The other day I talked about how much A- was embracing her new school and her new role as a high school student. She’s into week two now and continuing with her strategy to change her own fate and I couldn’t be prouder of her. Last week was easy. This week not as much though. Oh, she is still embracing the change. She isn’t backing down or shying away from it, but as I had predicted, there is a “let down” of energy that was pent up from the anxiousness of the situation. Old battles have re-awakened in the last couple days and she is struggling with the old voices of depression – the ones that tell her she isn’t good enough or strong enough. The ones that tell her she can’t. She was weepy yesterday after school for several reasons, some of which she didn’t even know, but she said one of the girls that used to pick on her at her old school was bothering her some yesterday. She cried saying she didn’t know why she expected this year to be any different. I pointed out how vastly different this year already was. No, the girl may not have grown up any during the summer, but this year, A- already had her own group of friends. She already had things she wanted to be involved in. I told her the girl was jealous because A- wasn’t the same person she was last year – the girl who was going to accept that no one liked her because she was different – because she’d already proven that wasn’t true. The girl was going to try to gain popularity by exploiting someone else and she saw A- as a familiar, easy target, but she was going to see that it wasn’t going to work for her anymore.
We had a visit last night from the familiar, although unwelcome, psychosis. It’s been a while since A- heard the voice in her head. The episode was relatively brief, but enough to rattle A-. I explained that there were bound to be setbacks along the road, times when stress was high and symptoms returned, but the difference was she was in so much of a better place now, that even though the depression and even the psychosis were familiar, she knew they were no longer what she wanted. It was scary for her, the sudden descent back into a place she is trying so hard to come out of. She said she hasn’t had suicidal thoughts in a while, but yesterday they were raging inside her head. She said she didn’t want to die, but she was afraid of those thoughts. I can understand that.
I’ve battled anxiety my whole life, but I haven’t fought the same demons that A- fights. As much as I can have compassion for her and empathy – as much as I hurt when she hurts, the sudden onslaught of these feelings when things have been going so well always baffles me. Is her mind fighting against her? Are the old feelings so comfortable that she unconsciously fights herself to keep herself where she is? Is she so afraid to be happy that she sabotages her own efforts? Deep down does she still feel that she doesn’t deserve to be better? She said yesterday she just hurt everywhere. She said she had almost forgotten what that pain felt like, that it was the pain that came before everything just went numb, and it scared her because she didn’t want to be numb anymore. She was just starting to feel again and she didn’t want to go back to the numbness. She asked me to not let her hurt herself, because she really really didn’t want to, but she really, really did.
I can’t imagine the strength it takes to battle yourself like this. One day maybe she will see that she is not worthless and she deserves to be happy and live the life of a ‘normal’ teenager. I’m not naive enough to think it will all miraculously go away one day, but instead for her to feel some value in herself – to see her as others do – to know she is important and to love herself, even just a little.
She is still participating in school. She is co-founding the art club, and she is excited for choir. She is interacting well with her teachers and her classmates. She is even participating freely in class despite the stares and smirks of her former classmates, many of whom have joined her at this new school. She has a group of friends and the desire to be involved in her school and in her newfound social group. She is still faking much of the bravado, but I guess the saying is fake it til you make it, right? I think this bout with the depression will be a short lived one. She’s come too far and is doing too well. I don’t think it will take her all the way back to where she was. But I, and the rest of her support network, will be here watching her and doing all we can to help. As she said, right now, she just feels like two people. There is the one that wants all this new stuff that is happening to her, the one who enjoys the feeling of happiness and of having friends and being involved, then the one that wants to be alone, who says she doesn’t need friends, who is always waiting to either let everyone down or be let down by them, who enjoyed the pain, who enjoyed the comfort of the numbness. She said they are both still in there, but she is fighting to make sure the one that wants to feel better is the one that wins.
And me? Well, some things don’t change at all. In my head, I also saw A- going to a new school and being in high school as an opportunity to do things differently. So many times in my head I see myself conquering my Social Anxiety Disorder. I see myself becoming one of those people who can become involved. But – when faced with the opportunity to do just that – be involved in something at her new school, I ran the other way. I can be so proud of A- for working so hard to change her outlook, but yet I can’t get a grasp on my own fears. I get so upset with myself over stuff like this. I can’t change it, what is done is done. I just have to await my next opportunity. I don’t mind my ADHD. Sometimes it makes me too blunt, or I worry that I am even when I’m not. It makes me chaotic and scattered and forgetful. It makes me late. But I can handle it. It has benefits as well as drawbacks. I can accept it and deal with it. But my Social Anxiety Disorder is another story altogether. There is no upside. There is only panic and good intentions and fear and loathing. There is only regret. There is no plus side. As hard as I fight, and as far as I come, it still can control me. It’s like the partner I can’t divorce.
Sometimes we live inside a contradiction. There are great things happening. There are positive things happening. Yet at the same time there is turmoil. There is peace while there is chaos. There is getting better, while seeming to get worse.
I think the stress of starting high school is the catalyst for A-‘s current feelings. I think things will calm down for her when she gets used to it a little more. She will gain her confidence and she will find her place. And she will once more calm the storm inside of her.