Outrunning depression

I haven’t been able to write anything lately, though not for lack of effort.  After a while, Jo and my best friend suggested I write about the why because if I couldn’t write anything else, I might at least be able to write about that.  I think they also thought it would be cathartic – no, I’m not so dense as to not recognize that motive, guys.  I was hesitant to do that, though, because who wants to read a bunch of negative drivel? But I can’t seem to write anything else so here goes.

Since the process of moving began in February, I’ve been running on adrenaline, occupying myself with too much to do in too little time,  helping the Divine Miss M adjust, trying to help everyone else with their reaction to our move and mostly ignoring the astronomical level of my anxiety that always accompanies change, especially change of this magnitude, even when it’s change I want.  As someone who has struggled with depression, I should have known this crash was inevitable.

If you’ve dealt with real depression, you know it chases you constantly, a looming, oppressive black figure.  Somewhere along the way, my mind began picturing it as a large foggy image of the grim reaper.  Giving it an image probably lends it power, but my mind never consults me before going down these paths. Most of the time, I can move along in life, knowing it’s there in the background, but too far away to affect me.  When it starts gaining on me, when I’m only a step or two ahead, I can literally feel it behind me, even if I can’t actually see it.  The closer it gets, the harder it is to breathe.  When it’s right on my heels, as it has been recently, it is an indescribable struggle to get through the day.  It’s suffocating and it’s dark and it’s awful.  I can usually force myself to go through the motions, be where I’m supposed to be, accomplish whatever is absolutely necessary.  But my thoughts have little substance beyond the repeating mantra of where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to get done.  As a parent, I can call to mind words of encouragement I’m supposed to say, walk myself through goodnight routines of reading and hugs, one last ‘I love you’ before I turn out the lights.  Can she tell it’s all robotic right now?  Does she notice how hollow everything feels, does it sound that way?  God, I hope not, but that adds itself to the list of things my mind will berate me for the second my head hits the pillow.  And that right there is one of the most effective weapons in depression’s vast arsenal.  I can manage, with effort, to put myself on auto-pilot until I can finally get back in bed at night – and then, the sleepiness and overwhelming fatigue that has dogged me all day suddenly decide to be coy and elusive, mocking me.  After spending a day consciously having to force my mind to work, suddenly it’s alive, berating me until I feel hopeless and convinced that I’ll never climb my way out of this, that maybe I don’t want to, that I’m not worth it.   Depression is crafty in that – a sickeningly formidable opponent, who not only knocks you down but then makes you utterly loathe yourself for it.

The three occasions depression has actually caught me, when it did more than just nip at my heels, are impossible to adequately describe to anyone who has never experienced it.  And something I hope to never re-live, though my fear of it lingers.  During those times, there is no auto-pilot, no robotic words and actions.  There isn’t even darkness, really. There’s just … nothing, a complete void, until my desire to feel something, anything, even if it’s painful, leads to actions I don’t like to think about and rarely discuss.

One of the reasons people don’t talk about depression is they find it shameful, as if they’re just weak and should be able to shake it off.  And there are always a couple of people who respond with absurd platitudes about looking for the positive things in life and how happiness is a choice you make.  I’m sure they mean well and I know they speak partially from simple ignorance but, frankly, I hate those people.  (hate is a strong word and it costs 50 cents at our house, I’ll happily (heh, see the irony there?) pay the fine). Anyway, anyone that knows depression knows it isn’t nearly that simple.

Though Jo and I had discussed moving out of Oklahoma for years, and thought about it separately for a decade before, the actual move happened in a relative whirlwind.   I should have known that at some point, the adrenaline that has carried me for several months was going to run out, that the anxiety I could feel trying to choke me was going to start winning the battle for more than a day or two, allowing depression, anxiety’s best-loved pal, a chance to get a little closer.  I should have known that, and I could feel it at times but I pushed it down, there was too much to do and I thought I could just keep outpacing it.

I was wrong.  Depression must find a lot of humor in that.

I am starting to come out of it now. It isn’t gone, but it’s getting easier to breathe and I can tell my actions are ruled more by substantive thoughts and feelings, and less by rote memory.  So, it hasn’t won, not this time.  The only lingering effect will be even more weight loss, and though I’d already had enough of that since February when this ride began, that isn’t too hard to remedy.

I’ve mentioned before, Jo is ridiculously stable.  Though she is not without her own unhealthy coping mechanisms, any difficulty she has in dealing with things does not manifest itself like this.  Thankfully, she is patient, knows the signs, knows what to do, when to push and when to back off.  It is impossible not to consider she deserves to be with someone healthier, though when I voiced that recently, she assured me that, among other things, healthy would be boring.  I’ll have to take her word for that.

I have some posts started, one about mean girls in junior high, a guest post for a blogger about when our 11-year-old asked us if we’d ever been intoxicated and a book review for another.  None of them are done, but I’m getting there.

And, well, maybe this was a little cathartic, after all.



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