Last week, my post https://makingitdaily.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/claire-call-me-crazy/ was written from the depths. I’m impressed that I was able to write at all. I don’t want to be cavalier about depression, so I want to follow up and present some of the facts about mine.
I have, in the past, been on medication for depression, and I count at least seven therapists over the last twenty years. I’ve gone anywhere from three sessions to three years with an individual therapist. I don’t use the term “depression” lightly, simply because I know what it means to feel that way and because I know it could be so, so much worse than I have had it. I feel that I’ve been lucky in my personal experience because A) I can manage the good periods through exercise, diet, and utilizing ongoing support resources, B) by now, I can recognize when it’s getting bad and I need to get more help, and C) I have always been able to get help when I need it.
The only way I can describe it is that I’ve had small ladle-fulls of depression throughout the years, but they’ve been enough to show me that I don’t ever want more. Depression comes out of the ground and swallows you whole. I feel no shame in admitting that when I see its shadow surface, I panic and call out the troops.
Last Tuesday, I felt like I was back there again. It sent me into a spin, and I focused all my low energy reserves on calling for help. When I feel everything caving in on me, it feels a little like everything goes into slow motion. If it’s anxiety that I’m experiencing because I’m overwhelmed with a million things I have to do, I fixate on one tiny thing until it’s done, and then I shift all my attention to the next tiny thing. It’s the only way I can keep moving forward. The strategy helped me get through Wednesday, albeit with many tears and a heavy reliance on Newman—and also on my ex, who agreed to keep Free an extra night in the week’s rotation so I could get my shit together.
The rest of the week picked up, enough so that I know now I can make it with some adjustments to my self-care regimen. I am feeling comforted that it’s “just” the seasonal version kicking in and not the “clinical” variety that I’ve felt before. At the same time, I’m crying most mornings at the extreme challenge (and it does feel that way) of getting out of bed and into some kind of motion.
I haven’t yet figured out the real roots of my depression. I wonder if it’s a natural part of who I am that comes with good (emotional sensitivity, heightened awareness, empathy) as well as bad (anxiety, a tendency to fixate on problems, ongoing worrying and over-planning). I wonder if it’s a deficiency or disorder in me that awaits a permanent fix that just isn’t available yet. I wonder if each facet of my experiences can be ascribed to a discrete cause—a particular event, relationship, or context that brought an otherwise resilient woman to her knees. Lord knows that I’d like to blame anyone and anything but me for these dark periods, but their recurring nature suggests there’s more to it than that.
At any rate, there came a point in my life, about ten years ago now, when I decided that naming the thing would help me avoid the guilt and shame that threatened to build up around the “D” word. Long before I had to face that second “D” word, divorce, I was forced to come to terms with “depression,” a word I didn’t like and didn’t want anywhere near me. Despite the discomfort of some who would rather not have heard what I had to say about it, the only way I could keep it at arm’s length was to talk about it and write about it.
I fully understand the desire to avoid it; I would too, if I could. I also get that it’s something you have to go through to fully understand. It’s what helps me get through conversations like the one where a friend once said to me, “I get depressed too, but then if I think about going out to dinner to my favorite Mexican restaurant, it goes away.”
I’m glad that she doesn’t really get what depression really means or feels like; I really am. As I said, I’m actually one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been totally blindsided by the condition. There’s even a tiny (grayish, blurry, slightly cloudy) bright side. Trying to come to terms with depression was the best training ground I could have for how to keep my head above water when that second “D” word came calling. They are inevitably linked for me, of course, but battling through one has helped me know I’m strong enough to survive the other.
My current challenge is finding a way to manage the seasonal version of this without hurting my relationship. Newman is a great support, but he needs all his resources right now to fight his own battles, and I want to get better at taking care of myself. On that note, I am working on incorporating these small strategies into the routine of my days.
1) A daily multi-vitamin–eaten with a healthy lunch. I eat the school cafeteria lunch, and I load up on all the veggie sides they offer.
2) Regular exercise. My target is at least 3 workouts a week. I wasn’t hitting that for a few weeks, but I’m back now. I worked out 4 times last week and took two additional walks with Newman.
3) Small indulgences when needed. A piece of chocolate here, an extra hour of sleep on a weekend morning, an extra long hot shower, a glass of wine, some crappy TV, some me-time where I call the shots and can attempt to turn the noise in my mind down. No judgment, no shame. Just me.
4) Writing as therapy when needed. I do want to remain positive, but sometimes the writing just helps, so I’m going to have to let some of it out here as a way to continue to be positive elsewhere. I feel hopeful that the challenges in my life can offer lessons that will help me know and name myself more fully, but I need to face them and find my truths in the outskirts of their shadows.
I’m eager for Spring, but Winter is here now, and I would like to be able to appreciate its gifts. It continues to be a challenge. I am grateful for all that I have going for me that will help me to face it.