*Out here addressing the pseudoscientists in these streets.I can’t keep stopping mid conversation to explain myself yo!
When you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, certain buzz words and phrases are not only annoying but relatively insensitive.
“You have to think positively!”
“Look on the bright side of things!”
“Why are you always negative?”
“I don’t like being around you; you’re no fun.”
“You’re too much in your head.”
“You just want attention.”
I could go on.
It’s not that I don’t want to be happy, cheerful, or even content. I do. It’s just that my neurotransmitters aren’t working okay; dopamine and serotonin. In my case, they are either low or high. Let’s throw in genetics and the environment, and behold, a secret handshake in your brain.
Can things be done to improve and manage this issue? Yes. But that’s not what this blog is about.
Science lesson in session
Let’s look at two hormones/ neurotransmitters mentioned: dopamine and serotonin. Sources are after the article.
Dopamine is integral in the brain’s reward system, which controls motivation, desire, and cravings.
You’re not lazy; you’re just not motivated. You’re not a dark cloud; you literally don’t feel like there’s a point to live. You’re not a hog or trying to starve yourself, fam; your cravings are just out of hand. Oh, and cravings also include taking alcohol or illicit drugs and engaging in behavior that gives you a rush. Snorting cocaine, sex, gambling, shopping too much- list an addiction here.
These addictions come about because one is trying to chase the euphoria, bliss, motivation, and increased concentration that too much dopamine produces.
When your dopamine levels are off-balance, your mood, sleep, learning ability, alertness, movement, blood flow, and yes, even your urine output gets affected.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter, with most of it found in gut cells since it regulates movement in the digestive system.
Other stuff serotonin does is regulate your sleep-wake cycle, emotions and mood, appetite and metabolism, concentration and cognition, hormonal activity, blood clotting, and body temperature.
Commercial break: Award speech
I want to give a shout-out to “my” ulcers, insomnia, erratic moods, lack of appetite, and mental slowness for being a part of my life for this long. We’ve come from far. And let’s not forget you, body temperature, for giving me heat rash in Nairobi weather. Thank you all.
How do the two work together?
Dopamine and serotonin need to create a balance in the body; otherwise, things will go haywire. For example, having low levels of serotonin can cause an overproduction of dopamine for compensation.
In short, if you have too much serotonin, then you have impulsive aggression, aka mania. Too much dopamine? Impulsive reward-seeking behavior and addiction, here we come!
Commercial break: Dark humor at its finest
I’ve lost mass- what are curves?- and I’ve been asked about it.
Them: What diet are you on?
Me: It’s called Depression. It’s working great for my weight loss, though I wouldn’t recommend it.
So, what am I saying?
If you’re not down with this explanation on depression and have theories on it, that’s fine. I’m more than happy to hook you up with the four psychiatrists I’ve seen in the past three years. Then, you can discuss your science with them. Otherwise, I am tired of having to stop and educate people.
Read, damn it!
I’ve written this to act as a resource and a blog post I can link to.
Otherwise, cheers, and as always, thanks for stopping by.
I am knee-deep in the Tales of Arcadia when a thought hit me.
“This man tried to reduce my essence into a housewife.”
Please, from now on, call me by my nicknames: Mandy or Mai Li. Here’s the reality. My essence will not be reduced to flings, side things, failed relationships, blatantly denied opportunities, being misunderstood, or any other state that is my life is. Nah.
What I thought was a marriage did crumble, and after six months of a back and forth going like, “You can donate them, set them on fire, or bring them- you know where I live,” his best friend dropped everything I had in that house at my folks, minus the hangers I took there with me. I don’t feel like going shopping if “giving everything back” is a thing. Firstly, and lastly, it is embarrassing how many clothes I have in general. For six months, I didn’t need jack from his house (I use “his” because he made that clear severally during the “marriage”). In shame, I gave away more than half and a quarter of what I already had for the same duration and before as well.
Yes, I went shopping after the “marriage” ended.
Yes, she bourgie.
And she has parents who make her look so, never mind that her bank balance is just in the negatives (ghostwriter for hire!!!!). But you know, we have to keep face; can’t have your daughter going for her items. Defeats the purpose of being rescued from a violent “spouse” at 2 am during a curfew by your folks.
Mandy is petty and not taking any hostages.
Something about your narcissistic – slapping you to the ground for calling out his bullshit changes your life.
But don’t mind me, Mandy is goooooooooooooooood.
That aside, to my sisters, that thing about marrying your father is entirely accurate if you’re not careful. After all, I did leave that relationship because this ex of mine thought it was a fantastic idea to put his hands on me because his weak masculinity could not take the truth. But you know, dear mummy and daddy to the rescue! And here are people wondering why some of us are pretty fine being the single rich (or broke) aunties because of the toxic masculinity we have officially refuse to take: that and soiled diapers.
(Background doesn’t matter, but this is a conversation on my podcast for another day).
I’m sorry, where was I?
Multiple choice: How did he want to turn you into a housewife?
1. Calling out BS where I saw it was a no-no.
I don’t care who you are, don’t disrespect me. So, when I feel I am getting that from someone on your side of the family, it will be said. I am not a doormat. I am not those daughters-in-law. Most of all, bipolar is not a personality trait. It is like you calling a diabetic relative a menace to society for something they didn’t ask for. Also, read a book. Just don’t disrespect me.
2. I didn’t cook and ordered takeout.
*pauses to scratch my head* I can support my habits; if you can’t, that is also a you-problem. You were cooking before I came. Nothing about your limbs changed. That whole “When I come back from work, and I am tired, I expect- “bull-crap doesn’t work here. When I wasn’t there, what was happening? Did you starve? And can people not disrespect the rest of us who work from home?
3. “You don’t respect my parents-”
and other tales for basically everything not related to how you’re bringing unnecessary baggage into this relationship. See a therapist for crying out loud. Or READ A BOOK!!! Your issues with your family are not mine; deal with it? What is this sour mood you’re bringing to our “sacred sanctuary”? Talking shit about a family member, not addressing it, and then pretending y’all are good when you meet? Huh?! Where I come from, we don’t work like that.
Again, call me Mandy because shit is grim, and I stopped giving a fuck.
You can treat a woman like they are “less than” all you want, but if she rises and takes control of what is meant to be her death, don’t be surprised.
And I’ve always had a “problem” with putting my issues out there. I refuse for that one person who can relate to feeling alone to feel “insane”. I am willing to “scorch the earth” for you. We can’t keep repeating the same cycle.
My first line was, “this will be short.” I was lying to myself. You can save this for bedtime, a commute, or a trip to the loo- anywhere you have 5 to 10 minutes.Abundance of memes is thanks to 9GAG.
I’m here because a friend and someone dear to me, during a catch-up session, confessed she used to get panic attacks, especially after her daughter’s birth. I never knew she had, and that’s the problem with silence. How else will you know you’re not alone in the struggle? I lay my soul bare to let you know you’re not alone.
A nice summarybefore you proceed… Since this story time will soon feel like fiction to someone of you…
“What’s this I am feeling?”
I’m acknowledging anyone whose heart races, has difficulty breathing, and deals with nausea often. Panic attacks vary; it can be slight discomfort in your chest or stomach area for “no apparent reason.” It can be full-blown, landing on the floor, taking up the fetal position, struggling to breathe type-of-situation when triggered.
My (depressing) story
I was pretty okay until mid-2017. From there, a series of traumatic events unfolded over a year plus. That’s when I started pacing. I’d walk back and forth for 30 minutes straight, feeling the adrenaline, panic and confusion flooding my body. I had only seen it in movies, so at some point, I thought I had managed to program my mind to “pretend” and manifest anxiety as such.
Through therapy, that phase passed, but by then, anxiety had come to inhabit my body. I could manage it through distractions, but in February of 2020, when it became clear Covid-19 was here to stay, my body went into overdrive. I could be performing a task or talking to someone, and then blank. To explain it, it’s like my mind, soul- something- would exit my body and leave a shell behind. It could be for a few seconds or minutes, but the point is I wasn’t there. Oddly, it felt like I was watching the world through my eyes, but not quite. It’s the same way you would use binoculars or some aid. I can’t explain it beyond that.
April came around, and anxiety was one with me. It sat right next to the depression. Cozied up, started beating stories and just became instant friends. Yo. I would sleep with it and “wake up” with it. It’s in quotes because how can you sleep when stadium lights are turned on in your mind, your chest is tight, your breathing is shallow, and you’re feeling queasy. The havoc wasn’t over.
Side note: My partner had to shake me awake from nightmares constantly. What was the signal? Trashing about and “Hm! Hm!” as I struggled to wake up. This is probably the part I hate the most about this whole thing.
If my partner turned and his body got into contact with mine when we’re sleeping, I would legit be startled. That was almost every hour- I don’t know what he had for my side of the bed. And don’t aw, though it’s cute. I’d wake up with mild panic and remind myself I am not in danger. A dog barking, a car hooting, the neighbor upstairs dropping something, which was all the time, a call, a text message- I would go into panic. It’s the same fright you’d experience when a car unexpectedly backfires, only that you feel that intensity every time. You can only see it in my eyes or from my jumping, but otherwise, how do you explain it to people who aren’t entirely sure how it could be an every moment thing?
Nuggets of wisdom: I was seeking a second opinion, and when talking, the psychiatrist brought up a topic that triggered me. She saw that panic attack I was talking about and told me to breathe. So one, breathe deeply, counting from 1 to 10. Secondly, she told me I have to remind myself I am not in physical danger. All that adrenaline doesn’t need to be in my body unless there is a legitimate cause.
The only time anxiety dulls is when taking a drink. Since being an alcoholic is very easy, I opt to sit with the feeling. It sucks because you can feel it in your entire being, and if and when it passes, you are left so exhausted that all you want to do is sleep. The problem is you have to spend a few sleepless nights before your body goes into forced shutdown, and you wake up 10-12 hours later.
And with all that hypervigilance, you want me to take a matatu? It took me a full 10 months to do so.
What is a social life?
I have typically been a loner; forcing a social life left me fatigued, broke, and filled with regret. It was brought to my attention this morning- shout out that 3 am phone calls are no longer considered booty calls because of curfew! LOL! My sleeping patterns, weh. Anyhoo, I got told if I were given a choice, I would live in solitude. It was evident from the fact that I’d literally leave the house at most twice a week, and it was to fetch groceries or if I needed to visit my folks.
I pretty much ghosted everyone and only brought a few remaining friends together for my 30th birthday party. After that, I went back to my default. My phone is mostly on vibrate. For a while, if it buzzed, I’d knew it was either Telkom, Safaricom, promotional messages I really should unsubscribe from, memes from my partner or cousin, and two other friends. Anything else was a wild card.
HOWEVER! As you might know, depression and isolation are a perfect recipe for a mental breakdown, which eventually came. Where there was once laughter, there was just moodiness and a deep dislike for having to do daily things, yes, showers included. Shout out to those who feel me. And before you question my hygiene, a short trip to the kitchen or washroom won’t make anyone break a sweat. Please leave me alone! Lol!
The isolation was so bad that I would glare at the phone if it rang. I wanted my peace.
The problem with ghosting people and then trying to make your way back is you’ll find that they’ve moved on. Nyambura, Ruth, Ricky, Cugu thank you for those outings, albeit they are far between. Oh, and an uncle. I could write a post about how he went all out on stories of “our” generation “being into” anal sex and him creating a theory around it, but let me not traumatize you. And my cousin Camillus for visiting often. A wise and angry man, that one, lol!
So it’s okay, me I understand if you no longer have time for me. I’ll just stalk you in IG and be happy for you. In the meantime, I always have my younger brother, my great drinking buddy, that I can call upon and trade stories about depression and bipolar extensively. Fun times!
Otherwise, a huge pillar has been- you know yourself. Seeing someone daily is a huge help, especially if they do everything in their power to cheer you up, even in the morning. Yes, I still dislike you for that, never mind that it’s your preference. Mschew! No smiles before coffee, please! So, let’s just say solitude has been relative.
Ali (sooo tempted to put your full name), this segment is here because you’ve told me to spark more positivity in people. The store ran out, but I’ll use the little I have left.
Life and everything in it CAN feel like trash.
Now that that’s out of the way… Let me echo some coping mechanisms I use to combat anxiety and depression.
Educate. Your. Self: You feel you’re suffering from anxiety? Read a book about it, find something on YouTube- wherever the source, educate yourself. Knowledge IS power-I kid you not. That’s how I know to spot a mood change. I pause and sit with the feeling. Soon, I can tell what cause the shift and course-correct. Imagine being moody the whole day because you didn’t realize the trigger was seeing a color your ex, twice removed, like. Beloved, take charge oo! Stay woke!
Find your tribe: Have at least one friend who understands you. Just one. They act as your anchor when you feel you’re sinking. They send you words of encouragement, scripture, podcasts, and everything to uplift your soul and spirit. Don’t be in a hurry; my tribe is made up of people I never expected to call close friends. You will find each other, but first, you GOT TO let go of some to make room for them. Take inventory. Just one is enough for a start. And yes, an excellent podcast or therapist count.
Be kind to yourself: This should have been the first point, but I also know it’s the hardest. I will quote a counselor I was seeing: “It took you 28 years to get to where you are; you can’t undo who you’ve become in a day, a few weeks, or months.” Or something like that. Cut yourself all the slack you can, especially when you’re feeling bad about behavior you’re having a hard time breaking. Don’t be complacent, but also don’t side with the demons in your head.
See a doctor: This one is not for everyone because my goodness, they are expensive! This one, you have to save and make sacrifices. If you have insurance or someone willing to pay on your behalf, please go.
That’s how I am managing anxiety and random panic attacks. I hope I’ve helped at least one person. I do have some rubbish days and nights, but I feel better for the most part.
Before you go…
Want to share your experience? Feel free to comment below, and if you have extra energy, email@example.com is how you can reach me, then we can take it from there.
Conclusion: If his emotions mimic constipation, then he’s faking it.
You know that friend you talk abstract things with? Nyambura is that person. Our demons met and we’ve been friends since. We have hour long conversations about healing childhood trauma, the inner child and everything in between. Heck, she’s even gotten me to do a meditation challenge that I haven’t been religious at. In essence, we all need one of these friends in life- that is not an opinion but a fact. But who am I to tell you how to live your life?
Here’s my argument. She recently brought to my attention fake vulnerability and it made me feel some typa way because I have fallen prey to it. I otherwise wouldn’t have known about it if she hadn’t brought it up.
This post might trigger you.
I wrote the above because I found the circumstances hilarious. Said person wasn’t a Facebook friend at the time, but even when I accepted their request, I knew the post would bring problems. Yes, that conversation happened and he KNEW it was about him. He copy-pasted it and brought it right to my WhatsApp, accompanied with 10,000 “what the fucks?” I liked this guy at the time (I am lying here, that was my dysfunction operating) so I did all I could to appease him. I am using “appease” loosely because I stuck by the post.
It looked like a duck, walked like a duck and quacked like a duck, so I called it what it is.
I told the lie of the century and “assured” this boychild I would never post anything about him on social media or my blog.
If you are trying to describe what a duck is, you’d do well to show an actual duck, or a couple of ducks in this case.
Signs he’s is faking vulnerability
There’s ALWAYS a catch
There was this one guy who would ghost me for most of the week. Guess when he’d hit me up? Yes, Saturday at 11:59pm. I was foolish and dickmatized, so I would respond . Mum, dad, I am sorry, but your daughter done messed up a LOT. You’d be happy to know that I have since changed my ways. Shame and judgement aside, the script was the same. I would rant about being ignored all week, he’d apologize with some long emotional commentary about how he’s been going through a lot, and I would forgive him.
In my mind I thought “he just needs love and understanding”, him and all the other fuck boys.
Baby girl, if you’re still telling yourself that, you’re the clown.
That’s the thing about fake vulnerability. There’s always a catch. It’s either to get you into bed or- nope. It is almost always to get you into bed.
2. You make excuses for them
There’s a boychild I dated for a year, and my goodness. Now this one I should have date for at most a month, but you know, I was a ride or until you fuck up my emotional, psychological and mental health kind of chick. Communication is non-negotiable in relationships but he’d ghost me for days at a time.
Do you see a theme ladies?
He’d resurface and talk about how work was intense and proceed to tell me how amazing his female boss is. I’ll let you run away with that thought. The bone he’d through was “I haven’t been confirmed yet” because new job so I’d tell myself his silence is justified. What’s more, he’d told me about growing up poor, and how he’d buy an extra Nivea lotion to affirm to himself that part of his life is over. He might have mentioned something about his inability to say no, going above and beyond his duties, troubles at home… You know, that hustle-out-of-poverty narrative and coming from a dysfunctional-ish family.
Here’s the issue. When we were together, he’d spend a lot of time Twitter. He’d also randomly send bathroom selfies when at work. Clearly he had pockets of time but he wouldn’t call or text. Note, this is a boychild that came to see me when I was in a psychiatric ward. By the way, that shit never came up again. Checking up on your emotional and mental health ni wewe. More on this later.
You’ve read all that and you’re now wondering what’s wrong with me. That’s a post for another day. But baby girl, if you’re defending that misbehaving boychild based on some sob story he told you about himself, there’s a problem.
PS: I spent two of my birthdays with this guy and he did NOTHING for me. No cake, no date, no gift. Zero. Never mind I did that for his ass. My goodness I have wasted my money and time on some problematic characters. Weh! Stay woke ladies.
3. You feel like you’re the problem
This one pretty much sums up all my previous relationship. Apart from one. I’d name him, but his girlfriend hates me. We even have a code word he uses when he can’t text or call back because she’s around. I don’t know what I did to her, but he and I will love each other till the sun stops shining. In a platonic way though. I’ve also moved on since so… I don’t know why that was important to mention. We don’t even talk no more! Sigh.
THAT ASIDE, in every relationship, I felt or was made to feel I was the problem. I was the overly emotional one. I was too demanding. It was my fault things weren’t working out. I was too intense. I was too independent. I didn’t understand them. I was selfish. I was irrational. Basically everything wrong with the relationship was my fault.
I am aware I haven’t been the easiest person to date before, but EVERYTHING being my fault? Get the hell out of here with those lies. How does that painful story you told me when being “vulnerable” justify your mannerless behavior? Fam. Miss me oo! Miss me!
4. They demonize their exs
Baby girl, you know this script.
There’s this boychild that reached out to me after things went south with the wife. Traditional wedding, one child later and another on the way, she left and went back to her folks. This guy had A LOT to say about her including how he feels the relationship ended a long time ago, he was merely there for the sake of it.
Spoiler: they got back together.
So while I was over here being sent love songs and getting told how much I’m loved, things were in the works to restore the relationship. Guess who was looking like the home wrecker? It is fine, I will take that L because I was foolish enough to believe his lies. Lies, current truth, potato potato. Thank goodness that was only a one month ordeal. But that’s the thing girl, he has nothing nice to say about his previous girlfriends. You, being the kind-hearted, caring and sympathetic person you are, you feed off the bullshit. He’s misunderstood and “you get him”.
Weh, these regrets are coming in heavy!
5. They manipulate you
Manipulation is the weapon people who fake vulnerability use. Someone (every magazine ever) told men that women love men who are open about their emotions. We want to know how they feel and what they are thinking.
With that knowledge, a guy will display a bit of emotion to get you to open your heart. From that space, you become trusting and you’re more than happy to give him what he wants. Here’s the painful part. Once he’s gotten whatever it is, he shuts down. That’s the last of his emotions you’ll see. You’ll trying bring it up but he’ll ignore or shut you down. That part you experienced only comes back when he feels he’s losing you or wants something.
It’s basically emotion-on-demand and manipulation is the route because he knows he doesn’t deserve what he’s about to ask for.
If you’re still unsure if he’s faking his sob stories, there’s the mother of all tell-tale signs.
YOUR EMOTIONAL VULNERABILITY IS IGNORED.
Pause for a bit.
Remember that guy who came to see me in a psych ward TWICE and never followed up on what got me there, how the meds were taking me and how I was doing? In hindsight, my therapist saw his bullshit from an eternity away- explains some statements she made LOL! That’s the thing about such guys; you will share the most intimate parts of yourself and get ZERO emotional support in return. The bottom line is you’ll regret ever opening up.
Bonus: morons will make excuses for guys who fake vulnerability
This last one is for gas lighters. Let me Wikipedia the definition for you.
“Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them, cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem.”
So, don’t come at me with the “you read that wrong”, “have you looked at how you might have been the problem?” and “who hurt you?” type of talk. I never claimed to be perfect, I just know when I’ve been emotionally played.
Baby girl, you’re not the problem
Girl, lady, woman. I am talking to your inner child now. You missed all these signs and ended up allowing and tolerating such crap in your life. I am sorry for the pain it caused. I understand how much it hurts, and how bitterness feels like the reasonable and justified route to take. Don’t go down that road. Let your next steps be to heal, and most of all forgive and soak yourself in love. You’re not foolish, you were just unknowingly a player in a rigged game.
I was going through something, and I remember stopping and thinking, “mind your own emotional business.” By the time your mind is dropping intellectual bombs on you randomly, even it’s tired of your bullshit.
So here, I am going to explore the idea further. Hopefully, we will come out of this quarantine with even a tiny improvement in our emotional health.
If you’ve interacted with me during these times of COVID-19 and curfews, you know I am NOT qualified to speak on this from an “I am better than you” standpoint. So, don’t feel free to drop me a message about potential hypocrisy. Between the excessive drinking (WHO called it), questionable life choices, breakdowns, tears, and fights, it hit me I needed to get back to minding my own emotional business and running a tight ship.
Now, your issues don’t look like mine. If anything, you are probably more well put together. Logically, you’d wonder what this mess has to say to you. Well, let’s take a walk, shall we?
I’ve learned A LOT during this journey with mental illness. You don’t have to have it, but there are universal truths we can explore. So here’s the five-step program I’m using to mind my emotional business.
Step 1: Can you address your denial, please?
If you ever think or even say out loud, “you made me feel-” to xyz, please. Stop. Just. Stop. Is the person in your neural pathways sparking off the chemicals producing the adverse reaction you’re having?
(Idon’t know if that’s how it all works, and I can’t be bothered to research, but you get my point)
Nowadays I spot, address, flip, and expel any negative emotions toward another person quite fast. Are we good at this? No. But have I stopped sending people long messages and being passive-aggressive? Mostly. Have I known to love people from afar? Corona and quarantine are helping me perfect this art.
You can get upset, want to snatch someone’s weave, and ask yourself out loud, “Is this human being stupid?” What I’m talking about is the act itself of holding on to a negative emotion for longer than is necessary. Here is a cool infographic you can consider using when starting the process. Thanks for sharing Nyams!
In short, call yourself for as many meetings as you can until it’s out of your system. The focus shouldn’t be on how much someone triggered/ triggers us; it’s we who ought to deal with the emotions within us. So, please, let’s not delegate emotions and subject others to bad moods, short texts, and blue ticks. I am talking to you, Maureen Wambaire King`ori.
PS: Looking at the phone ring is quite alright. Consider taking a time out, especially when you’re not feeling alright emotionally. I am all for having close friends, family, and partners to help us through difficult emotions, but again, that’s a form of delegation. Ponder and calibrate, then when you get stuck, ask for guidance. Thanks, Doreen, for the lesson.
Step 2: READ.
Like, yo. Why do I have to say this, and it’s 2020??
You know what, open an incognito tab. Search what brings about people pleasing, why you have a hard time saying no, why you feel a coldness towards your parents, why you hate your job- you get the point. There’s a ton of information online written by professionals who will shed light on the inner workings of your subconscious mind where all the murk is hidden.
The reason I’m insisting on this is because demons come out to play. You can dress it up, money it up, success it up, but your demons always show. Slay them one at a time, and release yourself (and us) from it. I’ve hurt and pushed away people I loved and vice versa. If I’d started the inner work much sooner, life would be a lot different.
Step 3. ASK. FOR. HELP.
I can’t credit everything to my “seeing the light” and starting the journey. God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, my mother, Doreen and Portia (my dear, dear friends) where all part of it. Other friends too- don’t come catching for me, please. So were an uncle and aunt who are like my guardian angels because they came through when I needed the most support. And I’ll finish this salamuz segment with acknowledging the mental health professionals who’ve been with me along the way too.
Step 4. Take care of your body
I breath heavy these days. That ish is NOT sexy. I sound like I ran a marathon. And what is diet? This is good advice; I’ll take it for myself too. Maybe I can make it through a Sun Salutation A today without collapsing. Gee!
Step 5. Accept it’s a lifelong commitment
You’ll be dealing with your emotions till death.
Pause, go back one line, reread.
Yea. So why not focus on minding that emotional business of yours? Like now?
Life can be simple when you figure out how to manage emotions, especially those causing distress. I’m also realizing they are not who I am; if anything, they are getting in the way of the ME.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health medical practitioner; therefore, kindly do not use this content for diagnostic purposes. It is strictly for informational purposes. I write as someone affected by a mood disorder, who’s done a ton of research, and a counseling psychology student.
Why I am writing this
If you have a mood disorder, feel free to share this with your peers. I came to realize that people still don’t get what mood disorders are. Reference points are13 Reasons Why and Netflix series with high school teens. The media tends to depict extremes; Joker and every disturbed character ever, all shows with a psychiatrist, a person on a sofa, and the question “how does that make you feel?”
I am writing this because the messaging I’ve been getting is that 1) I am overreacting. I should cheer up because I tick social boxes of basic needs, family, friends, and a job. 2) I am ungrateful. I ticked boxes, and on top of that, I have parents who foot my medical bills. So what am I complaining about? 3) I am moody for no reason. Well, it’s a mood disorder. It is an illness. We don’t tell a person with diabetes, Down Syndrome, or asthma to chill out. Why do you ask me to do the same?
I am misunderstood and frustrated.
I’ll circle back to this at the end.
What is a mood disorder?
So, here, I have to come through with a medical definition; this one is from Mayo Clinic of what a mood disorder is.
“A mental health disorder is characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”
The thing about mood disorders is that several things cause them. It could be biological. If your mother/father has a mental illness, you’re likely to get it as well. It could also be having two schizophrenic siblings in one family because the genetic lottery was not kind. Here, you “inherit” the disorder. Otherwise, something could have gone wrong either as a result of injury or a mutation.
The other is psychological, and this one is loaded. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can all go under psychological causes because they ultimately affect your mind.
Physical abuse and neglect: If you’ve gotten a beat down at any one point of your life, then you can understand how that could bring lasting trauma. How do you even trust a world when, in your early years, you were shown that security and love is a rumor? With stress hormones on overdrive 24/7, how do you even function? And with this one, it’s inter-generational. It’s how you still hear women saying, “I deserved to get hit” in this feminist age and men being silent about physical abuse because “are you man enough?”
The other aspect is physical neglect- where you grew up with nothing. That could be as a result of poverty or just parents who, among different ways to show you they didn’t want you, didn’t give you much. You’ll have a delayed ability to learn, and poor social skills and emotional health, and in some cases, issues such as severe dissociative states. The baseline is that physical abuse and neglect stunt the brain. And then you expect this person to function well in society. Well! Next time that tout with second-grade education from the village who was born out of wedlock talks shit to you, take a chill pill. They are not okay.
Emotional abuse and neglect: Emotional abuse is prevalent. About 40 percent of people on the average report having experienced expressive aggression or some form of coercive control. And surely, there are some people saying, “It hardened us.” That is not being hardened. That is emotional trauma, and you’d rather be cold and angry instead of facing your childhood pain. So please, miss me with that. We have a lot of angry people on this planet, and if I was to guess, it has to do with psychological abuse they’ve experienced in the hands of their guardians, relatives, teachers, and peers. So how does this not mess you up?
Another form of psychological abuse that exists is emotional neglect. This one is hard to show because you don’t have the typical “my mother called me” and “my dad did.” In this type of neglect, nothing happened. That is a huge problem. What are the long term effects? Your self-esteem and emotional health are damaged. You grow up feeling empty, and you’re unable to handle your emotions. Words are powerful. Silence is deafening and destructive.
Think of it this way. When you’re in a fight with someone, and then they go quiet, what does that signal to you? Think of all the agonizing thoughts you experience during that time. Now, as a child, when you have parents that emotionally neglect you, it signals to you that, as a human being, you don’t matter. It also says that your emotions don’t matter. Now send that child out into the world.
(This phone generation: be hella careful what you’re teaching your children.)
Sexual abuse: A messed up fact that I came across was that if you were sexually abused as a child, there is a 60+ percent chance of re-victimization. What happened to you as a child is not enough; you’re also likely to get raped when you’re older.
That one pained me on a personal level. But the math made sense. Unless you go for therapy, you tend to downplay dangerous situations as compared to other people. Maybe next time you’ll have more compassion for that chick hanging out questionable characters? The global stats are that 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime. She could be that one in the three, dear. Be kind.
What are all these a recipe for?
Say your grandpa has diabetes, your dad does as well. The odds are that you too, will get it. However, that doesn’t have to be the case with early intervention. And that’s the thing people need to understand. If your child has been through something traumatic, take them to therapy. ASAP.
Now, let’s assume you do nothing and boom, you have diabetes. That’s the same with mental illness. If you have a predisposition to get it, and the environment is “right,” you’ll suffer from it. For others, you’re born with it; you could have the rosiest of upbringings and still have a mood disorder.
Now, here’s where things just get murky. Research after research suggests that the factors I’ve talked about cause changes in the brain function, and also specific neural circuits in the brain get altered. Case in point; neural circuits for the ordinary person have no issues producing happy hormones. The rest of us, we need medication to rewire those neural circuits to even think life has the potential to be a happy place.
So the brain circuitry is off. Manifestation of the same is changes in appetite, sleep, concentration, energy levels, daily routine, mood and even self-esteem. There will be physical and behavioral symptoms. The results? The DMS5 has a full list of mood disorders that you can check out.
Bottom line: There is no singular cause of mood disorders. It’s a combination of a couple of things that scientists are still working to figure out.
Frustrated and misunderstood.
If you’re in this space, here are some things that might help you through. They have for me.
You didn’t ask for this. Don’t let your mood disorder be a millstone around your neck that drowns you with guilt and shame.
If they haven’t been through it, they won’t get it. It’s not their fault. It just means you need to either find your tribe or make peace. It doesn’t also mean you have to isolate yourself either.
Get help where you can. As long as it helps you heal your childhood trauma and cope, go for it.
Don’t let anyone tell you how your wins should look like. Did you get out of bed? Celebrate! Did you survive a social function? Yay! Did you say no to booze this one time? By the way, you’re doing well. Only you know your struggles intimately and can see when you’re improving. Don’t let others make recovery markers for you.
A LOT of your pain resides in childhood. If you continue to ignore that by the way, you’re not going anywhere. Denial can only take you through life for so long. Face and heal that part of your life.
READ. READ. READ. LIKE DAMN IT! READ! You have information at literally your fingertips. Google imposter syndrome, depression, constant butterflies in my stomach. If it’s too much, incognito is your friend. Search “why I hate my parents so much?” or “why do I date bitches or assholes” and “why do I always think about sex?” Ignorance about our ways in this time and age is almost offensive.
Self-awareness and moral courage; these are the two pillars you need. Always.
Next time you’re tempted to tell a friend who’s told you they have a mood disorder to cheer up, google on appropriate ways to support them. Otherwise, silence is also a plan, but understanding would be better.
Here’s why; they haven’t killed themselves. You guy, they have tried. THEY. HAVE. TRIED.
I’d open with scripture but even we Christians have to admit that side-eyes all around are sometimes the order of the day when things are rough.
Something I am learning about living with depression is that it’s something you manage, especially when chemical imbalance is at play. When I say manage it means becoming familiar with it to the point that you know how to help yourself or get help when you feel things are getting out of hand. Michelle Williams has a new show Chad loves Michelle where, in the first episode, she talked about checking herself into a facility after a bout of depression and taking meds to manage it.
Full disclosure: I found me a therapist after I saw that I couldn’t handle my internal battles alone. And even after that, I had three episodes of near suicide that thankfully I had another voice urging me to ask for help from friends. If you’ve been here or are going through this, let it be enough to know that you’re not alone and that you can soldier on, despite how crappy things look.
Just watching how Michelle’s depression is affecting her relationship (and Chad’s frustration), I could see a lot of my life too. Among other things she talked about her room being her safe space because she wasn’t able to feel safe anywhere else, especially to be honest about her feelings. When I was watching I was all around saying “YEP!” because that’s something I can attest to.
If you followed my blog before you can possibly tell that I was, to a degree, censoring certain aspects of my life. It wasn’t intentional. I just didn’t feel safe. And I still don’t. Something that has been a constant in all my relationship is my inability to find a safe space to open up. While I had due reason to be skeptical about the space provided- I have dated some guys with the emotional capacity of a white wall- I still think that even when a fantastic guy is to roll up (like the one in the vicinity), I could still keep my walls up.
And that’s the thing about depression.
Even the most amazing things feel threatening. If you’re in a relationship with someone and they say stuff like “I am not good enough for you” or “I will hurt you, just go find someone else” I am not expecting you to stay and understand. Sometimes it’s not your portion to be a doctor and love someone to health. Leave that to people whose natural disposition has them loving someone back to health. I’m saying that so that you never feel bad about leaving someone who was difficult to love especially if you now have the awareness that depression was the cause.
I guess this post is for the person who’s depressed and has if they dared even hope it was true, love around them. That could be a spouse, friend or family. I’m realizing retreating when you’re super depressed is easy when wondering why you’re alive in the first place. But even when (as a family friend put it) you’re looking at the bottom side of the bottomless pit, choose courage to believe that you’re loved.
That’s my pompom word for you today. Choose to believe that the essence of you is worthy of love. If you’re finding that hard, then consider this; you can’t possibly be surrounded by morons who choose to love you as you are!