“Emerging from the Desert” (4/10/2021)
For about a decade I have chronically struggled with progressively worsening depression. I was initially diagnosed with depression in fall of 2009 and was put on Zoloft shortly after which allowed me to feel like myself again and function normally, including having a notable bout of creating artwork starting in early 2011. However, that came to a halt around mid-2011 when I began to build up a tolerance to Zoloft and even with increased doses it failed to work as it had and my depression significantly flared up during that time. It wasn’t until fall of that year that I could be put on a different medication–that time, Effexor (an SNRI, as opposed to another SSRI, that is supposed to work better for chronic depression, which I was newly diagnosed with then). Thus began the almost decade of medication adjustments for my depression–changing (increasing and decreasing) doses of Effexor and eventually a few years in, adding other medication to work in combination with it.
I tried Abilify for a couple of years but unfortunately it gave me generalized anxiety, even with buspirone taken in addition to it to temper the anxiety (which thus ended up not *as* bad as it was starting out on Abilify). My psych doctor eventually took me off of it, fortunately, but something else was tried in its place. I’m drawing a blank as to what medication was next, but this whole time I was still on Effexor, despite it not working well for me for multiple years, partially because my psych doc was hesitant to take me off of it due to the withdrawal from it often being very difficult.
My doctor did eventually switch me off of Effexor and on to Pristiq, which is basically the main metabolite of Effexor. That allowed a little improvement but other combinations and doses of meds had to be tried until I was finally put on Zyprexa, an anti-psychotic, which is an atypical way of treating chronic depression, yet ultimately, at least with it in combination with Pristiq, it has helped largely the most since I was on Zoloft. So that’s where I am now, in April 2021, about 3 months after I started seeing a significant amount of improvement in my mood, functionality, interests, and overall wellbeing. I’ll also note that throughout this time of taking antidepressants, I tried multiple therapists and continue still to talk to a therapist a few times a year, however it never did much for me especially since I have good reason to believe that my depression is largely (though not entirely) due to biochemical issues rather than ones that could be relieved via most forms of therapy (especially talk therapy) that I have had access to.
So that’s a relatively brief background of trying to manage my mental health over the past several years. The more important information is *how* this struggling with depression has affected me during all this time. It has affected me in regards to ability to work certain jobs and to have kept my previous job I had for four years and eventually had to leave due to primarily mental health reasons. But I’m going to focus on here how it has affected me when it comes to my otherkinity, spirituality, and general alterhumanity.
Around 2011, I think, I branched out from mainly therian and otherkin forums to spending some time on Tumblr where I came to be part of the ‘kin/therian community there and had a sideblog for posting images of animals and things that I feel connected to in some significant way, especially ‘kin related stuff. I never became ‘popular’, per se, on Tumblr, which isn’t surprising particularly with me tending toward being a lurker and not wanting to draw much attention to myself. I developed a decent amount of people following me on there and people I followed. My presence on forums gradually declined, but general activity on forums declined notably around that time anyway as people found other places to hang out, like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Around late 2013 or early 2014, I began to reduce my presence online, despite starting a ‘kin/therian writing resource project called Radiant Obscurities (that I’ve only very recently began work on again). Depression was slowly taking its toll on my interests and socializing so that I just didn’t have it in me to actively be part of the ‘kin/therian communities anymore. Granted, I did still check in on my Tumblr feed from time to time, yet I eventually stopped visiting forums altogether.
It wasn’t just my presence in the communities that was impacted, as it was my alterhumanity in general that was affected, too. The process was so gradual I don’t recall when it really started to affect me greatly. It was one of those things in which one doesn’t realize something is essentially “gone” that used to be present because their mind just stops even thinking about or noticing it as it fades away. None of my altherhumanity completely went away. Instead it was more like it became mostly ‘muffled’–just a subtlety in my mind and self compared to what it had been. My animalistic shifts greatly reduced along with my ‘body-oriented thoughts’. I felt my animality less and less as time went on and I can’t say I even felt much of a sense of “missing” those feelings and experiences because my depression kind of put up a veil or fog over me remembering much of what they used to be like and the frequency or intensity I used to have of those experiences. That’s probably one of the scariest parts of this in relation to my alterhumanity: that my depression could warp my sense of who and how I had previously been so that memories of my experiences became (albeit ultimately temporarily) forgotten. And it’s not like I had any interest in reading my personal writings to try to better remember those things–it never even crossed my mind.
I never came to see depression as an integral part of who I am as a person. Instead I’ve remained adamant that it is not part of who I am, so to speak, but a chronic, harmful condition and disability that I am unfortunately plagued with to whatever degree for the rest of my life. It *does* impact how I experience the world and myself, along with my functionality, my socializing, and really almost all aspects of my life. That doesn’t mean that I will or even should see it as a part of my identity any more than my physical medical conditions and disabilities. Sure, in some sense it is certainly part of who I am and I understand that, yet as defeated as I have felt by depression’s constant presence in my life, it never took hold at my deepest core of self to become an intrinsic part of who I deeply am as an individual. This feels contradictory just writing this–I think it comes down to failing to find the right way to describe how I see all this.
If anything though, I guess I have honestly framed my depression and anxiety into concepts of my “shadow self”, which helps conceptualize the experiences of my mental illness into something more spiritual and less clinical. For years I wanted to work through those shadow-aspects in a spiritual sense and see if I could work toward better healing myself. Unfortunately, chronic depression being the terrible thing it is, my spirituality (in an active sense) was basically taken away from me, just like so many other parts of my life (like my artistry and personal writing). So I didn’t have enough active spirituality left on the surface of my mind to use it to fight against the invader of depression. This hearkens back to what I mentioned earlier of me seeing my depression as primarily biochemical/physical in origin and that it has taken the right combination of meds to even get me back to a state in which I can potentially feel like trying to fight off the non-physical/chemical parts of my depression and anxiety. There’s still not much to my active spirituality at this point so far, but it’s only been a few months of improvement and I am glad for the positive changes so far that have occurred even though I know I still have a long way to go to get back to a state much more like how I feel I “should” be. I would love to start work with animal guides again (it’s the main aspect of my spirituality), including working through my shadow-aspects. Back in January, I finally finished the spiritual art piece “Blood-Verine: Devourer of Shadows” which I started back in mid-2011 and is essentially about working with Blood-Verine (Wolverine) to help me ‘devour my shadows’ and create good, positive things in my life with what had been negative, harmful things to me. I’m still in the process of understanding exactly all the ways I can or could accomplish that, but I feel like I am slowly making progress on it after all this time.
It is, honestly, wonderful to much better feel my animal aspects again and to start reviving bits of interest and maybe even *passion* for things again. This does, however, depend on the day since I still experience too many days a month of feeling actively or borderline depressed and end up thinking “what’s the point in doing X thing?” which is so horribly defeatist and I hate it, yet it will stay present for hours or days no matter how much I rationalize that it’s just the depression making me feel this way and I shouldn’t take it to heart–I still feel that way regardless and that’s difficult to deal with, especially when it keeps preventing me from doing nearly anything I enjoy or alternatively feeling enjoyment from whatever I do. So it’s definitely still a long, difficult road ahead, but at least I can see a light in the distance now as opposed to how it’s been for me the past few years with not really any light to be seen.
Let me hope that the improvements continue, that I manage to finally climb myself out of this pit long-term, and that I continue to experience my animality and alterhumanity in notable, good or neutral ways. I am comforted by the fact I can feel my wings, feathers, fur, and fluff again. That I can see myself curling up as erdvogel, mongoose, or cat in my mind’s eye. And feeling the responsiveness to stimuli from horse, cat, and vampire. Or the inklings returning of my interest and connection with certain monsters–that I’m starting to seek them out in media again through my other-heartedness. Along with the bits of connection returning to me of my spirituality and my animal guides, whom I’ve come to miss working with. I’ve been in this Desert too long; it’s time to emerge from it and find the luscious, fruitful Grasslands I deserve to be in.