The experience of being me is challenging sometimes.
A few weeks ago, my assignment for my Abnormal Psychology class – choosing a disorder and writing about it from a specific therapeutic perspective – gave me a reason to look through the DSM-V, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I went to the local library, sat down with their reference copy, and flipped through the pages. I skimmed the criteria of different disorders, searching for one that might seem intriguing, but not too triggering or something that I have directly experienced.
Major Depressive Disorder did not meet my second requirement; nonetheless, I stopped skimming and read through the criteria. And as I read, I recognized that two and a half to three years ago, I met nearly every point of the criteria, line by line. Part of me suspected this, but I hadn’t looked it up, not even in my old copy of the DSM-IV that I’ve had for years. If the page had been a checklist, it would have been full of check marks.
On one hand, the realization was sobering: I was severely depressed. That’s scary and serious.
On the other hand, I can also say that it’s factual, it’s true, and that reading the criteria simply confirmed what I already knew. I had a depressive episode, the worst I’d ever had. I acknowledge that before I experienced that episode, I likely struggled with mild depression, or dysthymia, on and off for years, perhaps since I was a teenager.
Alternately, I can also look at it like this: I was severely depressed. I went back to my hometown. There, I got the help and support I needed. I don’t know if I can say that I am necessarily better off because of my depression, but the support I got helped me get to where I am today. I like and appreciate my life now.
There is also something validating in seeing what I experienced written in words on a page. It tells me that other people have experienced this, that people have researched it, that treatment continues to be looked at and further developed.
I do recognize that a diagnosis is primarily a measurement used for medical, prescriptive, and insurance reasons. It isn’t consistently a defining factor in my life; at this point, the main thing is that I take two pills each morning. I also keep better track of my moods and I regularly use skills to deal with challenging situations and emotions.
I remind myself that I don’t have to make too much meaning out of the pages of the DSM; it’s a reference manual used in certain contexts. I know that if I experience and recognize the symptoms of depression again, I am more equipped to deal with it. I am therefore less likely to experience another major depressive episode. And that’s what really matters to me.
It’s mine. And I’m still in the process of telling it.
I have several half-written posts, but they never seem to settle into full entries. So maybe I’ll start with summaries/snapshots of what I’ve been doing. Perhaps I’ll follow up on some of them in the future.
My love and I recently started taking Tai Chi and Aikido classes with an informal dojo. I’m hoping to deepen my perspective on these two martial arts, especially since they are two of the three martial arts forms/energies used in Nia. I’m really enjoying seeing my husband fall in love with the martial arts, which he’s always wanted to do, seeing him get more connected with his body. It’s also nice to have an activity outside our apartment we can do together.
I’m dealing – and sometimes wrestling with – with being a beginner in Tai Chi and Aikido as well as a beginning Nia teacher. I’m working on recognizing that it’s important and necessary to be exactly where I’m at, even though it can feel incredibly intimidating and vulnerable at times. I’m figuring out ways to cheerlead and encourage myself through it. In the end, what’s most important is to keep going. It seems like I’m doing a lot of personal growth through movement forms. They are teaching me a lot in terms of discipline, confidence, patience, and so much more.
I’m also a beginner at proofreading legal transcripts. I am in the middle of an online course so I can learn how. I’m hoping it can be a way to bring in some income in the near future. While I’ve always been good at catching errors, this is challenging and taking my skills to a new level. It’s also taking a lot of review of rules of punctuation, capitalization, etc.
I’m taking an abnormal psychology class at the local community college. I’m enjoying it, and I’m also appreciating a reason to get out and do things two mornings a week. Grateful that I still had money from my AmeriCorps education award so I could take a class or two.
Since I take evening movement classes two nights a week and sunset is falling around 5:30 or so, I’ve gotten to see some incredible sunsets. Sometimes in the winter, we get actual rainstorms; more often, we get incredible clouds, which often make the sunsets stunning.
I just had a birthday. I’m now 34. My year of being 33 was very full, and included the major transitions of wrapping up many things in New Mexico, getting married, and moving to Nevada. The day of my birthday was lovely. It included Tai Chi, a walk, a chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake, and dinner at a Persian restaurant.
I am starting to feel more settled here. It’s definitely a process. Some days, I feel more landed; other days, I feel so new. New to this place, new to experiences. I remind myself that feeling new isn’t a bad thing, that there is no rush to feel or be a certain way in my new surroundings. In my quiet moments, when I can ground myself and listen in, I recognize that being where I’m at, here and now, is a good place to be.
One of the biggest myths I have is that I’m not doing enough.
It’s also very untrue. While I don’t have a typical 9-to-5 work schedule, I keep myself busy. There are many things I’m working on and towards, and I’m rarely bored.
So, as part of my routine of unwinding and getting ready for bed, I’ve started doing a “what I did today” list. It helps me see what I’ve done and accomplished throughout the day. I also sometimes write notes to track my anxiety levels, sensory triggers, and moods so I can look back and see if there’s a pattern.
I suppose I could call this a form of a bullet journal (more information on bullet journals here ), which is like a combination of a planner and a journal/diary. Overall, it’s a method of writing things down, whether it’s goals or thoughts, in short, bullet-point form. Before starting this practice, I didn’t spend much time researching bullet-journaling, but it is a something that I’ve heard that many people enjoy. .
Here’s an example from my journal from a few weeks ago (I made slight edits to put it more into context):
- Took L (husband) to work
- Brief call with Mom
- Got mail and some sunshine
- Took short nap/reset
- ~ 3 hours proofreading practice
- ~ 1 hour workbook punctuation practice
- Made dinner
- Picked L up
- Did Dishes
- Took one online survey
- Nia song review (listened and watched, then tried)
- Did rhythmic movement and reflex exercises
It’s sort of like writing a to-do list after the fact. It gives me perspective. It helps me think of other things I might need to focus on in the days ahead. It helps me value the small, day-to-day activities more, such as making a meal or having a conversation with my love.
At the end of the day, when I ask myself, “Did I do enough?”, seeing this list helps me feel more assured that the answer is, without question, “Yes.”