Yes, that’s right, I Suffer From Depression. I’ve written this post many times in my head, but when it comes to sitting down at the keyboard, all the great lines don’t translate from my brain to my fingertips. What I’m afraid will happen usually does. My thoughts come out in random, disconnected words and run on sentences. But, I guess that is the depression.
I also suffer from Anxiety, mostly in social situations like attending activities where I don’t know many people, family gatherings, or being places with Wendell (who is Autistic) where people don’t understand him. I have some Obsessive Compulsive tendencies, but I wouldn’t say I have full blown OCD. I suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder and as I age, sensory issues bother me more. And, I am the great procrastinator. I see these things all connected, feeding off each other, intertwined with my life, making me the person I am, affecting and effecting my decisions, my daily life.
These aren’t excuses or explanations, because I’m willing to bet most people who know me or are acquainted with me have no idea I have so much inner turmoil. I’m pretty good at faking normalcy, I’ve had years of practice.
With my anxiety, I have forced myself to step out of my comfort zone in many (but certainly not all) social situations. Sometimes, just showing up for a seminar is the best I can do. I sit in the front row, whereas most folks tend toward the middle or the back. This puts most of the crowd at my back so I don’t have to socialize with anyone. I stress about small talk, because with strangers, I really don’t care to hear about the weather, if your car broke down, and I especially don’t want to sit and talk with you if you are sick. But I make small talk anyway, smile like I care, and ask appropriate social questions, and direct my attention back to the speaker as quickly and politely as possible. I’m also very good at looking busy with a book or excusing myself to dart off to the nearest restroom.
Anxiety at family gatherings is tough. Here, the problem isn’t that I don’t want to socialize with family. The problem is how Wendell is treated and how he behaves with others. He has a set of rules, like slides are to go down, ladders are to go up. If he sees another child not following the rules, it upsets him. He will often grab the offending child, with no malice, only with the intention of preventing the child from getting in trouble or hurting himself. The child does not understand the intent of the grab, screams or struggles, at which point, the grab intensifies. Wendell likely has one finger in his ear and one hand on the kid, and I’m trying to intervene and calm Wendell enough that he will let go of the other kid. This happens a few dozen times, and his cousins don’t want to play with him. So Wendell is left sitting with adults and watching the kids play. If he sees one of them about to get in trouble or get hurt, he grabs the closest adult since he is no longer in the mix with the kids. I’m back to intervening and trying to calm him before anyone gets hurt. Needless to say, we don’t attend and don’t get invited to family gatherings very often anymore. And I have anxiety over that.
While I do worry about how Wendell will react to similar situations on shopping excursions, I am never embarrassed by his actions or attire. When it’s time for shopping, Wendell’s favorite activity next to watching Sid the Science Kid, he dons his rainbow clown wig, flaps his arms, does his shuffle dance and off we go. Most people smile, occasionally kids point and stare, but Wendell is oblivious, in his own happy place, and that makes me happy too.
Usually, good things happen when I step out of my comfort zone and fight back the anxiety monster. That isn’t to say the anxiety isn’t present, at times I just work extra diligently to keep it at bay. I met two of my favorite people by acting out of character; my friend Janine and my husband DJ.
Janine’s daughter started school at Wendell’s Early Intervention class about 9 months after Wendell. I don’t know what possessed me, but one day I introduced myself and asked if she would like to meet for coffee one day after we dropped off the kids. We found we had much more in common than just our special needs kids, and a great friendship ensued. Although Wendell and I moved to Pennsylvania, Janine and I still keep in touch, even if it isn’t as much as either of us would like.
After another “I don’t know what possessed me” moment, I decided that 3 years living in Pennsylvania and not having dated anyone since I divorced Wendell’s dad 4 years previously was long enough so I signed up for Match.com. I figured it would be easier for a socially anxious, shy person to weed out incompatible suitors. Within 3 days, I was chatting with DJ, and within 9 days, we had our first date…lunch. It went well, and the rest is history as they say. We were married last year on the 4th anniversary of our first date. I’ll save the full story for another post.
My sensory issues are not that different than most people. I can not stand itchy tags in any of my clothes. Who sews in tags with nylon thread anyway? And sometimes just the location of a seam in a garment is enough to force a change of clothes. Too tight? I’m more comfortable with pants that are practically falling off than ones too tight. I have long hair, it falls out, a lot. Whenever I put on a coat, there are always hairs pushed through the sleeves that I pull out from between my fingers…Always. I can feel a hair inside my shirt on my back, between my breasts, in my socks between my toes. I am the princess in The Princess and the Pea.
I also wash my hands frequently. When I make a sandwich, I wash my hands obviously before, then again after putting on the lunch meat, then again after the mayo, because I always get a little on my fingers. Then when I eat the sandwich, I wipe my fingers on my napkin after every bite. Same with chips, after every bite. Blow my nose, wash my hands. Sneeze, wash my hands. Feed Wendell, wash my hands. I think sensory issues can contribute or lead to OCD.
OCD, or rather obsessive compulsive tendencies, is probably what was once considered anal. Yes, I like things to be a certain way, I have certain rituals and “rules” about things. But when it comes to comparing a disorder with a tendency, I am nowhere near as debilitated by my obsessions as some people can be. My dad did have OCD, so I come by it naturally. I recognize in myself many of the same issues that affected him, and just like my anxiety, I fight to keep them in check. It isn’t easy. I can see how combining anxiety and OCD could lead to a spiraling descent into misery for many people, and how it could lead to depression.
Who knows which condition precipitates what. For me, I know I always was a little shy, did my anxiety originate there? Were the roots of OCD planted by having a military father with a sense that everything has a certain order and rigidness? Did the depression stem from the realization that there are too many things out of ones control and a sense of helplessness that order could not be forced? That society rules require a certain set of social skills which in turn are required for one to be successful? It’s no wonder so many of us suffer these maladies.
I try so very hard not to fall victim to my own anxieties and obsessions. Some days are easier than others. I am good at procrastinating, or using the excuse of procrastinating when I am overwhelmed. Some days, I get by with doing the absolute minimum, get out of bed, take care of Wendell, eat, clean up after myself, take a nap. Other days are very productive, and I try to motivate myself on less than productive days by reminding myself all I can accomplish when I put my mind to the task.
For now, I am content with the knowledge that I have problems and I know what they are. This knowledge helps me fight on days when I have the energy, accept that sometimes, I just can’t do it all, or I just can’t do anything. Getting back into my blog after a long hiatus is one way I am trying to combat some of my depression and anxiety. It was why I originally wanted to write the blog in order to put down my thoughts and feelings so they wouldn’t race through my head all the time. So that all being said, after I work the laundry a little, I’m going to take a nap.