Abraham Lincoln

September 28, 2019

I’ve been incredibly busy lately and haven’t had time to write, but I read this article and thought it was fascinating.

I am amazed that Lincoln accomplished so much with depression that was so severe that his housemate had to hide the shaving razors from him.

I also wonder what his life–and history–would be like if Lincoln had had modern medicine and effective anti-depressants.

“No element of Mr. Lincoln’s character,” declared his colleague Henry Whitney, “was so marked, obvious and ingrained as his mysterious and profound melancholy.” His law partner William Herndon said, “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.”

I have sometimes felt that way. Anyone else?lincoln-thanksgiving-proclamation

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Remembering Pain

August 15, 2019

For about a week, I had intense back pain. I was fortunate that it wasn’t anything serious, but just a muscle spasm that kept on hurting. It took over my life — too painful to drive or to sit straight up, which cut down on my activities and my work. I couldn’t think straight because of the pain, and I was living with a careful schedule of pain pills and muscle relaxants. When I was in the middle of the pain, I promised myself I would be eternally grateful if it would just go away.

Thankfully, it went away and I’m fine. I am having trouble with the gratitude though. I can’t seem to remember what the pain felt like! I have a vague idea that it was awful and that I’m much better and happier now, but I can’t really compare.

I think that emotional pain is similar. When I was in the deepest throes of my depression (I don’t usually use the word “throes” but I looked it up and it means “intense or violent pain and struggle” and that felt accurate), I thought that if I could just move past this, get better, or be healed, I would be grateful forever.

Well, I’m doing better. And I have been for some time. But I’m not feeling incredibly grateful all the time. I’m just feeling… kind of normal. And sometimes frustrated that I have a touch of depression. Sometimes happy, sometimes lonely, sometimes fulfilled, and sometimes wondering what the point of life is.

I think part of it is that I can’t really remember the pain. I think that’s good and bad. I am certainly less grateful than I would be otherwise. But it’s probably a blessing that I can’t remember, because I think it was probably unsustainable.

I remember when my dog had (very expensive) knee surgery. For three nights, it was horrible. She was crying non-stop, even with the pain medication. I slept on the floor next to her one of these nights because it was so terrible. But then, on the fourth morning, she hopped up and was fine. So fine that I had to restrain and eventually sedate her so she wouldn’t hurt herself. But she didn’t seem to remember the pain at all. Nothing remained of the pathetic dog-patient; she was totally happy again.

Maybe that’s what this is. Maybe it’s a gift. And I’ll try to be grateful.


Sometimes Depression Looks Like This

July 30, 2019

Things have been going really well.

I was interviewed about a book I wrote and it went really well, aired, and got a great reception.

I am getting a good amount of work (self-employed) and it’s going really well, monetarily and in rewarding relationships with the students.

I’ve had time to read and relax and take long walks.

I went on a fantastic vacation in June.

Everything’s good. And still this slight cloud of depression is hanging around. Not big. I’m not crying, I don’t want to die, and my work isn’t suffering. No one would ever know anything was wrong.

And it’s not really wrong. There are a few things — I haven’t been able to see my nieces and nephew much this summer and I miss them. My dog is aging, although she’s pretty healthy. But really, not much! It’s a good life, and it’s a really easy life compared to many.

But the melancholy is here. I can ignore it, I can push it away, and I can forget it for a while. It’s frustrating and infuriating. I don’t want a respite; I want a cure. But this may just be a part of the human condition. There may not be a cure.


Summer

July 18, 2019

Summer is a weird time for me. When I was a teenager and worked at camp, summer was what I looked forward to all year; able to rekindle friendships in the kind of setting you don’t get anywhere else. Camp was magic.

When I stopped working at camp, things changed. Part of it was just becoming more adult, and part was the letdown from the magic that was camp to working a “real” job. But even before that, there was a major letdown when camp ended and college hadn’t started up again.

When I started teaching, everything changed.

Teaching is a very intense profession; you’re constantly moving, thinking, feeling, and doing. By summer time, teachers are exhausted, bone-tired. From about January or February, teachers count the days until the summer. We live with the hope that things will change and we will be able to rest.

And then summer comes along. Every summer, I had the same pattern. For a few days to a week, it was bliss not waking up early and not having to go somewhere. Then it hit, every summer.

I hear the same thing happens with retired people. It sounds great and then… depression. A lack of purpose. No set schedule.

I don’t know how I was never prepared for it when it happened every year. Every year I’d be so optimistic that I’d relax and enjoy the summer and have adventures and every year I’d end up crying in my bed, not having to get up to do anything so not getting up and doing anything.

I tried to prevent it. I borrowed dozens of books from friends. One year I borrowed boxes of DVDs from various friends. I planned trips. The trips were great! Every other day wasn’t.

I felt so angry at myself during the summer: who gets depressed about having days off? But each day brought me closer to going back to the regular year and felt like one more missed opportunity. After June 27 the days get shorter. They’re not short – it’s 8:30 pm today, July 17, and it’s still light outside. But they’re shorter than they were, and I can feel summer — and all of my hopes for it — slipping away.

Ironically, summer is my favorite season for many reasons. I love warm weather and long days, and I love warm evenings, although we don’t get them that often here. But somehow, summer being my favorite season makes me more melancholy, because every day means one day less of summer.

Currently I’m not teaching in a classroom. I still work in the summer, but the schedule changes and I have much more free time. No one else seems to though, so I start to get the same feelings. I feel sorry for myself because I have free time but no one to spend it with. I feel resentful that people don’t have time for me. I feel like I’m letting my favorite season slip away because I’m not enjoying it more. I feel sad. Just sad. For no real reason.

And I have a sense of dread because fall comes with a whole different set of triggers. Which makes me more angry about summer feeling so sad.

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Sadness Around the Edge of My Brain

June 25, 2019

My life is good. I have two nieces and a nephew who I love more than life itself. I just traveled for two weeks and learned to scuba dive. I have a career that I love and is incredibly fulfilling. I have free time to read and knit and live in a beautiful area.

But there’s sadness around the edge of my brain.

You know when you have a floater in your eye, but you can’t see it directly, just around the edge of your vision?

Nothing lasts. I love my dog very much but she’s aging and one day I’ll have to deal with her loss. I love every minute with my nieces and nephew but they’re not my kids and I have to work around other people’s schedules and have little control over when I get to see them. I am happily single and love living and traveling alone but have strong pangs of loneliness when I see people who are in wonderful partnerships or watch certain movies or TV shows.

The sadness is nebulous and not life-threatening (yes, I believe sadness can be life-threatening), but it is there.

Just around the edges, but it’s there.


Down Time

May 20, 2019

Does anyone else have a serious problem appreciating down time? Or an inability to relax?

I’m great at it on vacation. I can lie in the sun (or actually in the shade near the sun), read, knit, float in warm water, linger over meals, and relax to my heart’s content. But at home, it’s very different.

Because of the work I do (school-year focused) and the fact that I’m self-employed, I generally have a lot more down time in the summer. And let me tell you, I am really bad at enjoying down time. (Aside from sleeping. I’m great at sleeping, but one should only do that so much).

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Instead of thinking, “Oh, I have a few free hours before I have to work again! I could go for a walk or read a book or have some tea!” I go straight to, “I can’t believe I’m losing money by not working in those hours. I’m just wasting time.”

Why does down time equate to wasting time in my mind?

I live in a beautiful place. Some of things I could do when I don’t have clients include:

-eating out at many many delicious restaurants nearby (many of which are inexpensive)

-having an nice cup of tea

-hiking

-walking the dog

-knitting or reading on the beach

-doing yoga

-writing

And yet what I find myself doing is just sitting around wasting time on the computer or napping excessively or just bemoaning the fact that I’m not making money right now.

How are you with down time? Any ideas? Does it trigger anyone’s depression or anxiety?


Depression PTSD

May 13, 2019

I’ve been doing really well lately but I keep thinking about how I used to feel.

And I used to feel really really bad.

I spent days crying. I would just cry and cry and cry and think I had to stop sometime but I wouldn’t. I would keep going with my life while I cried. I would shower and cry. Read and cry. Drive and cry. I just could not stop. My heart was breaking and I didn’t know why.

I wanted to die. I never had a plan, and I never attempted anything, but I would think of all the years I had left to live and feel hopeless. I didn’t want to live anymore.

I was so sad and hopeless that it was a black hole sucking me down and I never ever thought I’d get out. It’s funny to write about it now when I don’t feel that way – it’s hard to even remember how bad it was and the words seem kind of empty.

You know how you can’t remember physical pain clearly but you can still be traumatized by it? That’s how this is. And I cannot get those years back.