Depression as Time Waster

November 7, 2019

I’m still struggling this week. I’m not crying in bed wishing I wasn’t alive, so that’s something. But I’m feeling really flat, uninterested in things I usually enjoy, wanting to sleep all the time… you know. All those fun things.

If I had the energy to be angry, I would be furious that this disease is wasting so much of my time. For the last week, I’ve been sleeping far too much. I remember a time when I wanted to do things like go on hikes, read the books on my shelf, write, and more. But they don’t sound good at all now. Neither does yoga, going out to lunch, or, really, anything else. And that sucks.

I know that it’ll pass. I know that I’ll feel good again and I’ll want to do all these things. But *right now* I have the time and I just can’t. It’s like getting pneumonia during Christmas vacation. What a waste.

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Trying to Stay Ahead

November 6, 2019

I’ve got a little touch of depression now. I think there are a bunch of reasons: the time change, too much free time with a lull in work, not having enough social interaction, not seeing my nieces and nephew as often as I’d like, and who knows what else. It’s not unexpected — the time change alone always gets me — but it’s always extremely unwanted. And very discouraging.

I haven’t totally succumbed. I haven’t been crying all the time, and I’ve only been staying in bed a little more than I should, not all the time. Nobody has noticed anything. I haven’t had a full breakdown. I’m able to keep up an appearance, but I’m not feeling good.

When I was in college and I was really depressed, I would sit and write in my journal all the time. Frantically writing, like if I wrote fast enough, I could outrun, or outwrite, the feelings. I would write during movies and class, and anywhere I could. I don’t think it even mattered what I was writing, as long as I wrote quickly enough so that the feelings couldn’t catch up with me.

It’s not journaling anymore, although it is blogging sometimes, but I have other ways I’ve been trying to outrun the feelings. This week it’s been reading, sleeping, watching TV, baking cookies, and wishing for work. It’s not working. I’m not in crisis – and I don’t think I will be any time soon – but I’m really sad and I can’t seem to stop it.

It’s so frustrating when this happens just because of the stupid brain chemicals. Everything’s fine. I normally love living alone. I have enough money. I have friends, even if they’re busy, and I usually really like having time alone. When I’m working a lot, I want free time. But my brain is wrong. It hasn’t caught up with things being fine, even though things have been fine for a long time.

If something terrible happened, I have so many people who would be there for me, and I’m incredibly lucky. But nothing terrible has happened. And I can’t ask for help because I’m sad because of God-knows-what in the same way that I could ask for help if someone died or I had another major loss.

So now I’m going to go to sleep. I’m not that tired yet but I don’t know what else to do. One of these days, I’ll be back to feeling better, but today is not that day.

 


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.


Hidden Anxiety

March 31, 2019

I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety lately. About big things: working on my next book, climate change, and the future of my business. But also very small things. Misplacing a lip balm, for example, makes me anxious. Or having a list of a few minor errands to do. And sometimes it’s just nothing at all. There’s no reason for the anxiety.

And I don’t have time to give into it, but also there’s no point to it. If I am anxious about errands and I don’t do them, that doesn’t help me. And I’ve looked into anti-anxiety meds but of course they’re all (or almost all) addictive and sedating.

So I just keep going. Today I am going to talk about my book at somebody’s house. I know it will be fine. I have done this dozens of times already and never had a bad experience. I don’t even get very nervous about public speaking and have spoken to an audience of several hundred. But I have this anxiety that won’t go away.

All I want to do is put on my pajamas (it’s not even 5 pm) and ignore it. I want to use sleep as an escape or watch a TV show or do some mindless work that I can get lost in. I want to think of an excuse.

And of course, I can’t do that. I have to put on my public persona hat and put on makeup and smile and talk to people about a cause I believe in, and I know that it will end up being enjoyable for me and a positive experience overall. But the desire to skip it is SO strong.

And this happens every day. EVERY day. When I have tutoring students — who I LOVE and are a major joy in my life — I get anxious about seeing them. When I have to drive somewhere, same thing. When I have fun plans — a hike or visiting friends, yep, it kicks in. I get anxious if I am trying to plan something and anxious if I have nothing planned.

I self-medicated sometimes by eating sugar, which does calm me down. But then it makes it worse again. And I know it will but I can’t seem to stop. I sleep too much sometimes to get rid of this feeling and sometimes I can’t sleep because of this feeling.

I’m learning to live with it. I would rather not – I would rather transcend it and live without it. Do any of you have this? How do you deal with it?


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.


Loneliness

October 8, 2017

I read this recently: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201708/loneliness-poses-greater-public-health-threat-obesity

It seems particularly relevant today as I’m sitting alone on a Saturday night watching a movie and planning on going out to dinner alone. Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy going out to eat alone. It seems like a luxury, both in time and money. But I still feel bad for myself when it’s a Friday or Saturday night and I’m alone, strangely, even when it’s by choice.

I am really fortunate in that I have a great community. I have a lot of people who love me and who would be there for me in an emergency. But most of them have families and all are busy so, while there’s no doubt they’d come in an emergency, it’s much less likely they’re be there in a non-emergency. And that part is important too. Really important.

I’m not sure what to do about that, and I’m not sure if married people also have this issue. It might even be harder if you’re married, because being lonely while having people around is really tough.

But I only know this from my own end. And I’ll tell you, being single in a world of families is tough. And that I’m going to go eat dinner alone this Saturday night and try to make the best of it.