Taking On a Race Or Not

20 Oct 02 – Diary
I spent seven and a half hours hiking and riding today. Why the masochism you ask. Well, I’m practising for a ten hour endurance race (hiking, riding, swimming) in the middle of November.

If I finish the race, my greatest triumph won’t be the physical capability (although I’ll like that). My greatest feat will have been to stick with an exercise program for five weeks. That will be a record – I haven’t continuously stuck to any one project, exercise, office, or hobby for that long in over six years. Not even this website in one stretch. That will be a miracle by my standards, and it will signal to me that it might be possible to take on longer projects.

I hope so.

I also still think that bipolar disorder is a problem of the regulation of the metabolic system (or of the body’s temperature regulation system) and that the mood swings are a symptom rather than an illness in their own right. Last week I went riding for a few hours and my body temperature (skin temperature to be precise) stayed high for about a day afterward. Not just slightly high, but as if I was having a fever. It happened again this week. Even as I write I have an elevated body temperature. This should not be happening, and I am not manic, which does elevate my skin temperature.

Also, as an evolutionary trait, I can easily see how being bipolar can remain in the gene pool even though these days we think of it as an illness with a negative connotation. When us bipolar persons are manic we get very charismatic and we have a high sex drive. Two handy features for the expression of a gene.

4 Nov 02 – Diary
I’ve been depressed for the last two weeks. Or more accurately, I was depressed two weeks ago and I spent last week trying to get my life back in order again. Nothing unusual here, except that my plans for taking part in the endurance race have been completely disrupted. I haven’t been training and I won’t be ready for it now.

It’s hard to describe how disappointed I am about this. I’m very close to being heartbroken. This was supposed to have been my proof that I can take on a long term project and succeed with it. I had everything I would have needed. I was excited by it, I had a strong support group of people also taking part and also encouraging me, I love being out riding, and I wanted to do this for myself.

And now I can’t.
And the only reason I can’t is because the depression cycle has intruded in my life.

Am I to forever fail at everything I want to do? How do I make plans for the future? How do I even pretend that the plans that I make will succeed when I know darned well that they won’t. The implications are not just in being in a race or being able to finish it. The implications affect all the things I want to do for the rest of my life.

How many of them will I succeed in?
And how much failure can I take before I give up trying?

More than just failing myself, I have let down others. This race was meant to be taken part in teams of two. My partner will have to find someone else to race with. Do you know how hard it is going to be to tell him that. I’ll feel as if no one can trust my promises or my reliability any more. How do I engage in any kind of team sport any more. Or for that matter, any kind of social interaction – having friends is substantially built around reliability.

There is a certain horror in knowing that I might be washed up at age 36, with no ability to succeed in anything further in my life. And it’s not because I’m not intelligent, or capable, or I don’t care about what I’m doing. I am going to fail at things I care about, and each one is going to leave me upset.

My greatest fear is not that of failure (hell, I’ve had a lot of that). My greatest fear is that each time I fail I’ll get more insecure, more upset, and more hopeless. Until the day reaches that I stop trying to do anything new and I just live out my day to day routine. And in that state of hopelessness I’ll have nothing to give to anyone anymore. That scares me a lot more than anything I know.

So even though I have already failed in my goal of finishing this endurance race, I’ll still be taking part in it. I may not make it to the finish line (ten hours later), but I should still be able to do more than half of it. One race has been lost, but the important one (to me) has still to take place. I have to follow through for my own spirit. Succeeding less is success nonetheless. And not taking part is an admission that hope is lost.

I may be down, but I’m not out.

21 Nov 02 – Diary
Well, I’m out now.

I tried starting back training for the endurance race, but I was so out of synch with the others that it was nearly impossible for me to catch up. Then the Saturday before the race I got the flu, which knocked me out for 4 days, and left me feeling weak.

(Aside – the flu is particularly disorienting because I determine my moods by analysing the physical symptoms I am exhibiting. However, the flu disrupts the regular physical symptoms and I am left not being certain whether I am manic or depressed. It makes it really difficult to determine what coping systems to use, and the net effect is that I have to be conservative and assume I am depressed. The flu is probably one of the few things that effectively triggers a depressive episode).

The flu was bad, but it also made it impossible for me to take part in the endurance race. By the Thursday before the race I knew I wouldn’t be able to take part under any conditions. Between the depression and the flu I have now completely failed at a task that I really wanted to take part in. I’d like to say that it is the flu that caused it, but the reality is that the depression before I caught the flu was a greater causation factor. By keeping me out of touch with my friends, it made it difficult to even talk with them on common ground on what was happening. Try losing three weeks of happenings with people and see how difficult it is to catch up with them. I felt like an outsider trying to join into the group all over again. And it wasn’t them treating me badly, it was my feeling that I was an outsider.

I was depressed with all the insecurity that brings. Then I lost my ability to do the long race. Then I felt like an outsider. Then I got the flu. By Thursday before the race I was so down and so upset and so angry. I felt that if I couldn’t even take on a project that (a) lasted six weeks and (b) I really really wanted to do and was capable of doing and (c) I had lots and lots of support from about eight people and (d) I had the time and resources to do it.

If I couldn’t take on a project under the best of circumstances, how will I ever be able to take on any project.

I could just see my life stretching ahead of me, made up of me trying and failing in everything I do. I’d get by, because I have enough functionality to do that. But I would not be able to set goals and I would not be able to achieve any of them. Scratch the idea of having a career, of planning travel in eight months time, of opening a business, of settling down with someone in a relationship, of taking on a long term project at work, of taking part in any more races, of doing anything long term with my niece or nephew, or getting my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

I feel as if these things are impossible. Not just difficult but impossible. Out of my reach. I will never be able to successfully complete any of them.

So, what’s the point of living. I feel as if my life has been snatched from me. As if the remainder of my life is just me sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else move ahead succeeding in their plans. Knowing that my intelligence and my skills count for nothing at all. Reliability and the ability to persevere count for far far more.

Depression isn’t a failure of will, it’s a failure of the ability to persevere, to stick with anything at all. I’d rather almost any other disability. Even a blind person can have dreams and work towards achieving them. I can dream, but I can’t hope that they will amount to anything more than a figment of my imagination.

It has been with pure horror that I been living the last few days. These realisations and these feelings have sapped me of all my hope. I’ve been trying to remember when the last time I felt this badly and I can’t think of one. Back in 1997 when my life fell apart, I was confused and scared and not sure what would happen next. I would have depressions and I would hate myself and what was happening to me. But I always worked with the assumption that things could get better if I could analyse what was wrong and develop workarounds. I still hoped.

These days, I’m hopeless. What is the point of developing systems for coping if I can’t stick to using them. I will be forever stuck to being back at square one every three weeks to a month no matter what I do. So what’s the point of starting anything or doing anything.

And what exactly do I do with the rest of my life.

22 Nov 02 – Diary
This feeling of being stuck in one place is starting to affect how I interact with people. I’ve already stopped making long term plans, but now I’m even hesitating about making commitments with people. My cousin is taking part in a marathon in January and I can’t even bring myself to say I’ll train with her. After all, I’ll drop out in three weeks time, won’t I.

And what about promising to have a Christmas party at my place. Suppose I’m depressed and can’t organise it. Why make the offer.

What about teaching part time classes next year. Nope – not reliable enough so I’ll turn the offer down. Probably can’t even get through any classes I take either, so skip the idea of getting my degree in psychology.

Don’t make any promises to my niece or nephew either, if they are more than 3 days into the future. Never know what will happen.

For that matter, why bother with friendships. Can I really sustain a friendship and all the little responsibilities that go with them. It is worth it to try to make new friends.

I certainly don’t think I can sustain the effort for the time it takes to start a new relationship. I know I can meet someone, but unless the relationship solidifies in two weeks or less (not likely to happen), I may not be stable enough to give it time to settle down. Should I invest the time in trying.

Apart from feeling insecure, what I am feeling is a very deep seated anger at the unfairness of it all. I’m not angry with anyone, but I am angry / hurt / upset / horrified at the situation life has thrown my way. And unfortunately, anger is the only thing these days that seems to elicit any feelings in me that are not insecurity.

I suppose if anger is what I have, that’s what I have to use. I am not hopeful about my future, nor am I happy about the way things are going, nor optimistic that the future will be better than it is now (and it’s pretty darned bad now). But I will soldier on because of sheer bloodymindedness and stubbornness. I will live my life as well as I can. Not because I think things will get better but because I want to spite whatever fates have decreed that my life is going to be useless.

What else have I got to do? What other choices do I have?

I suppose that I should mention that I haven’t been this close to suicide for years. Like all manic-depressive persons I know that my chances of dying by suicide are relatively high and I’ve developed systems that guard against it happening. But these systems are rather weak at the moment and although I have not overtly tried to kill myself, each time I see how bleak the future could be, I think about it. Right now, I give my probability to living to be 40 at about sixty percent, and the chances of living to be 45 at about forty percent.

And doesn’t that just cheer me up.

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