Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Did I become healthier when I wasn't looking?

There's a popular test that you find on blogs that relates to personality disorders. You can find it here:

URL of the test: http://www.4degreez.com/misc/personality_disorder_test.mv
URL for more info: http://www.4degreez.com/misc/disorder_information2.html

Essentially, the quiz ranks your answers and determines how high or low you score for Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder.

Back when I was undergoing therapy for borderline personality disorder, I took the test and was rather dismayed to find that I scored high/very high on everything except paranoid or antisocial. In other words I was plumb crazy. It took me aback. Sure, I expected some of them to be high...but that was just a little much. Even though I knew it wasn't a scientifically valid quiz, I just couldn't paste the code into my blog and announce to the world how crazy I was.

But you know what? I came across it again and took it again. And this time I came up low for everything except avoidant and obsessive-compulsive, both of which are easily explained by my OCD/social anxiety issues. Somewhere the therapy helped, I think. I've felt much more on an even keel this year. Although the Paxil helps with the actual chemical issues that pump up my anxiety (especially with the OCD 'brain freeze'), most everything else has improved because I've learnt to cope. I don't feel nearly as anxious in crowds anymore, because I've learnt to do measured breathing to keep away absolute panic and reduce other stressors if I know there's an event I need to attend. It's actually a little harder to remember to take the meds because I feel better, and so I've discovered I can go a day or two without too much trouble, although of course I try not to make a habit of it. I wish Paxil came out with an extended release beyond the CR like Prozac has, where you take a pill once a week. I think I could almost go with a smaller dose daily, too, although with all the stress of the job cutback, I don't think I want to try that just yet. But I feel...I dunno...normal? Like, not so depressed that I don't clean but not so psycho OCD that I clean maniacally. Like there's a lot of balance and flexibility in my life that I didn't have just a year or two ago. The idea of suicide is foreign to me, yet I remember being suicidal, what it felt like, but it makes no sense now that my world-view is right side up. I still have an occasional bad day--but I can think of maybe a week of depressive feelings in the whole summer, and so it's not actual depression. Not bad for someone who's facing layoffs, etc. I also realise, though, that due to everything that's going on with work, I'm at a risk to trigger the depression again. I think, though, that I'll be okay. I'm self-reliant, and I have a better system of friendships and other supports in place. That makes a difference.

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, let me just say: it does eventually get better. Neither depression nor anxiety disorders tend to stay the same over long periods of time. There may be ups and downs, but even without treatment they can spontaneously lift. With treatment, they can improve. You may have to search for a good therapist or take responsibility for your own health. You may have to step away from a toxic or abusive relationship. You may have to admit to yourself that you need help. You may get to a point where there seems to be nothing to do but either check into the hospital or kill yourself. But you have the final choice, and there are people out there who can help you, if you are willing to put a little faith into yourself. Don't let the anxiety or depression win. Everyone is different. Sometimes to win, for example, we have to admit that we're different than we'd like to think. Sometimes it's a matter of looking truth in the face. It's not something you can dismiss easily and just put mind over matter and poof! everything's okay. But it is something that can improve in little baby steps over time. Don't be afraid to take those baby steps. Every step, no matter how small it seems, is a victory. Others may not understand that, but it isn't nearly as important for them to as it is for you to. But I'm proof that the world can start looking like a fine and decent place again and that you can look into the mirror and like what you see again.

Don't know why that all came out, but I felt it should. Hope it helps someone out there. :)

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