South Park Self

insert gravelly Satchmo lyric here

A week into no anti-depressants at all, and it transpires that Evil Wellbutrin was inhibiting my ability to giggle at the Internet. Or at stupid stuff my Dragon Age companions say, or that ridiculously graphics glitch where it gives you two of a pack of wolves stuck into the same spot at right angles and spinning gently. Or to feel attachment or affection, actually - I'm currently romancing Cassandra, and kicking myself that I didn't do it earlier, she's a sweetie. All fluffy romance under the righteous grumpy kick-butt sexy contralto surface. At any rate, there is now giggling, the absence of which I hadn't noticed until it started coming back, and my expression of affection to my cats and Dragon Age romances is at approximately three times the level it was a month ago. Huh. I am apparently me again. I'd missed me.

The thing is, I am, when you get down to it, fundamentally a contented person. When functional I have a sort of innate connectedness to existence at large, the ability to get a gentle kick out of random examples of the universe doing its thing: cool clouds and spring foliage and happy dogs being walked and good food and catchy music and elegant turns of phrase and flower scents and beautiful coltish students and people letting each other into traffic in the morning. Living is its own succession of micro-rewards, the enjoyment of which consoles me enough for ongoing angsts or challenges that I can drift more or less contentedly through my days. Depression suppresses that ruthlessly, and apparently anti-depressants muffle the connection.

I don't think I'm naturally a depressed person. I think the last few years have been triggered by circumstances, some of them physical: my dad's illness and death, and the giant knock to my system represented by the DVT and embolisms and what have you. The anti-depressants made it possible to survive that by kicking up my energy levels to the point where I could function, but I suspect that somewhere over the last year my natural brain chemistry tried to reassert itself, and the anti-depressants started messing with that in a negative rather than a positive sense.

It also explains, I think, why I reached a sort of natural end to the therapy process, at least for this particular point in time. I have a great deal of respect for therapy, which on a good day finely balances insight and moral support with a crash-course in building an emotional toolset. My therapist was lovely (and amazingly open to acquiring ridiculous amounts of by-the-way knowledge in my bizarre interest areas. Apparently you can't understand my psyche without a passing acquaintance with vampire symbolism and videogame narrative patterns.) I learned a great deal, and made a start at acquiring some important skills, but then the relevance just ... ran out. Part of the problem was that I couldn't get beyond a certain point in the process owing to the emotional muffling - it's not really possible to excavate emotional responses if you're not, you know, actually feeling them. Part of it was practical, in that therapy is expensive and I actually can't afford it - my medical aid runs out approximately in April every year, and the couple of thousand rand weekly sessions represent every month just pushes me over the boundary from "makes ends meet" into "inexorable slide into credit card debt." (And the one sour note my therapist ever struck was in repeatedly recommending two sessions a week at a time when I wasn't quite surviving financially while covering one. To her, "I have no money for this" apparently meant "is prioritising disposable income differently", and it was really "has absolutely no disposable income, thank you very much" to me).

But part of the problem was also that I became frankly bored with myself. We were circling repeatedly back over a particular set of dysfunctions which I know about, dammit - I recognise them in myself, I have acquired some tools to start to try and recalibrate my own behaviours, and the rest is time and practice. I kept having to say "Yup, still doing that, working on it, might be improving a bit" week after week. Really I'd rather put the mental energy into enjoying something life-connected and happy than in revisiting, endlessly, the darker corners of myself. And it also rubbed my nose in the fundamental disagreement I eventually have with therapy, which is its validation of me-focus beyond the point where I'm actually comfortable with it. Me-focus is important. Boundaries and self-care and other buzzwords are essential. But there comes a point at which this feels too inward-turned, too close to narcissism, and I feel that it's at the expense of outward connections which are also important for my mental health. I like the world and want it to be happy, and there's a moment in therapy where the therapist is defining it as "self-care" and I'm defining it as "selfish". And, frankly, bugger that.

So now I can only see where this goes, and hope it lasts. I am let loose on the universe unmoored by aids either therapeutic or chemical, and am apparently drifting contentedly thereby. And I've remembered how to giggle at the Internet. I'm surprisingly OK with that.
Great to hear you're recovering your sense of humour, indeed your sense of anything. The rest sounds like a pretty fair summary of depression, anti-depressants (however good) and therapy!