December 26, 2011

Today is Christmas.  It doesn’t feel special.  I think that’s all right.

I was a kid who thought Christmas was magical.  I wanted to sleep in the living room because I loved the Christmas tree and the Christmas lights so much.  I liked presents, of course, but I was more excited about the spirit of the season.  (I was much less cynical then).

This Christmas was fine.  I went to see family yesterday and I survived – it was actually pretty pleasant.  I had dinner with friends and went to a beautiful candlelight church service.  Today I had dinner with more friends.  But nothing about the weekend has felt special.

I miss the special feeling and I think that it’s likely this way not only because I’m an adult, because I’m single and I’m alone.  I mean, I was with friends, but they were all coupled up and were all going home to exchange presents with their spouses.  I went home and read a book.  Which is, again, fine.  But not special.

However, I’m not crying.  I’m not sad this Christmas, and I don’t feel hopeless.  I have no despair.  So I guess I’ll take the so-so ordinary feeling as an improvement.

Chronology of Depression: Part One

December 23, 2011

I’ve been reading my old journals lately – something I haven’t done for over a decade. I’ve actually thought about doing this quite a few times but I didn’t think I could handle it. When I was depressed (and it still feels so strange to say that in the past tense) I couldn’t handle sad stories and that included my own story. Now that I’m doing much better, I wanted to see what I could learn from the past, if anything. There are also a lot of periods of time that I just don’t remember very well. They seem blurry, and I think this is partly due to the depression.

My depression has always been a part of me – and I really do think I mean always. For reasons that I’ll get into in another post, I began feeling worthless and completely hopeless – really from the time of my first memories. In kindergarten I would think to myself that I wished I were dead but since I wasn’t I had to keep going.

I didn’t have a name for the depression, however, until I was about 20. In hindsight, this strikes me as a little odd, since I knew the term and I knew the symptoms, beginning when I was a teenager and my mother was hospitalized. I don’t know if I just didn’t think my symptoms were as severe as hers or why I didn’t clue in earlier.

The part of my journal I’m reading right now is from the summer and early fall of 1995, when I had just turned 20 years old.  I had experienced, like I said, many many symptoms of clinical depression before this but I never named it.  Sometimes I blamed it on not having good friends (I had a lot of good friends) and sometimes on not trusting God (I sort of want to go back and shake my younger self – to think that it was all my fault for not trusting God!).  At other times I just wasn’t sure.

In my sophomore year of college, I started really dealing with family patterns and trauma (again, another post), and I was just blindsided by how much it hurt to deal with these things.  I worked at a camp that summer, and had 6 weeks between camp ending and school starting.  I was definitely afraid of having too much time to myself and did my best to fill the time.  I spent several weeks visiting friends from college (friends who spent summers with their families without going crazy) and worked at a couple of short-term jobs.  Then I went back to my college town.

At this point in my life, it sounds wonderful: two weeks with nothing to do but read, exercise, and relax.  At that point, it was torture.  I remember rollerblading a lot to kind of try to keep my feelings at bay, and writing obsessively in my journal because I didn’t know what to do.  I was waiting for my friends to come back to town and thought that when they did, my loneliness would end.  At one point, I woke up at 4:30 am sobbing, just so sad and so lonely and with absolutely no idea what to do except to cry and write and cry and wish I didn’t exist.

Of course, when my friends came back, my feelings didn’t go away.  The last page I read was from a day that is still painful to think about (over 16 years later!) but was probably the day I figured out I needed help.  I went on a hike with a couple of friends, not feeling very good but trying to put on a good face.  We got back from the hike around noon and my two friends needed to go to the hardware store.  I was going to change and go with them.  I got through the living room and halfway up the stairs of my apartment and couldn’t go any further.  I fell down on the stairs and cried and cried.  One of my friends came to get me for the store and found me there.  He asked if I was OK and I said I was. He was pretty freaked out but didn’t know what to do and left because I had said I was OK (and he was an 18-year old boy who wanted to help but didn’t know how).  I think I stayed on those stairs for at least two hours, crying.  I spent the rest of the day in my bed crying and not answering the phone or the door.  I think it was the first time I had been absolutely completely paralyzed by my depression.  Up until then, I had always been able to keep going somehow, even if I was miserable.  This day I literally couldn’t make it up the last four stairs before falling apart.  And then couldn’t make it out of my bed at all for the rest of of the day.

Besides remembering my own despair, I wonder about the friends who kept trying to check on me that day.  There’s part of me that wants to apologize to them for terrifying them (and this was only the beginning).  There’s another part of me that wants to thank them.  And still another part that wants to never ever ever speak to any of them again so I don’t have to remember that time.


December 20, 2011

I was looking through some of my old journals and marveling at/feeling grateful for how much better I am.  Really, it’s almost like I’m a different person – I feel a bit more like it would be more accurate just to describe my life as having started over rather than gotten better.  There were some entries where I noted that it was 4 am and I woke up feeling lonely and hopeless and cried for hours.  Not about anything in particular, just about EVERYTHING.

I started thinking about what it would be like to have my life drawn out like a graph – I definitely had a lot of high points but they didn’t last and they were followed by such lows.  My journal is full of me trying to figure out if I’m not trusting God, if I’m doing something wrong, if everything is from my childhood… Now, 17 or 18 years later, I can see really clearly that it was DEPRESSION but then, I just didn’t know.  And the only experience I had had with depression was my mother being suicidal so I for sure didn’t want to entertain that possibility.  Anyway, the graph of my life now is still up and down, obviously, and I expect it to be like that forever.  Only the baseline is so much higher.

After I thought of graphing my life, I realized how inadequate it would be.  The problem is that a graph simply wouldn’t be dramatic enough.  There is simply no way to show on a graph that the bottom has fallen out of your life – that the floor underneath me has turned into a gaping hole that is threatening to swallow me and drown me in its blackness.  That is not graphable, and not definable.