Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Am I Forever Broken?

"How can you go so many years and not know you liked something so much?

My sister said those words to me yesterday when I was expressing how much joy I was getting out of conceptualizing, planning and painting the five paintings I have on the go right now and the others I have completed.

A comment Dr. Shock made on one of my past posts, about wanting to see my other art work, stimulated me to pull together and photograph an array of some of my early drawings from when I was learning to draw. I see so much progress and the switch into painting has increased my desire to create art tenfold.

How could I never have known I wanted to draw or paint? In university it was the pursuit of knowledge and that which was intellectually challenging that brought happiness and excitement into my life. I graduated with two degrees, one in Philosophy and one in English literature. My last 3 years of university were the best years of my adult life. To do well in both of those majors you had to love to read and write. I loved both. I never foresaw that it was the creative process, and not necessarily the intellectual process I may have been pursuing.

I am struggling now with how my love for art can fit into the life I want for myself. You may, or may not know I am on disability for my Major Depressve Disorder (MDD), and have been since early 2003. I really hate that I am on disability. It may be my Dad's voice that I have internalized, but I feel it is a societal voice as well. I feel I am not contributing, that I am using up precious resources, that I am a bad person for being unable to work.

I know that while I am having some good days my mood is extremely labile, and my anxiety is still not under control. For the past month or so I have felt better than I usually feel, but I am far from well. I also understand that the progress I have made is precarious and could topple with the slightest amount of pressure.

My pdoc has explained this to me, and even took the time to write me a note outlining why I am unable to work right now; a note I can read, and reread when I am feeling like I am today, when I feel guilty and unsure that I am doing the right thing. I have reread it today, but it is difficult for me to accept its contents.

What if I can never work? How am I going to deal with my negative self image for not working? Dr. X. keeps telling me I am working. He means all the work I am doing to try to become well, but also the volunteer work I am doing. I get that he is trying to make me see that work has many definitions; that work is not simply working for an organization for a twice monthly pay cheque. I get it, and I get that others need to step back from work to take care of themselves. I just cannot accept that for me. I define myself by what I do; by what I work at. I always have.

I want so badly to work again, but I know I cannot manage that yet. I can barely manage what I am doing right now: volunteering two half days a week. I feel exhausted after doing those things.

Also, I am not certain if anyone else is like this, but I am a "one thing a day" person right now. I can paint, or I can volunteer, or I can visit with someone, but I can't do them on the same day, and if I do those things I cannot manage to cook dinner or clean the house, or keep up with my domestic duties, actually even if I don't do those things I cannot manage the domestic stuff.

Will I ever get my life back? By that I mean will I ever be able to work a full time job, keep the house clean, go grocery shopping, mow the lawn, tend to the garden, help my husband on the farm, have a social life, have dinner parties every few weeks, and do continue working on and developing my art work? Will I ever be my old self?

Will I ever get my life back, or am I forever relegated to the sidelines; surviving and struggling so hard just to manage to complete, or sometimes just start, one thing a day?

Will I ever get my life back, or do I have to accept a new way of being. Has being this depressed for so long, and so often, destroyed my fortitude, my drive and my abilities? Has my depression and anxiety toppled the old me forever? I want to know what it is I am supposed to do. What is expected of me? What should I expect from myself? What does society expect of me? Does Dr. X. know what I can expect from my future? Does anyone else know?

I do know that I have an intense desire to paint and create. That is good, I have no formal training in art, I'm 43 I am certain I could not manage the stress of things like exams and essays.; the exams especially. I have too many problems with my memory and cognitive abilities. I feel so lost and so scared I will be stuck either on disability, or at a low paid, disatisfying job for the rest of my life. If the latter I know what will happen. I will spend all my time and energy trying to be the best low paid employee at "whatever company" , and all the things that bring joy to my life will be left undone and I will once again fall into severe depression and then I will be on disability at an even lower rate than I receive now.

I am stuck in a no win situation.


Michelle said...

Your posts are so amazingly insightful. You write that " I do know that I have an intense desire to paint and create" Look at how amazing it is to have an intense desire for this. To desire something so intensely is living. Our society is so one dimensional that it is a wonder that anyone feels they have succeeded at all. To live is to participate in life and you do that on a scale you are comfortable and with terms that work for you. I think that in itself is a very large accomplishment.

I have anxiety and despression to my own extent and some physical illnesses (for lack of a better word) and I can all too relate to the feeling of feeling "broken". But since when does being different = being broken? This is a question I ask myself daily. I am not sure I have the answer but it is something I ponder.

Thanks for sharing so much of your journey.

No Ordinary Mom said...

thank you for sharing this. i can always relate to what you write. i wonder too if i can ever work again.

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

I feel the same way. I find it especially hard not working because there is a such a stigma placed on men to work. To bet the sole "bread winner." People look at me disapprovingly when they find out that my wife brings in the majority of our money.

You're so right that we are stuck in a no win situation. Our society places no value on anything but perfection. I too am a "one thing a day" person too. I'm just too exhausted mentally to do anything else. Not to mention the meds robbing any motivation that I might have had before my illness taking over my brain.

I don't even have enough motivation to do the things that I love dearly like painting. Thankfully I am still able to write as that is such a release for me.

I too worry that the rest of my life will be like this and so many people don't understand just how crippling a mental disease can be.

Keep up the painting, I know how much it helps you. I wish I had some words of wisdom but I'm down in this same hole too right now. At least we're not alone in feeling this crap.

Aqua said...

Thanks for the comments.

I guess I want to do more than live. I want to contribute, and in a meaningful way. I want to leave this world knowing I have done something and working and being off disability and taking care of myself seems to be what my brain means when it thinks "contribution". I feel guilty for being on disability income.

kara said...


"Am I Forever Broken?" sound exactly like the words I asked God two days ago, except they were: "Are You ever going to raise me up from this grave?"

When I read your post, I felt so much of it could have been mine. I am not saying this to be selfish and draw attention to me. I tell you this because I empathize with you and in that empathy, carry a piece of you with me. I understand your questions. I ask them. I know the "one thing a day" life...and sometimes don't even know where to go with it: accept it or fight it.

You trust your pdoc. Maybe trying to work on these questions and your feelings in light of that trust could be a freeing or healing thing. I trust my pdoc and fight some of my battles by resigning my struggles to his wisdom if nothing else.

I'd like to include you in my prayers, if that's okay with you...Kara

Aqua said...

Hi Kara,
Thanks for the comment. I would never think you saying you felt like me was selfish. I often feel I connect with others struggles and when others connect with mine I feel sad the other is struggling like me, but better that I am not alone in my struggles. Someone else understands.

Please do include me in your prayers. When I wrote my post on spirituality I in no way intended for anyone to think I think less of their belief systems because they cannot be proven. Quite the opposite. I respect and marvel that people have such faith and feel good that it helps them.