A Breakthrough

February 17, 2019

Are you guys ready for a major breakthrough?

Ready?

Here it is:

 

I’m happy being single right now.

 

This is huge. I mean, HUGE. I don’t know if it’ll last and am not entirely sure why it’s happened, but at this moment in time, on a Saturday night no less, I am happy being alone in my house and unpartnered.

Grateful.

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When Nature Documentaries are Too Sad

February 6, 2019

I can tell when my depression is “acting up” (acting up seems like such a benign term for your own brain telling you it’s better to not be alive, doesn’t it?) because I get sad about everything. Everything.

Today I was watching a documentary about animals in Africa, while I was doing something else. I love animals so perhaps it’s not surprising that I identified a little too much with the animals and what they were going through but it was clear that my depression was affecting my view.

First, I saw that the lion cubs who were born white instead of tan had a better chance of being found and killed by other grown lions, and I had trouble continuing to do what I was supposed to be doing because I was so sad about that.

Then those same white lion cubs took down an injured water buffalo and that just about wrecked me. The water buffalo knew it was coming and was trying to hide in the water so the lions wouldn’t get him, but he was getting weak and hungry and couldn’t fight back when they finally came to get him. He just made these sort of buffalo whimpering noises.

At this point, I could feel the sadness in my body – heavy in my chest. I felt weighed down and had the dread that comes with major grief. I felt like nothing would ever be OK again and like the color was draining from the world around me. I found myself curling up into the fetal position because the sadness was so physical.

Because of a nature documentary.

It’s passed and I feel better right now. I mostly feel silly for getting so worked up about a nature documentary, and the physical sensations are fading. Tomorrow I may not remember how much this affected me. But it did and I need to pay attention.


Eating Alone

January 30, 2019

I was at a wedding a few years back where the entire sermon was about how the couple doesn’t have to eat alone anymore. The pastor started by saying how much he HATES eating alone. He expounded on that for a while. Apparently he really hates it — whether at home or in a restaurant. After about 5 solid minutes of his hatred of eating alone, he announced, “This couple no longer has to eat alone!”

Well, that part was funny because the couple’s work schedule made it impossible for them to eat dinner together any day except Sundays. But that irony aside, another single friend turned to me and said, “I have NEVER had a pastor make me feel so bad about being single. Sigh.

I actually enjoy eating out alone. Me, a good book, and good food. It’s pretty great. But I want to do it because I WANT to and not because I don’t have a choice. I went to a nice fondue restaurant recently with a friend and realized that I really missed that also. I don’t have a partner to go on “date nights” with and I miss out on things I enjoy because I don’t want to do it alone.

And when I do things by myself,  I start wondering what other people think. I shouldn’t! Why should it make one bit of difference what they think?? But I do.

How do you enjoy activities alone and not feel like you’re missing out?

 

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Solstice (from 2016)

January 24, 2019

This is an old one, but relevant.

Solstice

Note: I have joined a writing group recently and I read in a story slam where each person got five minutes to read something they had written about “solstice.” I immediately thought, “Oh no, I have to write about depression.” I tried and tried to make it about something else but I couldn’t. So here it is and yes, I read this ALOUD IN PUBLIC and thought I was going to die but I didn’t. Didn’t even throw up.

——

The summer solstice is undoubtedly my favorite day of the year. The magic of the long, light day and the much shorter period of darkness is much more powerful for me than you’d think, especially because I live an area that doesn’t have the extremes of much further north or south. However, I have clinical depression.

That may not seem to relate, but for me, light and darkness are not just metaphorical parts of my depression. I learned early on that the world looks darker–sort of twilight–when I am depressed, and that I’m much more likely to be depressed when it is dark.

My depression did not come on after a breakup or a death, although those have both been triggering factors for me as an adult. I was depressed as a very young child–the kind of depressed that children have no business being. I also learned to talk, read, and write very early, so it was even more jarring for people around me to see how sad I was, because I could communicate it so clearly.

As early as kindergarten, I routinely wished to not wake up in the morning. I didn’t have a plan to die, but most mornings the thought process was something like, “I wish I had died, but since I didn’t, I guess I should get up.” That continued well into my 30s.

In college, my roommates started having candlelight dinners because it made them feel fancy, and I panicked. I felt like I was losing my mind because I didn’t know why candlelight dinners were making me feel so bad; I just knew that I didn’t mind the candles as long as all the lights were on. That was the year I went on Prozac because my whole world had gone gray. This wasn’t just an expression; I actually couldn’t see in color as well as I used to. I became a psychology major that year and learned that major depression can, in fact, decrease your ability to see in color, which was one of the most validating facts I have ever experienced.

I love colors and light. I love to paint and knit, and my favorite part of both is choosing the colors I use. The walls of my house are covered with paintings, mosaics, photographs, posters, and textiles, mostly in bright colors. I am the kind of person who turns all the lights on even though I know it’s bad for the environment (and I love the environment). I wait eagerly for the longest day of the year and I treasure the days leading up to it.

The summer solstice is my favorite day of the year, but the day after is another story. There’s no noticeable difference from the previous day, of course, but I know that the days are starting to shrink, and that each day I’ll get less and less light. By the end of the summer, people are talking about how nice it will be to feel the crisp fall air, and I’m fighting panic at an earlier dusk.

I can’t explain what it feels like to start slipping into depression–not being in the deep dark hole yet, but losing my balance on the edge, and knowing there’s no chance I won’t fall in. The all-encompassing grayness that starts in my peripheral vision and slowly takes over everything is terrifying and always ends in hopelessness.

When I’m not in the middle of it, I get so angry, but I don’t know what or who I’m angry at. Depression feels so evil and malignant that it’s hard not to believe it’s a personal attack. Many diseases make people want to fight for their lives. Depression makes you want to end it.

After years of therapy, medication, and misery, I was lucky. I found a medication that didn’t just take the edge off my depression like all the others had, but lifted me above it, at least most of the time. But the old triggers are still there at times.

I’m trying to look at things a little differently this year. I don’t know if I can avoid the slow panic that ramps up beginning at the end of June and colors the beautiful sunlit days with gray. If I’m lucky, it won’t be more than a couple of rough patches. If I’m not lucky, it will be excruciating, almost paralyzing, but I’ve learned by now that I will make it.

I’m working on making the day after the winter solstice my second favorite day of the year. It’s dark, it’s cold, and the days are short. But it’s the beginning of an upswing.


Can’t Remember the Last Time I’ve Cried

January 10, 2019

This is amazing.

Absolutely amazing.

I used to cry every single day, multiple times a day. Often for reasons I couldn’t put my finger on – I was just so sad and hopeless.

When I started taking antidepressants, I kept track of how many days I went without crying. When it got to a full week, I was elated. Then I crashed again. It just kept happening like that over and over. I often didn’t make it more than a couple of days, if that.

So, the fact that I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually cried…

It’s a miracle.


Down Time

January 4, 2019

I wrote a couple posts back about relaxing and if it’s a waste of time. It seems to have resonated with a bunch of people, which feels very validating.

On a similar note, I’m self-employed. When I have a slot open without a student, I have two options:

  1. Stress the entire time about how I’m wasting my time and not earning any money, and not being productive.
  2. Read a book, take a walk, snuggle with the dog, and embrace some down time.

You can guess which one I pick. Every time. EVERY single time.

I don’t know if it’s depression or being human, or what, but I really do feel like a failure when I’m not being productive. I need to change that.

Any ideas?

 


Solo Christmas

December 29, 2018

IMG_5210I was worried about Christmas. I’ve been worried about Christmas for the last few years since the breakup. It’s been really hard to be alone during holidays and I’ve spent quite a bit of it feeling sorry for myself, as well as alone, hopeless, etc. I’ve been invited to friends’ family celebrations, and I feel so fortunate to have that option, but I don’t want to feel like a stray dog being invited in.

This Christmas started that way. I started feeling incredibly sorry for myself and angry at my siblings whose in-laws made it so that we couldn’t do Christmas Day together, just Christmas Eve. At the last minute, I decided to embrace it. Fortunately I live in California and it was gorgeous and sunny, if cold.

I decided to take an amazing hike down the edge of where San Francisco hits the ocean. it was incredibly beautiful. I sat and watched the ocean for over an hour, watching the power of the waves. I just couldn’t get enough.

Three days later, I still feel peace from that time spent in front of the ocean. The salt spray on my face, the rumbling and roar of the waves, and the sunshine reflecting off the water were what my soul needed.

It turns out that the solo Christmas was EXACTLY what I needed.