don’t even know what that business is, what I should be achieving instead, but I still feel a pervasive sense of failure.

Isolation

One of my least favourite things about depression is the sense of isolation it brings, especially as I am coming out of it.

When depression really kicks in, I tend to stop going out, stop doing anything with other people, and generally retreat into myself. Things going on outside my depression-limited world fade out of my consciousness, because they’re too much to deal with in the state that I’m in. The outside world stops mattering. Invitations are declined, social events avoided, and people withdrawn from.

The outside world doesn’t wait for me to start feeling better though. And the results of the depressive episode can be pretty painful. Many people don’t have much of an understanding of what depression can mean, and so they take the period of isolation as a tacit rejection, and pull away from me. Not going to social events means that I don’t get invited to them much any more. People move on with their lives, and I’m left behind.

It all makes coming out of an episode a lot harder, because I have to re-found friendships, rejoin social circles, and generally do a lot of hard work to get back to where I was in terms of interpersonal relationships. Some will just pick up where they left off. Others will have drifted so far away that I can never get them back. And most are somewhere in between.

It makes the climb out of depression that wee bit more rocky, and what makes it harder is that I feel like I’ve brought it on myself. If only I hadn’t been depressed, if only I hadn’t gone into hiding, then this would never have happened. But I can’t control those things. All I can do is slowly start reaching out to the world again.