Yet it turns out that depression and I have a bond that will entwine us for the rest of my life.
And even though right now, my depression is on vacation, I know it is still with me. While I am not feeling like I am “up against the wall,” I know my depression is still there. It is getting very good at tossing unhelpful thinking my way. Depression is at its best when it can get me to:
- Second guess my decisions.
- Get me thinking about an unhelpful thought.
- Have me keep secrets.
- Think that only it can give me the correct attitude about my current circumstances.
Even knowing all of these tricks my depression will use to keep me under its wing doesn’t stop me from getting caught under its spell. After all, it is a persistent mood disorder. Persistence, in my case, doesn’t even come close to describing the emptiness my depression can create. Or it is the emptiness I create because of my depression?
It should be easier to see what is happening when depression comes to visit.
Having had, what I now acknowledge, were numerous, severe, long-lasting years of depression, I can attest that it can be frightening. But with each episode, the bottom lacked any emotional responses. It was hard to feel afraid when I couldn’t feel anything. I often think of these times as being up against a wall. There is no place to go, no chance of things changing.
My abyss bottoms have been lonely, hopeless places.
Depression has had an impact on my cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical functions. This is a complicated sentence. Each area depression reaches creates its own challenges. Depression has impacted my thinking and my cognitive functions. Using unhelpful thinking styles, my depression creates all-or-nothing thinking.
I found this definition and description of depression the ADAA published.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest and despair. It can have an impact on cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical functions. While sadness, negative thinking, and loneliness affect all of us at one point or another, the symptoms of clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, can be severe, unrelenting, and even frightening. Depression can make you feel like nothing will help, or that any relief will be temporary, and it can create a cycle of maladaptive thinking, feeling, and doing (or non-doing). READ THE ENTRE ARTICLE
Just reading this makes me shiver. And even though right now I am in a good place, I know that depression is in the background plotting its next adventure which will be at my expense. Thankfully, I have a WRAP plan now. My wellness recovery and action plan are a tool to help me recognize the signs of when things are beginning to head south.
In it, I wrote down descriptions of what I look like when I am well, and what I might look like if depression is coming around.
I have written down tools, and activities I can use to reverse depression’s calls. It goes into several different levels and for each, I have written out what I might look like, and what may help. In it, I have a series of steps I can access, along with a reminder of who I can contact for support.
The best part of my WRAP plan is that it is MY plan.
I wrote it. It is designed for me, with what I look like and what I can do to slow, stop, and/or reverse things before they get critical. I keep a copy of it on a clipboard that hangs to the left of my desk. It is at eye level and is easy to find. Having a plan helps me sleep better at night. It allows me to anticipate some of depression’s unhelpful thinking before it sucks me in too deep.
Of all the unhelpful thinking styles my depression uses, it is very good at having me time travel.
I can spend days in the past, feeling guilty and saying I coulda, woulda shoulda. And just as quickly, I can be living in the future, where I am anxious over what might be. I am reminded of Mark Twain’s quote, “I have worried about a myriad of problems in my life, some of which have actually come true.”
Depression will also encourage me to magnify one aspect of a situation.
It will help me find the smallest, least important issue, and then help me make a “mountain out of a molehill.” Around the time I went to 5 East, depression had me thinking that I couldn’t turn the radio on while I was driving my truck. My depression had me convinced that if I did turn on the radio, I would arrive back home to find my house in flames.
Never mind that the probability of that happening was exceeding low.
Yet I magnified that possible outcome, even though, by asking myself a few simple questions, I would see right through that idea. When I finally challenged that unhelpful thinking, the radio in my truck came back to life. I found and still find myself singing to songs, oblivious to the looks of other drivers.
Now each time I arrive home, the house is still there, safe, secure, and not on fire.
I have spent almost four years facing my depression. I am amazed that I have not buried this episode under a rug. That was my MO for over 40 years. Attempting to ignore the bouts of depression, I was and am true to concealed, high-functioning, depression. I even have told myself that I am so good at hiding my depressive episodes, no one even knows what I am going through.
Heck, I would even convince myself that each episode was just “one of those things.”
I did not want to know what had happened. All I wanted was for it to be over. And any loose ends I discovered; I would just sweep them under the rug. I wasn’t going to admit that I had depression. Yes, there is a family history of depression, But I am the strong one. I cannot be less than perfect. I cannot show insecurity or let on that I am not confident in my decision or not confident in the direction I am going. To do this would be a sign of weakness.
Yet here I am, almost four years later, looking my depression right in the eye.
I am facing depression and working to understand my relationship with my depression. My exploration of how depression works have given me tools that are helping me see behind the curtain. And even if it takes a day or two, I eventually see what and how depression has manipulated me.
Sometimes, as soon as I have an unhelpful thought, I see it for what it is and challenge it.
My depression does not like to be challenged. It is much happier when I just fold and do what it suggests. And if I can keep whatever is going on a secret, depression really appreciates that. Depression wants a monogamous relationship and gets jealous when I include others. My depression is certain that only it knows what is best for me.
So, 526 or more blog posts later, I am still learning about my depression and our relationship.
And as much as I do not want to have major depressive disorder, I accept that depression and I will be together until the end. My goal then is to learn as much as possible about my depression. With each new revelation, I can adjust my attitude toward it.