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.

Advertisements

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.


In Our Right Minds

February 24, 2019

Wow. Please read this.

The “in my right mind” part was chilling to me. That’s what depression does. We’re not in our right minds.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/read-michael-gersons-sermon-sharing-his-struggle-with-depression


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.


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?