Okay, so I burned out.
I’ve started and stopped writing this update for months. Initially I thought it was likely I’d end up skipping May and doing a catch up at the end of June/beginning of July, then it got pushed back to August, September, until we are now finally… here. This is the third draft that I have managed to write and the first I have managed to get to the publishing phase.
A lot has happened since I got back to Britain. I got a job over summer, my Mum got seriously ill (she fainted in my arms in hospital), my Dad reminded me of everything I hated about him and why I wanted to move to begin with, and I moved back to uni and fell into a major depressive episode that has so far lasted for the better part of 3 months.
I’m not really sure just where to begin or how to break these all down, so this could end up quite ramblish.
It is definitely going to be lengthy.
Coming home was great initially – having been away from family and friends for so long, having lacked a strong social circle, it was good to be back in somewhat comfortable surroundings. The funny thing is though, it kinda turns out the person I missed the most wasn’t actually a person, but a cat! Lord knows why I missed her so much, but just look at that cute face! How could anyone not miss that?
Before I even had a chance to unpack, I had a call from a close friend of mine who needed someone to cover a coworker at work for a few weeks who needed to go for surgery. Considering one of my goals for returning home over the summer was to find employment to help with my last year at university, I jumped at the opportunity. It was a fairly typical customer service type role, something that I’ve done for most of my professional life, but this was based in an office and telephone orientated. Working in an office was a new experience to me. The last time I held an office job was well over 10 years ago and was only for a few weeks and it was working for a friend of the family. This was my first experience of working in a relatively fully staffed office environment. The positive is that it was all mostly inbound calls – customers would call us. It was kind of perfect. I didn’t have to think too much, I just needed to understand what it was that we were providing customers with… That was until around the end of my tenure when another colleague was fired for gross misconduct, and then a few weeks later another colleague left in order to move continents unexpectedly. My role thus became slightly more permanent and I was asked if I could remain for the remainder of the summer. At one point we were so incredibly short-staffed that my brother – a young man with no professional working experience – came in to help relieve some of the stress in the office.
(He is likely going to be reading this, but it must be said that the amount of stress he found himself under in a situation that was wholly new and unfamiliar was incredible, and he put up a tremendous fight. He was happy to be told “thanks for helping, but we don’t need you to stay past Friday.”)
If you can’t tell, things were becoming more stressful in a job that I had enjoyed up until this point for being not all that stressful. I found myself taking on more and more responsibilities in order to help relieve stresses elsewhere for my co-workers. That’s the funny thing with me – lately (see the last 5 years) I tend to distance myself from people (in a work environment moreso), but people still somehow manage to break through for me to let down my guard, and make me care more about them and not about myself. I think I was putting the needs of everyone else in the office above my own, and it showed. This is a trait that has slipped in and out of prominence since I was 16.
I ended up falling out of keto, the diet I had been on for 6 months and had lost 50lbs on. Initially I wrote this off as being down to recently quitting smoking about a week after returning home – oh, yeah! I quit smoking! – and so I allowed myself to slip so I could quit and have an outlet for stresses during the quitting process. I tried returning to keto on and off all through May and June until the stress at work finally made me more or less give up entirely around the end of July. “I’ll restart tomorrow.” I kept saying to myself, “I’ll restart on Monday”, was another, “okay, okay! I’ll restart on Friday, that way I have the weekend to get into the routine and not be stressed by work.” I would last a few days, sometimes the majority of the week, but then I’d fall to stress and get “something yummy”. As of writing, there is likely good odds that I have piled this weight back on through a diet of takeout, pastries, sweets, and other baked sugary goods.
For this, I hate myself. I hate my lack of self-discipline. I hate my lack of determination to overcome. I hate that I’ve put back on most of what I lost. I’m so angry at myself as this has set me back in my weightloss goals tremendously.
I’m also angry at my father, who, during this period when my Mum got seriously ill, became typically narcissistic and wanted the world to spin around him. I was still working 9.00 – 5.30 and having to come home to care for a petulant child. This was on top of trying to look after my Mum, who took several weeks to recover.
These combined stresses left me feeling frustrated and struggling to find a release – the easiest solution was food, the other was video games. Funny really. I’m a film & TV nerd, but it’s video games that I turned to. This was perhaps the first major signal that I was on the verge of a major depressive episode. No, no. Not that I was playing video games, that’s always been there to a lesser degree, but that it became the go-to for escape and completely took over all entertainment for me — I had lost interest in things I was passionate about.
Which is where we find me today. That loneliness and isolation I’ve been feeling for the past few years had only compounded in to the existential crisis I was about to have — “What am I doing this for?”
3 months in, I still don’t have an answer. I want it to be “I’m doing it for myself”, but apparently I’m struggling to muster the passion or any self-love I have. I feel as though I am doing this all for nothing, that this is ultimately going to go nowhere and that I’ll end up living back at home under the same roof as my father and having no future for myself…. Well shit, this is why I need to write more often. This is what we call “an epiphany”, which is pretty rare to experience in the moment of writing. At least… I think it is? I don’t think I had quite verbalised that before in regards to this depressive episode, but I think this is what I’m feeling— I’m scared that I am going to be a failure in the future when I have graduated and try to get a job, but also that I will fail at university. Therefore, by being to tired and burnt out and scared of this failure I am turning that into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So to catch you up on the education side of things, uni has not been going well. I have missed a significant number of classes (for me at least) this term. I have nearly missed one deadline (I ended up submitting a half-assed essay that somehow scraped a decent grade), I have missed 2 soft deadlines, and I am now facing down the deadline for 3 editing projects that are due in 11 days (I have barely started one) along with a crucial essay that is due after Christmas. On top of that, I need to shop for Christmas presents, I figure out how I am going to get home for Christmas, and work out how I’m going to pay for rent and food next month. These are some of my current anxious thoughts that are being compounded by my depression which I think is currently fixated on the loneliness.
But let’s talk depression.
I think the loneliness was the tipping point of everything to be honest. I was going to fall off a cliff into depression one way or another before the year was out, and the loneliness was the weight dangling off that cliff for a long while. You see, around the time the depressive episode begun, it was my birthday. I was facing up to a 2nd year in a row alone, my 3rd spent alone in 4 years. I felt like no one here would celebrate with me and that it was up to friends/family back home to celebrate it. And whilst I received some gifts and messages, I did spend it alone. What made it worse (or perhaps the correct term is “really pathetic”?) is I didn’t receive a “Happy Birthday” message or call from any of my closest friends. It is funny that I actually know why they didn’t message (one friend is actually oblivious, another just doesn’t like to celebrate birthdays due to his own issues, and another left to go on holiday that day), but it still upset me because it made me feel unimportant or insignificant to their lives. So I can rationalise it, I can understand it, but it doesn’t take away from how sad it made me feel and how I decided to not even bother leaving my apartment on my birthday and deciding not to go to a university society meeting.
Fuck me, I am sounding really pathetic!
This is the problem with mental health… for me anyway. It’s the little things that affect me. They build up over time. I question everything. I re-evaluate every minuscule interaction. Intrusive thoughts replay and replay over and over. So much had built up over the course of the past few years that I finally cracked and slumped. I mean, if no one cared about me and my successes or failures, and certainly I certainly stopped caring about myself, then why should I bother?
And that’s the story of how I lost my mojo.
“But, dude! You’re writing again! Surely that must mean you have your mojo back?!”
That’s an interesting question, random internal thought process of mine.
The thing is, yes it has taken me months to get to this (and I’m about to minimise the effort it has taken me to write this), but it has been a big fucking deal to write. This is the most I’ve written in one sitting since the end of October, and that was to spit out an essay for a deadline. It was garbage and god knows how I got a good grade out of it. But this I take pride in. I try to craft something that’s meaningful and insightful, even if it seems like the crazed ramblings of a mad man. I want to write something that is funny and engaging. I try to hit things that I would want to read without it being overly dark and depressing despite the obvious subject matter.
I don’t know if I have my mojo back, and I still feel unenthused about the idea of editing 3 projects in 10 days, but I guess I have to give credit where credit is due and realise that this may have taken a lot of effort and concentration, but it has been somewhat cathartic and I feel as though I am not writing this for an audience (sorry readers), but more for myself. I guess what I needed to do was to write down somewhere all of this just to process all of what I have been feeling. So I guess somewhere inside this fickle brain of mine I do still care about myself and I want to get better.
The good news is that I have been trying to fix this for about 6 weeks or so. I finally started seeing a therapist, I have been in regular contact with my school’s student support office, and I also did a mindfulness course again as a refresher.
I got my medication upped from 100mg sertraline to 150mg, which apparently is the highest dose available in the U.K..
So it isn’t like I’ve done nothing. I have been kind of proactive about pulling out of this, it has just taken a much longer time than maybe I would have liked. But these feelings still persist. I feel like they are becoming more manageable, and I now have spates of motivation, followed by lengthy periods of exhaustion.
(Editor’s note: As the fog lifts and I can see the forest through the trees, I think this may be the longest episode of depression I have had in 6 years or perhaps even longer. I find it incredible that in instances of sustained episodes I have felt suicidal, but to be frank about it, whilst I have felt like human garbage and a waste of space at times, I haven’t once thought about ending things. Not. Fucking. Once. Perhaps that is the truest victory I have had over depression this time. Anyway, let’s wrap this up…)
I’m going to be honest, I don’t know how to wrap this up. A few weeks ago I thought I was getting better, but here we are now, in December, and I still feel pretty shitty. Granted, I feel less shitty than I did yesterday, but shitty regardless. I don’t know if I’m going to recover enough to complete all my work by next week. I don’t know if I’m going to post on here again. I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight (I’m actually trying to decide what will make me feel happiest without making me feel like a completely fat piece of shit). The point is, I want to get better, and I’m trying.
It’s just so fucking hard right now, but I’m going to get there.
Until next time…
… Much love ❤