My New Mental Health Cycles

As I sat on my porch this morning, drinking my coffee and enjoying some direct sunlight as I cooled down after my morning workout, I was forced to admit that my struggles with depression this year weren’t entirely due to the long, bitter winter we had. That definitely contributed to it, of course, there’s no denying that. My struggles with work and the increasing solitude I feel as one of the only people I know who is avoiding all but the most necessary trips into public places are also contributing factors of course. However, there is no denying the increased severity of my depression from previous years to this one. Even last year wasn’t as bad as this one, in terms of my general depression.

Last year, though, was perhaps the worst my anxiety has ever been. Starting the year off with a severe bout of sleeplessness brought on by a days-long anxiety attack that pretty much lingered for months set the tone for the rest of the year and my intermittent eye and dental issues certainly didn’t help. Things started to quiet down as the year ended, but the stress of that anxiety seems to have mostly shifted into depression and now I’m struggling to get out of bed most mornings.

I’ve been dealing with these problems for most of my life and I’m well-aware of the cyclical patterns in the rise and fall of my mental health. Typically, though, I’m used to this happening on a smaller scale. Prior to the pandemic, these bouts would occur over about two to four months, each of them feeding into the other until my patience and steady work at getting my anxiety or depression under control finally quieted them both down for me to enjoy a month or so of peace because the cycle began again. Now, they seem to be operating on a much larger scale, with longer periods of one being dominant broken up by short periods of the other taking precedence until I got that one under control.

All that said, I’m still probably better off than I was two years ago. I’ve worked through a big chunk of my family issues and have been able to turn my attention to other things. Slowly but surely, I’m working my way past all of the major problems I’ve had to constantly deal with until I’m finally able to work on the stuff that was always lower priority or that wouldn’t get worse by ignoring. To put it in terms of Fork Theory, I’ve finally gotten the last pitchfork out so healing can continue while I work on the much smaller serving or roasting forks and the occasional dinner fork. There’s still a huge number of them, thanks to a lifetime of just barely surviving and needing to put stuff off because I can’t handle anything other than problems that were literally existential threats, but there are definitely fewer now than there were before.

As much as I love making progress, I still wish I had a chance to actually rest and recover. I haven’t really had a chance to just relax for more than a few days in a row in more time than I can easily calculate, to the point that I only notice my eyelid twitch when it gets REALLY bad. I’ve needed a proper rest of some kind for over half a decade now and maybe I’ll eventually get it, but I can’t really count on that since every time I take a vacation or finally start to feel calm after careful stress management, something new and incredibly stressful happens. That’s half the reason I’ve stopped trying to take actual vacations and started just taking Fridays off whenever I really needed it. I literally haven’t had more than three days away from work in a row that wasn’t immediately followed by some painful, stressful, expensive, and frustrating event. It’s enough to make a less anxious person paranoid and I’m anxious enough that I’ve been at least mildly paranoid about it since the second time it happened.

I hope that, once this period of depression finally passes, I will be able to enjoy a period of stability and peace like I usually do after each depression spike in my past. It would really suck if I went from anxiety spike to depression spike and then right back to anxiety spike again. Only time will tell, unfortunately.

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