I was wrong. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. I thought I had analyzed and processed what led to my acting out, and that I was on the road back to a better state. But it was only the beginning.
Now there are diagnostic signs that are harder to miss. Certain thought patterns; intrusive images. Volatile emotions that depart more than usual from reasonable points of origin. A choking feeling of shame and unworthiness. Masochistic acting out, not only off and on with food but with other self-neglect. Preoccupation with death and tragedy.
In short: a depressive episode requiring more help than my frequent three or four day dips.
How, you might ask, can it be that bad if I can still diagnose myself this way? It’s true that it could still be much, much worse. I could be nonverbal, or an imminent danger to myself. But I’m also fortunate to possess (or have developed) what the psychologists call a strong “observing ego.” This is the ability to be aware of one’s feelings and experience as a separate entity–to say “I feel angry” or “I feel sad” or “I’m thinking this thought” with the knowledge that there is something bigger than the thought or emotion of the moment.
So it’s that observing ego writing this post. It’s that observing ego calling my psychiatrist and making status reports to my husband and taking my meds. It’s that observing ego organizing my intrusive thoughts and estimating whether they are too far toward the dangerous end of the spectrum.
It has to be in charge right now, because the other aspect of me can’t be trusted. Under most circumstances, my thoughts and feelings are a useful tool for self-management: they help me figure out what I want, or need, or don’t want anymore. But when a psychiatric problem crosses a line, my thoughts and feelings are no longer useful. If I am trying to find my way out of the jungle, the wrong map is worse than no map.
If I trust the data from my thoughts and emotions, I’ll write my last post today and you won’t hear from me for a long time, if ever. If I trust that data, the post will consist of an apology for daring to think I had something to offer. For pretending to believe anything good about myself, or the future, or life in recovery. For masquerading as a human being worthy of life instead of admitting all along to being the disgusting, maggot-like mass of shameful inadequacy that I am. For being a drag on the planet’s resources and wasting the time and energy of everyone I have ever encountered.
Should I trust that data?