Here’s What You Need to Know About Digging Yourself Out of A Depressive Rut

A few days ago, my daughter asked if she could go with me to my doctor appointment. Even though I had fantasized about a silent ride, maybe with a stop on the way to pick up a coffee, I agreed that she could come.After checking my weight (too high) and blood pressure (also too high), the nurse handed me two slips of paper. I started circling numbers on the rating scales in front of me. “Read it to me, Mom.”

She understood weight and blood pressure and she wanted to know what I was doing next.I showed her the numeric scale on the top and explained the difference between a 1 and a 5. I started reading her the questions.

“In the past two weeks, how often have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?”

“Oh, you NEVER feel like that, Mom!” she interrupted me and laughed at how ridiculous that question seemed to her.

She, like most people who meet me, can’t fathom that I was born with storm clouds in my head and blackness in my bones. That there are times when sludge seeps from my marrow and oozes out my pores. That it coats my skin like a clinging rotten mold that I can’t remove, a sick syrupy mess that I can never wipe off no matter how much I try.

Depression lies and tells me I feel like shit and I behave like shit because I really AM shit. Depression tells me I should just be happy because I have such a great spouse, and great kids, and a great life, so SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP. Sometimes people tell me this, too.

It’s hard not to listen to your brain when it tells you that NOTHING WILL HELP, SO THERE’S NO USE TRYING. It’s impossible to ignore the idea your brain plants in your head that MEDS WON’T HELP – THEY’LL TURN YOU INTO A ZOMBIE. It’s hard to tell your brain that YES, I REALLY AM STRUGGLING when your brain says, No, actually you’re being weak.

JUST do the dishes.

JUST be nice.

JUST get out of bed and workout.

JUST be happy.

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Depression scares me and tells me that the doctor is going to look at me and tell me that nothing is wrong with me.

Depression scares me and and tells me that the doctor is going to think something really is.

I know depression intimately, so I’m grateful for all of the days I DON’T feel trapped by my own mind. Like today. Today is a glorious day.

“Actually,” I tell her, “sometimes I DO feel like that and that’s why I’m here. I go to the doctor to check on these kind of feelings.” I continue reading her the questions on the list as I circle them.

“In the last two weeks, have you felt irritable or annoyed? So much so that others have noticed?” I circle a 2. A low score for me.

“Oh, THAT one is definitely a two.”

Now she’s getting it.

I hesitate on the last question before reading it to her, “In the past two weeks, how often have you had thoughts that you would be better of dead, or hurting yourself in some way?” I am thankful that my rating for this one is currently a zero, particularly since my daughter is watching me circle my responses. Because it’s not always a zero.

I’ve had to learn how to deal with these kind of thoughts when they ultimately return and resonate. I’ve had to figure out how to keep myself healthy even when my brain tells me to do the exact opposite of what it is that I need to do.

“Make an appointment with your doctor TODAY,” I need to tell myself. I need to remind myself that if it makes me uncomfortable to tell the receptionist why I’m making the appointment – it’s okay to LIE. To tell her I want to discuss allergies. I need to remind myself that it’s okay to lie to the nurse too, if I need to. That no, they will not kick me out for doing this. I need myself to know that I can tell the doctor that my friend or my mom or my child or my coworker told me that I needed to go. That I promised that person I’d check in and report back. I need to remember it’s okay to tell the doctor if I’m feeling uncomfortable talking about this with them.

Once I go to the doctor, I know I immediately need to make a follow up appointment. Before I leave. Every single time. I need to constantly follow up. Follow up. Follow up. PROBABLY FOREVER. Because treatment, at least for me, doesn’t look like this:

img_20190413_1510053730749488735731238.jpgIt looks like this:

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I need to remind myself that I don’t have to feel worthless and hopeless. I need to be reminded that those aren’t normal feelings. That other people aren’t thinking about how they’d do it if they ended it. I need to remember that when my brain starts thinking any of those things that I am not alone and I AM NOT WELL.

So, how do I do it? How do I make my brain recognize what I need to be healthy when my brain is at the same time telling me I’m a piece of shit and should just give it all up?

I do the same thing other people who successfully manage their depression do. We plant messages and reminders for ourselves when we’re in a good place. We leave notes up on our bathroom mirrors that say, “You are worth it.” We leave printouts of Pinterest quotes on our bulletin boards that tells us, “DEPRESSION LIES.” We wear jewelry on our wrists that remind us to keep going. We get tattoos on our arms that remind our brain that we can, in fact, feel better than we do now.

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Photo by Timothy L Brock on Unsplash

 

We get tattoos on our feet so we’re absolutely positive there is no way we can miss this important message.

We remind ourselves that we are no different and no better than those we know who lost their battle.

People like me need multiple reminders to try the counseling, or the app, or the yoga, or the workouts, or the meds, or the other meds, or the other meds, or the increase in meds, or the inpatient treatment, or the transcranial magnetic stimulation, or the any of the other things that are available to us. We need a reminder that what works at one point might not work later. We need a reminder that what didn’t work before might work now. We need reminders to keep trying. And trying. And trying.

People like me find ourselves wading through the muck so much that when we have an opportunity to feel a ray of sunshine on our faces WE BASK IN IT. We add to our gratitude journals and our acts of kindness every opportunity we get. We practice self-care by reading, doing yoga, creating art, writing, or doing whatever it is that keeps us sane. Because we know these kinds of things are impossible when we’re not in a good place.

My daughter and I left my appointment and when I looked at her face in the rear-view mirror I wondered if she’s inherited the darkness genes or not. If she’ll battle with depression like her mama. If she does, I hope I’m giving her a path to follow so she always gets the message that she is worth the effort it takes to seek out the help she needs.

Please Don’t Move to Canada

Please. I know you’re feeling shocked, hurt, angry, fearful, devastated and disgusted. Or maybe you’re just feeling numb right now, but you know those raw emotions are there, lurking beneath the outer shell that seems to have solidified around your skin, protecting you the way a spore protects itself when it finds itself in an uninhabitable environment.

Please. I know you’ve been on that Canadian immigration site researching how to emigrate from a country you think is imploding. Or maybe you got there too late and received an error message instead of immigration information because everyone that wanted to drive North and set up camp drove up internet traffic instead and crashed the whole damn site.

Please. I know you care about people. About women, about people with disabilities, about people of color, about the LBCTQ+ community, about people who share your religion and those who don’t. I know you even care about those people who voted for Trump who you feel like shaking some sense into right now. Trust me, you feel that way. Deep down. Maybe at a depth far deeper than you knew existed inside of you. Even if those feelings can only be found lower than the floor of the Mariana’s Trench, they’re there (just trust me on this for now, okay?)

And that’s why I need you here. WE need you here. We’ve got a lot of work to do as a country and believe it or not, those of us who are feeling utterly devastated and sick to our stomachs right now are actually feeling the best out of the bunch. We weren’t feeling disenfranchised and demoralized LONG BEFORE today, like so many of the Trump supporters have been. As my sister-in-law put it, “Trump’s rhetoric of fear and anger represent how they feel,” and she’s right. I’m thankful she was able to formulate sentences this morning when my brain still could not. I encourage you to seek out those wise souls among you and listen to their reason. Please.

Please recognize that the intolerance and outrage that might be boiling beneath your skin, that has maybe already erupted in a hot, fiery, destructive, blast, is the same vitriol a lot of us claimed to despise and maybe even looked down our noses at, just yesterday.

I have faith that you can help make our country better than it is in this moment. You’re a worker, an advocate, a leader, a fighter for love and light.  We really need you here. Don’t leave me, okay? Please.

 

 

Depression Lies

There is no coming out of it.
There is no getting over it.
There is just IT.

It ebbs and it flows and it morphs.
It hides.
It does not ever disappear.

It teases, at times.
It seems long gone.
But, it is never really is.

It always returns.
With a vengeance.
With a downward pull.

It distorts.
It deceives.
It consumes.

It tells you that it is all for naught.
That you will never be enough.
That you’re better off not here.

If you’re in a good place, you’ll recognize the tone.
You’ll recognize the facade.
You’ll recognize the weakness in the argument.

So you counter the exchange with self-talk.
With meditation. Deep breaths.
With exercise and proper nutrition.

You will look like you’ve got it all under control.
And sometimes you do.  But sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you are out quietly out of control.

Sometimes, you are low.
Sometimes you are sinking deeper.
Sometimes, you’re just tired.  Oh, so very tired.

It tells you it’s easier to let go, that there is no use fighting back.
It tells you things will never be good.
Even if things are already so much better than good.

Depression lies.
Assuredly.
Convincingly.

Sometimes we need to etch this in our skin
To make us remember, to make sure we get the message,
when we can’t hear anything but the deceit.

Writing is Racing

Right now, I’m a fish out of water.  I’m floundering.

I’m gasping for breath even though I’m hardly moving at all.

Too much stillness allows thoughts to zoom through my head.   Thoughts that have no business being there. Thoughts that do more harm than good.  Too much sitting is not relaxing, is not calming, is not restful.  Too much sitting is anxiety-provoking, is unsettling, is infuriating.  It’s the paradox of movement creating calmness.  Of stillness cultivating chaos.

I’m a runner who can’t run.  And it sucks.

Yes, I’m trying to compensate. I’m doing strength training right now – something needed, something I had been neglecting.  It’s fine.  It is toning my triceps.  It is the band-aid on the wound.

It is not enough.

Nothing feels the same, nothing give me the same rush as running does. No other type of exercise even comes close.  Yes, I can work out, but I don’t get the head-clearing release. I don’t get the skin-tingly euphoria.

My orthopedic surgeon told me that he can repair tendons, ligaments, cartilage, but he “can’t fix runners”.  Runners are broken people, before they get injured.  Runners need running for self-repair, even if it destroys their bodies in the process.

I’ve been dreaming about it, lately.  Dreaming about running pain-free.  Night after night after night. I’m running and I’m strong and I’m happy.  And then I wake up and I remember. I mourn. I miss it. Nothing feels the same.

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Except.

Writing sort of does.

Photo credit: Wikipedia
Photo credit: Wikipedia

It’s the closest thing I’ve found.  Way closer than strength training.  I don’t know how it works, but I get the same feeling in my head, the same tingling on my skin.

Maybe it’s because just like my legs move back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, on the pavement, my fingers are performing the same action across the keyboard. Over and over and over and over and over. For hours.

Maybe it’s like when I make my two fingers crawl across the table and then use them to tickle my daughter under her chin – my fingers race, mimicking the action of running, my fingers find that sweet spot, making my daughter erupt in giggles, mimicking the euphoria at the end.

With either activity, the writing or the running, there’s always a time goal, a publishing goal, an endurance goal, a self-preservation goal.  Some kind of goal.  There’s always the elusive search for a personal record.

With writing, or racing, sometimes I hate it, more than I could ever hate anything, and sometimes it feels better than I could imagine, leaving me high for days after.  I never really know going into it how a session will pan out.

Either way, both are always hard.  Both make me scream out loud.  Both make me cry. Both make me laugh.  Both help me breathe more deeply.  Both make me frolic and jump out of my skin with excitement.  Both wring out my body and wring out my soul.  Both are energy depleting, but are exhilarating in the process.

Both expose the real me.

Right now writing is my racing.  Until racing can be my racing.

10 Ways Depressives and Drunks are Similar

1.They tend to have a genetic predisposition.  Something in the brain is a little haywire, slightly imbalanced.  Both are examples of invisible diseases.

2. They get a boatload of judgment.  Both get the, “Aren’t you over that yet?”  Both get unsolicited tips.  “Just stop after one”.  “Just get outside”.  “Just appreciate what you have”.  “Just get over it”.  Rarely does any good advice begin with, “Just”.  One of the most ridiculous is, “Stop being so selfish”.

3. They don’t want to be this way.  As beautiful as a good drink feels, no one wants to be hooked. As needed as a good cry is, no one wants to be unable to fathom happiness. These are not pleas for attention, the behavior is a result of the disease, uncontrolled.

4. They relapse.  Even when the disease is managed, there are still ups and downs. There are depressive dives and days (weeks/months/years) when long-sober alcoholics might contemplate a drink. Or take one. Or more.

5. They take things day by day.  Forever.  It’s not over, not ever.  There is no, “I’m done with that now”.  There is a split-second moment in almost every single day in which the person isn’t sure if they will make it.

6. They push people they love away. They act like assholes, highly emotional and illogical while in the thick of it.  They’re unpredictable.  They say things they do not mean. They are too intoxicated, or too tired to be nice.

7. Sometimes they smell.  Or otherwise don’t take care of themselves. Stress has an odor.  Alcohol has an odor.  Sweat has an odor.  Both are gangrenous, eating a person alive from the inside out, emitting the stench of decay in the process.

8.  They can be a drag to be around.   They can be wildly out of control or barely-breathing, impossible to move from the bed.  It can be exhausting to stay positive and uplifting when the person you are with is neither of those things.

9. Left unchecked both result in a slow, toxic death.  Unpleasant to think about, but all too true.  The alcoholics know it.  The depressives know it.  For some reason the friends and family don’t always know it.

10. They tend to benefit from support groups and networks.  Alcoholics Anonymous, church groups, online groups.  It’s usually helpful to talk to others who understand a situation.  If you fall into either category, you are not alone.  Not even close.

depressives and drunks

Need some help getting some help?  Here are a few relevant links:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Al-Anon (For friends and families of alcoholics)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

Reddit: Depression Online Support Group

Supporting a Family Member or Friend With Depression

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