Well, it seems that I’ve arrived at the end of June without a significant depressive episode – a rarity for me. I don’t know why June is always a tough month for me, but the data tracks.
A few days ago, I wasn’t sure I’d be standing in this moment today on June 30. I was getting quite distraught because my decision to put my remaining energy into helping a teen Black trans kid and their family meant I had nothing to offer the injured cat in a nearby neighborhood. I put the child before the cat.
I’m comfortable with the priority. But a series of unfortunate events of people’s good intentions making the cat situation worse wore me down and I started to feel some tough things. Guilt. Shame. Fear. Anxiety. And the creeping tendrils of abject despair and sadness that are too familiar to discount.
I decided to notify 911, 311 about the cat, hoping someone would do the merciful thing. I sent a message the Animal Law Enforcement unit of the Pittsburgh Police. I had already arranged for a rescue, a trap, and vet expenses. I did everything I could to help this cat and yet – there was no one who could step in to trap it and the nearby caretakers were content to let “nature take its course.”
I crawled into bed and sobbed. I’ve never seen or hear the cat, I have no idea what it looks like, but my imagination took over and I felt bereft of any decency.
That’s how trauma warps us. And in my case, that is how being groomed throughout my childhood by a sexual predator warped me, even though he is long dead. Warped is harsh, but these are harsh thoughts. Damaged. Broken. Reduced.
My wife left me to rest for a bit. What I didn’t know is that she walked down to where the cat was reported, took photos, talked to neighbors, and sent all the data into the Animal Law Enforcement unit. She came home, crawled into bed with me, and told me she had seen the cat and it was not as I imagined. She whispered that I had done more than most people would and that I had to ease up on myself or I wouldn’t be able to help the next cat or human or certainly not myself.
A few minutes later, my phone pinged. A neighbor’s cat had gone missing from a few streets over and begun showing up at my #FortFaulsey feeding station. He seemed to be okay so trapping him had to wait while I was juggling other things. The owner texted me that same Monday night to tell me that he had come home on his own and was fine. He got a clean bill of health and settled back into his old routine, only more affectionate with his human.
So I used my tools. I got up rather than give in to sleep. I ate something, drank some water, watched something mindless to distract my conscious brain, and used some mental exercises to push back against the trauma response.
So I woke up Tuesday and I was not on the verge of depression. I was functional and got shit done. I do not know yet what happened with the cat. But I have to be okay with trying. I cannot put myself last all of the time. There are plenty of people who do that for me as it is.
This has been a brutal June. You know the political/legal landscape. My psychiatrist died. I noticed subtext about a child in my extended family who may be struggling from the things we don’t talk about. I did a very big socially anxious thing. My personal funds are low so I have to pull back on some of my coping mechanisms that cost $$. My sweet baby fosters were adopted which is good, but leaves me feeling lonely because we were tight. The weather swings are ridiculous for anyone with allergies, asthma, or just lungs. I still miss my dogs a lot. I miss my mom. I have two half-aunts, one of either side of my family who DNA reunited with me. Sort of.
My gastro symptoms are acting up. I had an appointment with a specialist on Monday, but the cat stuff led to a severe panic attack and I couldn’t go. I rescheduled – for late September – and know I will regret. But I was in no shape to drive much less present myself as a dutiful and compliant patient to a new doctor. My panic attack led to vomiting and a fever so maybe I was physically sick first? I was terrified from the traumas I experienced at AHN this winter and knowing I had lost the biggest tool in my ally kit – my psychiatrist. Doctors would listen to her and will not listen to my therapist. She listened to my therapist. And now she has died and I was facing this down alone. I am grieving.
But I’m here on June 30. My meds and therapies and supports worked. I made it through the month. The tendrils of anxiety and dread have receded for the time being to my own upside down place.
Most importantly, I believe, is that I talked about it. I looked this pattern straight in the eye and said “not this year.” I talked about it on this blog, with my treatment team, and with my wife. I said out loud the things we are taught to keep hidden in our hearts. Sheer force of will didn’t beat back depression. Sheer force of will accepted and used the tools, all of them including the medication, that managed the depression.
July looks promising. The public pools are open. We have a modest vacation planned. It will be our 19th anniversary. The ice cream maker works. I see my therapist twice a week and I have a psychiatric nurse managing my meds while they hire a new doctor. Boundaries to protect myself are firmly in place. I found my muumuus and my weight loss means every pair of shorts I’ve ever had fit to some extent so I don’t have to spend money on shorts.
I did forget to return some packages to Amazon and lost out on those refunds so that sucks. See, there I go again drifting into “what I screwed up” thinking.
I’m sure I’ve had decent Junes before, but trauma never let me see them clearly. Now it’s in my official record.
Depression and associated risks of suicide are very real threats for folx like me living with bipolar disorder. As the main unresolved illness in treated BD, bipolar depression is associated with excess morbidity as well as mortality from co-occurring general-medical disorders and very high suicide risk. Suicide risk in BD exceeds general-population rates by 20-fold and is strongly associated with depressive phases, especially with mixed or psychotic features.
Don’t ignore your risks. You can find supports. If you love someone with bipolar disorder, don’t downplay depression. You can both find and offer supports.
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