Zhiro’d like to think he’s holding things together pretty well, but he’s on uncertain ground at best. I’m afraid I’m not doing much better myself at the moment. My anxiety has skyrocketed recently and I’m not sure precisely why.
It may be the worst of the storm before the clouds part. These Complexes sense Death looming and they’ve decided to fight the change with every tooth and nail. Sometimes that means getting so loud, and so oppressive, that breathing becomes a challenge. Let alone communicating. It can be very hard on Cory especially, who does not have depression and anxiety issues, because if I can’t string a sentence together, I can’t tell him what I need.
Today I was really thankful we’d created a form of communication for exactly these kinds of situations. I thought that I’d share it here, in case somebody else might benefit from it.
There are two categories: Static, and Urges. Each one is paired with a number on a 1 to 10 scale. So if I am struggling to communicate, I don’t have to try to form a sentence. I can just give two words, and two numbers, and Cory knows what’s going on and what actions are appropriate to respond with.
Static is a set of typical self-destructive thoughts that I have more-or-less all the time. I’ve had these since I was a very young child, so while a lot of people find the idea of my Static terrifying or horrible, to me they’re very mundane and not particularly threatening. Oppressive, certainly, but not threatening. They come in a variety of narratives.
The most benign flavor is turning every situation into a way that I could hurt myself. “See that door? Crush your head with it. See that cord? Hang yourself with it.” This may sound awful, but it’s also really obvious, which makes it easy to identify, roll my eyes about, and move on with my day. If the volume gets loud, it might intrude on top of other thoughts, and that’s a little worse because it actively inhibits accessing my own desires and plans. However, this is still more manageable than the strongest narrative, which is where the thoughts are more believable and convincing.
Rather than urging me to self-destruct actively, they work to convince me the world would be a far better place if I wasn’t in it. This level of Static goes after everything. My relationships (nobody likes you, everyone that meets you despises you, they all can’t wait to get away from you, anything nice you’ve every attempted for anyone is viewed with scorn and suspicion, you’re dragging them down, you’re wasting their time) and my work (your story is harmful, riddled with ignorance and bias, boring, poorly written, nobody reads it, nobody enjoys it, everyone thinks it and by proxy YOU are terrible) and my general person (you’re ignorant, thoughtless, racist, sexist, biased, lazy, stupid, you talk too much, you’re a failure, you’re worthless, you’re selfish).
I’d like to re-emphasize that this is all TYPICAL for me. I have had these thoughts since I can remember having thoughts. THEY ARE NOT DANGEROUS TO ME. So before anybody starts ringing alarm bells, consider that this might be the first time that you’re hearing about it, but I assure you that it is not the first time I’ve experienced them. Made it 30 years listening to this crap in some form almost every day and I’m still here. It’s also getting better. Seeing a therapist for seven years or so has helped a lot. Some days the volume on Static is so low it may as well not be there anymore. Doesn’t mean that I don’t still have Static 10 days, but I have more and more Static 1 days than before.
Static can rob me of speech, but I have no fear that it will ever rob me of life.
Static means that Cory is actually okay to leave me alone and sort it out on my own. Or, if he has the energy, it can also be dealt with by affirming words or comforting actions (like hugs). He knows that I may not be able to communicate, and the fact that I know that he knows that often takes a lot of the anxiety of the situation out. I know he’s not going to bombard me with questions I can’t answer, or worry needlessly. This can give me the space to sort out how I feel and eventually regain the ability to talk. Even if it might be like one of the Sloths from the DMV in Zootopia for a while.
Urges are the danger category.
Urges I never had until the assault a few years ago. After that, I learned how to be afraid of myself, because sometimes I would lose control of my own limbs and find them lashing out at my body, or at hard surfaces which they could use to injure themselves. Urges are often accompanied by disassociation from my body, where I will no longer look at my hands and understand that they belong to me. Urges are terrifying, and often paralyzing, because I don’t trust myself around anything potentially dangerous. I can’t cook (knives) or make the bed (sheets) or do a variety of activities that might take me near something that my body might co-opt for a destructive purpose. Can’t use a computer, because I might break it. Can’t write anything down, because I might rip the notebook apart. I become a danger to myself and everything around me, and I just end up curled up around myself, not daring to move until the feeling passes.
An Urges of about 4 or above communicates to Cory “Please help me, I’m scared, talk to me, don’t trust what comes out of my mouth, don’t let me near anything dangerous, don’t leave me alone.”
Applying the categories and numbers allows me to communicate the level of help that I need and the nature of the problem. If I’m at a Static 10 and an Urges 2, then I’m probably not going to be talking for a while and I’m probably going to be going through basic self-care for a while, but mostly I need space. If I’m at a Static 3 and an Urges 6, I need a lot more help, but I’m going to be able to talk through it and communicate with a higher level of objectivity.
What’s key about using this system is that we’ve discussed these states and the meaning of the numbers in advance. And we keep discussing them as we learn new things. Maybe a better way to deal with Static, or a more effective way to deescalate an Urge. This discussion happens when I am feeling healthy, stable, and aware enough to give him accurate descriptions of my experience and make reasonable suggestions about what is best to do. He’s also in a calm and relaxed space, so he can ask questions and discuss tactics. If we wait until there’s a problem, then neither of us has the tools needed to address it, because the issues shut communication down.
I know a lot of this sounds pretty extreme to someone if they’ve never experienced depression that is similar in manifestation as mine, but I’m hopeful that those of you that struggle in similar ways and have partners that want to help, but can’t, might get some use out of this system. I’ve found time and again that it has helped Cory and I help each other through times where, without this system, we’d have been completely helpless.
What other ways have you found to communicate when communication seems impossibly challenging?