Mental Health

The Emotional Impact Of Change

Just when I think I’m getting somewhere, mental illness happens. I’ve been in a state of depression for more than a week now, and I didn’t quite know why. It just came over me with no warning, no explanation.

I thought I was finally getting myself together. I was getting things done, work wise. Sure, I was depressed, but still able to function. On Tuesday though I couldn’t bring myself to do anything other than watch series and read.

There are a lot of changes happening in my life with regards to family and friends, and a shift of sorts in my living arrangements. Nothing feels the same. I keep going in and out of dissociative episodes. The kind where everything feels different and I’m not sure where I am. When I am. What I mean by that is that I tend to find myself in a state of mind where I’m in my current environment, but feel as though I’m in the wrong time frame. I feel young, and unsure of what’s going on. It can be confusing and frightening. My therapist says I regress. In our next session I want to ask her what she means by that exactly. I know what regression is, but I want her to explain it in context of my experiences.

On Wednesday, which is therapy day, I was feeling very depressed. The dissociation was heavy on the way to the clinic. Walking into the waiting area I instantly noticed that they had changed the couches, and there were people moving things around. My mind went into over drive, and then into shut down mode. Whereas what usually happens in situations like this is that I get overwhelmingly anxious and freak out or have a meltdown. I went to sit in another room to wait for my therapist. I can’t remember much of the waiting, up until the time I got into her office. The first thing my therapist pointed out was that were was a lot of changes today, and asked me how I was feeling about it. I don’t know what I answered. All I can remember is lying on the couch, vaguely aware of where I was. The session feels like a dream. The only part that felt real was the firm hug she gave me afterward. I’m not always in the right frame of mind for a hug (and only allow certain people to hug me), but she seemed to know that it was what I needed in that moment.

While the session is a blur, I remember enough. Turns out my depression and dissociation isn’t from some unexplained source, but a direct result of the changes in my life and a feeling of abandonment. I should have put two and two together myself, but the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. Change always has this effect on me. I just don’t always see it immediately. Even positive change can wreck havoc in my mind and body. While everyone else in my life tell me to go out and do things, my therapist knows that doesn’t work for me. It just overwhelms me more and sends me spiraling further down. She always tells me to be kind to myself and do what I need to do for myself. Like take naps under my weighted blanket, watch a series, special interests, and other things that help me regulate and rest. I always felt guilty and lazy for the ways in which I recuperate, shutting myself away from the world for a while, but with her help and encouragement, I’ve realized that it’s not laziness. It’s self-care. My version of self-care.

Change is difficult for most people. For those of us on the spectrum though, it’s so much harder. I’ve been through so much change in my life, I would have thought (and hoped) that I’d be able to deal with it better. In a way, I do, but I don’t feel that it’s enough improvement. Instead of beating myself up about that though, I choose to exercise self-compassion. And self-compassion during periods of change can make a big difference.

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