Sunday, August 14, 2016

Why Depression isn't really a battle

At this point in my life, I am not currently and have not been depressed for a long time. I spent a significant and lengthy time in my twenties falling into it again and again. Much of it was undiagnosed postpartum depression that lingered far longer than it should have. Especially when I had multiple babies one after another. Depression convinced and re-confirmed for me over and over that I was a terrible and worthless mother. The cycle was evil. Unfortunately, I had friends and former boyfriends who were so abusive that they more or less confirmed these fears for me. I don't hate them. They had their own demons to deal with. It just did not help.
Eventually when I was not depressed, I found ways to be the mother I was supposed to be, that shockingly, I found that I could be, that finally I had the energy to be.
Depression was always cyclical for me. I could feel it coming on, I could feel it chasing me, I would always try to fight it off but like the coming storm, it usually came anyway.
Recently a friend posted a status that said, he never felt he had battled depression but yelled at its back after it stole his emotional lunch money. This was painfully accurate.
I live in quiet, silent terror of depression coming back all the time. I have not been functionally depressed in over ten years. But I have always felt I have no control over it. It could just ride in at any time and completely trainwreck my life. This knowledge, this fear-- It's not going to stop me from living my life. I'm just aware that demon is hanging around and to feel safe from it is crazy. She can just show up whenever she feels like it and kick my chair out from under me and sit down right in the middle of my chest.
It's kind of like how I am going to walk at night, even though sometimes it scares me. I refuse to live my life afraid of what might happen. Especially when I recognize it is irrational. Sure, I could get mugged. But is that a reason not to go somewhere? I could get mugged right at home. Nope, I'm going out.
So, yes, depression could come after me but my life is too important to me to be held hostage by that.
Oddly, one thing that worked for me was permanently changing my diet and getting rid of all fast food. Quitting smoking. Quitting soda. Adding in healthy veggies and exercise. Is this why? I don't know. Maybe it just went away. But that is when it went away and has not come back significantly since that time.
I don't think in any way this is the answer. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. But food and exercise have an effect on the chemistry in your brain. Maybe it balanced mine. Maybe something else did. I'm never going to know. Perhaps there was something in what I was eating or what I was doing that was poisoning me. No idea. I mean, depression runs in my family, so there is that. And there is not one person I'm closely related to that doesn't deal with it, some worse than others, some are more functional than others.
The other thing that helped me was following my life path and pushing everything else out of the way to pursue the creative work that feeds my soul. It keeps my healthy, happy endorphins flowing. But I don't even begin to have the answers.
Therapy also helped a lot. I had some really good cognitive therapy with a really great therapist (and I went through a few to find the right match) Do two things. Try to do the things that your therapist asks, even if it is hard and get rid of the ones that make you feel bad about yourself. Find a good match.
Honestly, I just wanted to be happy. I know that most of us just want to be happy and no one should expect to be happy all the time, but being happy is worth fighting for. And try to get out of your own way to be happy. Sabotage is a killer.
Here is the deal, though-- this is what depression was like for me.
For all the battles in my life, and there have been many, I have stored up my energy and gone in sword and shield in hand. I have stood my ground and struck blow after blow until I emerged, bloody sword in hand, standing on the dragon.
Depression isn't like that. The first thing it steals is your energy, so you try to pick up the shield and you lack the strength to hold it. The first wave of attack comes after you and you hold up your arms feebly as it pelts you, and the raindrops fall all over you. Now, you are soaking wet and vulnerable. You start to shiver. The next thing it steals is your confidence. You're never going to be dry again, you can't find the sun behind the clouds. What if it isn't there? All you can do is run around and try to find shelter but your strength is gone, and your fears are raw and in between the waves of fresh assaults, all you can do is duck and cover and beg for a break in the weather. Finally, things calm down and it's just kind of gray all around. So, you try to get up, but it has stolen your strength, your confidence and now it attacks your hope. It's pointless to get up when all you are going to find is more of the same malaise. You start to believe that it is always going to be gray. It's best to just stay still, if you try to get out, you will just end up in a storm again. Just stay here and do nothing. It's the safest thing to do and you have to survive. Just keep breathing, that is the best you can do. Yep. And sometimes it steals the will to do that.
So, for me, I always kept this tiny box of hope stored somewhere in my rational mind. Because while the assaults came for my rational mind, I was at least able to save a tiny corner. Not everyone has this luxury. But I always told myself-- this is the sickness talking, this is the disease lying to me-- and I was somehow able to just get through the physical malaise and steal tiny bits of energy enough to keep going.
I always believed the sun was behind those clouds even though I would often not see it for months and months and I always felt damp and weighed down. I had a strong box in my head that refused to give up and give in. Somehow, I was lucky enough to have built something sturdy enough to withstand the attacks. You build it when you're strong, when you feel good about the world. You build it when you don't think you'll need it. And I always needed it.
So, for those people that think depression is just being sad. It's really and truly not. The truth is, my brain has just been through a storm or the stomach flu and my reserves are depleted and it is everything my body can do to just get up and take a shower. The lie is that I had no energy. I have no reserves. I have no fight. It is just a lie that depression tells me. My hope is hiding behind that cloud, I just couldn't feel it or see it right then.
This is just what I went through. I cannot and will not speak for anyone else. If you want to argue with me about depression, I literally do not want to talk to you about it. Your struggle is your own. I'm not going to pretend to know. I know that mine is similar to some and completely different from others. I have never been medicated for depression and hopefully will not need to be. I think some people really benefit from medication. Everyone has to do what personally is needed to try to get better.
This is only my story. And it is only a little piece. I hope it helps in some way.

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