Layers and Layers

Since I was about fourteen, or fifteen, or whatever age these things typically manifest, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, or manic depression, or whatever you want to name it (I’m often fond of saying I’m just a bit crazy — just enough to make me fun, at least most of the time). I’ve been on and off medication, in and out of therapy, and generally tried to face the root of my manic depression head on in some productive way. And, as I referenced in the last post, sometimes that process is not a happy one, or an easy one. Sometimes it’s downright awful; and now it’s one I’ve had to repeat in the last few months, which is especially frustrating because I thought I had moved past so much of what I had once struggled with.

One of the things that happens at the hospital where I do my treatment is that, when you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, they set you up with a psychiatrist immediately. Unless you stridently refuse, they put you on medication. About a week ago that medication finally kicked in for me, and this corresponded with when I stopped taking steroids to counteract the immediate effects of my chemo. And suddenly, with the clarity that accompanied those two changes, my actions over the last six weeks don’t make much sense. They frighten me, and they worry me that I’ve taken a step back into a space I thought I had left long ago.

Over the years, I’ve gotten tremendously good at masking a lot of the not too pleasant effects that dealing with manic depression causes. I’ve always been open about talking about these problems in the abstract, but I’ve kept most of the actual problem silent and away from the public eye. I feel that often I’m tremendously good at putting on a strong and tough front (hence why my blog is so reasonable and measured and calm), but then equally bad at maintaing that strength privately (hence why I have bad moments when I’m with those I trust the most, often at random and without warning).

And those who know me best have also seen me at my worst — and that worst is pretty awful. It’s angry and panicky and sad and anxious. I yell and scream and cry. Often, the particular issue my outbursts orbit is something that takes multiple and repetitive breakdowns to address (I may be a *tad* obsessive). And, the worst part: often those emotions are misdirected to whomever stands in my way and their own emotions are marginalized in the process. It’s trying process and often I wonder why anyone puts up with me at all. It makes me feel terrible and responsible for not only my own sadness, which I feel I should be able to control, but also for the sadness it causes others. I know it hurts — I hurt — other people. And that sucks.

I know I’m hard on those around me, and I know cancer has made that worse. Those close to me have borne the brunt of my anger and stood on the receiving end of that abuse. I want to alleviate some of that stress, if not all of it, but I’m not sure how. I want to be better to those closest to me so that I direct less of my frustration and pain and sadness and anger toward them because they don’t deserve it. But I’m not sure how to walk the line between masking my emotions and dwelling on them. And I know, in the face of this diagnosis, I need to figure that out or risk alienating those I need around me the most.

The multiple layers at work here are frightening and hard to navigate. Because when it comes to honestly working through anxiety and depression, there’s no right or wrong answer, and that’s frightening and can make the work seem even more difficult. But I’m trying to take responsibility for these traits and tease them apart so that I can better address these obstacles one by one. I anticipate this will be a difficult process, but processes I can manage.

I mean, hey, I’m a doctoral student in the humanities. Aren’t processes all we talk about anyway?

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4 thoughts on “Layers and Layers

  1. You’re human, like the rest of us. And you’re unflinchingly honest and self-aware. And you have a tremendous capacity for love, above all. Which I think pretty much trumps and allows the existence of everything else. You are dearly loved, and accepted, in return, Kiara. That is what unconditional love and support are about. We’re here for you, always, in all the dark places, moving with and beside you towards the light.

  2. Kiara,

    We deal with some serious bipolar issues in our family, and, while it can make things tough (very, very tough), it is just a part of who you are. Do not apologize for being you. Do not apologize for being a little crazy in the face of enormous stress. You have a reason to be angry and sad and some days that will absorb your life. Other days it will not.
    huge number of Team Kiara m

  3. Kiara,

    Kiara, you never need to apologize for who you are. As I tell my daughter who is bipolar, it’s just a part of you. Those who care know it and can deal. And you, Kiara, have a reason to be angry and sad. Some days that will absorb your life. Other days it won’t. There are a lot of members of Team Kiara out here praying for you. Also, you have a package from Amazon coming.*hugs*

  4. Kiara–You may remember that I had surgery a while back and my cancer was caught at the earliest possible stage–some docs call it pre-cancer, others Cancer Stage 0 (ah, what you’d give for that diagnosis). Unfortunately, there were complications from that surgery (none of them life threatening) that still linger. Just enough to fck with my head (ask your parents if you’ve never heard that archaic expression). So, two comments to your post: 1) the single plus I’ve gotten from the experience is that I’ve become much more empathetic. Sometimes too empathetic. Related to this I’ve become far more outgoing, starting up conversations with strangers at Barnes and Noble Cafe. And it turns out this can be a lot of fun–and empathy is a good quality; 2) since you’ve been set up with a psychiatrist you probably know the term “secondary emotions.” (Typical of the way social scientists give names to what we already know. The cache of being able to name the thing does help a bit, I guess.) so, like this: I (or you) am feeling anxious or angry or sad or needy. The secondary emotion is beating up yourself for the first. That is, “I’m weak or disappointing or some-other-dumb-sht because I feel . . ..” That’s what I hope you manage to avoid. Few people have been dealt hands tougher than the one you’re holding. Anyone with even my level of common sense (and, may I add decency) gets that and understands. From my perspective, you can’t possibly have the “wrong” reaction.

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