I struggle with depression. I have for years. I am on meds and see a counselor regularly. But some days it overshadows everything else. I feel like I'm walking in a light fog/mist or through hip deep water. Everything feels harder than it should be, my arms and body feel heavier than they should, nothing makes me smile, my brain obsessively repeats
I DON'T CARE.
I DON'T CARE.
I DON'T CARE.
I DON'T CARE.
Stuck in that rut again. I think if I could get back into my workout routine that might help, but then I never actually *noticed* a difference when I was working out before. (shrug). I spent November writing like a fiend and won NaNoWriMo again, which I am very proud of and made a very conscious *choice* to write instead of working out, so at least I'm not beating myself up for "falling off the wagon" or something.
Also, I live in Wisconsin, where it is now winter, I don't care what the calendar says …. it is 11 degrees outside, we got snow yesterday and snow last week and the snow is still sticking around and it's not supposed to get much warmer anytime soon. That is winter. With winter comes early sunset. Which means the sun is usually down and out for the count fully before I even get out of the office. It is barely peeking over the horizon in the mornings when I drag my tired, sorry self from bed. So, yeah, Seasonal Affective Disorder is sliding in on top of the depression.
All of this is coming to this point.
This is all so incredibly frustrating!!!! I believe I could be doing a lot more with my life and with my time. But by the time I finish 8 hours of work with one of the dumbest coworkers I've ever had and fought most days to try keeping my blood pressure down, I just don't have anything left afterwards to give. I have no energy left. No desire to do anything but lay on my couch and stare at the walls. I rarely actually do literally that, but it is typically my only desire. I *force* myself to get groceries or run errands or do dishes or take out the trash or put away laundry or whatever it is that is calling for my attention. But by the time I finish THAT any reserve I may have had prior, has now also been used up. (and I swear to Christ if ANYONE reads this and tries to give me some cock and bull line about positive thinking or "working out helps" or whatever other bumper sticker band aid answer you like, I will hunt you down and find you and punch you in the throat.)
I feel so damn helpless. My life is not at all what I would have envisioned, and no, it's not better. It is not what I want, pieces are good, but the Big Things are not what i want. So I feel stuck. And I've felt stuck for years … YEARS. Dad dying threw off the standard of all the struggle and ultimately added a layer of sad to everything else. But my life was not what I desired it to be long before Dad got sick. Actually, I think it is just farther from what I wanted now than it was before. Great. That's a great realization to have. (sigh)
Just wanted to rant for a minute and maybe let someone else know they aren't alone if they're feeling many of these same things.
Insulting – post-depression blog thoughts
I have blogged a LOT on my two personal blogs about depression and my own struggles and journey. I haven't posted as much here. Here I try to be positive and encouraging and "Yes, we all can reach our goals and be happy in our bodies" etc. And there's nothing wrong with that. After the response yesterday, I wonder if it would help if we shared more specifically about the struggles and how we're fighting back and overcoming things like depression and disordered eating etc.
I'm not doing a lot of fighting back these days and no real "overcoming" that I would actually claim. But, I will say that the other problem with depression and the sickening and infuriating band aid answers is that, I think I said this in the previous post, it is a ludicrously simplistic answer to an incredibly complex problem. My depression is multi layered. First and foremost I truly believe my body simply doesn't make the right chemicals and hormones in the right combinations for me to function at my best. Meds stabilize that.
Second, I have too many negative records in my head from childhood. Telling me I'm not good enough, that nothing I ever do is good enough, that no one is proud of me, and they never will be *because* I am seeking things in life they do not value. I also have plenty of negative records from adolescence, boyfriends, media, life. Like I don't get to have what other people have. (husband, house, sex) Even if I could find a guy who was into me, I would be incredibly suspicious because how could anyone love this body??? And if I did lose a bunch of weight and looked fantastic and *then* found a guy, what happens to the relationship after that? I had a boyfriend tell me sincerely once that if I gained a lot of weight he would still love me but he couldn't promise he'd want to have sex with me. Yes everyone has preferences etc, but it gave me a complex. Not to mention, short of full-blown anorexia, my santa belly ain't goin anywhere. I can lose all my weight and look fantastic and I'm still going to have a pooch for a belly. It's just the first place my body puts extra fat.
Third, My life is not what I want it to be. (Again, I swear to christ if one of you pulls out some "if you don't like your life, then change it. you're not a tree!" crap, I will hunt you down and punch you.) I am single at 35. I work a job I don't like, that has started to majorly stress me out, in an industry i fell into by accident. But I get paid too much to step very far down because I can't afford my bills if I make much less than I do right now. Plus the job market SUCKS BALLS, so finding something is ridiculous. I have a good size circle of amazing friends and I see them often, but I always go home alone to an empty apartment and sleep alone in my bed. ten years ago this is not what I would have imagined my life to be. But it is, so I get out of bed, go to work, pay the bills, and try to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Fourth, Sh!tty life stuff happens. I lost a job in December 2010, which was actually a blessing, but still a stressor. My Dad got diagnosed with a liver full of tumors in February of 2011 and by April he was gone. I started a new job in the middle of that. I had what I thought was a solid faith in God that would get me through, but after a year of grieving, the faith was in shambles, so there is that loss too. Now I feel more trapped in this geographic area so I can be close to my mom and trapped in some routines because she is alone so much and so incredibly looks forward to my visits that I can't let her down. Oh, yeah, and a few months after Dad died, my sister got a wonderful boyfriend who she's been with ever since, so there's that bittersweet in this mix too.
And those are just the things I can think of off the top of my head. Someone recently got snarky with me about me drinking Coke and after the fact all I could think was "If you had any idea what I'd been through, you'd be pretty g0ddamned impressed that I'm not crazy morbidly obese. You'd be proud that I'm maintaining right where I'm at when all I want to do is eat my weight in pasta and chocolate cake, or drink myself into a blackout, or start smoking to settle my nerves. You'd be effing proud that my "vice" is a coke or three a day."
All of this to say, telling me to "just do something" or "just be happy" or "exercise is the 'best' medicine" is insulting.
That's a revelation. *That's* the thing that infuriates me about this whole conversation. I hadn't thought of it until I wrote that word.
For you to look at me, after I've shared that I'm struggling, inside my own mind, inside my brain, where I can't see or examine or tell if there are changes, I'm fighting a constant battle to keep my head above water, after I've shared that struggle, for you to glibly say "Exercise is the best medicine" is effing
Exercise won't bring my dad back. Exercise won't make me like my job. Exercise isn't likely to force my body to start making the right chemicals (although this is actually possible for some of us, I just don't believe it is the case for me personally). Exercise isn't going to erase the negative records that repeat in my mind. It is such an oversimplification that it makes me want to cuff you upside the head. Which I won't.
That's my thoughts for today. Who else struggles with some of this? or anything similar? Or just wants to share their experience.
Have you met my Big Black Dog?
I've written a lot over the years about my struggle with depression. The last two posts here were about my struggle with depression. A few days ago I saw a post on Upworthy on facebook called "What is Depression" and it likened it to having a Black Dog*. I finally got a chance to watch the video today (link below). It is pretty good. It is honest about the struggle but it offers hope too. It is narrated by a man and the animation is a guy, which personally I think is better than a woman because the stigma around depression is bad enough, but to be a man and admit that seems an even bigger deal.
Towards the end he says something to the effect that the black dog may always be a part of his life but that he'll never be the beast that he was because "we have an understanding." Meaning he's gotten treatment and has better coping mechanisms etc. It made me wonder what would happen if I started to view my depression as a thing separate from myself. A thing I could have a greater affect on rather than just something that happens TO me. Generally speaking that is probably the hardest thing for me about depression, I can't control it. I can't control if I'm going to have a bad day and I can't control how long a bad episode may last. I can do the things I know help me, but I can't force my body to make the right chemicals etc just by sheer force of will.
So, I may start looking at my depression like a black dog that is always with me, and I may start trying to train her to behave more acceptably. What are your thoughts?
*someone commented on the facebook post that they didn't like the use of the black dog because typically black dogs are the last ones to be adopted from shelters. I know that is a truth and it sucks. But to be honest, seeing this video? Made me want to go out and GET A BLACK DOG! Unfortunately I live in a 2nd floor apt that doesn't allow dogs anyway, but please just see the video for the point it is making, don't get hung up in that details.
"Not Just Sad" – depression part 4(?)
I saw an article on Pinterest today and clicked over to read it.
"The Hidden Signs of Depression"
Subtitled: Sadness isn't the only symptom.
I am annoyed. Overall the article is great. It outlines the symptoms of depression in a real life "If my friend told me x, y, and z, I'd take her to a medical professional myself" kind of scenario, which is great. It also outlines some of the more subtle signs of depression like lack of energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and chronic pain. It is truly a very well rounded article that I'm certain has and will continue to help a lot of people.
But I find myself annoyed. Out of a purely selfish and Mouse-colored-glasses way. I rarely characterize my depression as sad. When I first realized that what I felt every day was "more than just a little sad" it was paradigm-shifting. Realizing that and the subsequent realizations finally put me on a path to meds and counseling, but that path took way too many years. In part I think this may have been because I *wasn't* sad therefore not depressed. I had started to see the commercials about depression and, for a very long time, thought "Oh those poor sad people." It took way too long for me to realize that for me depression isn't feeling sad, depression isn't feeling. Not feeling much of anything at all. I said in one of my previous posts I can repeat for hours "I DON'T CARE" in my mind. And I don't. In those times I truly don't care.
I don't care if the dishes get done.
I don't care how long those socks lay on the floor of my living room.
I don't care how high the junk mail and nonsense is piled on my coffee table.
I don't care how long that bowl of last week's supper sits on the end table.
I don't care if I spend the entire night playing Candy Crush.
I don't care if I'm up too late to be well-rested for work.
I don't care.
I remember a friend at my last church finally had her Baby Girl. She had 3 boys and at least 4-5 miscarriages trying to get that little girl and finally it happened. And she hit the post partum wall HARD afterwards. I gave a testimony in front of the congregation about something God had helped me with having to do with my apathy in depression. I remember her walking up to me after church and asking "So, for you, depression is more about not feeling anything?" I was able to talk with her and help her feel more normal about her feelings, or lack thereof, and encourage her to seek medical help, to ignore the morons telling her that "that dosage of meds is so small it can't possibly help anyway, so you should just stop taking it", and to remember that as long as none of the kids are putting their finger in a light socket, all she is required to do is breathe. Because sometimes that's all you can manage.
And I wonder how many of us are walking around like zombies, not feeling much of anything and not even realizing that life can be different. Because for years I had no idea that everyone didn't walk around in a daze, with a mind that absolutely does not ever stop or slow down, and an anxiety about almost every personal interaction they come across, and hit their home at the end of the work day and nearly collapse because they just have nothing left. I had no idea everyone wasn't like that.
I also, oddly enough, could not for the life of me figure out how so many of my friend and acquaintances could get so d-mn much done every friggin day! I could barely drag myself through a work day much less clean the house and make supper and write a book and craft a scarf and god knows what else they were doing that was just so far beyond me I could not wrap my brain around it.
So I wonder, how many other people are doing the same thing as I did for years. Walking around half in a daze. Thinking that they don't care about (insert whatever you want here). Barely keeping their living space livable, maybe even barely keeping their job. And have no idea that some would call that depression and there are medications that might help. They have no idea that life can be different. That there is an alternative to the way they currently live. And that makes me so incredibly sad and angry. Because I know how long it took ME to seek help, and it was WAY too long. I can't even imagine what my life would look like now if I'd realized in college, or high school, or middle school when my mom offered to take me to a counselor!!, that my body chemistry was off and there were options for correcting it.
So I write. I write when these thoughts occur to me. I write when I can't hold it in anymore. I vent and brain-dump my frustrations and anger. I write my truth as clearly and detailed as I possibly can. Because if I can help ONE other person seek help before I finally sought help, I am happy. If I can help one Christian see that yes God can heal us from anything, but if he hasn't healed you from this yet, maybe it's time to seek medical intervention, I am happy. If I can help one other person be honest in their world and say "I am depressed and this is what that looks like for me, and there is nothing for me to be ashamed of in saying this," I am happy.
I'm tired of the stigma. And I'm going to keep writing until the stigma is gone.
Credit where due, especially to yourself.
I've been in counseling for 3 years and on meds for nearly that long. I have learned more things than I could likely even put into words. One of the bigger things is to give myself credit for the things I do right or correctly or well, credit for the things followed through on, credit where credit is due.
I tend to make these ridiculous to do lists. I have crazy high expectations of what *I* can get done in a night after work or a Saturday afternoon or even over a lunch hour. And even if I do half, or a quarter, or ANY of the things on that list, I feel like an absolute and abject failure if I don't complete the ENTIRE list. It doesn't even matter how long the list is, because in my mind I "tried" to keep the list reasonable for the time frame I've got, but I also have a bone-deep terror of being bored, so the list is never going to be too short. With that in mind, I've been setting myself up for constant failure. But technically I digress.
After a year and a half or more of counseling and having a wonderful counselor very gently ask me why I have to clean the house this certain way or why I have to do so much writing every night to avoid being a failure or whatever other list or task or goal or expectation I've set for myself I have finally started to ease up on myself.
I have a friend moving in with me in January. I have lived alone for 10+ years and in my current apartment for 4-5 years. It is a lovely 2 bedroom place, so I've got space for her, but I've also expanded to fill up my space in the years I've been there. So, the list of things to do before she arrives is monumental and pretty much impossible to fulfill, if for no other reason than I literally do not have space to clear that entire closet out because those things have nowhere else to go. Regardless, I continuously get down on myself for not already having more of her space cleared and utterly ignore the work I've already done. Not to mention, she has little expectation of what it will be like when she gets there and certainly not as as high an expectation as I have for myself. Last night I moved the plants out of that room, moved my "collection" of 3-ring binders off a shelf in there, and cleared 2 shelves in a kitchen cupboard for her. But all I can see is the mess of crap in this corner that needs to just plain get put away, the mess of crap in that corner that needs to go to my basement storage*, and the mess of crap still covering the desk I've told her she can use which means I need to clear it out. *and the basement storage also needs to be cleared out in order to put those things down there in the first place! Last night I forced myself to see those 3 things I DID accomplish instead of the list of crazy I haven't finished yet.
I do this all the time. I was going to bake a bunch of treats for Christmas last night, but instead got one baked item done and half beat myself up all night and part of this morning as a result. However, I utterly ignore the fact that I did my dishes, bagged up my recycling, and wrote out the chili recipe before I tossed the cans I used in the recipe. The dishes had to get done before much baking could be done regardless, but I had *expected* to be baking, not doing dishes. So the fact that the only baking I got done was the simplest treat I make was disheartening.
WHY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES???
WHERE DID WE GET THESE EXPECTATIONS AND IDEAS???
Why does it matter if I did all my baking last night or did my dishes? I did SOMETHING! Isn't that what "they" are always telling us depressives? "Just do SOMETHING."
Well I did . . . . .
but it still wasn't good enough.
Maybe that's another layer of depression we need to address. At its worst depression is debilitating. I can look around and see the mess around me and the myriad of tasks to be done. But literally do not have the brain power to figure out where to start, because sometimes it does matter where you start. I couldn't bake well or easily last night with a counter full of dishes, therefore dishes must get done first. But in a depressive mind, not only is that too much to wrap your brain around, it also becomes, well but to do the dishes i need to get an index card to write down that chili recipe, which means going into the other room that is full of the mess I haven't taken care of for my new roommate. It also means cleaning out those cans so I can throw them away (which I don't truly have to do, but sometimes that becomes one of the things on the list that is too much to figure out.). Then I look at my recycle can and it is overflowing, so now I have to bag that all up in order for those cans to have somewhere to go. I don't recycle at my own building because it is a pain, I take that big bag and usually give it to my sister to put in her city recycling bin, but now that means I should get ahold of her and see if and when she's around that I can get the bag to her.
Now, if you can imagine that, you can probably imagine that for someone who has already used 80-99% of her full energy allotment for the day working to keep her paycheck and apartment while concurrently working to not have a breakdown or psychotic break at work, that entire thought process is too much. That is more than we can wrap our brains around. We'd rather mentally shrug our shoulders, grab some comfort food and settle into the couch with some Netflix or Candy Crush.
It is a conundrum. We don't ever give ourselves enough credit for what we DO manage to accomplish and at the same time non-depressives don't give us enough credit for not killing our coworkers. Where is the understanding? And compassion? As a Christian I have often wanted to declare to the churches I've been in "Where is the grace??? Where is the mercy??? Where is the frigging help? Love your neighbor as yourself??"
So, I say to my fellow depressives, again, as we are often told and counseled, ignore those naysayers. If you don't know what this journey is like, then shut your mouth. I won't give you child birth advice, you don't give me depression coping advice. I say to my fellow travelers, focus on what you did get done, no matter how small! Give yourself credit for that. Like whenever I get around to picking up the 4 receipts laying on my kitchen floor, I get credit for that! Becuase they've already been laying there for over a week, but I don't care. They don't take no hurt to lay there a few days longer. So i get credit when I do pick them up. Figure out ways to make simple tasks even easier. I put an extra toilet brush inside my shower and when I feel like the tub is getting too gross, I swish it around in my draining shower water and "clean" my tub. Good enough! Who says you gotta get a scrubbing sponge and cleanser and get down on your hands and knees??? Why is that the "only" way to clean a tub!
Give credit where credit is due,
and ignore the ignorant pie-holes who don't want to give you credit for not committing a homicide at work, or on your drive home from work.
*This post originally appeared on Kristine's personal blog. Republished with permission.