Smile like you mean it

There is no day that goes by without someone checking out my post Writing a thesis while being depressed, mission impossible? It is by far the most read post on this blog, some examples of the search words that lead people to it are on the tone of: dissertation depression, I’m depressed and my dissertation is failing, I’m afraid of my thesis, I’m depressed because of my dissertation, my thesis is torture, I’m too depressed to write my thesis, and so on, you get the idea.

When I first wrote that post, I remember googling for similar keywords, and found nothing helpful, so I can only wish what I wrote there is helping someone. That post was written last November, 5 months ago, and I can say that all those search terms above still apply to me. I’m terrified of my dissertation, it’s torture, it’s making me depressed, and I believe it’s failing. The first draft is written, but I can’t go any further than that, I’m absolutely and completely blocked. And I’m not that dumb, I know there are underlying reasons for my depression other than my thesis, and what I feel about it is actually a sign of something deeper. But it’s also a vicious cycle: if I could only get it done, the main stress factor in my life would be taken away from me and I’d be able to concentrate my strengths in making my life the way I want it to be, on getting better, but the weight is so big that it paralyzes me, and I’m left contemplating all the things that I could have and could do but I can’t because I’m depressed.

So if you’re in a situation like that, I can only let you know you’re not alone, though writing a dissertation feels like one of the loneliest things to do in the world. Also, your thesis is probably not creating your depression on its own, there’s probably something else on the background, and you should find out what it is before it becomes and even bigger issue. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with therapy, though it not always goes well, just like today.

This afternoon I found out Mr. Shrinky is pregnant. He works with his wife, who’s also a therapist, and as I arrived some time before my session they walked right by me while I was waiting in my car. Her belly was not something that could possibly be ignored, so when I came in, the first thing I asked was: is your wife pregnant? Of course she is, there’s no hiding it, but I still had to ask. And the first feeling that came to me was a huge sadness because I can’t have what they have. They’re a couple of succesful proffesionals who obviously do well, work together, and are having a child whose emotional needs are probably going to be perfectly covered. Come to think about it, I think it also made me sad because it reminded me of all those emotional needs that were systematically ignored when I was a child.

To make it all worse, a while after my session ended I saw the mother, who said something to me that made me want to punch her in the face. She told me how a co-worker whose adolescent son is temporarily working with them screamed terribly at him just because he forgot to pack lunch. She said she felt awful for the kid and that from the outside she could see his father was tired, not having a good day and taking it out on his son. Then she said something to me, while making a silly face as if she were a child who just got caught eating too much candy: “I know I did this too, and I’m sorry, I was too harsh on you and it wasn’t your fault, would you forgive me?.”

What I wanted to say was something like: “Too harsh? Are you fucking kidding me? You traumatized me for life! You’re probably the reason I’m in therapy three times a week and on antidepressants, and you’re damn right it wasn’t my fault, you neurotic bitch! The least you could do is pay for that damn therapy because it’s costing me half my paycheck!”

However, what came out of my mouth was an almost inaudible “yes” and a bitter smile put on a face that I quickly turned away. I thought I had been doing a lot of healing in the past months, learning to forgive her for the things she did, because after all she suffered a lot too at the hands of her family, A LOT. But when she comes up with stupid apologies like that, it just makes my insides want to explode.

Right now I’m just sitting here writing, trying to cool down from so many emotions in one afternoon and I’m thinking: it’s just not fair. This child about to be born will have everything I lacked. And I’m glad for him and for his parents, I truly am. But why did I not get half of those things? Why was I stuck with this twisted, tortured family, filled with dark secrets that I’m not even close to uncovering? And I feel so selfish writing this too, I know millions got off worse than I did, I shouldn’t be whining about it, but it hurts. Life is not fair, and that aches like hell.

One of my coping mechanisms is cutting, and I haven’t cut for a while, in about three months or so,  but I’ve recently taken up on scratching again. It worries me because it’s something I can control even less than cutting, I don’t realize when I start and by the time I notice, I’m usually bleeding. Wounds are far less profound, but they’re more uncomfortable in the long run; also, because I’m not really conscious when I scratch, I tend to end up with pretty visible, ugly crusts for which I’m running out of excuses for.

There are the more practical concerns regarding the baby I envy. Mr. Shrinky will obviously be taking a leave of absence, he said it’s going to be about three weeks in June. Fine. I totally get it, it will be hard, but how could I not understand? And I can do it. But once he’s back, how can I even imagine that poor me with my silly problems and my pouts is going to occupy any space on his mind compared to the dazzling, beautiful, charming baby boy that’s going to be waiting for him back at home?

20 thoughts on “Smile like you mean it

  1. I’m sorry that it’s such a hard time… I had one thought, kind of based on something that my T pointed out that I am doing, so it really might not apply to you at all, but then again it might… Is it possible that in some ways you are afraid to finish the thesis because then you won’t have anything to distract you from the therapy work that you are doing? Healing from trauma can be hellish work, even more so than dealing with a monster of a thesis.

    I can’t say how Mr. Shrinky will handle being a new parent, but I suspect that you have more to worry about from the effects of sleep deprivation rather than his deciding that his clients suddenly matter less. It’s highly unlikely that he will be daydreaming about baby toes while you are crying in his office. 😉

    OK, in a more serious note, I started to work with Mama Bear when she started back to work after taking some time off for the birth of her child. She was a good and loving mother, but she also loves working with her clients and being a mother didn’t change that. In fact, I think that it may have been helpful to me, because as a parent, she got the importance of some of what I said in ways that she may not have fully comprehended before she had a child. Now, there were times when I was doing a crisis call with her and her son would wake up or something and she would go to get him, and then I would have to hear the intense love in her voice as she spoke to him. In some ways it was wonderful and in others it was like a knife in my heart, because I wanted that so much. However, my reaction became more fodder for looking at my relationship with my own mother.

    So, I suspect that it will change some things in your relationship with him, because it will change him. But I would also guess that on balance you will end up gaining, even if it brings out all of these painful feelings in you that you have to struggle through. I’m really sorry for the pain!

    • Thanks so much Cat, your comment helped me lots. You might have said it jockingly, but it did help me feel better when you said he wouldn’t be daydreaming about baby toes while I was crying in his office. I’ve had another dream about this whole situation that also helped me settle down. I guess things will be bumpy for a while, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? I hope you’re doing ok, haven’t been reading much, but I intend to catch up on your blog!

  2. Wow…lots going on for you. The bit about your mother made ME want to punch her in the face. I got one or two of those ill timed and poorly executed apologies out of my mother once and it made my stomach turn. I said something like you ….”sure, of course” and then got as far away from her as possible. *hugs*

    • Thanks Grainne. It’s just maddening when they think that a simple “I’m sorry” will make it all better, like that can take all the hurt away. Thanks for understanding, though I’m also sorry you do… ((hugs)) back

  3. Pingback: Writing a thesis while being depressed, mission impossible? | not all about cats

  4. Brillant post! I can relate to so much that you have written here. I especially get the reaction to want punch and scream in someone’s face. I get it to and you are not alone as well:)

  5. First of all, I remember your thesis posts and especially the one you refer to in your post! I’ll be writing a thesis this summer (even if it is just my bachelor degree) but it is still good to know that many people go through those ordeals too. Knowing that you’ve come so far with your work (which even is a full-blown dissertation) gives me some confidence that I’ll _somehow_ handle my own writing (I just don’t know how, lol!)
    I’m sorry you are feeling so bad about what your mother said to you… yes, there are people who had it worse than you and me but still, it was bad “enough” for us, obviously. I can only wish you strength to carry on with everything you’re doing. You are strong and you’re going to get through all this. You are strong! Don’t forget that!xx

    • Thanks Juliet! I just sometimes forget how to be strong, or maybe I just get tired? But I’m in a different mood right now, so I guess I’ll figure it out, and so will you! How are you doing these days? xxx

  6. Sometimes shrinks have the most messed up children. I scratch too. My arms. I have so many scars. I itch when stressed. I hate it so much! I can’t control it either. The scratches make me itchy when they heal and the cycle continues. I thought it was just me.

    I am not an academic. Not because I am stupid, but I never had the chance. I understand depression leading to paralysis and it is so hard. Best of luck. Maybe just tiny steps?

    • Thanks Dave. The scratching cycle you just described is exactly the same for me, though I scratch my legs and feet, sometimes my hands too. It made me feel better to know you understand it so well, though I’m sorry you go through it too.

      As for the other thing, I guess I am taking tiny steps, tho they’re sometimes so tinny they’re imperceptible lol. Thanks for the support, and I’ll be catching up on your blog today! Lots of (((hugs)))!!

  7. Pingback: Crawling forward | not all about cats

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