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depression is a dirty word

Basically, I’m in a good mood right now, so I can barely bring myself to write this.  I’d rather be writing the next post, a happy post, which is filling my head tonight.  It’s hard for me to even explain or convey the feelings of the last three weeks, because I don’t feel that way anymore.  Of course, that’s the nature of it, that’s part of it. But if I don’t do this tonight, I never will; I will let it pass and I won’t think of it again…until the next time.

So here it is…

An extraordinary thing happened to me on Sunday.  I felt better.  Suddenly.  In a giddy way.  In a laugh out loud, can’t stop giggling way.  It was bubbling out of me.  Literally, as I was talking to another manager (about work – barrel of fun, right?), I started laughing.  Then I couldn’t stop smiling and practically giggled my way through the rest of the conversation.  The closest I can come to describing it is a sugar rush.  And I don’t get it, I don’t understand why.  I can almost believe that my brain was holding back on me these last three weeks, like some kind of brain conspiracy.  Like it held back on my regular dosage of some chemical or other, and then dumped it all into my system at once.

I said in the smelly post that I was in a down-swing.  I realize that is a really technical term and some of you may not have known what I meant.  I’m not sure I know what I mean, but that’s what I call it.  So, the basics:  it happens once or twice a year; it starts so slowly that I don’t know it’s happening until I’m in it; now that I’m more aware, it typically lasts a few weeks, but it used to go on for months; I don’t know what causes it, and it might be purely chemical; it often disappears in a flash.  In the last four years, I have really worked hard to control it.  I’ve been more aware of what’s going on, and I’ve worked hard not to succumb, for lack of a better word.  Actually that’s quite an accurate word.

Okay, let’s just bite the bullet and call this thing depression.  I feel a little ridiculous saying it (today), but…I don’t know.  I am not sure I qualify.  I’ll stop myself there – we’ll get into that later.  For now, I’m just going to use that word.

I can’t describe the feeling very well, but I’ll do my best.  For me, I often visualize my life in terms of water.  In this case, I’m floating on the surface like a duck (this is making me laugh now, but it wasn’t so funny last week).  The thing is, that water is pretty deep; in fact, I think it’s bottomless.  And there’s a whole world going on under there.  Anyway, for the past three weeks, there was a current running beneath the surface, and that was the depression.  All kinds of things can be happening on the surface, good things, happy things even, and you can experience them and enjoy them.  But all the while, there is this current of unhappiness just below the surface, and you can feel it pulling at you, even as you’re trying to enjoy what’s going on up top.  You can’t get away from it because it’s there; it’s as deep and as wide as the water.  And the pull is very strong.  It tugs on every cell of your body, like they belong to it and it wants them back.  It wants you.

Let me stop for a moment and clarify: this is what it’s like now.  When I feel this coming on, usually within the first week, I won’t allow myself to give in.  I reach out to people and try to plan activities instead of shutting down.  I say yes to invitations instead of no.  I make myself do things.  Believe me, it’s a strange feeling to be having fun and be happy to see people, and to still feel that unhappiness clawing at me.  Basically, I can appreciate an activity and have a nice time, but the level of joy I’m used to is not there.

Likewise, I don’t know that I can describe to you the difference in how I feel now.  The easiest way to explain it is just that the current is gone.  I feel like I’m back to my normal self and I can look at it and see it in a clearer light.  Before it was more doom and gloom; it felt much more dire, almost tragic.  On Saturday, the little duck me was just trying to stay afloat.  Today she’s swimming and splashing; she’s looking all around her and seeing a bright new world.  Even writing about it now, it’s like the difference between telling someone how you broke your arm three years ago and telling someone how you broke your arm yesterday.  The immediacy is not there; the recollection is there, but the pain is missing.  Only, my loss of vividness didn’t take three years; it happened overnight.  It nearly feels like I just don’t care anymore, whereas yesterday it was everything.  My mood has altered that much.

This has been going on with me for a long time, but I don’t know how long.  Mostly, I didn’t recognize what was happening to me at all, I just knew that there were crucial moments in my life when I seemed to self-destruct.  Which made me sad and uncertain and unhappy and filled with low self-esteem.  Go figure.  I don’t feel it coming on, and for the longest time I never realized what had happened until it was over – until I didn’t feel that way anymore.

It’s the reason I left college.  I quit in the beginning of my third year, and all I understood then was that I was falling apart.  I had one session with a counselor, which made me feel a little better…but not really.  I cried the whole time and talked primarily about the pressure I felt, about pleasing other people and not failing (and I don’t mean grades), having no idea what I wanted, but at the same time feeling the pressure of not disappointing other people.  It was all about the “other people”.  That was probably the worst one of these I’ve gone through in terms of how I felt before it went away.  But then it was a situation like my alcoholic van-mate – once I was out of school, a weight was lifted off my shoulders.  The pressure was removed, and I was no longer faced with having to dig myself out of this deep hole that I found myself in.  In short, leaving school cured the symptoms rather than the sickness.  By the way, that decision has stalked me through the rest of my life, mentally and emotionally.  Fun side effect.

The second worse one, and the last bad one, was about four years ago.  When it was over, I realized that I had just spent four months doing nothing.  I would go to work, work as few hours as possible, go home and sit in front of the computer for hours, and then go to sleep.  Then I’d get up the next day and do it all over again.  That one lasted four months.  Can you imagine that – spending four months virtually the same way, having that same day over and over?  And that’s all I wanted to do.  Play a basically mindless game and be lost in it for however many hours that I was awake and didn’t have to be at work.  That one ended the same inexplicable way: overnight.  I simply woke up one morning and felt good again, like myself.

It was after that when I started to examine what was happening.  And when I started calling it a down-swing.  I’ve ruled out manic-depressive.  I don’t have the manic, never have had the manic – not manic.  I don’t think lazy people can be manic.  It does not compute.  But when I’m feeling this way, I always think, “Okay I’m in a down-swing right now – I’m just down.”  One way I can mark it is by communication.  I would realize that I hadn’t called my parents for weeks, even months.  That would be an indicator for me – when I don’t communicate with my family and don’t want to.  Basically, when I began taking mental notes, I realized that these periods were characterized by general withdrawal.  My little duck just shut right down.  But I still don’t fully understand – if I could figure out what causes it, I would put a stop to it.  But at least I began to recognize a pattern of behavior.  And I can control behavior.

One of the problems is that when it’s over, it’s over – I don’t think about it anymore.  I’m only dwelling on this one because I told myself that I needed to write about it.  I’m making myself write about it.  I know it’s been happening at least since I was college age, because I clearly remember that episode.  There is one other time that made an impression on me because I had a roommate and she called me out on it.  She was angry and she basically said to me, “You come home and you just sit, you don’t talk to me, you barely respond to me.”  She said that she was supposed to be my roommate and my friend, and she wasn’t going to be treated that way.  She was not putting up with it.  Did it put an end to how I felt?  No.  But I started paying attention and making an effort, and so that one didn’t last long, either.

I tried once to discuss this with someone and that person told me that I’ve never been depressed.  I was told that, had I ever suffered an actual depression, then I would know that what I’m feeling is not an actual depression.   And it was said very adamantly, almost angrily.  It was said scornfully.  So, okay…wow.  That didn’t feel good.  What I felt was negated and dismissed; I felt belittled.  I didn’t have a response because that wasn’t the answer I was expecting.  I was expecting – I wanted – feedback that would help me.  And talking about things is how you understand them better; it’s supposed to help you get a grip on things.

The reason I tried to talk about it at all is because it’s bothersome; it’s a concern and a worry.  There was a time in my life when I really just thought that I was incapable of success, that I was incapable of following through or achieving anything because I would ultimately self-implode.  And to this day, I have never really felt successful or accomplished or worthy of anything, really.  There are people who have college degrees and are doing the same job as I am, and yet I do not feel that I’m worth anything because my job is not important enough.  That has less to do with the job than it has to do with my own feeling of self-worth.  How much of that is linked with the depression?  I don’t know, but I’ve got to wonder.  Any kind of success, any kind of growth…am I so afraid of achieving success that I create this depression on purpose so that I will fail?  If I think I’m so undeserving of having anything good, then maybe I sabotage myself.

I ask those questions because this does occasionally coincide with times when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  Particularly in terms of knowing that something needs to change, but being afraid of change.  And that’s basically what I’m going through now, is facing an unhappiness with certain aspects of my life, but being too afraid to move forward.  I’m feeling uncertain.  Of course, now that my little down-swing is over, I see it with different eyes and I’m quite excited with the possibilities.  This is confusing to me.

Anyway, I thought up a good defense for myself and tackled the talk again, much later.  And I got the same answer a second time, almost verbatim.  So, I whipped out my analogy.  I said, “Say I lose my hand and someone else loses their arm.  The arm may be a bigger loss, but does that mean my lost hand amounts to nothing?  They are both losses, just different in magnitude.”  I did not make my point, and I did not push it after that.

So why bring it up with that person again?  And why include those interactions in this post?  I feel the need to, that’s why.  I feel compelled to relay them, to defend myself again.  I think it’s because there is a part of me that believes this person is right – that I’m being melodramatic.  A brat and a cry-baby.  That I just need to suck it up and stop being such a whiner.  Even as I feel the need to write about my so-called depression as a part of some strange and self-created therapy, I also feel the need to defend myself to you as readers.  Despite – or perhaps because of – the fact I’m not with you and I don’t know what’s in your head right now.  Because you might be thinking the same thing.

I suppose it’s part of the insecurity of needing to have my feelings validated and to be told that I’m a normal person.  That it is okay and it’s not a negative reflection on me.  You see, if it is not depression, and if it’s just me being a big baby, then that means it is fully within my control.  That means it is a personality flaw.  And nobody wants to be told that “it’s just you”.  That there’s no good reason for you to feel or act this way.  You’ve never been depressed!  It’s just you!  Sucks to be you, Michelle, seeing as how you’re broken and all.

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23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Girl, you’re not alone. I’ve been a card carrying member of the prozac nation since 2005. I don’t suffer from depression, mine’s anxiety. You know, hives, can’t sleep because EVERYTHING IS AN ISSUE. RIGHT.NOW.

    There’s no shame in depression, it’s a sickness just like anything else. Heads can get sick just like hearts and lungs. I’m glad you wrote it all out, maybe next time you start to feel it coming on you can read this and keep in the back of your mind the little splashy duck. Depression is a real asshole. That’s for sure.

    August 3, 2011
    • I think anxiety issues would be pretty hard to cope with. There are times when I can’t shut my brain off at night, and it’s terrible – just thinking, thinking, thinking. I can’t imagine having that often, and having anxious feelings on top of it – I mean real anxiety, not the regular kind that I feel from time to time. I sure hope the prozac works.

      I feel fine now, and it even makes me feel a little silly to write about it. That’s one of the weird things about it, that I am having a hard time really caring right now. That sounds odd, I mean I do care, but I can’t seem to muster up any feelings about it. I really do think it’s (at least partially) a chemical issue. Why else the burst of giddiness on Sunday, why am I having a hard time feeling anything but happy right now? It will even back out eventually.

      Next time, I will think of the splashy duck, but I think it will be with longing. I can be happy during that time, but I can’t be splashy.

      August 3, 2011
  2. Oh, little missy, I have been there more times than I could count. That IS depression, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. I understand completely. I hid at my mother’s restaurant for nearly 12 years, 12 Y-E-A-R-S, before I could pull myself out of there. I graduated from college and immediately felt I wasn’t worthy of what was out there. “Why the hell did I pay for four years of college if you were just going to cook in a restaurant for the rest of your life?” my dad would say. What I couldn’t put into words then was that it was safe…no risk to my fragile sense of self. How sad for me that I let that much time, that much LIFE, go by me while I pretended that my world was safe….well, you know how that turned out.

    It only turned around for me when I went to grad school and graduated…and realized that I would have to look for a job. I mean, that’s what you are supposed to do, right? Well, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to put myself out there. Seriously, who would hire ME? I often felt like a fraud of a person. “Don’t look too deep here, because you won’t like what you see.” The problem was that I didn’t like what I saw. With some not-so-gentle prodding from my husband, I put myself out there, and I got a job. It is a job that I love. It is a job where I get to help some little soul on their life path. What a gift that is. Don’t get me wrong. It is often a thankless job, and there are days when I think there has to be something easier, but I wouldn’t trade it. I believe it’s what I am meant to do. I still struggle to embrace the little successes that come my way. Lead teacher….Me? Why? You couldn’t find someone better for that? Nominated for teacher of the year….They just feel sorry for me! I believe that is called “stinkin’ thinkin”, and I think that’s what you probably have as well.

    You aren’t alone, my dear friend. You are beautiful inside and out. Just because the ickiness goes away, doesn’t mean it won’t come back. Someone near and dear to me said, “Aww, just get pills for that. You’ll be fine.” I wanted to say, “Thank you for seizing the opportunity to invalidate my feelings. I hope YOU feel better.” I am not sure who told you that you weren’t suffering from depression, but it makes me wonder who would so callously blow off your feelings. Mine was a family member giving me the “just shake it off” routine.

    ANYWAY…if it keeps coming back, it’s probably a sign that you need to deal with it. You deserve happiness. : )

    August 3, 2011
    • Toni, I was so proud of you when you went to graduate school and became a teacher. I didn’t care what you did for a living, except that I thought you weren’t happy. I think you’re the greatest, and I was proud and inspired by you for moving forward. I remember how hard it was for you to do the presentations and even the student teaching and mentoring stuff (forgive me if I don’t call everything the right terms, but I know you had to go into classrooms and work with teachers). Being or feeling safe is very often not the same place as being happy. It was hard work, school-wise, but it was harder work for you to do that emotionally. But look at the results!

      I think you deserve all the accolades that come your way! I hope you are learning to get used to them and to accept them for what they are. It’s hard to change when we’ve seen ourselves a certain way for so long, but it can be done.

      As far as those that are near and dear to us, I don’t think they mean to hurt us. They’ve got their own issues, I guess and this isn’t the easiest subject to circumnavigate. People don’t know what to say and, even when we think they should, they don’t always know how to take the approach that’s best for us. Mostly, I think people are just wrapped up in themselves.

      August 3, 2011
  3. I, too, feel you are not alone. I know exactly what you mean about just closing down on the iside, even if you keep doing some of the day to day things that others can see. It must be some sort of depression. You being able now to see it when you are in the throes and then having that realization help move through the period a little quicker is wondrous. Hopeful.

    I like your analogies–they make sense. One that crossed my mind was driving through some strong blustery wind. For the most part, the wind does not blow my car off the road into a major accident–and it is not steady, but it comes in gusts. Thus the driver needs to be more alert, ready to hold the course when the next blast comes through. Being that attentive to the possible gust means you cannot really enjoy the drive–even though you are still driving and getting from point A to point B.

    Thanks for sharing.

    August 3, 2011
  4. Thanks, Patti – you’re right, it’s a good thing and a step forward to be able to shorten that period. I think mostly it’s not letting it get any worse. Feeling blue or unhappy is one thing, but shutting down entirely is another. Don’t get me wrong, what I want to do is sleep and zone out with something mindless, and keep myself hidden away. But I think by forcing interactions and using my mind, it does make a difference and I snap back much quicker.

    That’s a good example, too, about the wind. For me, the paying attention is key – don’t take your hands off the wheel! Maybe next time I’ll picture myself driving along a winding road in a little car. (Haha, even now I’m mentally reverting to my water. Isn’t that funny how we have our little built-in images and how we see our worlds?)

    PS: Do you think I should get a bluetooth to use in my imagined car? I think I really need it, since I need to keep those hands free! 🙂 – although, I don’t have any kids to teach me how to use it, so maybe I should just pass.

    August 3, 2011
  5. It sounds to me like you are dealing with either depression or anxiety. It does different things to different people, so don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong. The trick is that the biochemistry changes the way you think. In other words, when it’s got you, you don’t always really know it’s got you; it changes your logic. Sometimes you can “see” the logic, but you can’t access it. And if you’ll allow me to make a suggestion: I think you should find a doc now, while you’re feeling better. The reason I say that is that, as you know, it’s pretty hard to motivate yourself to do it when you’re feeling lower. I believe you’ll find it’s worth the effort, and when you get the balance of chemicals right in your brain (it’s seratonin, most of the time) you’ll also feel less stigmatized. It’s not about who you are as a person. It’s just about chemicals in your brain. There’s no shame in that.

    August 3, 2011
    • I know you’re right, anyway it wouldn’t hurt to talk to someone who knows what their doing with this kind of thing. It seems weird to do that right now, because I feel like I wouldn’t have anything to say, but I’m sure I’d come up with something :). It really does feel like a chemical thing. It’s so hard to explain, but it’s like I’m unable to access certain emotions at that time. Everything is dingy and grey colored and it’s like a cloud or a film over life. This last time was the easiest, comparatively speaking. I was super aware and really tried to keep myself involved in activities. The last week was the hardest; I didn’t do the Query at all and I basically phoned in two posts that week. I can handle being tired and unmotivated – hey, welcome to my life, that about sums it up, lol. But I hate the fuzzy headedness, the need to withdraw, and just the overall dark aspect to it. It’s like being a glass half full person 24/7 – what a terrible way to live!

      August 4, 2011
  6. Everything will be better, I always say this to myself!

    August 3, 2011
  7. What Thesinglecell said is absolutely right, and I am so glad you went ahead and wrote about your experience. It was real, and it is important to acknowledge it. I suffered from bouts for years without understanding what was happening, until finally I was persuaded to see a therapist. If you can find a GOOD one, I highly recommend it. You’ll know by how you feel after talking with them. Any icky feelings is a big red flag, so trust yourself. My experience with both therapy and medication is that the therapy was far more helpful. Be very wary of anti-depressants. They often fail to mention that the drugs often trigger the very feelings they are supposed to be preventing, and then some. My therapist was able to teach me how to use journaling to monitor my moods and any triggers acting on me, along with a variety of other techniques. It is true that this is brain chemistry gone awry, but again, be extremely cautious about medications. Please, please listen to me on this….

    August 4, 2011
    • Don’t worry, I’m not really a medicine kind of person. I’ll take something if I have to, but I don’t really like the idea of it. I’m with you – you never really can be sure what it’s doing to your body while it’s trying to cure your body. I’m not thinking that I’m in an extreme situation where that is needed anyway. I really like the idea of getting to the root of it all. That’s one of the things that’s bothering me, is that I can surmise what may be initiating these sequences, but I’m not entirely sure. I’ve not been tracking them or anything, and just like this time, I’m not fully able to come up with a solid reason why I started down this path a few weeks ago. I think it’s worth talking to someone who can give me guidance toward finding a reason, and techniques for dealing with it.

      August 4, 2011
  8. It’s understandable to be wary of medication, but I would suggest (gently) that we don’t have to be terrified of it. In my experience with anxiety, a low dose of medication did amazing things for me, without making me feel numb. I had no side effects and, while I agree that we don’t always know what’s going on when we take medication, I did know what was going on when I wasn’t taking it. As it was explained to me, the seratonin in my brain was too low, and that was what was causing the anxiety, which can become depression if it’s not treated. The medication – again, for me, a low dose – corrected the seratonin problem over time and retrained my brain to let it remember how much it was supposed to be producing. For me, the medication was the right choice, even though I also had therapy. The combination worked out well. What’s important for you now is to give yourself a true chance to get better, which means acknowledging that you need to take action, and then taking that action.

    August 5, 2011
    • You’re so sweet. I’m not necessarily afraid of medicine, just wary. I don’t like the idea of taking something I don’t really need, but I am not adverse to taking something I do need. Part of me is saying, yes, a magic pill would be great, but the other part is telling me that doesn’t exist. Also, mostly I’m not wanting to do anything at all. I’m feeling happy, it’s a hassle, it is daunting and scary. But I do need to. I need to push myself in the right direction.

      Medicine has definitely worked to help other people I know. I think you and Melissa are both right – use care and moderation. Also, one size cures do not fit all.

      August 5, 2011
  9. It took a lot of courage to write this post. It’s always good to get things out of the darkness and into the light. Both my mom and sister suffer from depression, and I’ve seen firsthand how they’ve struggled through the years with accepting that they can’t handle it on their own. At the very least, it would probably do you a lot of good to talk to your doctor about it. Whether or not you decide to take medication, writing about it and acknowledging it is a great first step.

    August 7, 2011
    • I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I have issues big enough for medication. While I’m feeling low, it seems pretty bad, but when I’m better, it feels like I over-reacted. Like now…I feel like I’ve made more of it than it is. Which is probably not true. Just that it happens at all should be enough. And it does effect my life and my work, even. So, even though I’m fighting against it, I do think I should do something.

      August 8, 2011
  10. I think the fact that it lingers for three weeks should warrant wanting to talk to someone about it, if only to ask more questions. Medication may not be your only option. You deserve to be happy all the time.

    August 8, 2011
    • I know you’re right. My uncle said denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. On a positive note, I’ve already begun to think up some titles to use for my posts about therapy 😉

      August 8, 2011
  11. You should never have to defend yourself for being depressed or feeling sad or flawed. I feel those things all the time. I won’t say that what I’ve felt is exactly what you’ve felt, because we’re different people and so I have no way of knowing. But I know how it feels when I hurt so badly in my mind that I can barely function, that I can barely see the point in doing anything. Sometimes it’s so bad that I wish I had a visible wound that would explain itself and that would render words unnecessary. A wounded mind stays hidden, and many people explain away the manifestations of the wound by saying that the person within is lazy or apathetic or stupid. Take your pick; there are many such adjectives.

    When I struggle to blog it’s usually because I’ve lost faith in words. A lifetime of feeling incapable of explaining my mental state and the many things sadness reveals lies at the heart of this attitude. I give up on language far more quickly than I used to. When that happens, what spurs me to write is an opportunity to cheer up someone else or just acknowledge that I understand what they’re saying.

    That depression (or anything like it) requires a verbal explanation only makes things worse, because depression erects walls infinitely tall and thick through which the right words usually can’t pass. And if you try to communicate what you’re feeling and some fool tells you that, no, actually you’re feeling something different and what would you know about your OWN feelings–well, that doesn’t help much either.

    I used to feel depressed way more often (I still feel this way often… but less so, which is pretty vague and extremely relative). I think that as a coping mechanism (that I don’t claim I came to with a lot of forethought), I sometimes just cut my mind off from all stimuli. You know neuroscience and psychology better than I do, so I know you know that these are not things we can always control. It’s impossible to explain that to some people, but science confirms it. Who on earth CHOOSES to get angry over a long red light? Who CHOOSES to ge frustrated over a malfunctioning computer? Who CHOOSES to get sad over having to say goodbye to a friend or a loved one whom they know they’ll see soon anyway? Nobody. It happens. It’s natural. Who would choose to be depressed? Come on. Nobody. It’s not that simple. We know that. It’s actually obvious. Life is hard when you’re depressed.

    Thank you for having the courage (or whatever you’re willing to call it 🙂 ) to confront your feelings. I’m glad you’re feeling better. Your posts definitely reflect it. I’m sorry I haven’t been around in so long.

    August 12, 2011
    • I mostly have the fear that I’m wrong – that it is not depression at all, that it’s me being a failure, a big baby, a whiner or what have you. I fear that it is simply a personality flaw and the only thing wrong with me is…me.

      I can understand about the visible wound – much easier to explain away. People get that; it’s something they can wrap their minds around. I’m sorry that you’ve felt that way before, it makes me sad. You said, “the many things sadness reveals…” and that is striking a chord with me. I wonder sometimes if I could face the real issues, dig down to the bottom of the pile, then some of the rest of it would disintegrate. If I would deal with this one thing, whatever it might be, then many other things would either make sense or simply not matter anymore. So why don’t I do it? Am I afraid of what I will find, or maybe afraid that there is nothing there to find? I don’t know.

      Do you willingly give up on language, or are the words simply not there? (not a critique, but an honest question) I find that I kind of lose the capability to put a clear thought together. In that first post, I said that there were all kinds of things swirling around in my head, but I was also blank. That’s how it really feels – I am thinking and thinking, random thoughts and images, bits and pieces. But sitting down to write them out is difficult. Actual words are elusive – or more accurately, coherent thoughts are elusive. I probably could write down all kinds of words and phrases, but they won’t string themselves together into anything real. I definitely couldn’t have written this post even a few days before. That’s actually one of the symptoms of depression, is difficulty with thought processes. Pretty interesting, huh?

      “That depression (or anything like it) requires a verbal explanation only makes things worse…” So very true. I feel the general desire to just disappear when I get in that state. It is a kind of defense and symptom all at once – to not talk, to not think, to do as little as possible. I become more reclusive and isolated than normal – very bad things to do when you’re depressed. You’re so right – life is hard when you’re depressed. Forcing myself to participate has helped reduce the length of time for me (I think, but how do I really know). Most importantly, making myself be with people has shown me that I can enjoy myself when I’m depressed, even though I don’t feel joy. So hard to explain – it’s probably more accurate to say that I am able to appreciate the company, the conversation, etc. even though I’m not feeling the emotion of real joy.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as always :). I certainly wondered how you were doing, but I didn’t want to bug you too much. It’s been a while since I had one of these swings, and I had forgotten how it feels. Quite a few times I’ve cajoled or persuaded you to keep going, etc. and I was reminded by this just how it feels to be on the other end of that. I don’t want to be bothered, really, when I’m feeling like that. More than that, it can add to my feelings of inadequacy and failure. I sure hope I didn’t do that to you whenever I would encourage you to keep writing. So, I figured I would just let you be this time (for a while anyway 🙂 ) I wanted to nudge you this past week a few times, but I made myself stop. Don’t be sorry for taking time for yourself!

      August 12, 2011
  12. “I mostly have the fear that I’m wrong – that it is not depression at all, that it’s me being a failure, a big baby, a whiner or what have you. I fear that it is simply a personality flaw and the only thing wrong with me is…me.” I relate to that and hear where you’re coming from. I think the problem stems from how society frames the whole issue. If we jump to expressions like “personality flaw,” or “whiner,” or “failure,” when we’re really talking about a condition for which someone might need help, then we’re going about it all wrong. The condition is all we should be talking about, and how to make it better. That’s it. These judgmental terms have no place in the discussion. Nobody judges a person negatively for experiencing moments of sadness in reaction to sad news. We feel powerful, momentary emotions over the most trivial things (that’s what I was getting at with the references to red lights and malfunctioning computers). We don’t generally begrudge people these emotions, yet we’re awfully hard on those whose sadness is so profound (even if it comes in cycles) that it colors every facet of their lives. If we can feel momentarily sad over trivialities, why should it be surprising that some of us will suffer from a longer-term sadness that has no obvious explanation (not even neurochemistry suffices to explain all depression)? If the body can suffer injuries that are debilitating, or feel pain that yields no explanation, why should we doubt that the mind can suffer in like, if not worse, manner?

    A good therapist, if you choose to see one, will help you address how you’re feeling and how that’s affecting your life. They won’t judge you. How you feel is how you feel. It’s real, it has consequences, and that’s what matters. Maybe the best time to see a therapist is when you feel like maybe there’s nothing wrong. Because that’s when you’re most likely to motivate yourself to go, and when you’re feeling all right you may be better able to articulate how you felt when you were depressed. If the depression comes back in force, you’ll already have someone to turn to, and then you’ll be really glad you saw them when you thought you might not need them. The therapist will also have a good baseline against which to compare your downswing. Therapy has come a long way. Therapists have some pretty good tools nowadays that work better than medication for certain conditions (it’s all very complicated–clearly some people absolutely need medication).

    Anyway, I hope you can believe that it’s not you, and that there’s no need even to think in those terms. Nobody thinks the earth is flawed for spewing lava every once in a while. What judgment can we attach to a volcanic eruption? It just happens. We can investigate it (and in a thousand years prevent it??? hah) and find its causes, but the fact is that it just happens. It’s not good or bad. It’s reality. The earth erupts every once in a while, but it’s still this beautiful planet that gives us everything it can to sustain us. It’s not even flawed. It simply is what it is. People get depressed. It has nothing to do with there being something wrong with them. It happens. Period.

    And don’t worry–your encouragement has done nothing but good for me. When I stop writing, sometimes I willingly give up on words… like the whole idea of what they’re supposed to be able to do. I don’t believe they can communicate what I want them to. Sometimes they just don’t come, but it really is more often about my lack of faith in the whole writing endeavor. Not good, right? 🙂

    August 12, 2011
    • Sometimes they DON’T communicate what you want them to. I think that can be very frustrating, but at the same time…they communicate something. They mean something to others and I think the feedback (what they mean to someone else) can make them speak new things to you. Anyway, I wonder if willingly giving up is just another symptom – another form of pulling away and closing up. And yes, not good – force the faith, fake the faith. Fake it until you make it. Letting go of that faith is another form of giving up. Truly, I understand – at least as much as I can understand. Depression is a faith-sucker, a hope-wrecker, a black hole.

      As for the rest, Thank You. Your stoplight examples make much sense – we do let that kind of thing go as just normal reactions to the frustrations in life, but not so much the “longer-term” issues. You make me feel better about it.

      Therapy – I am giving it some serious thought. Others are saying the same thing, and it can’t hurt. I still feel flawed, in almost every way some days. But I can work on that.

      August 12, 2011
  13. rebecca #

    it runs in the family. boo hiss

    December 11, 2013

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