Been There, Done That, Got a T-shirt

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If we can’t take our lives

with a large dose of humour,

we are in big trouble.

4 September 1999 – Diary

A while back I applied the catch phrase to myself when I was talking with a friend. She was describing her inability to take her antidepressants (the “I just can’t” problem) and I pulled out the “been there, done that, got a t-shirt” line.

We both thought it was hysterically funny at the time. And it’s hard not to miss the black humour.

But she also thought it was a much better concept than “surviving” a depression episode. And she’s right. I’d rather feel that I’ve just come back from a trip as a tourist to a faraway land than feel as if I have survived, well, a war or something. It makes a dramatic difference to my perceptions and the way I feel about myself.

I bring this up because up to yesterday afternoon I was feeling very low indeed. Not depressed low, but helpless low. I felt that each time I tried to make a step forward I tripped up.

And I was despairing that I would ever be able to hold my job or something of equal caliber again. My confidence was at rock bottom and I was seriously thinking of setting my goals and aspirations lower.

Basically I was planning to settle for being mediocre.

I was thinking that if I got a job with lesser responsibilities, I could handle it and I would feel good about myself. Sounded reasonable. Sounded logical.

But the fact is, on some days I can’t make it out of the house. It don’t make no difference how easy the job is – if you don’t get there, it don’t get done. And really, no job has few responsibilities. All they have is different responsibilities.

So getting an easier job would probably not have made much difference to my confidence. All I would have done in setting my sights lower, is to set myself on the path of true failure.

My conceptualising was not abstract. I had already set things in motion to change jobs.

But I was reading the book “Transforming Madness” by Jay Neugeboren and the following passage caught my attention;

“…true recovery begins not with diagnosis, but with a shift in one’s identity and sense of self….people with histories of mental illness and institutionalization often get stuck, and stop believing that they can improve and recover…This passivity, which the literature…calls ‘learned helplessness,’ is at least as lethal as the disease.”

Getting stuck doesn’t just mean thinking that you aren’t capable. It can be, as in my case, thinking you are a failure because of the expectations of other people that are extremely difficult to fulfil. Part of the reason I feel as a failure at work is because my family expects me to do so well.

Last week I felt as helpless as I have ever felt in my life. But I’ll be damned if I’ll ever be passive about living my life again. I came close to giving up last week and it isn’t going to happen again.

Which brings me back to the journey I have just returned from (otherwise known as depression). I refuse to accept that I have “survived” anything. I went out exploring the world. I’m back, I have tales to tell, I have more than a few curios. I’m glad to be back to my comfortable flat, I have to go through the mail that has piled up and pay the bills, and I have to do laundry and reconnect with work and friends again.

If I left at an inopportune moment, well, it’s unfortunate, but I couldn’t resist going. I’m unrepentant about leaving, and I’ll do it again when the next journey beckons. You can think me irresponsible if you want, but some trips are irresistable.

defiantly yours