Joy is one emotion that has been missing over the past 4 or 5 years.
Not days, or weeks, but years. That’s a long time. 365 days times 4 years equals 1,465 days. Five years is that plus 365. And for much of that time, I did not even know I was not experiencing joy. I was happy if I experienced any emotion.
And yes, that included the emotion of fear.
I was pretty good at projecting outcomes to situations that had not yet happened. My depression had me time-traveling into the future or back into the past. In either direction, I was either reliving what had happened, or writing a script about what might happen. Then I would let myself feel guilty for past behavior, or fear about what might happen.
Staying in the present moment was all but impossible.
It is only recently that I have even tried. Depression wants to be sure I know how bad I have it. But it makes it clear that I would be even worse off if I did not have depression to lean on. Especially once it gets me to be secretive. It becomes me and my depression against the world.
Depression gets me thinking that it is my only friend.
Once this is in place, it slowly leads me to the abyss. And each event takes me further and further into the blackness and pushes me tighter and tighter against the wall. And then you would think depression would be there to direct me as I experienced nothingness.
Yet this is where depression and I part ways.
As the time comes near to pay the bill, depression has gone on vacation or is unreachable. So there I am, once again, searching aimlessly for direction. With no help coming from my depression, I am left with the aftermath of my diving into the depths of depression.
With my emotions unreachable, I am left with a whole lot of nothingness.
My emotions are not available. Each time I have a run-in with depression, I find myself starting over again. I must learn what my emotions are and how to interact with them. From the change triangle, I remember what the core emotions are. They are fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy, excitement, and sexual excitement. And the three Inhibitory emotions are anxiety, shame, and guilt. This leaves defense, which is everything we do to avoid feeling any emotions.
I have spent much of my life in the defense corner of the change triangle.
As I attempt to move to my core emotions, I get hung up in inhibitory emotions.
I kid myself by saying I am not anxious. But I know anxiety is there. Shame and guilt are easier for me to see and feel. These are my companions as I time travel. I let myself experience all kinds of guilt for actions I did or did not do in the past. And then I swing around and feel ashamed for actions I might take in the future.
Getting past all of this to reach any core emotion has been a challenge.
And when I do get there, I am stuck with fear and sadness. Anger and disgust may be around, but I spend very little time with them. That makes sense to me and my depression. There are only a few emotions, and getting to know even one or two of them requires a lot of energy.
So, getting to the emotion of joy has been a real struggle for me.
It turns out that at least a portion of my struggle to find joy has been my medication. Yes, the 450 mgs of Wellbutrin stopped me from circling the drain but getting to the emotion of joy seemed beyond its reach. I spent almost two years adjusting the dosage of my Wellbutrin.
Finally, my psychiatrist added the generic for Remeron.
The 15 mg initial dose did not seem to change my feelings. I was still ok, but not balanced. Keep in mind, I am not attempting to live in a land of unicorns and constant rainbows. As they say in smart recovery, I just want to lead a balanced life.
Bumping my Remeron to 30mg each night has finally given me exposure to the emotion of joy.
Joy snuck up on me. It wasn’t a light switch kind of moment. I cannot remember precisely when I first felt it. But it has undoubtedly only been in the past few weeks. Even though joy as an emotion has been waiting for many years to be shared once again with me, it has been patient and very much understated.
But earlier this week, I recognized that joy was present.
Part of this recognition comes from the things I am doing. Making a to-do list seemed undoable just weeks ago. And some of the items I have now listed, I would never have considered before joy entered the picture. Finishing painting the deck (started last year), and attacking my home office with the goal of reducing clutter are two things now on my list. Heck, I am back to thinking about clearing the trees down by the lake, in anticipation of grandkids coming in the future.
Joy isn’t even just happiness, for me it is more of a door that has opened.
This doorway gives me access to new options and experiences. Things that I had stopped doing or thinking about I can now face. And though the outcome may still be unclear, the fact that I am moving ahead anyway is a marvelous feeling.
I cannot explain what is happening, but I can say I did not expect Joy to behave this way.
And with that said, I am so very happy that it has. I have not seen any unicorns and have yet to see a rainbow. But what I have seen is me facing the world, not fearing it. And while the rest of my days may not always be like this, I am so very thankful that for now, I have joy on my side.
What emotions are you feeling? Or not feeling?