(It's been a tough couple weeks, depressionwise. I promise that even if this continues for awhile, I'm not going to make every blog I write about depression. That's lame to read. But out of all the blogs I started trying to write for today, this was the one that I actually finished. So here goes.)
My friend Sarah posted a quote on her Facebook the other day that said, "It's impossible to over-hope." While I've frequently considered myself a pretty optimistic person, this week I've been thinking about how much easier life is when your expectations and hopes are low.
The main thing prompting this recently has been a discouraging situation I've found myself in the middle of. I've been on varying dosages of steroids since November to help me deal with my rheumatoid arthritis. While steroids are fantastic for reducing pain and bringing down inflammation, they also come with a bunch of unpleasant side effects, such as depression (because, yeah, I need more of that) and weight gain.
WHOO, that weight gain. After five months on these drugs, I've gained about 45 pounds. And it's really bothering me.
I've never before been anyone who was really bothered by her weight. Even when I was on steroids several years ago and gained a bunch, it didn't keep me up nights or make me feel crappy about myself. The other night I was trying to figure it out, why it was so distressing to me now and why it didn't distress me then.
Then I realized that it was because of where my expectations were.
I've never really liked the way I look. For most of my life I've just thought of myself as being kind of awkward-looking. Even during events where I got to dress up and have hair and makeup done, I still never thought I looked nice. And so I just kind of had that ingrained in my mind: "You're not pretty, and you're never going to be pretty, so just stop stressing about it."
So I stopped. I turned all my energy toward being a kind and smart and interesting person rather than a physically attractive one, since I figured those goals were actually attainable. When I gained weight on the steroids the first time, it didn't alter my perception of myself to be any more negative than it already was. Being further away from an impossible goal didn't seem like a big deal.
Over the past year or two, being in a relationship and being around someone who apparently liked the way I looked completely changed the way I thought about myself. For the first time in my entire life, I sometimes felt kinda pretty. It was a new, weird feeling, but as I adjusted to it, I was pretty happy with it.
And then, suddenly, in the span of a few months I blew up like a balloon.
Three years ago, this wouldn't have mattered. I would still be apathetic about my appearance, and so a weight gain wouldn't have really weighed in one way or the other (especially one caused by drugs that would eventually probably be adjusted when I came back off the drugs). But I wasn't apathetic anymore. I had actual feelings about the way I looked. So when things changed, the positive feelings didn't go back to being apathetic, they turned into negative ones.
Before, I had zero expectations or hope for improvement, and I'd made peace with that, and I was OK.
Then I started hoping, and then my hopes were dashed, and now everything is sad.
This isn't the only situation recently where this has come up. There have been a couple other things going on in my life where I was optimistically hoping for the best, and what happened was... not that. Broken relationships I thought would mend have just gotten worse. Job opportunities that were presenting themselves suddenly fell apart. Friends who are dealing with crap get even more crap thrown at them. Attempts at serious conversations about things that matter to me somehow turn into pointless, petty arguments where everyone gets hurt. And each time, I think to myself, "If I had expected the worst in the first place, I would feel better right now."
I told a friend lately that it feels like my entire life this week has been disappointment repair, which is an exhausting way to live, and I am feeling more sympathy than ever for the people who choose to just turn off all their emotions. It's like deciding to eat food off china plates from now on because you love how beautiful the china is, but then about half the time you use those plates you end up breaking them and then you have to spend all this time gluing them back together when really, wouldn't it be smarter and easier and better to just not eat off those plates at all?
I know that some of this is the depression talking. I know that it takes situations that are not that big a deal and turns them into "EVERYTHING IS THE WORST AND WILL NEVER GET BETTER," and while a part of me believes that things will get better eventually, there's another part of me that thinks maybe I'd be better off just thinking they won't, because then at least I can stop spending all this time picking up broken pieces and just plow on ahead.
I don't have any answers for this yet. I'm not even sure I could make myself apathetic about all these things if I wanted to. And I feel like it's a self-preservation plan that would ultimately backfire somehow.
But, man. Sometimes hope really sucks.