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The Doctor and Mental Illness

I know that Doctor Who has many good analogies to mental health, there are plenty of articles and blogs on the subject. I am going to write one more.

My theory is that the entire show is in the mind of a Gallifreyan that has guarded Earth for many years, but is now in the throes of depression and anxiety and PTSD (even Time Lords cannot escape mental illness) after the Time War.
Each enemy is the Doctor’s greatest fears, and he is the hero he needs to be to fight against his illness. These enemies could be represented by enemies he has actually fought (Daleks in the Time War) or fabrications of his own mind that represent his daily battles. (NOTE: I use only the new Series enemies as I have not yet watched all of the original serials.)
Each companion is part of his real life, all there to remind him that he is not alone in his battles, because if he is, he has already lost.

Enemies:
Daleks and Cybermen: Daleks and Cybermen represent a fear of conformity that haunts many with a mental illness. Society in general wishes those with a mental illness to conform to “normal” standards, and its not a stretch to think that Gallifreyans would also do this, even if it wasn’t deliberate. Each enemy represents a different sort of conformity: Daleks represent those in society that want to purge any with a mental illness, to write them off and never see them again just because they are different. Cybermen on the other hand represent the conformity to the general group; to join but to not be different. (Note: As the Doctor is still Gallifreyan and has fought in the Time War, he could truly have a deep fear of Daleks.)

Autons/Nestene Consciousness:
This may not be a huge one, but there is a phobia called Pediophobia or the fear of dolls. I myself have this phobia and it can be debilitating as Mannequins and Dolls are virtually everywhere.

The Family Slitheen/Sontarans/Ice Warriors/The Great Intelligence/Silurians: These species, and others like them, represent the never ending armies of his own mind that relentlessly battle him each day. Sometimes his day is faced with a feral and unpredictable battles (Silurians/Ice Warriors), other days he faces a relentless mind (Sontarans), then days where his mind seems to want nothing more than to leave him no matter the destruction it causes (The Family Slitheen). Then there are the rare days, but the darkest days, the days of great peril where his own mind is convincing (The Great Intelligence).

Ood: Back to fears, the Ood represent the fear of friends and family turning on him at a moments notice. They are always there, but what secret do they have that can turn against him and have that betrayal become real?

Vashta Nerada: Unseen dangers, paranoia of what may or may not be there in the shadows waiting to devour you. For people with anxiety, those shadows represent their fears, whether there is truth to those fears or not, it feels as if those shadows can strip us of who we are.

Silence: A great fear of those with mental illness is that people will forget them or overlook them and the Silence represents that. The fear of being lost in a world of monsters, that your friends and family will no longer be there because they will move on and forget all about you.

The Weeping Angels: The fear of the ordinary. I love/hate the show because of its representation of this fear; that everyday objects can make us afraid. This is represented particularly in the Weeping Angels, as even the simple action of blinking can lead to fear. This is the embodiment of what a true anxiety disorder looks like, the fear of the ordinary, the fear that something, even if you don’t know what, is going to get you, going to hurt you.

The Master: Best Friends can become our greatest enemies.

The Shrouded Creature/The Veil: This is the most dangerous monster of them all, the one that stalks relentlessly. This creature is suicidal ideation. It is rooted in your own mind and you know its there and the only way to fight it is to face the truth of your illness and who you are.

Companions:
Rose: Rose is that friend that is always there, even if it seems there are dimensions between you. This is a friend that is not necessarily a lover or romantic partner, but this is the friend that is there no matter what.

Martha: Martha represents the friend-zoned friend, the friend that had feelings for you that you did not reciprocate but is still there for you when you need it.

Donna: Donna is that tragic friend that passed away, but you hold on to the memories of when there were there and use those moments to help you keep going.

Amy & Rory: Amy & Rory are your family that is not family. Most people have that family friend that treated you as if you were their own. They are there for you even when you cannot be. Their commitment to each other will always come first, but they will always strive to be there when you need it the most.

River Song: River represents the Doctor’s wife (or our spouse), as she already is. She loves him dearly and is willing to do anything to help, but because of depression she does not always feel that love back. This does not lessen her love, but she holds on knowing that his love is there for he shows it as much as he can. Even when she cannot be physically with him, she will always be with him no matter how far away they are.

Clara: Clara is the teachers, nurses, and other professionals that strive to help along the way. She may not always be right, but she can help the fight with encouragement and a bit of push. The loss of this “friend” can be a great detriment.

Jack Harkness: There is no forgetting Jack Harkness. He is that friend that will go to great lengths to make you laugh or smile, to try and pull you from the darkness.

TARDIS/Idris: The TARDIS is our toolbox. We may not always like were we end up, but we can make the best of where we are.

““We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”
— The Doctor

Mental illness is a constant battle. Some enemies are tougher than others and all require a different set of skills to face. These are not enemies we can completely defeat or get rid of, but we can stand up to them and fight each day.

Doctor Who as a whole shows a man that fights each day to protect his universe. He struggles to keep himself intact, but recognizes the need for skills and friends.

 
“Can’t I just lose? Just this once? Easy. It would be easy. It would be so easy.”
— The Doctor

This is our fight, not only is it against our illness but our own mind. We can only fight for so long before we are exhausted. “Heaven Sent” was an episode where the Doctor felt as if he had lost everything. Clara was gone and he was alone running from an unstoppable monster. This was a monster he could not run from nor give into, the only way to stop this monster was to look inside himself, to really honestly look at himself.

The Doctor faces misery and pain, not of his doing but because it is. This is life for those with mental illness; a fear of the ordinary, a fear to conform, a fear of being alone, and the fear that no matter how long we fight, it may not be enough.

Try and Try Again

Wow, it has been awhile.

A lot has happened in the last 8 months. Well, maybe not a lot, but some. I have plateaued in regards to depression, which is not a bad thing. I just am. My anxiety disorder has gotten worse, but there are still good days. I have also felt very tired, exhausted and sore.

Depression is a funny thing, especially if you have Bi-Polar. For years I have gotten “used” to a fairly regular cycle; spring and fall are “good”, winter is dark and mid-summer I become a human version of Gollum (rapid mood swings, mostly irritability, aversion to light and crowds, and a general hatred of anything outside of my own little bubble).

Anxiety is a different beast. I have gotten to the point where I can regularly “push” through a panic attack or situation, but I still crash quite heavily. I have started taking medication again, which helps takes the edge off the panic attacks.

The exhaustion does help any of this. There are many days where getting to my chair is all the energy I have. I am also in my mid-summer crash, so that doesn’t help. The good news is that it may be caused by sleep apnea, which is only good news in the sense that my exhaustion may have a cause that can be remedied.

Addiction
This is something that will never go away. I still deal with an addiction to collecting card games from time to time. It gets easier to resist, but it never really goes away.

I am making a lot of headway with my pornography addiction. I nearly got to where we were going to drop our internet access. This wasn’t optimal as we use the internet for many things. We decided to try a trail of Norton Family Safety, though, and it has worked out really well. We got a nice spring deal on the Internet Security Suite and its helped a lot. I tried many free parental control programs but I could find a work-around for all of them. Norton is nice because it works in Chrome’s Incognito mode and on tablets and phones. This means it monitors nearly every point of access to the internet I have. The only exception is my TV web browser, but it is slow and buggy, which works nicely as its own blocker.

I felt this was a way to “cheat” at first, but my therapist reminded me that part of breaking addiction is to get away from what is causing it. This helped a lot. Its been months now, and while I may still make the errant comment still, they have become rather rare. My libido has also dropped considerably.

As I mentioned above, though, the addiction is not gone completely. It rears its ugly head every now and then and at very odds times. It does still seem to be triggered by anxiety, but it can also be triggered by watching any TV or playing any games that have the innuendo in them. I have to watch this very closely. That also means I have practically cut out all TV watching. I have a few shows I watch, but for the most part I just stay away.

I wish that less TV watching meant more time doing things around the house, but with the exhaustion I end up playing video games more often than not.

Overall, I can say that things are better. I can read through my posts last year and see how far I have come. I may have a long way to go still, but that doesn’t mean the journey I have made so far is any less important.

Introvert’s Math

I am exhausted.

I am not tired, though I wish I could sleep the day away. I have no energy. From the moment I wake up, I feel as if sleep itself has taken energy from me.
I move, but barely. I do the minimal required tasks, because it takes all I have to do those. I want to do more, but lack the ability.
Some say, “Get going, once you get going you’ll feel better and want to keep moving.” Yep, I tried it.

I force myself to do dishes or laundry, and the longer it takes, the more exhausted I feel. Each arm feels like stone, while my hands creak and groan to move my weighty fingers. My chest begins to hurt, a sharp pain charts the nerves along my ribs and shoulder. Each step feels like walking through knee deep mud. I AM EXHAUSTED.

On top of the exhaustion, Agoraphobia kicks in and makes my natural introvert into a problem. I have no desire to leave the house, because its mentally draining, which in turn is physically draining.

I play video games, particularly Strategy and RPG games. So in my head are numbers to try and explain how I feel.

Here is the Introvert’s Math:

Say each person has a base energy production of 50 E/s. This is a “normal” person’s energy level as they go through the day.

For this person, chores and tasks will each take 1 E/s, work will take 2 E/s, and Group Activities will take 1 E/s per Person in the group (this includes being at work).

“Normal” Person:

Base Energy: 50 E/s

Activities:
-Chores: 1 E/s
-Work: 2 E/s

Social:
-Co-Workers/Acquaintances: 1 E/s
-Strangers: 2 E/s
-Friends: .5 E/s

So in a “Normal” day, a person usually has excess energy as they go through the day, but the Base Energy Production will usually drop as the day progresses.

Example:
Morning:
-50 E/s
-While doing chores (which includes getting ready for the day), each activity will take 1 E/s, which is subtracted from the 50 E/s while doing that particular activity. So making breakfast (Eggs, Toast, and Bacon) requires 3 E/s, so the Base E/s becomes 47 E/s while doing that. Add in cleaning up, showering, picking and putting on clothes, it all requires energy.

 

Now to the Introvert. This is what my numbers look like:

Base: 30 E/s

Activities:
-Chores: 2 E/s

Social:
-Acquaintances: 4 E/s
-Strangers: 6 E/s
-Friends: 1 E/s
-Family: .5 E/s

Now Introverts also get a Negative to Social interactions. The more people involved the worse it gets. So basically a gathering looks like this:

Acquaintances: 4^X E/s (X=Number of Acquaintances)
Strangers: 6^X E/s (X=Number of Strangers)
Friends: 1^X E/s (X-Number of Friends)

Social gatherings to an Introvert are DRAINING. The bigger the crowd, the worse it gets, and can lead to panic attacks, if not outright panic disorders.

Add in Agoraphobia and anything outside of one’s Sanctuary (usually home) also exponentially increases energy drain. Time also factors in, as well as activity level (for me, being active, rather than sitting and either doing nothing or listening can lower the levels a little, though rarely enough).

Example: Trip to the Grocery Store

Base: 30 E/s
-30 – (6^X + 4^Y + 1^Z + .5^N)^T

The background people (people I don’t actually have any interaction with), cause a drain effect of 1.5^X.

So 30 – (6^X + 4^Y + 1^Z + .5^N + 1.5^B)^T = Total E/s

At any given moment I may have to excuse myself or interact with 1 stranger, so X=1. Seeing friends and acquaintances are rare and I tend to shop by myself. Y = 0, Z = 0, N = 0 (We remove these when at 0.)
In the “background” I can see  roughly 20-30 people, so we will go with B=25.

So at the start of shopping I am at 30-(6^1 + 1.5^25)^1, which gives me -25,227 E/S.

Yeah, that number is right. It definitely feels that way. I get through by shear NEED, not any actual energy, and I crash when I get home.

We are built to take a lot, but that is what every day feels like.

 

I AM EXHAUSTED.

Critical Phase

I tend to “break” my moods and current behaviors into Phases and Modes.

Right now I am in a Critical Phase called Shutdown.

Shutdown is a last resort and one of my least favorite phases. Shutdown is categorized by almost total apathy, lack of motivation, ambition, and interests, exhaustion, and severe physical pain. I crave sleep but my mind doesn’t allow sleep beyond my normal 5-7 hours. I also crave fast food and candy. I have no will to leave my house as I want no human contact, even for groceries.
Video games help pass the time, but I have little to no I interest in any of them. Reading is out the window, watching TV or movies is a chore, and chores are straight up unachievable.
It’s miserable in the sense that I WANT to do things and I know I can, but I cannot. Not only does my mind block any will to do anything, but the physical pain will keep me down as well.

I don’t say anything to any one. My wife knows I am not doing well but not the extent. A Shutdown happens after an Overload.
Overload is a mode of extreme stress and anxiety. When dealing with stressful situations for long periods of time, I “borrow” energy. When the situation is passed or resolved my body and mind crash. To prevent a Meltdown (another phase categorized by irritability, apathy, anger and dark thoughts including suicidal ideations), I tend to Shutdown instead.
This is a relatively good thing… Though it hurts both mentally and physically… And spiritually.

Notes:
“Normal” Phases –
Stable
Happy
Angry

“Normal” Modes –
Protective
AlerShutdown
Focused

Coaster Phases –
Depressed
Hypo-manic
Irritable

Critical Phases –
Overload
Shutdown
Pissed

Catastrophic Phases –
Meltdown (Irritable and apathetic)
Suicidal
Nuclear (Pure anger)

I include a lot of anger Phases because, while I am not an outwardly angry or violent person, I internalize anger. It will more than likely never come out for me, but others have problems that fall into those categories.

Question…

Well, more begging to tell me I am an arrogant a****** than a question.

About twice a month my wife and I try and play the large board games we own. (By large board game, I mean the ones that take 30 minutes to setup and 3-5 hours to play.) Its nice to sit at the table and listen to music and talk while enjoying the game.

While this issue has come up before it really struck home tonight… my wife loses at the one game… a lot. Its strategy based (building cities and either trying to win by Culture, Economy, Science or War – Civilization the Board Game for those that are interested), and I have the advantage. I grew up playing strategy games. My dad started me on Chess at 4 and my family was rather big into RISK growing up. Even on the computer I played mainly strategy games or RPG games that required you to think through puzzles and situations.
Now, I’m not the best player and wouldn’t stand a chance against professional players, but in our circles I tend to win games more often than not.

My wife didn’t grow up around games in general, she was more the outdoor type. That is great, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to playing games, even ones she really enjoys like Civilization, not winning can ruin the fun.

I get this… sort of.

If I lose at something, as long as I gave it my all with what I have at my disposal, I feel good and enjoy myself. There are games that I can get very frustrated with losing at. These games are luck based… mainly dice rollers, ironically, like RISK. RISK bugs me to no end even though I still like the game. Its frustrating to have all your plans ruined JUST because the dice rolled the wrong way. This happens to much in real life and I don’t like it in my games. I love to lose because someone beat me, not because of random chance.
Losing to an opponent and not chance, just drives the need to be better, to think differently next time. It can apply to real life as well, don’t give up and think outside the box. A common definition of insanity is “repeating the same action again and again expecting a different result.” Losing with that in mind can help one to realize that something needs to change… not big changes, but you do SOMETHING different to try it out and you keep going until you get it.

In games, once you start winning, your opponents can now try and beat you. Once you are beaten the cycle can continue, causing both to think from different angles.

This all means, that I personally, don’t mind losing, in fact I find some enjoyment in it.

Now, one of things that gets brought up that I really DO NOT understand is letting someone win so that they can enjoy the game… and supposedly find it fun to play again. I don’t understand this. When someone lets me win at something, I feel small and insulted. To me, its not a teaching lesson, it just means I wasn’t worth teaching properly.

So… am I an arrogant a****** because I refuse to let others win because of my own personal belief system when it comes to games?

PS

There are limits to what can learn and accomplish. For example, I like to play the Civilization PC game as well, but I cannot get past the normal difficulty. I have tried and tried and tried, but for me I always mess up something that ends up with me losing the game. I rarely play the harder difficulties these days, but still play and enjoy the game itself, and I don’t always win even at my comfort level.

I DO understand there are limits. I apply the same thing to mental illness. You have to keep working at it until you find something that works for you. But that is the point, find the limit of what you CAN do. Maybe test it every so often, but you can’t just give up. Or is that a luxury afforded to Board Games? the ability to just give up when one does not like something?

I am…

Its been quite some time. There is a lot to talk about, but not much to say about it.

Anyway…

I am an introvert, socially anxious, majorly depressed, paranoid human being with Bi-Polar traits.

OK… so what?

Introvert – Generally Low Enthusiasm and Assertiveness (also low Social Rewards as modern definitions put it)
Socially Anxious – Nervous and Sick (Fight or Flight Response) in groups of 3 or more, or even with persons I am comfortable with – “Small Talk” is draining
–Anthropophobia (Fear of People or Fear of Society) – Unable to make eye contact, Anxiety increases with even 1 on 1 interaction, even with friends and trusted people
Major Depression – Pretty self-explanatory (One of the few Mental Illness names that say it well) – 80% of the time I have little energy, motivation, will, or desire – This includes hobbies and recreation
Paranoid – Self-Diagnosed – (Dictionary.com defines as “baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others”) – While this definition fits me to a smaller degree (I definitely have thoughts people are out to get me or are talking about me all the time… and attribute unrealistic motives onto others), I also mean the cultural slang of Paranoid – Excessive Fear – I live in fear of just about everything, from the perfectly logical (Fear I will get hit by a vehicle if I cross a road without looking) to the illogical (fear of being kidnapped and dropped from a plane without a parachute just because I happened to be walking down the street at the wrong time… OK maybe I am textbook Paranoid…)

Bi-Polar – I do have short episodes of Hypomania – usually once a year for a few days – The depression also follows a somewhat set cycle every year.

So what does this mean?
For me it means that ANY social interaction requires more energy than the average person, which will in turn fuel the depression and fear.
I do not find joy in large social gatherings and actually have become very fearful of pretty much any sized gatherings. When I do push myself to attend (while I may actually enjoy myself once there), the energy required to do so usually requires days if not weeks of recovery, all while battling the possibility of further social contact and depression.

My home is my sanctuary… as long as there are no other people there besides my immediate family.

I have few friends and trust no one outside of them… and sometimes not even them.

I find peace at home. I like to read the Bible, and when I can, some fiction as well. I enjoy video games and board games, both by myself and with my few friends.
When I leave my house, the rest of the day and possibly the next has to be devoted to relaxing and recuperating.

That is a glimpse of what it is to be me, and it probably doesn’t make sense. Even to those that watch me, heck even me, it doesn’t make sense or seem reasonable. But one day at a time, keep moving and never let yourself stay down, even if its only to stand up again.

Oddity

Mental Illness is frustrating.

It frustrating to everyone around the person that is ill. But as frustrating as it is for the people outside, the one with the illness finds it even more frustrating.

Mental Illness tends to ebb and flow, especially Bi-polar, which is a given…

I mentioned to my therapist (who is on to a different job… which stinks for me, but is great for her… oh well, thus is life…) awhile ago that I have noticed patterns in my life. Not routines that I can break or change, but patterns. I have Bi-polar (have or am… which ever), and a fairly set yearly schedule. At Winter’s change (spring and summer) I dip down into depression, just as I am right now. Its been this way since I can remember. Spring and Autumn have been difficult months. It usually lasts about 2-3 months and I come back to being a bit stable. Winter itself isn’t usually too bad. I tend to not want to go outside, but I don’t do to bad considering.

October, November, March, and April tend to be the “down” months. There are 1-2 week dips as well, but these are the months long slides.

June and December are usually the best months of the year, mental-wise.

July… oh man, July. I dread July. For years, July was difficult… and every year it got worse. The last couple of years I have managed to “borrow” energy to go to the District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses without major episodes or either depression or panic. At first I thought I could “conquer” the illness and push past things…. WRONG! I do it because I love going to the conventions. I love learning about Jehovah. I still have my problems to work through, but it is a passion I hope continues to grow.

But “borrowing” comes at a cost… a very high cost. Two years ago I “borrowed” and made the mistake of thinking I pushed my way through a normally terrible month. It was merely postponed. It hit me September and went right into the winter months, throwing me way of track.

Last year wasn’t as bad. It hit almost immediately after the convention and lasted through September or so, giving me a small break before it hit again for its regular Autumn visit.

But, patterns within patterns. My day has a pattern as well, whether I am doing well or bad. Mornings are slow going but I can get going. Whether work gets done depends on how well I am doing. Usually I can get something done. By the afternoon I am tired… so very very tired. It doesn’t matter if I worked all morning or not, it hits me like a hammer.

Then about Late afternoon, I start to wake up a bit… and then crash in the evening. Not as bad as the afternoon, but enough I want to go to bed. But of course at bed time, I am wide awake.

I have tried different drinks and foods, bed times, naps, reading, TV, quitting TV, games, quitting games, music, quitting music and nothing. Sometimes it works for a bit, but inevitably the pattern springs back to what it is.

One more thing that is frustrating is comfort and help. Those with a mental illness tend to be very empathetic and understanding, or at least try to help and offer words of encouragement. But we can’t take it. We help others and will do so until we drop… but its difficult to have those same words and same comfort brought on us.

Mental Illness feeds on itself in a never ending cycle of self-doubt and criticism. It feeds on our mental AND physical energy while leaving the body in tact (for the most part). And because of the self-doubt and criticism we place walls and barriers and masks to hide what is going on. We, in effect, create the very shields that Mental Illness needs to hide.

It is an oddity.