Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Long, long, long, long post

Despite my glorious blog, I am not a very successful person, even judged by my own generous standards. I have been clinically depressed, often severely, and without a single full day of remission, for over 20 years. By “severely” I mean, for example, that I lie on the floor with my eyes open for six hours without moving because moving is impossible. By “often” I mean often.

I have tried a lot (3 dozen regimens) of prescription psych meds, unilateral ECT, vitamins, lights, exercise, sugarless diets, and the passage of time. I've done conventional weekly psychotherapy, daily neo-Freudian psychoanalysis, cognitive behavior therapy, and shitloads of self-help books, and I have a shelf full of journals documenting a self-analysis that would give Karen Horney pause.

Not one bit of it was more than minimally helpful. Some of it was harmful.

Through a process that deserves several blog posts of its own, I recently acquired a prescription for buprenorphine (Subutex®), a synthetic opioid usually given to people like Vicodin addicts in recovery programs. (I've never been addicted to anything and tried it for its potential antidepressant properties.)

Bupe has had significant benefits for me, for which I am grateful (but to whom?). It is the only drug I've ever tried that has been effective against depression for more than a few days. I recommend trying it if you're a treatment-resistant depressive. (Good lucking getting any, but that's another blog.)

Thing is, there are critical areas of my life that bupe has not helped with. Chiefly, it is still impossible for me to do anything significant that would be, to me, “successful”. This despite throwing all the CBT techniques in the library at such problems, even while on a double-dose of bupe, just in case. I am really at an impasse. What can be done next to get me over or through this huge problem?

I'm willing to add various psych meds back into my bloodstream in hopes that one or more of them that didn't help before might help now, now that I'm using bupe as well. I think I probably will try something like that before too long.

But I also feel that I must do something significantly different in my own head, something substantial that I haven't really tried before. One thing that makes sense to try in this regard is related to my first blog post: the principle that, universally, people are doing the best they can.

Some people (like me) would have trouble applying that to certain politicians. But taken simply as a principle, its application is straightforward even in cases of the most horrific assholes, rapists, mass murderers, and compassionate conservatives. It's hard work, and it doesn't always last, but it can be done repeatedly, and the effect on your own thinking is remarkable. You can see clear though to assertive solutions instead of getting bogged down in “shouldy” thinking about the people who upset you. (Was that Ellis’s or Horney’s word?)

But one place I realized I could never apply my principle (which still needs a name) was to my dad and my brother, at least as they were in my childhood, in their treatment of me. I'm only going to say that it was not ideal.

There was no way, as I knew when I first came up with that doing-the-best-they-can idea, that I could apply it to Dad & “Ken”. Maybe ever. Yet I realized that such an event (“forgiving” them) would plausibly either be therapeutic itself or be the ultimate result of successful therapy for me. But I couldn't actually imagine doing it.

But I think now that there may be no way around it if I am ever going to have ANY good kind of life. I think (and I won't go into details) that understanding and thereby (eeyyccchh, this is hard to write) forgiving  those assholes for their conduct toward me may be the only way to free up my own behavior in regard to anything that looks like success.

Here's why

They feared and punished my success when I was a kid, persistently, sometimes viciously, and for all of my childhood. (Other people who were there have independently arrived at that conclusion; it's not my delusion. My CBT therapist pointed out that my brother would not have continued in it without my dad's blessing!)

The result of this long-term and fairly consistent treatment, I believe, is that today, I expect almost any meaningful personal success to be followed by some catastrophic punishment. Despite having some successes that weren't obviously punished, this deep fear has not abated in the least.

I think that's because I don't see any connection between the expected punishment and the independent, external circumstances or consequences that vary from situation to situation. I see that the independent variable triggering the punishment is ME, not anything else. As long as I am there, a success will be punished.

If I could let Dad & Ken off the hook, I could possibly see that there were other causes for their treatment of me. The independent variables causing them to inflict pain on me was other stuff in their lives; it wasn't me. I would be able to see, as most people do, that whether I am “punished” or not for a particular success TODAY depends on all kinds of external factors which can be monitored and managed, that it's not just because I'm the one who's doing something successful that the outcome has to be bad. If my childhood punishments were caused by other, external factors, then there probably isn't anything inherent in me that automatically requires a punished outcome.

I need to let Dad & Ken off the hook in order to change that conditioning. By keeping up my resentment for them, I keep myself in the picture as the independent variable. If there's some other cause of their bad treatment of me (like dementia or their own bad learning), then I have to give up my resentment. And if I do that, then it's like I can never get justice or revenge or make them stop it so hard they'll never threaten me like that again. Grudge-carrying is a very old reptilian urge. It comes pre-packaged with your brain. It has its usefulness but not in this situation, even though I feel it here so very strongly.

Unless I free up Dad & Ken from my lust for revenge, I will never see that they were not responding to ME. If I see that they had other causes, then (1) I no longer consider myself inherently punishment-evoking, which would be nice, but (2) I would have to give up forever my very passionate belief that they need to be punished themselves for what they did to me.

I doubt this would make sense to another human being, and I'm certain no human would read this far, LOL. But I wanted to post it, to be clear about it, on the record: Without forgiving D&K, I, plausibly, will never be able to extinguish my own fear of my success.

And here's the thing: last night, I really saw that it's a bit of a toss up. Even if it would cost me (as it will) having any meaningful accomplishment for the rest of my life, I'm really not sure that I would be willing to give up my hatred and resentment for what they did. No matter what factors influenced them to behave so badly toward me, the fact is that they should NEVER have behaved that way despite such influences! Am I supposed to just forget that? To just say, “Hey, that's okay! No problem!”?

HELL NO! Sometimes I think I am put together with resentment.

Of course, I'm not able to get back at them by holding such a grudge, I realize that. Dad's dead! But I could do still hold it! I could hold a grudge for the next 40 years, and have a rotten, destitute, bankrupt, desiccated, lonely life just to prove a point to no one. I really could.

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