Monday, September 20, 2010

Feeling a Little Bit Sad

I'm not exactly sure why, but I've been feeling a bit sad now and then lately.  Nothing in particular causes it - in fact, things have been going fairly well, for the most part.  But sometimes my feelings slosh around freely - up and then down, down and then up - without any real rhyme or reason.  But I know if I get up and make myself busy, if I engage my mind in things I want to get done, my mood will lift.

There was a time in my life when I couldn't depend on such things to bring my spirits up.  Though I wasn't diagnosed, I really believe that I suffered from depression as a child and then later, in early adolescence, as well.  I also suspect that the depression that set in was related to my then undiagnosed OCD.  At that time, I didn't have a name for the fears that swam around in my head, the irrational worries that made me feel sick to my stomach and very, very alone.  It was only when I felt like I just couldn't go on anymore that I would finally break down and admit to my mom some of the things in that were happening in my head.

Whenever these break-downs occurred, I experienced so much embarrassment, so much shame.  I hated having to tell even my own parents about my fears, and in fact, I usually only confessed such things to my mom, though I'm sure as much as I disliked the idea, she probably shared some of it with my dad.  I hated compromising my independence.  I hated having to give in and finally let them in on what was going on in my inner world.  I can't really explain why, but it just felt awful.  Maybe it was because I thought they might see or treat me differently - they might coddle me, they might look at me like I wasn't alright, they might ask "How are you feeling?" with an air of weighty significance and looks of concern.  Of course, none of these things are crimes in any way, shape, or form.  And I knew even then that my mom and dad were just being loving, caring parents, but I still hated it, and it was only when the agony of holding it all in eclipsed the agony of letting it out that I would finally confess that something was wrong.  And I have to admit, it did feel good to tell someone.  I just sometimes wished it didn't have to be them that I told.

On top of that, I often felt a lot of guilt, too - guilt for excluding my father from much of this.  There were times when I would have these cathartic heart-to-hearts with my mom, and I think after an hour or two my dad would realize something was up, but as soon as he entered the room, I no longer wanted to talk.  I just really, really wanted him to leave.  And I hated myself for feeling that way.  I wondered if he felt excluded, and that saddened me.  I didn't want him to feel left out, and I wanted to include him, and yet, as soon as he came into earshot of our "private" conversation, I felt the strong desire to make the discussion more vague or to steer it from the topic of my fears completely.  I wanted to immediately act like nothing was wrong, to deny, deny, deny that anything was up if he asked.  I just wanted so desperately to pretend that my mom and I were chatting casually, nothing more.  It felt terrible to share with him but it also felt terrible to leave him out. 

I suppose it was hard enough admitting my inner worries to one person.  Having my dad enter in the middle or near the end of the conversation, when I was already starting to feel better, made it even more difficult.  Once I felt the relief of having admitted all my struggles and fears to my mom, I kind of wished I could take it all back - that I could have obtained the same sort of relief without having revealed all my inner secrets.  As soon as I felt better, I no longer felt a need to share with anyone else.  In my mind, it would have been better if, once I let it out, we just all pretended that nothing had happened.  That everything was "normal."  The fewer people who had to know, the better.

I think my mom sensed my hesitation to share these things with my dad, too.  I'm pretty sure I sometimes even asked her not to tell my father despite the fact that I felt horrible for doing so.  Not only did it seem unfair and selfish to demand my mother bear the burden of my mental struggles alone, it again seemed wrong to exclude my father.  I always wondered if my preference for sharing my thoughts and feelings with mom bothered my dad - if he really did feel left out or if he just chalked it up to some sort of mother/daughter connection.  I wanted to want to share with him, but somehow it was almost always easier to overcome the lump in my throat and put my struggles into words when I was with my mother.  I was just more comfortable and less self-conscious when I was around her.

I remember receiving this doll as a gift
during one holiday season that was part of a
particularly rough time for me.  Most of the
"emotional contamination" that I once attached to
certain objects has long faded, but there was
a time when I would avoid certain toys/places
that were associated with previous
periods of depression/OCD flare-ups, fearing
that prolonged exposure to them would
somehow suck me back in.
Even writing this now I start to feel bad, perhaps because it makes how I felt and acted back then seem even more real, more tangible, more true.  But putting into writing my memory of those times doesn't change what occurred - it doesn't make it somehow worse.  I guess it just brings back memories of moments that were certainly not easy nor pleasant.

Sometime I want to write more about my struggles with OCD when I was younger, but I'll save that for another time.  I suppose the point of putting this all into words was just to reflect on how hard it was to deal with my OCD when I was a kid, how much more embarrassed, ashamed, and self-conscious of my problems I was then, and the depression that those feelings caused.  I am so grateful that I no longer feel the same sort of stigma surrounding my mental health issues as I did back then.  Don't get me wrong - it's still something I prefer not to share with the world, but it no longer leaves me feeling so isolated, so alone, so different.  It no longer does the same number on my self-esteem that it did back then.  And for that I am so grateful.  My most recent descent into full-blown OCD has certainly been the most disruptive and debilitating episode overall, but sometimes I still look back and think that I experienced some of the most acutely and emotionally painful flare-ups when I was a kid - when to the outside world it probably seemed as though nothing was wrong.

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