Lemon

I am tired. Tired of working on myself. Tired of something being wrong. Tired of needing to change.

It started when I was 16, and it’s been an endless procession of depression and disordered eating and anxiety and ADD and addictions and compulsions and therapists and medications and wondering why I can’t ever seem to pull my shit together for any extended period of time.

There is always something, something threatening to swallow me whole.

I’ve spent the last 18 years managing all these things, wondering if they are even real, trying to validate my struggles with them. I have always seen myself as damaged, as not able to handle struggle the way others could, as lacking in some way.

When I made it to 24 without ever being in a meaningful relationship–or any romantic relationship for that matter–I took it as confirmation that something was wrong with me. It’s been hard, in the fallout of an important friendship, not to hold it as further proof that I am just wrong in some way. Being rejected by someone close to you really messes with your sense of self-worth.

I remember when I was 16 and my parents were looking for a used car for me to drive. I had just totaled the Jetta they got me, 36 hours after I got my license (yep, still can’t think about that without cringing) and they were looking for something a little more solid. A Volvo 240 seemed to be just the thing, and I remember the extensive conversations we had about what good cars they were… unless you got a lemon.

I was terrified of getting a lemon. It would require a lot of work and money and it would never feel dependable. I would always be worried it might break down, at any moment.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a lemon; basic functions that seem to work fine for everyone else are always short circuiting in me. I require more work and replacement parts just to run as well as everyone else. Sure, at the end of the day I’m still functioning, but is it really worth the time, energy and resources to keep me on the road?

{And I want to make clear that when I “compare” myself to others it’s not to determine who has it “better” or “easier,” but is an attempt at normalization. I’m trying to determine what should be expected as part of the human experience. Pretty much every “diagnosis” I’ve ever received is basically a determination that I am “more” or something than I am expected to be in my circumstances (depression is being “more” sad than is expected in a set of circumstances), so the next logical step is for me to compare my experience to others in an attempt to determine if it’s expected or anomalous in some way.}

I know everybody struggles (and that many struggle MUCH more than I do), and I know that I’m probably not going to witness many of those struggles. But I also know the subtle signs and symptoms of struggles like my own and I don’t see them in the people I know. Without some kind of confirmation that others are dealing with these issues it’s hard not to think that I am incongruous in some way. That something isn’t quite right inside me.

Maybe if  had more friends who shared these kinds of experiences with me I’d feel less abnormal, but I don’t have many close friends. (Yet another confirmation that I am not quite right.)

Or maybe life is just hard and it will always feel like a struggle, and I just don’t manage that struggle as well as others do. Or maybe I’m just not as good at hiding how wearing it can be to manage that struggle.

I’m struggling with how to conclude this post, to instill some actual meaning or purpose into this mess of woe-is-me navel-gazing. I haven’t quite figured out why I’m feeling this way right now, why these 18 years are suddenly crushing me. I suppose I thought I’d move past all these issues at some point, that maturity and life experience would help me surpass decades of depression and other issues. I guess I thought that arriving at the life I always wanted would alleviate the anxiety. But I’m here and I’m still struggling, and I’m realizing that I will always be struggling and the reality of that is overwhelming. The realization that the darkness will keep descending, that I will always have to fight it back, that depression is a part of me, a part of the way my brain works, that it has soldered a lens into my perception that will color my life, that questions about how to best manage depression and whether we over-medicate will always have acute personal significance to me, that I will have to answer hard questions about how to manage depression in the long run, that this is my life, and no amount of “arriving” will allow me to leave it behind.

That this is my present as well as my past, and that it will most likely be my future.

9 Comments

  1. I’m struggling with how best to offer support without sounding belittling to your situation. I could say that I get it, because I’ve had similar thoughts about self-worth and feeling like I’m failing. I could also point you in the direction of books to read or suggest seeking a different therapist. Instead, I’m going to try something different.

    What if what the frustration your experiencing is due not to you being a lemon, but more that you perceive yourself as one? That you’re wearing yourself out with trying to fix what really isn’t broken? No human who walks or has walked this planet is perfect; we all have quirks and flaws. But there’s beauty in those imperfections because they make us unique and can afford us insights and talents others do not possess.

    One major gifts of infertility is that I learned I had to stop with the comparisons. I’m still working on this and there are many days that I fail. But there is something freeing to know that it’s okay to be me, flaws and all. It doesn’t mean that I should continue to learn and grow, but by giving myself license to fail and not be perfect, I’m finding that I’m a lot more happy.

    For what it’s worth, I think you have a lot of amazing qualities. You have an ability to analyze and explore that many don’t have the patience for, which affords you insights most would miss. You also are very brave to identify areas that you are unhappy with and take steps to enact change. You also have shown how driven you can be, balancing self-care with parenting with career. All of these things are truly impressive and I know you’ve inspired others.

    In summary, I don’t think you are a lemon at all. And from the comments you’ve had in the past, I believe others agree with me. Now the hard part is facing your Jabberwocky.

  2. In your last post in response to a comment you wrote: “Like I am just inherently defective”.
    And nailed my most destructive habit. A root, habitual, thought that I acquired in childhood and that was very explicitly taught to me by an older sibling.
    There are lots of ways to say this to yourself… or for others to say it to you. The repetition erodes into your soul. BUT doesn’t make it true.
    You are human. You are not perfect. (me too) This is not the same as defective.
    Watch yourself and label it each time you have such a thought…”Oh that is my old frenemy ‘defective’… huh. It is still wrong because actually in reality I am human and that is ok.”
    And, every time it happens know it is tough to deal with the old habit. I think it sinks down and hides to jump out at us at bad times and then rubs itself with evil glee and chortles away.
    You are also judging your insides against everyone else’s outsides. It sounds like you are seeing this sometimes and recognizing that it might have importance and maybe even substance but you are not sure yet.
    Our outsides are very protective because exposing ‘defective!’ never has a good outcome in schoolyards, or in most of business, or sports or… well even at the grocery store where maybe a chocolate candy bar will help. It is scary to reveal even inside a loving family or to a trusted therapist. We know it is scary because we learned the lesson through pain and rejection and teasing etc.
    Not that I speak with any real deep personal knowledge acquired painfully over a long life time (I qualify as ancient), not that I end in puddles of tears and despair… well, that did happen AGAIN literally yesterday afternoon. And regularly before that for the past 7 weeks. But sometimes I am better and can go for significant periods of time not self denigrating. But this does not make it true that I am defective. I am not defective. I am human. YOU TOO. We are PERFECT HUMAN BEINGS … which means highly imperfect and we should give ourselves the grace we try to give our loved partners and adored children. Very tough job to show ourselves that grace.
    Cheer leading for all us human imperfect entities.

  3. Depression is hard, and you shouldn’t have to deal with it by yourself.

    I do think the US does over-medicate for depression, but for the people who really are chemically depressed, the medications are important. (The other half of our blog has a regular prescription for Zoloft.)

    I don’t know you, and I’m not even an armchair psychologist, but your posts have sounded really depressed. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you as a person, just that you may not be able to pull yourself out on your own even with the tremendous effort you have been making. I actually *would* suggest seeing a different therapist or seeing more of your current therapist if that would help.

    And I would think about medication– what are the specific reasons you’re resisting and are there medications that don’t have those problems, would you be willing to do a trial, and for how long, and so on. I don’t like the way that GP sometimes throw addicting and dangerous medications unmonitored at anyone with the smallest bit of anxiety, but I also have a lot of friends whose clinical depression has been helped with the right dosage of the right medication (my best friend and blog partner being one of them), monitored by a psychiatrist. That doesn’t mean that meds are necessarily right for you, but they are right for some people and they may be worth looking into in partnership with a qualified medical professional.

    And nobody is perfect. That’s ok! We’re all different people with different strengths and weaknesses. Life isn’t a competition or a race; if it were, we would all be losing.

  4. I also am not a psychiatrist etc. but it does sound like you are resisting meds. Having been thru ppd twice and been helped with meds both times I don’t get the worries re over medication. Depression is a biological illness. We don’t worry about over-medicating cancer patients, heart attack patients, etc (with the exception that for some things like diabetes in some cases lifestyle changes could reduce the need for meds). Anyway, some of the robin Williams commentary struck a nerve. Why is it that we are ashamed of depression, afraid of meds, etc?

    Anyway, just a thought that maybe meds would help. Sounds like you’ve done them before–maybe a tweak of dose or rx?

    Sorry if this is assvice.

  5. Just another point– the 2nd time I had ppd I didn’t want to believe it so I spent 6 weeks trying affirmations, cognitive stinkin’ think in’ work, etc, to no avail. Then meds, and ah much better.

  6. I am going to comment in a similar vein as your first two commenters have.

    First: I realized this summer that much of what goes through my head – my narrative, the story I have told people (and myself) about myself now for years… is NOT REAL. It’s made up. A small example: I have told myself for years that I am not good at my chosen career. My therapist pointed out, though, that I have had no issue getting – and keeping – work, and in fact, even though I SAY I’m not good at it, from everything I talk about, she believes I AM good at it.

    I have also told people – and myself – for years now that I was a challenging child to raise. It’s true I was a non-compliant child, and I needed more teaching than just blind “do it this way.” But raising ALL children present challenges, and I was no worse than any other child.

    So why would I have a personal narrative where I tell myself I was a bad kid and I’m no good in my career?

    That’s what I’m exploring now.

    At the risk of sounding like an internet therapist… (I’m SO not)… I think your narrative is that you are both afraid of being defective AND you believe you are defective. Every episode of depression and disordered eating and anxiety and ADD and addiction and compulsion somehow ends up being proof that you are defective in some way, and it gives you a focus for all your energy – to really work on FIXING yourself, making that part of you go away.

    But then it pops up elsewhere, in another form, like a whack-a-mole in your psyche.

    Whenever I confess to my therapist a big bad ugly fear, she always turns it back into a question for me.

    So, then: What happens if you ARE defective? What if you are a lemon?

    I personally don’t think you are as damaged as you think you are. I stand with Cristy on saying that you have inspired me over the years. And I really wish you were kinder to yourself.

    xoxo

  7. I think we all think we’re defective and damaged, and the tough thing is to convince ourselves otherwise. Depression too is exhausting, and it all makes it very difficult to see the good in us, when we’re feeling so bad. And as the others have said, there is so much that is good in you, and I wish you could feel it, and believe it. I don’t really know what else to say, but I’m sending you hugs.

    1. Depression is so exhausting. It makes me so tired.

      Thank you for your kind words. Yours, and others’, have really helped.

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