Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Unrealistic Expectations.

No matter how free I feel, I will look up and remember that I am still swinging from the limb of depression and my hands will always smell like thick metal links.


It's no secret that I've lived with depression most of my life although it's not a topic I converse of freely.  Just like many other disorders and diseases it may be controlled through prescription medications combined with other forms of therapy.  Sometimes the condition flares up and the regimen must be altered.  As time progresses such episodes can decrease and you learn again about new triggers and coping skills to combat them.

My most recent episode occurred during my Texas stint, obvious if you read my ramblings regularly or answer your phone when I call.  After receiving our (disappointing) marching orders I tried to look on the bright side and stay optimistic -- that is what we're supposed to do, right?  I researched online, studied maps and began to picture what a happy, satisfying life in Texas would be like.  I imagined a fulfilling job, an active Family Readiness Group, a stimulating photography club, exciting weekend getaways and happy hours with friends.  It all seemed possible because I had every single one of those things while living in the Pacific Northwest, every single one.

So we made the big move, found a great rental house in a safe, quiet area and settled in.  I began working, searching for groups, writing emails, meeting people for coffee but none of it was going anywhere.  So I worked better, tried harder, made stronger efforts but nothing was getting better.  Around this time my husband was shipped across the world and I needed to meet my goals to make it through this time mentally intact.  But I was crumbling and falling apart and alone.

I know when to ask for help, but man is it tough.  The most difficult task is dialing the phone, making an appointment then answering the question, "And what do you need to be seen for?"  I breakdown, the tears come and I struggle to find the words to ask for help.  Somehow I do.  The appointment is scheduled; I am going to be okay.

Back on my trusted antidepressant I begin ten sessions of talk therapy.  Everyone should go though that, the insight you gain is invaluable.  Talking with a trained professional should not be stigmatized as it in our society and it irritates me endlessly that it is.  This time I learned that I place unrealistic expectations on myself and in my life.  (I do not like to lay blame on others for problems of my own, but this is an exception)  I blame this condition on all those people who told me in the past, when I was still struggling to understand what was wrong with me, what depression was and how in the world was I ever going to cope with it, to "cheer up", "look on the bright side", "think positive", "stay optimistic", you get the picture.  For years I repeated these mantras out loud, in my head and in writing.  I believed them and placed hope in them.

The discovery of my unrealistic expectation issue came as a shock.  I didn't want to believe it, didn't want to throw away what I thought was the foundation of turning depression upside down.  How could thinking positive be bad?  In small doses, it's not.  But when you put all your hope and might into it you push the idea into the realms of dreaming, and we all know that dreams don't come true.  Sure, that sounds mighty depressing, but I'm talking about fantasy dreams, not a dream that you make into a goal to work towards and succeed.  And this is when is gets fuzzy.

What difference is there between realistic and unrealistic goals?  How far do you push positive thinking into reality until it reaches fantasy?  Where is the line?  We are raised to believe we can "reach the stars" when in scientific reality we cannot.

When my therapy sessions ended I was confused, but in a different way than when I began.  I started with my head in a very jumbled place, with pieces of thoughts scattered everywhere in unfocused, illegible writing that I couldn't make sense of.  At the end I could read the thoughts and was understanding better how they fit together.  See, a therapist doesn't directly solve your problems, they help clarify your thoughts and teach you skills to work on improving them yourself.


My train of thought was broken.  I am already missing my private space I left behind; a one-room lodging space is not conducive for uninterrupted thought.

In summation, the purpose of sharing this story is to place a foundation for my experiences here in this new environment.  For you to understand my excitement, my trepidation and my anxiety you must know where it stems from.  All I want is to live here fully and purely.  To walk out each day with an open mind and an understanding that I will not be in my comfort zone, that I am a foreigner in a vastly different country and that I may be treated as such.  I will be uncomfortable.  I will feel awkward.  I will be misunderstood and misinterpreted.  All I hope is that I will walk one foot in front of the other and face each challenge on its own merit.  Whether I have a smile on my face is unknown; I must keep my expectations realistic.

[While re-reading this I begin to see that it is a condensed version of events.  I hope that eliminating the minutiae does not detract from the essence of my point.  I moved to Texas with ideas of what could be, unknowing that those ideas may have been unrealistic.  I have now moved to Japan and am unsure how to make plans and build excitement without crossing the line into dreaming.  I am confused.  How do I make the most out of this once in a lifetime opportunity without setting myself up for failure again?  I don't know what to expect, I don't know what I will find yet I still want to explore every sight, every smell and every footstep of discovery possible.  I still just don't know...]

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