This may or may not work for you.
But I want to believe I can help you.
I want to share what worked for me, hoping it’ll help you.
This video is an excellent example of how co-morbid disorders work. Stroke patients become prone to sleeping disorders. Then sleeping disorders make them prone to depression.
i.e.—it’s a spiral down.
Remember illnesses, disorders, and risks often chain off one another; and while this can be disheartening—in fact, soul crushing—it can also be uplifting when you look at it from the other way.
i.e.—it can spiral up.
Because if everything increases everything, then decreasing one disorder or illness may improve the conditions of others; at least, this is the mentality I took. I’ve chosen to consciously work on my sensory processing disorder, knowing it’ll improve my depression, anxiety, sleep, etc.;
i.e.—I can improve somewhere,
even if it’s not in the area I feel is most needed.
So I do what I can to not overly expose myself to light, sound, smell, touch, temperature, or social situations. And I no longer feel guilty by saying, “No more; I’ve had too much today.” Or I tell myself, I no longer feel guilty; then I have another voice, like a Drill Sergeant, screaming at me nonstop, FEEL GUILT FEEL GUILT FEEL GUILT—
Important! I reached where I’m at today in tiny steps;
and I’m not finished with this journey;
I’m still depressed.
I’m still occasionally paralyzed by anxiety.
First, to try to climb out of my internal abyss, I focused on specific sensory areas. For example, I introduced aromatherapy into my life. I didn’t tell myself “You’re going to become an aromatherapist!” either; I just said, “Let’s try two hours of this blend recommended in this awesome book for calming emotions. Let’s see. Let’s experiment.”
i.e.—I became a scientist of myself, for myself,
and my internal hellhole turned into a laboratory.
Important! Give yourself permission
to intelligently experiment.
For vision, instead of focusing my brain power on how much I think oscillating currents suck (butnoreallytheysuck), I experimented with LED. I turned irritation into creative solutions. And I documented my progress.
Important! Document even the smallest progress.
A brain with negative thinking patterns refuses to accept upward spirals; so if you don’t have a historical record of progress, how will you convince your brain this is a good idea?—but remember your brain is your friend; it doesn’t want to have negative spirals. It’s like that misfit screaming, HOW DO I MAKE THE SCREAMING STOP—
Your brain is quite powerful. It’s elaborate. The damn thing has synaptic charges rivaling the stars in clear skies. Give it some respect. Present it factual evidence. Don’t waste its time with unverified noise. Treat it better than that. It wants to practice negative thinking patterns?—you want it to stop?—then give it a convincing reason to stop.
i.e.—develop a lifestyle
that outsmarts your negative brain.
So through documentation, I felt improvements. But manohman, it’s slow. I’m certain this is why depression is such a fatal illness; the slowness is incomprehensibly agonizing. Without the data to show movement, I’m not sure if you’ll ever feel the very movement you need to save yourself. It’s kind of like how we can’t see the beauty the subtle motions of the world without the assistance of timelapses.
Important! I record timelapses to remind myself
the importance of compressing data
to see the delicate motions in nature;
try to capture the delicate motions of your brain this way.
Through critical assessment, and many months of thinking none of this shit works, I felt my decision to help my sensory processing issues slowly lessen my struggle in other areas. I saw a verified light at the end of the tunnel, even though my brain said, “There’s no light. Life is cruel.”
i.e.—I nurtured myself
very, very slowly
until I had a response to when my brain said,
“There’s no light. Life is cruel.”
I think this is a make-or-break step. I think, if I could crystallize when depression tips from an awful illness, to a fatal illness (and vica versa—if you have suicidal thoughts, you can tip back the other way!), it would be based on the quantifiable measurement of you thinking, “Light!” vs. you thinking, “No light!”
I know, I know.
Kind of a hard thing to make quantifiable. So again,…
Important! Document the tiniest, teeniest progress.
Next, I decided to listen more keenly to what my body authentically tells me—and this may have had to do with an existential, quarter-life crisis, like a breaking point where my brain told itself, “Do you hear what you’re saying?”—and when I made this decision, intuition returned to me.
Thank goodness I returned to a state of intuitive being. When I let other people pilot my ship, I had next to no one truly at my side; every time my depression spiked, 95% of my “support system” checked out, including the people societal says will love you forever-and-ever. So I’d been facing many of my demons alone, pants down.
But when intuition returned? The game changed.
i.e.—My brain, caught in a negative thinking pattern,
wants to understandably self-destruct; but my gut reactions,
and my intuition, want to live.
I remembered I intuitively wanted to live.
So rather than trying to live based off what people tell me my body should be saying—based on memories of how I should feel—I let my gut do the work. My poor gut was weak and fallible; it took a lot of work for it to, well, work correctly.
Yet when I listened to what others wanted me to become, I fell into self-destruction with no ally; whereas when I listened to what I authentically wanted to become, I had a lifelong ally in my battle against self-destruction. Through this lens, the need to exercise my gut became first and foremost. I was willing to branch off from my quest to improve my sensory processing issues, to improving my sensory processing issues and my trust in my inner self.
Mind you, I still wasn’t ready to do squat to directly treat depression or anxiety.
Yet the choice of whether to listen to others or myself became so painfully, incredibly obvious, I couldn’t turn back. I will never please people at my expense, ever again—period. What a monumental decision that became. What an immense shattering to my world; I entered an identity crisis again.
This is when my digestion issues spiked. I truly felt like my stomach had declared full-blown war on my brain. Occasionally, both sides would call in the artillery in the form of alcohol, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds. (Yes, I believe pharmaceuticals are just as capable of explosively dangerous aftermath as alcohol.) (Separate topic, I guess.)
My middle-of-the-night binging may have been my brain trying to sabotage the situation. Again, it’s dangerous to underestimate the brain’s potential; the complexity of consciously aware star-stuff, all that business.
Oh—and I started studying physics.
I figured, after two identity crises in a row, and the mental carnage of my quarter-life crisis at my feet, I at least could fill in the gaps of my ricocheting neurons with some new learning material.
Important! If you feel crushed under an identity crisis,
consider re-framing your concepts of “you” and “identity”
by studying a new field of thinking
like physics, psychology, or biology.
I kept listening to my body, despite the internal war. I paid attention to how my muscles tensed up to anxiety; I kept listening to how my migraines told me, No more light. And I used my body’s signals, sabotaged or not, to improve upon my sensory processing agenda. I kept at the same issues I was fixing before, while also introducing new methods and rituals, from lifelong learning to gut-based reflecting.
I made the enormous decision to ignore all attempts anyone ever makes to call me “mean,” or any other triggering word that collapsed me into social over-stimulation.
I came to the conclusion that I needed to tune out the negativity of others based on my gut telling me, Hey. Heeey. One of the things Brain is using to destroy Intuition is What-That-Effer-Said.
I learned to not only force my negative thinking patterns to sit out at the sidelines,—you know, so intuition could be large-and-in-charge—but I forced the negative opinions of others on the sidelines, too. I became open about my depression, because I wanted people to understand why I was discarding harmful opinions.
Some of the above phase was very, very hard.
i.e.—I worked towards a place
where my opinion of myself
outweighed the opinions others assigned to me.
So at this point, many many many many many many awful months in, I’ve internalized the following practices:
- daily negative thinking patterns, trying to self-destruct my brain; but then,
- daily tuning into my intuition for advice on my sensory processing status;
- daily tuning into my intuition for the person it thinks I’ve become; and
- daily silencing of any negative thinking patterns the external world places on my identity (this is so hard) (because guess where you learned negative thinking patterns from?) (it’s not like you were born wanting to self-destruct).
It’s not that much progress.
But it’s progress.
Actually, it’s pretty tremendous progress.
Next, I created plans in my art therapy for battling perfection. This happened when I noticed social judgement, and social negativity, slipped into internal creative judgement, and internal creative negativity patterns.
And this is when I started sloppily blogging.
This is when I used blogs to tell my inner perfectionist to go sit on the sideline with my social perfectionist, and my external environment’s social perfectionists, because I’d had enough of the wrecking balls they were wanting to throw around the inside of my skull.
i.e.—I extended social unfuckwithability
to a broader, internalized unfuckwithability
by battling perfectionism in my art.
Then I re-introduced meditation. I used to meditate and practice yoga, before graduate school; now I meditate in a bath tub with the Calm.com app. And I reward myself with a bath bomb.
Important! It’s okay to establish short-term reward systems
to develop a habit you know will help in the long-term.
I feel silly, but I tell myself, meditation and bath bombs are my intuition’s treat for all the hard work it’s been doing to double middle-finger my negatively programmed brain. I feel as if I’m taking my internal war heroes out to a midday celebration. I am like Dionysus and Hades, all at once, trying to emerge as Artemis.
I meditate primarily to help with my anxiety, but surely this helps my sensory processing, depression, sleep, etc.—again, any momentum upwards contributes to that upward-bound spiral.
Oh, …and my math anxiety.
Eventually, I earned enough courage to fight my math anxiety.
So now I also invest 10- to 15-minute binges into Brilliant.org and/or esoteric, astrophysicist math YouTubes; I expose myself to the scariest math my imagination could ever dream of, then I flash math more complicated than I can fathom, until I reach that point RIGHT THERE before the anxiety attack.
i.e.—while I did not start as brave,
as I made quantifiable progress,
I developed the courage to challenge my demons.
I cannot describe what kind of courage it takes to face phobia. All I can say is, it’s easiest to face sensory processing, followed by perfectionism, followed by anxiety, followed by phobia.
Then there’s depression.
I’ve had passive suicidal thoughts… for a long time. Depression has existed within me for as long as I can reach back. I remember violently weeping in the shower in elementary school. In junior high. In high school. In undergrad. In graduate school. Forever.
It’s a very, very deep root—all it takes is a trigger, (like teaching K-12 for a few months, with daily anxiety attacks, followed by months of meetings where no one directly tells you what’s going to happen to you,) and off I go to the shadows of valleys made of the deeper shadows of death.
And yet, the release of the tension of all the co-morbids surrounding depression—the acknowledged trauma of further and further suppression—makes me think just maybe, just maybe, depression can also be addressed.
If you can release a grain of muck, you can release an ocean of it with enough practice.
If you can spiral downward, you can also spiral up.
If you can hide autism, you can live authentically with autism.
If you can exist that way, you can exist the other way.
If you can be this sad, you can be that happy.
Yet it still scares me to face depression head-on. So what’s another co-morbid I can tackle that doesn’t scare the piss out of me?—ahhh, sleeping problems!
i.e.—if you cannot conceptualize or fathom
the other side of the coin
of one of you deep, dark demons,
challenge a different demon instead
until you are ready.
Important! Instead of belittling yourself
for not being strong enough
go out and earn enough experience points
so you’re so strong
not even your depression
can fuck with you anymore.
Now I’ve switched to reading my Kindle on low-light before bed—instead of bringing my cellphone to bed—and this positively impacts my anxiety, depression, and coping mechanisms for sensory processing.
Then I write to help with my depression.
On very brave days, I truly write to help with my depression.
Like today. Like this post. I’m doing what my family might call “airing dirty laundry,” or what my employer might call “unreasonable accommodation,” but I call it, writing about my depression so I can heal, so I can help others, and off I go.
But 98% of the time, I sit down with the intention to fight depression, and it sends minions at me instead: “What about your thoughts on societal collapse?” “What about your thoughts on black holes?” “What about the Great Rip?” “What about bullying?” “What if someone threatens to sue you?” “What if someone spreads ill rumors about you?” “What if this?” “What about meteors crashing on the Earth?” “WHAT THEN?”
The 2% of the time I face depression, I make good progress.
So it’s worth the 98% journey.
It’s worth the sloppy blogging.
It’s worth the sacrifice of time to the co-morbids that cropped up.
It’s worth taking glancing blows at depression by challenging its many forms.
It’s worth taking this wholesome and respectful approach to healing, without pushing myself to face the issues I’m not ready to face yet. It’s worth spiraling just as slowly upward as I spiraled down. It’s worth spiraling upward even slower than I ever felt myself spiraling down. It’s worth spending an entire day progressing half an inch. It’s worth regressing, so I can figure out why I regressed. It’s worth creative solutions.
Each of these steps, I’ve adapt gradually.
I make it sound more dramatic and sudden than it really is; only the space between paragraphs separates one triumph from the next.
Important! I did not wake up and decide to do this all at once.
On some days, I wake up, and I can’t do what I’ve done.
I forgive regression, frustration, confusion, rumination, and aberrations in logic. I rely on the journals of evidence when my brain screams, “Muaha! You will never make it out! I HAVE YOU IN MY CLUTCHES.”
I am brutally honest. I tell myself, “I am depressed; I am so depressed, I have passive suicidal thoughts; and I do not yet know how to not be depressed.”
i.e.—if I don’t want to swallow the lies
of the false life others imposed on me,
I have to be willing to let go of every lie,
including ones I used to tell myself.
I acknowledge the very helplessness people tell me not to feel. I discard any “quick fix,” “get over it” methods. These are useless methods for my brain. I think too deeply for shallow fixes to work. I learn to be grateful that shallow fixes don’t work; do I really want to live such a simple life, I just say, “Get over it,” then walk around the rest of the day singing LA LA LA LA LA—
Can’t I do better than this? I let all of this heavy reality sink into me, then I ask my intuition, “So what CAN we work on today?”
I chink at an iceberg as large as a continent.
I believe in my ability to chink to the center of such a large, unbelievably impossible structure. I believe in my ability to heal from a depression I cannot fathom healing from. It’s a mysterious state of being, to say the least. I lose belief, regain belief, and nurture belief, all the while doubting the nature of human belief, the meaning of consciousness, really big questions that make the spiral feel exceptionally long and questionably designed. On the best days, I convince myself the depression has introduced me to the darkness needed to produce the brightest light.
I tell myself this a lot:
Since I have no idea how to not be this sad—how to want to be happy—I am going to focus on sensory processing issues. I am going to focus on anxiety today. Or I am going to learn math today. Or I am going to do anything but worry about how I am this sad, and I am unable to feel that happy. I am going to do what I can do, not wallow in the agony of what I am not yet capable of doing.
I heal myself with the peripheral vision I learned playing flute in a band.
I heal through my belief in chain reaction and emergence of purpose—of value—of an authentic life beneath the layers of psychological muck.
Also—and this step took years, so I hope I’m not discounting it—I do not shy away from this truth anymore:
I will always be autistic.
I sometimes have to say this to myself a thousand times over to accept it, because I have had such a long life—thirty years; the third of a decently long life—pretending I’m neurotypical.
I am autistic.
But I am supposed to be neurotypical.
No. I am autistic.
I am not the person I’ve been trying to be.
That was an actor. An actor must go home and take off her clothes.
I am autistic. Yes. I am autistic.
It doesn’t matter if my family doesn’t want me to be autistic.
I am autistic.
It doesn’t matter if I know how to suppress stimming.
I am autistic, and I enjoy stimming.
It doesn’t matter if neurotypicals think I would be happier if I acted less autistic.
I’m actually truly, wholesomely happy when I get to be autistic.
I do not always have to be depressed.
I do not have to pretend I’m neurotypical.
I can be autistic.
I can be autistic and happy.
Over and over—I do this over and over—
And whoever you’re are, whoever you’re supposed to be, you must chant your true identity; you must remember YOU, beneath what others have imposed on you—
Who are you?
Nonono… (forget the pain they caused; that pain is behind you—) Who are you?
Important! (you live this life; no one else lives your life; so—)
WHO ARE YOU?
So I have done this over and over—
On some days, I ache as I practice—
I hate myself for wanting to not hate myself—
And yet I do it over and over—
OVER AND OVER—
Like the next repetition of mental exercise could make me or break me, but I’ve no choice but for it to make me, because it’s my life on the line here, so let’s have at it—
And it’s JUST like going to the gym (yes, I used to do this, too!—can someone please bring Women’s Day Gym and Spa to Fresno!? The smell of normal gyms just make me gag);
And now I look forward to being on the autism spectrum—remarkably enough—and even though I am seemingly chronically depressed, I look forward to being happy; I think of all the marvelous technologies and societal advancements we’ve made—the internet, for starters—because just a couple autistic people thought, “Fuck this noise, I’m going to be happy,” and I visualize it.
I visualize being an autistic person capable of slamming my fists into reality and creating an enormously alien and majestically necessary ripple.
Except I don’t see it.
I visualize through my intuition, and my brain screams, DON’T LOOK OVER THERE.
What do I believe?
Practice, practice, practice—
I believe in spiraling up, damn it, whatever hack it takes to spiral up;
What do I believe?
Practice, practice, practice—
I believe I love my autistic brain very, very much, and I wouldn’t trade it for the best neurotypical brain available on the market, because beneath this sludge wiped between the crevices of my unique mind, I have treasures beyond neurotypical comprehension;
What do I believe?
Practice love, practice acceptance, practice forgiveness—
I do not think I would come to this conclusion without reducing sensory sensitivity stimuli. I think, if I return to an overstimulated life, I will return again to absolute darkness. In other words, I didn’t escape depression by targeting depression; rather, I tried to improve another issue I had, and it lifted me up enough to then feel strong enough to fight depression. I am escaping depression because I acknowledged the intricate web my co-morbids have spun, and I’ve embraced it.
I’ve ignored all shame others place on me because of it.
I’ve stomped like an incited paladin on this ugliness called guilt.
I think acknowledging co-morbidity, and co-treatment, is vitally important.
I think—I keep saying I think on purpose; because I don’t know these things—but I believe when we tell depressed people, “Are you seeing a counselor,” or when we tell anxious people, “Are you meditating,” or we tell people with sleeping problems, “Are you going to bed at a decent time,” we may be… not harming them, but not helping, either?
It’s not useful to think of intricate webs as on-off switches.
I think instead, what needs to happen is social acceptance that these issues are often chain reactions, co-morbids feeding into other co-morbids, and if we just stop filling the heads of others with solutions we think will work—if, instead, we trust people to become their true, authentic selves, and to let them come to their own intuitive methods on how to slowly target the issues they think they’re ready to handle—
What THEY think they are ready to handle;
Not what YOU think they are ready to handle;
Not what they SHOULD be doing to handle it;
—I believe if we can shake off the on-off switch, and see the path from soul-crushing darkness to brilliance for its many forms, we stand a much better chance of surviving the chaos we carry within ourselves.
Just like how I learn through interdisciplinary means,
I treat myself through interdisciplinary methods,
and I am proud of my imagination,
and proud of the steps I’ve taken towards a happier life
as a result of my glancing blow,
i.e.—So this one-step-at-a-time,
is the way I encourage everyone to live.
I created an upcycle by targeting one issue long enough to feel its effects reach to another issue; then I introduced a new technique for a different issue; and I kept track of the ups and downs, but mostly the ups; until I could feel the minuet effects of my efforts on other problematic areas;
And I just kept doing this;
I just keep doing this;
Important! And I am okay with the possibility
I may have to focus on upward spirals
in order to see them
for the rest of my life
because I am willing to honestly acknowledge
my negative thinking patterns were trained into me
inherited into my genes
I truly believe we can all spiral upward.
It’s much harder for us chronically depressed folk.
Yet we are so sensitive to the darkness…
It’s been so long in the dark corner of my amygdala…
What kind of light do you suppose I can also see?
What brilliant prisms will my crystallized heart refract?
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.