I've typed more than a handful of versions out, and none of them seem right. The thing is, I'm leaping in to NaBloWriMo, and I honestly don't know how I'm going to manage a month's worth of entries without coming clean about this to the blog.
And I tried do a "short" version of it, but it just turned into a long version anyway, so if you're interested, read on. And if you're not... I dunno. Skim. Maybe there'll be important bullet points along the way.
When I started this blog, I had every intention of chronicling my story of quitting grad school and moving on with my universe, through the lens of depression (which every therapist I've ever been to has agreed has some sort of hold on me), general anxiety (only the more recent therapists have agreed that this might be a thing), and social anxiety (subset of general, painfully obvious to everyone around me.)
It has been, and is, harder than I thought it would be, mostly because it's difficult for me to write about how hard things are, or to wrap things up in a tidy bow at the end of posts. The thing is, depression sucks. Anxiety sucks. They're not "oh I had a bad day so I took a bubble bath and now I'm better" posts, they're "I'm too incapacitated by sadness to take the 10 steps from my bed to my bathroom to fill up the bathtub" posts. They don't end on high notes, or with solutions. And I've been scared to post, publicly, about how I'm "really" doing.
The other part was that aside from a few moments of abject depressive hysteria, very few of the things I was writing felt true. And since I couldn't figure out why, I just... didn't write.
Switching gears: A few years ago, a friend of mind who did happen to see those depressed-hysterical thought-spews recommended a book to me. I glanced at the author's website, but never really followed up on it. It had a hokey title, and sounded like a self-help book. Neither of these things have any sort of appeal to me.
But funny enough, something about it must have grabbed me, because every few months, I'd go back to the website, and wonder if there might be something to all of it.
Last month, I was low. Lower than I've been in a really long time. Hysterical, phone-a-friend, serious thoughts of self-harm low. (It's hard to say any of this out loud, in public. My gut instinct is to cover it all up with platitudes and denial - "I'm ok now." "I'm fine." "Don't worry about me"'s. I don't want anyone to swoop in and try to save me, but at the same time, I desperately want to stop hiding the sheer fact that yes, sometimes there are these things, and they're bad things, and they're terrible, and they're hard, but they're TRUE. I'm not comfortable hiding my depression anymore.) After a late night at a friend's place, freaking out her boyfriend with my crying, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done as an adult: I walked into a bookstore, and headed for the self-help section.
The best part of this was discovering that the book I was looking for was not, in fact, shelved in the self-help section. It was in Psychology, which, ironically enough, made/makes me feel less crazy about the whole thing.
I picked up a copy of the book that my friend had recommended to me years ago, and started reading the introduction. And there, at 7pm, in this independent bookstore in the heart of downtown, I started crying. It would've been sobbing, probably, if I hadn't learned how to cry silently years and years ago.
3 pages in, and already the author had identified behaviors and patterns that I could barely explain to myself, let alone verbalize to other people. Things that I had been thinking about and living with and knowing for as long as I can remember being able to, y'know, think.
These things in my head, about my head... they weren't just symptoms of the depression, of the anxiety. They're a whole separate thing. And it's not bad, it's not scary, it's not yet another disorder to lump on top of the others, it is, at its heart, just a different way of interpreting sensory data, and a difference in how data is processed and acted upon. Not bad. Not scary. Just different.
I identify as what Elaine Aron calls a Highly Sensitive Person. If you're interested, you can poke around on her website. The link she includes to the basic assessment test is super telling, and likely does a better job of explaining what being an HSP is and feels like than what I could do in my own words. (For the record: Aron suggests that if you score a 14 or higher on the self test, you are probably Highly Sensitive. I scored 23.)
Reading her books have been a strange journey of self discovery for me. I'm not learning anything new, per se, but it's wonderful and scary and freeing to not only have a name for what goes on in my head, but to know that there are other people out there. And to know that I'm not broken.
So there. That's that. I'm an HSP. I'm not sure how that information is going to manifest itself in this blog, but I felt that it was important information to share. Maybe it'll give you a better perspective on how I live my life, make the decisions I make, think the things I think. Maybe saying it out loud, in the blog, will let me be more open and honest with my process - both how I'm progressing, and how I'm getting there. Right now, I'm really not sure.
But being open about feels real, feels true. Feels like a Thing I Need To Do in order to keep moving forward with things.
Now you know.