Time for more on journeys in chemically-induced emotional changes!
Several weeks ago I was talking to my psychiatrist about how it’s actually the negative feelings that I’m having trouble adjusting to. I mean, they’re better. Lots better. Tons better. Holy CRAP better. They are also, however, different, in a fairly fundamental way. I find it throws me a bit for a loop.
My metaphor for my strong emotional states tended to be either a river or a sea. Basically, a raging torrent of water threatening to carry me away or drown me, or both. These emotional states were dangerous to me on a number of levels, and I had to be careful.
So my coping methods were largely about staying above them, or staying grounded, and creating barriers between myself and my depression or my fear so that I could stay sane and at least partially functional.
Letting those barriers down so that I could just feel what I was feeling was always a risky proposition. If things were bad, it meant losing at least a day in overwhelming feels, and simply accepting that until it passed I would not be able to function beyond the very basics of survival, and even those were really difficult. As such, “just feel” was not a thing I did very often. It was very low on my coping method list (probably just one or two items above self injury, actually), and even when I did use it, I usually tried it in mitigated forms first. To extend my metaphor (my emotional metaphor got really quite involved), I did a lot of “riding the wave.” Tread water, keep my head up, wait until it passes but don’t let myself drown.
Now, though, it’s all different. I don’t seem to have that depression river anymore. Now it’s more like a fog, and it’s so different that it’s really quite confusing. The river was dangerous. When it flooded its banks and tried to wash me away, I had to be careful. However, the river also had direction. I knew where it was going and where I would end up if it swallowed me. I also knew that if I could get to high ground and wait it out, things would be really rough but ultimately I’d be ok.
The fog is different. I can’t make a barrier between myself and my feelings anymore. It’s also no longer threatening to wash me away. It’s just sorta… there, and I find myself wondering what the heck to do with it when it shows up. The things that used to be high on my list – barriers, higher ground, cling to something solid, ride the wave – all no longer apply. My psychiatrist reminded me of the “just feel” option, and I was actually a little amused. The option that had always been dangerous and scary and better avoided if possible is suddenly supposed to be at the top of my list. So basically, this is yet another type of change that I totally didn’t anticipate – the nature of some of my emotions have changed, and the basics of how I should deal with them have changed as well.
Here’s hoping I get used to this “just feel” thing being a primary, go-to technique.