Automata.

I found a blog a few days ago that helped me disentangle some issues I was struggling with:

You have to internalize the idea that “emotions” and “actions” can be successfully disconnected, that you can still accomplish shit when feeling really down, and in fact this is your only real hope for survival. And then you have to swallow back an effervescent rage when other depressives tell you that you can’t really be depressed, you did things, you can’t possibly have accomplishments when you’re depressed, and you think of all the other things you weren’t able to accomplish because you had to fight this sucking tide of angst, and you try not to yell.

I’ve seen this a lot, and not applying just to depression. I know a lot of people whose ability to conduct a normal-ish life is entirely based on their ability to ignore themselves. They may be terrified, exhausted, raging, hurting, desperate, or just completely numb, but they bury that deep and carry on going.  Their entire life is a show of endurance that hardly anybody notices because they hardly ever miss a beat. They do what needs to be done because it needs doing, and that’s what they do. One foot in front of the other.

The first side effect is that achievements very rarely result in a sense of victory. Mostly, the overwhelming feeling is that of constant narrowly-averted unnecessary disaster, or of overarching inadequacy. Why am I struggling with what everyone else manages without any problems? Why does life come so easy to them? What do they have that I miss? And that’s an issue I don’t know how to fix, or even ease. My people are fucked up, but they’re not stupid. They know what “normality” looks like. They know both what their social group expects and what they would like to achieve. They know they struggle to meet those criteria more than other people. They know they may never succeed.

The second side effect is, as the blog stated, that many or most people don’t notice or understand asymptomatic struggles. People notice if you take time off work, let down your folk, ignore your obligations, have meltdowns, etc.. They may not offer help, but at least it forces them to accept that something is amiss. What people don’t tend to notice or comprehend is to be completely broken inside and not let it affect how you interact with them. They tend to assume that “it can’t be that bad”, regardless of how often you may tell them that it is. If an event was that bad, they seem to believe you must be some sort of emotionless, inhuman automaton. Either way, they tend not to help. There’s nothing quite like feeling completely trounced by life, desperate for help or support, and being told that you must be exaggerating because “you’re doing so well”.

The third problem is that learning to ignore your feelings can blind you to the significance of other people’s negative feelings. It’s not that you don’t care, or that you have no empathy, although it can look like it. It’s just that your normal reaction to your own negative feelings is to just carry on regardless, so you end up expecting others to follow suit.

The worst problem it that it can all become a habit. You can learn to operate like this in times of trouble, and by the time the trouble’s over you have forgotten that there’s another way to be. Like serious poverty or starvation, it can permanently change the way you interact with the world.

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