Napping

Before I write this I am going to take a nap.

Ok, I’m up.

I love napping and do it whenever I have time. Admittedly, part of it is due to depression. Part of it is due to exhaustion. Part of my exhaustion comes from depression. Part of my depression come from exhaustion. The two go hand in hand. Naps are usually during days off from work. There is simply no time when I am working. Naps make me feel more calm, tranquil and less anxious.

I think we are made to feel shame about napping. In this capitalist society, so we are supposed to be working every moment. We get to sleep at night, often for less than 8 hours, but napping during the middle day is often characterized as laziness.

Now, to be sure, some of my naps are likely too long. I wish they were 1-2 hours but they often go for 3-4 hours. But who gets to decide what is or is not too long? Napping can feel like an escape. But sometimes that is exactly what I need. My depression can often feel unbearable. Sleeping is a way to escape this pain for a few hours.

Napping is luxurious. It is like eating when you want and what you want. Napping is giving into your body. If your body is saying I am tired, it is time to give in and let it sleep. But this is not how the capitalist framework works. The capitalist framework is all about work, work, work. In this way, napping might be seen as a form of resistance to this framework.

I have a very specific framework when it comes to napping. I create a cocoon like environment to help me relax and to sleep. I close the drapes to make it darker. I light a stick of incense, usually Nag Champa. I light a candle, often to a Saint. Lately I have been lighting a candle to Saint Dymphna who is a Saint of mental disorders like depression. I turn on my little wave machine to listen to soft waves and I also turn on my little boom box to play New Age music. Then I rearrange the pillows and blankets so that they are comfortable. My dog Jamaica sleeps with me so she has to scratch around the blankets to make a comfortable little nest for herself. Then I put on my CPAP mask. Then it is time to sleep. Sometimes I’m able to fall asleep more easily than others. A lot of it depends on my frame of mind and how much anxiety I am feeling. If I can’t get to sleep I just breathe in the incense and listen to the waves and the music or gaze at the candle that burns. I rest, which is the next best thing to napping. Nothing feels better than when I go to sleep quickly and have a sound and nightmare-free slumber.

Napping is wonderful and I can’t say enough good about it. I think it keeps me more sane and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a way to feel more rested or as one method to combat depression or anxiety. I find afternoon and early evening naps work best, like between the hours of 3-7 pm, but other people will find other times that work for them. Naps are a great form of self-care and one that all people should consider if they are looking for some relief from tiredness or strong emotional feelings.

 

Trauma

Trauma has a profound effect on human beings. Human beings are not machines. They are not robots. They are vulnerable assemblages of skin, blood, organs and bone. Violence is done not only to our bodies but to our psyches. I have seen trauma in my own life but I have also seen tremendous trauma in other people. I have seen the burden this takes on people. We live in a sado-society where violence, cruelty and degradation are the norm. It is frightening when I think of how many people I know who have trauma and how many people I know who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. Contrary to popular belief, it is not only veterans who get PTSD. Some of us are soldiers of other kinds of battles and wars. I have many battle scars and I don’t even know the extent to which they have impacted me.

The death of a dog and two of my best friends have been incredibly traumatic. Severe bullying through most of K-12 has been extremely traumatic. I will go into these traumas in future posts. But right now I want to talk about how these make me feel.

Obviously, they contribute greatly to depression. I can’t tell you how sad I feel about the loss of innocence in my youth and the loss of stability in my adulthood. Fuck people who say this makes you stronger. In a better world, these things would not happen. This is not some kind of revolutionary utopianism. It is basic dignity and decency. I would give anything to not have to go through the mental torture that my multiple traumas have brought me.

I am triggered on a regular basis. Triggered by bullying, triggered by suicide, triggered by hospitalizations, triggered by transphobia. I never know when it is going to hit. I never know how severe it is going to be. I never know if a Klonopin or two is going to be enough to walk me off the ledge. What does triggering cause?

For me at least it causes anxiety. I become anxious when triggered, sometimes to the level of a full-on panic attack. These episodes of anxiety are terrifying. And of course there are the nightmares. Waking up from horrible dreams and feeling like you have lived the trauma all over again.

For me, trauma also causes dissociation. I rarely talk about this because it is so incredibly stigmatized. It is stigmatizing enough to have depression, anxiety and PTSD, but when you add dissociation to the mix people really think you are full-on “crazy.” I worry about the added stigma I will face from my multiple psych diagnoses. I worry about the added stigma I will face from my multiple targeted/oppressed identities intersecting with the mental illnesses. Trauma is a key element that binds the different diagnoses together and also affects my multiple identities like being trans, fat, crip, queer and low income.

Trauma can also cause problems with relationships and self-esteem. Loved ones in the circle of the trauma sufferer may not know how to react. They may not have the tools to help the trauma victim/survivor. This could cause misunderstandings and strained relationships. I think trauma hurts self-esteem. This is particularly true for childhood trauma. We are undermined at the very time in our life when our personhood is in development. I know that the bullies made me feel like shit. They still make me feel like shit, despite years of therapy. It is easy to say: “Don’t let them rob you of your happiness.” How about: they should not have abused you in the first place. My self-esteem has suffered dire consequences from my trauma. With the suicide of my best friend, it made me more susceptible to suicide. With the death of my other best friend from medical transphobia, it made me terrified of encounters with medical “professionals.”

According to the APA, trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help these individuals find constructive ways of managing their emotions.”

The main point or take-away from this blog entry is that trauma is horrendous. The treatments for it are often limited and ineffective, at least the mainstream ones. I have suffered horribly as have many of my friends. Compassion is key, as is understanding. Realize that people with trauma will go through a range of physical, psychological and emotional symptoms. There is no cure and people should not be told to “just get over it.” It is a long-term struggle and people need to understand the impact. While emotions can be managed, they cannot be fully controlled. Patience, endurance, perseverance and strength are required to deal with trauma, and usually for a lifetime.

Psych Drugs

Remeron. Cymbalta. Paxil. Zoloft. Klonopin. Valium. Ativan. Nuvigil. Adderall. Vyvanse. Gabapentin. Effexor. Lexapro. Celexa. Buspar. Trazodone. Lamictal. Risperidone. Lithium. Hydroxyzine.

The preceding 20 medications are all psych meds that I am either currently taking or have taken at one time or another. They are the ones that I remember; there are more. I call psychiatry the medication roulette wheel. It is like a piece of spaghetti that is thrown at the wall: let’s see if it sticks. The efficacy of so many of these medications leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t think I have ever come across a more inexact arm of medicine than psychiatry.

Given the problems with psychiatry, you might wonder: why even go on these drugs? The answer is simple: so I don’t die. I have severe major depressive disorder along with anxiety, PTSD and a few other diagnoses. Suicidal ideation is something that I live with on a regular basis. Although both talk therapy and psychiatry are extremely disappointing, they are the main things we are offered as solutions and the main things that are covered by insurance. And so I try them and hope that they keep me alive.

What has amazed me is how many I have tried and how many have not worked. Or they slightly work and bump your mood up just a little bit. Although I think the regimen I am on now is one of the best in my own history, it certainly hasn’t wiped out my depression. If they have developed a drug to do that I haven’t heard of it. And I definitely would have heard of it because it would be raking in billions upon billions of dollars. Like talk therapy and psychiatry, I wish that psychotropic drugs worked better. I wish that they worked quicker and more consistently. Some of them have a habit of “pooping out” over time and then are no longer effective.

There are definitely times I wish I could take every last bottle and go and throw them in the dumpster and quit seeing a psychiatrist. I grow tired of the lack of effectiveness and the annoying side effects that go with these drugs. I don’t want to go into the specifics, but some of the side effects can be highly unpleasant, uncomfortable and frustrating. I do wonder about the risk-benefit ratio a lot. But what I generally come back to is that I do better on them than off of them. There could come a time when that is not true, but now is not that time.

When you take a good, honest look at the world, you have to ask: how can we NOT be depressed? Things in the world are absolutely horrible right now! We are hurtling towards global destruction and major catastrophe. I believe depression is chemical AND situational. I do not agree that mental illness is a “myth.” But I do see the limitations of our current system, which tend to individualize problems that are actually, at least in part, sociocultural. Like so many problems in society, we are all looking for the quick fix, the magic bullet. It is easier for a GP or PCP to just write a script for an SSRI than really deconstruct the patient’s problem in a much more complex and nuanced manner.

I understand those who rail against psychiatry and against big pharma. To some degree I agree with them. But obviously my actions don’t follow those beliefs because I see a psychiatrist and I take psych meds. It’s because I don’t have other alternatives and need to do SOMETHING to try to improve my mood. I hope that science improves rapidly and helps to proffer more creative and less medical solutions to those of us suffering terribly from mental illness. If you suffer from depression, I wish you good luck in your journey towards wellness.