There’s a saying somewhere that says, “Hind sight is always 20-20”, and I’m sure we’ve all taken it as meaning that everything makes sense once you look back on it. But, I’ve come to disagree over the past semester. Just how it’s said that there are some things that you can’t learn from text books, my opinion differs. For a matter of fact, hind sight can’t tell you everything you wanted to know, but you can most certainly get help in figuring out these things from a text book.
It’s just that said event must be analysed in order to be understood, and this text book must be for psychology.
Yes, get ready for another psychological analysis. It will be lengthy, but you can skip the bits about my life history. They have details that I will recall later, but some of it has been talked about before.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I was really fucked up for a good five years of my life. And I mean it–really fucked up. After my parents split up after third grade, each day became increasingly difficult to get through, and my emotions were going wild. Looking back, I’m sure that I would have been one of those tragic stories of the good kid getting into drugs should all of this happened a few years later in my life. But, a nine year-old doesn’t cope with drugs or alcohol, they cope with something else that’s easy and mind-numbing.
Welcome to how I became addicted to television.
It was never intentional, but television became a really good way to “get out of it”. After all, when you’re living in a television show, how can you feel your own emotions? The only struggle was finding the correct kind of shows to lose myself in, and Nickelodeon wasn’t cutting it. Luckily, my sisters came to stay with me over the summer of the divorce, and they introduced me to something quite new–anime. And it was the perfect solution. Interesting plots. Violence. Fantasy. High emotions. Anime had them all, and it became what I focused each day around. Home from school, straight to the television set. And then I could sit in front of the glowing box for four hours, while scratching at my homework. I’d take breaks to eat, sometimes to dabble with the more intense homework (after all, I still kept all A marks), but you could bet it was never long before I would be back to watch the late night anime shows.
This continued through fourth grade, fifth, sixth, all the way until my freshmen year of high school. Every day didn’t matter, so long as I had that new episode to look forward to or an out from myself. How did no one see that I was upset? All emotions and personality were gone from me. I was void or anything human. How was this not an alarm?
In seventh grade, I think my mum knew something was wrong, but she had been so involved in her own life that I doubt she knew just what was wrong with me. I cannot see her remembering what I was like before the divorce. She probably just saw the girl who was very upset for a year. But, when it looked like I wasn’t upset any more, she must have thought that was the end. But, I was a completely different person by that point. I didn’t look sad, but I was. I was full of self-loathing, hatred, pent-up emotions. It’s just that I never allowed them to be seen. And, eventually, after a couple of years of that, I lost them.
But these weren’t the things she noticed. She noticed only her own depression and the acting out by my younger brother. And, maybe, she thought the same thing could be happening to me, but with the only red flags being that I had only a handful of friends and spent far too much time in front of the television.
So, we went on a trip to her psychiatrist (I’m still debating if this was a step in the right direction or a scape goat), who said I had ADHD and depression and called out for three medications to be taken twice daily for, most likely, the rest of my life. I’ll admit that, from the very first day, I didn’t think that they would do anything, and I was right and wrong about that. For starters, the medication did not make me feel suddenly happy or allow me to act like a normal person. They made me feel outside of my own body, as though I wasn’t real. My fingers were jittery, and I couldn’t pay attention during my pre-algebra class. I remember sitting there at my desk wondering how in the world these pills were supposed to make me feel great, and I couldn’t understand the point.
On day two, I stopped taking them. And, trust me, I came up with some crafty ways to fool my mum that I was. I’d flush the pills down the toilet, throw them away, go on convenient trips to toss them down the sewer (the poor drugged-up sewer creatures…). And I started to act. I’d pretend to be more normal until, after two years of this, I appeared perfectly normal. I could laugh and smile and be sarcastic. Sometimes, I could even fake anger or sadness if it seemed to be correct (like, while watching a sad film, I could look sad–though I’ve never quite mastered crying on cue). But, if any emotion slipped and became real (like anger towards my mum), I’d explode and then run off to be alone and drain all of the emotion away. And it would set me back, but I’d just become a better actress because of it.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t some fix to be showing emotions, I was still a very sad person, I was still addicted to television, and I was still hating myself, specifically my looks and curly hair.
So, you could say that the medication was a very bad idea and that the trip to the psychiatrist was just a bad step. But, it did one very good thing–it woke me up.
During the years of watching anime and day-dreaming and not living, I had been completely void of personality and even day-to-day thoughts. Nothing really happened, every day was just another day. But, after sitting in that pre-algebra class, staring out and realising that these drugs were terrible, it woke me up to realise that I really had been depressed (and we’ll come back to the whole discussion of depression later on). But, I realised that the depression wasn’t going to be cured with medication, and I figured that it was all over with. It seemed that, with the depression being gone, I should be able to get back to life and be popular and have friends and be pretty. How things seemed possible at that moment.
Well, things aren’t that simple. Yes, I had awoken, but there wasn’t instant gratification. There was work, work that I didn’t know how to do or want to do. I had lost all emotions at this point, so I worked on faking those (which never replaces emotions once they’re gone, it only makes you a very good actress). And now that I was awake, I could start hating myself more! I’d been living in these hand-me down clothes from my older sister, and I’d been putting my hair in a ponytail every day since it was fuzzy and curly, but I hadn’t seen anything wrong with this. But, being awake meant that I was now bothered by these things.
And welcome to my eighth grade year. A year filled with hating how I looked (Why is my hair so fuzzy and red? Can’t I have straight blonde hair?), what I wore (I don’t wear anything in style because I’m too tall and nothing ever looks good on me!), and escaping from the hate by watching more anime. What a vicious circle.
Well, slow changes occurred during my ninth grade year.
For one thing, I became much less enchanted with anime after my favourite show ended, and I couldn’t find anything to replace it. So, I decided to read a book instead (whaddup, Chronicles of Narnia?), and it turns out that that was pretty fun. What else could I get my hands on? All of Dan Brown. And soon I read My Ant’onia, Wicked, and a plethora of other things. (I would even one day read Twilight, though it’s enchantment lived only for the first book and then crashed and burned so beautifully.) I graduated with a major in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and with a minor in John Hersey and Daniel Quinn. So, that made a difference.
I was also diagnosed with a really horrible disease during eighth grade that, instead of making me even more depressed, allowed me to make excuses for myself. I had been very thin but never fit, so I could now blame my awkwardness and lack of muscle or talents in sports on that. It sounds like a terrible form of displacement, but it worked so well in helping me accept myself as who I was. What started as blame became acceptance and understand. So, even when I gained weight (which did upset me a bit), I was still not as down as I could have been before. I had my excuse, “I can’t work out to make myself any thinner since I’m physically handicapped.” Rest assured, though, that I changed this form of thinking and now go on regular walks, eat very healthfully, and look better than ever.
And, the biggest change was in learning how to take care of my hair, but I’ve talked about this before. Still, it made a major difference.
Somehow, from these steps, I learned to respect myself, which created a hole in my life. Without that time spent hating who I was and thinking no one liked me, what was I to do?
Answer: get friends.
I carried two friends with me from middle school and gained many more during high school. And, for the first time, I was able to choose my friends not based on who needed to be friends with someone or whose group I could get with, but I could choose friends based on similarities. Gifted English became a great foundation for that, where I met some of my best-friends (and I am still best-friends with them). Later, they would introduce me to their friends, and it all ended up working quite nicely. Everything worked out quite nicely. And even though there’s still work to be done, I’m feeling better and better as time goes on.
But, again, I’ve talked about all of this before.
What was striking was that, even as a senior in high school, some of the explanations for all of this were still fuzzy, specifically the parts about depression. I was, depressed, but the medication never helped, and I was able to get out of it. That seemed like it couldn’t have been depression, but I wondered if it was possible to just be so sad all of the time. It was a question that I’m not sure if I knew I had, but it was bubbling there the entire time.
Here’s what I found though:
Psych class was about to start in five minutes, and Aaron and I were flipping through the chapter on mental disorders (abnormal behaviour) before the lecture, and I came across the paragraph on depression. Interested (and since it would need to be read anyway), I read through it and was surprised to find the term dysthymia mentioned.
Let me tell you what dysthymia is. It is a form of depression that lasts for two or more years, has less severe symptoms, and often makes those who have it think that they are simply just a depressed person and that’s the way it is. Not severe enough to get help, not mild enough to call it sadness. That seemed to fit me very well, but it was later into reading that I discovered a key point.
You see, depression is a chemical condition. It’s caused by your brain not producing enough endorphins (along with some other complications), so you physically cannot be happy. The thing about dysthymia is that it is not chemically caused. You could say that it actually has a cause outside of your head. When something terrible happens to you to cause the feelings of depression, it doesn’t imply that you are depressed, but a cause and reason means that you have dysthymia. And, suddenly, as I sat in that class, I realised that this was what I had had. No wonder medication hadn’t helped. No wonder I could leave it. No wonder I was feeling so down. There was finally reason to everything that had happened.
But it proved to me that hindsight isn’t 20-20. It isn’t perfect, because, even when I thought that I had it all figured out, it turns out that there was information I didn’t yet have to bring the clues together. Even now I won’t pretend like I’ve found the missing link. Every time I write about this, I find myself asking new questions and working up new theories as to how things worked. And looking at the entire situation through the lens of mental health rather than through the changes I made brings up a plethora of new and different thoughts and outlooks.
This is why I find psychology so interesting, so fascinating. Whenever I doubt my major (which is rare), I think of these things and realise why I’m here. I know that I want to counsel people rather than give them pills. I realise that I’ve gone through all of these crazy things for a reason, so that I understand them and can then apply what I’ve learned to help others. More and mroe, I understand that I was meant, born, to be a psychologist and a counsellor for families. It all makes so much sense.
“There, there baby
It’s just expert stuff
It’s in the ABC of growing up
There, there darling
Now don’t lose your head
Because none of us are angels
And you know I love you yeah.”
-“Speeding Cars”, Imogen Heap