With the benefit of almost 40 years of perspective, I can see the damage that depression has wreaked on my life and those I love.
My question today is, why did it take so long for me to see it?
I am smart, I am a thinker. I offer great solutions to problems and take so many people’s ideas into account.
So, why did I spend 40 years listening to depression?
What was it about its secretive, deceptive, alluring suggestions that hooked me and pulled me in? Why did I not understand what was happening?
You would have thought I would want to know more about what happened during my “lost year.” I see now that I was calling it that even as it was happening. Why wasn’t this a big red flag? Why wasn’t I all over it, trying to understand what was happening?
My chemical imbalances may have had something to do with that.
To combat the depression, I began to walk daily, then jog, then run, And I got stronger. This happened in my body and in my brain. The positive endorphins I generated through my running finally won out over the depression. And off I went, oblivious to what had happened.
I didn’t stop to ask what or why.
I was finally on an upward spiral. Going backwards, even to understand what had happened, was not a priority. In fact, I cannot remember even considering what had happened. I pushed it into a well-guarded space. As I think about it now, the depression held onto the experience for me until it was ready to spring it on me again.
Anything I learned about depression and what seemed at the time like “overcoming it,” was temporary. There have been many instances since where my depression has taken control. I have talked about some of the bigger events. But with the benefit of time, I also see many smaller examples of unhelpful thinking.
Depression gets into my small decisions.
I make a choice and share it with someone. “Yes, I would love to take you and your wife sailing. I will have the boat ready to go, come on over.” Then, while they are on their way to my house to go sailing, depression gets involved. “Why are you going sailing? Isn’t water skiing what they would rather do? It’s ok, you do not need to ask them, just surprise them when they show up.”
I call a friend and get the boat lined up. Depression tells me to be ready to go so they won’t have a chance to think about what you have done. “Trust me,” says the depression, “they will love it.”
“What the hell?”
I can tell you that this did not end well. They didn’t love it. It was a complete mess. And it is just one example I can think of. My impulsive choices have ruined many well-planned events and activities with family and friends. I make a decision and moments later, I am off into the wild blue with an alternative that is way different than what we just agreed to. Why did I think this was ok? Why did I not see that these impulsive thoughts were not normal?
This pattern of impulsive behavior has permeated my entire adult life.
Yet I have only come to be aware of it. Or maybe more accurately, I am now paying attention to it. I don’t think I wanted to see it before. I know I didn’t want to examine the destruction it caused. I worked very hard to be blissfully ignorant of the depression. Little did I know I was playing directly into its hand.
Depression had made my choices look enticing. It has made them look for all the world like the most reasonable thing to do. But slowly it takes me from choices, plural, to a choice, singular. Just one choice, one idea will work. This is the only option it has for me. And as it tightens it’s grip, I’m right back against the wall.
Until now, I never saw it coming.
Anyone not under it’s spell would easily see how jacked-up depressions ideas really are. I can’t believe some of the things I have done, with depression pushing, pulling, and prodding me forward.
Why couldn’t I see the truth?
Depression has its own agenda and that has nothing to do with my health and safety. It is like the insurance commercials where “Mayhem” destroys things. On TV it may be funny, but it is potentially deadly when it confronts you alone.
Stressing about this now, I do know that every day will not be mayhem. In fact, based on my own historical evidence, mayhem may not show up for quite a while. That’s great news. But it’s also terrifying news. The thought that one day I will wake up and be staring depression in the face, that’s very upsetting.
So, the work I am doing now to learn the skills and develop the tools to recognize the signs depression is returning is where my focus is. I want to see the truth. I am tired of living in the secrecy of depression, in the turmoil that it inspires, and the havoc that it brings to me and those I love.
I want to take control of my life.
If I screw up, I want to know it. I also want to know how depression makes me think so I can avoid that type of thinking. The goal is to recognize it as it is happening. Then I can slow down my thinking and see what is really going on. I can ask different questions to confirm the thought. I can get a trusted partner and ask what they think. I can get enough information to make an informed decision.
No more impulsive decisions.
The way forward is better without depression leading. I get that now. With the perspective of time, I can see how sneaky and tricky depression can be. So, once again, I am saying to myself and to the world, “depression is not my boss.”
Please share if you know someone who might need this.