Getting Better So I Drew a Foot

I don’t really know how to write about this.

I want to explain what has been going on in my life because I know these recent events are not unique to me. I like to think that being transparent with the mental health issues I deal with from time to time can help encourage others who have similar struggles to feel less alone. At the same time, I worry that writing about those experiences can have a negative impact on the way people might view me, and I worry that being transparent about my struggles could be triggering to people with similar problems.

So, I won’t focus so much on the symptoms of my mental health disease. Instead, I want to touch briefly on the steps I have taken recently to get better.

About a year ago, I started thinking that the Zoloft I had been taking for several years stopped being helpful. I felt like Zoloft had been scouring my brain for the mountaintops where I experienced elation. Once it found them, it ground the mountaintops into regolith and scattered grey dust into the deepest valleys of my depression.

At first the change was welcomeI didn’t feel awful about myself all of the time. I didn’t go through life with my arms drooping from my shoulders. I wasn’t pulling my way through a tangle of damp wool threads. It’s not like I had suddenly stepped into the warmth of the sun, it was more like I was left exposed in the cool of the nightbut at least the rain had stopped.

Then, about two months ago, after all the mountains had been ground down, those gaping chasms yawned, and started swallowing the dust.

I could have given up. I got very close. But, I had help. I listened to the advice my friends and family were giving me, and I went to see a new Psychiatrist. I started seeing a Therapist again, and I enrolled in an IOP program.

As I told the therapist who ran the IOP program on the first day, I was pretty sure the whole thing was just going to be a bunch of happy horseshit. I imagined I would sit in a group of people whining about their feelings, while therapists scribbled on clipboards saying “that must be really hard for you.” I expected skills to be useless. I expected to hear things I already knew, and assumed the whole thing would boil down to “when life is really hard, just remember, caterpillars turn into butterflies.”

I was wrong. I went to the IOP every weekday for four hours a day, and it was actually really useful. Sure, there was some “that must be really hard for you,” but that’s because some of it was really hard for people. Some of the skills felt like bullshit, but even the bullshit seems useful. The whole experience was much more helpful, and much more transformative than I anticipated. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that eventually, I won’t present with the symptoms necessary to meet a diagnosis of depression.

For a long time, I have told myself that I suffer from depression. I spent the first 30 years of my life saying “I’m not depressed. Depressed people aren’t fun.” Then, I spent 13 years saying “I suffer from depression, that’s why I can’t have fun.” One day, I hope to think “I am going to go to the store.” One day, I hope I won’t even think about depression. One day, I won’t self-define by my struggle to accept it, or my struggle to fix it. One day, hopefully, I’m just going to go to the god-damned store.

Anyway – I’m boring myself. I am going to end by offering one thing that I found most helpful. I often feel like I’m at the whim of my emotions and negative thoughts. I am plagued by a constant drip of self-destructive thoughts. My brain constantly tells me I’m worthless, I’m a fuck up, I failed, I’m nothing. No matter how much I ignore this steady whispering bastard, eventually I feel it. I can tune it out, but it still impacts me, until eventually those whispers go from thoughts to a physical response. Because I can’t seem to stop those thoughts from coming, the physical response is just a foregone future that I’m doomed to endure. What I learned at IOP is that the negative thoughts aren’t the locomotive on my train. My behaviors can drive my thoughts. If I do something, I can impact the thoughts that will show up later. And if I can do something to change the tenor of the thoughts, then I can do stop those thoughts from turning into the physiological response in the future. I might not be able to stop every future emotion, but I can stop some of them.

There are a bunch of things I learned about how to stop the thoughts from having an impact when they show up. And, I learned some things I can do to stop the emotions from being too disruptive when they show up, but the thing that I am most excited about is the fact that I can do something now that will impact my future thoughts and experiences. And if I can do that, then I gain some control over those future disruptions that in the past have felt so uncontrolled. That’s good news.

Then I drew a foot.

This is a drawing of a Bargue plate. And before you tell me I did it wrong – I know. It’s supposed to take weeks, and it’s supposed to be sight size, and it’s supposed to be an exact replica… this is not that. This is me trying my best to draw the foot in the book I h


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