Welcome to the Pit!
I have been away from my blog now for a few weeks, something that I swore to myself would not happen during my self-imposed break from all things writing. But in the midst of the forced relaxation, I fell.
I have been here before, this mental state. In past posts, I have mentioned my bouts with depression in past posts, but I have never talked about it specifically. A year ago I came out of the writer closet, so to speak, and now I think it is time to come out of the closet about my disease. It is the only way to be completely 100% authentic here, and that has always been my goal.
Let me start by saying that I don’t think people who see me in my day job have any idea how dark a place I have been in. I am very open about my depression and anxiety because I think many people suffer from these in silence and never seek help. By being up front about my issues, maybe I will help someone else realize that it is not something to be ashamed of, or to try to fix on your own.
Yet, despite openly admitting that I have a therapist, or I take medication, I don’t talk too much about the actual disease and how I feel. I don’t tell people who I come into contact with during my work day that I have been on the verge of tears for weeks on end, or that I feel like curling into a very small ball in a corner somewhere and just staying there. I do not mention the complete feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that can overtake me at odd times for no apparent reason. I try not to let them see the anxiety and self-doubt lurking just behind my smile.
People have their own problems to worry about without having mine dumped on them as well.
I would like to think my act is a good one. I have practiced it long enough that I should be a master by now. But sometimes the mere act of showing a brave face to the world is enough to break me.
I have never had suicidal thoughts, and for that I am grateful. But this pit I fall into has a very deep bottom. The walls are steep and smooth and impossible to climb some days. Often, I feel like I am barely hanging on by my fingernails and if I let go I will never be able to crawl out.
I don’t feel like this all the time. I have months and years where this darkness is kept at bay. But sometimes when it comes, I can’t help but worry that this time I won’t be able to shake it. This will be the time when I will just give up and lay like a lump at the bottom of the pit forever.
When I do share my depression with people, they offer many bits of well-meaning advice. And on the surface, they are all excellent ideas. Change your meds, change your doctor, exercise, punch something, journal, scream, just let it out, get a makeover, get more “age-appropriate” hobbies (? That one really confused me, too!), just get over it, fake it til you make it, etc. Perhaps if I tried all of those things at once, they would work!
Unfortunately, depression saps my energy. Exercise seems like too much work. Writing seems like too much work. Going shopping, a task I despise, seems like too much work.
Changing my meds… that is a terrifying concept to me. So many antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds have pesky little side effects – weight gain, sleep disturbances, lethargy – all things that would further my depression! There are medications that can be taken in conjunction with antidepressants to make them work more effectively. I made the mistake of reading about them online. Their side effects are even worse! Big time weight gain, fun little muscle spasms that can make your limbs flail around for no reason, making your cholesterol and blood sugar go wonky. No, I don’t want to go down that path. I am comfortable with my current regimen. Any side effects have long since been left in the dust.
I have been mulling over the options. The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to take meds for the rest of my life and that I want to continue with my therapist. I have come to believe that most people in this world would benefit from a good listener and objective insight into their problems. I always feel better after a session, like I have been heard, and I can handle whatever is bothering me.
As many of you know, I have always been a learner, a book-geek– give me any topic and I will find a million books to add to my reading list to help me learn it. Though I have only been on meds the last ten years or so, I have suffered from depression since college. In the past few decades (Yowza! That makes me feel old just typing that!), I have accumulated books on all sorts of topics to help me tackle the way I was feeling. I think my home library covers every topic from nutrition, to spirituality, to meditation, to brain science, to psychology, to mindfulness, to exercise, to body image, self-esteem, journaling, you name it. All very positive information and habits to acquire.
The problem is the depression-induced lethargy that makes every idea seem like a ton of effort. I read a book on meditation and think this is wonderful! I need to try this! And then I take a nap instead.
I am coming to realize that depression is a crafty foe. Whenever it sees me making a small step toward getting healthy mentally it smacks me with an urge to nap that cannot be ignored. It throws an even heavier cloak of hopelessness over any little light I start to follow. It cannot thrive without the darkness. It feeds off of my despair.
Well, quite frankly, I am getting sick of it. I think I am going to be throwing everything in my arsenal at it going forward. I am going to force myself to change my habits and climb out of this pit. And once I am standing on firm ground again, on my own two feet, I am going to do everything humanly possibly to never fall into it again.
I realized this week that all these years that I have sought treatment for depression and anxiety, I have approached it as something that will be fixed from the outside. A pill will work on my brain chemistry; a therapist will listen to my woes; something or someone outside of myself will fix me. I have been pretty passive in my approach. I remember joking with my therapist that I needed her to wave her magic wand and fix me.
This is not the answer. Pretty obvious to those of you standing outside looking in, I am sure, but when I am in the pit, I can’t see past the darkness. Often there is a fear that we will not be able to recognize ourselves without the depression, that it is so much a part of us that we will not be ourselves without its heavy presence. I am ready to take that chance. Right now, I am seeing a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and I intend to follow it.