A global pandemic makes my depression seem like small potatoes.
I have fought this for over 43 years, and the last bout finally landed me in the hospital. Yet, depression and I have not parted ways.
We still share the same space. My cranium is its cranium, my frontal cortex is its frontal cortex. It’s as if depression is a disease living inside of me.
And of course, it is.
Unlike Covid 19, depression will be with me for the rest of my life. Now I’m certainly not a doctor, but all indications are this pandemic will run its course. The question is, how many will die and how many will get sick enough to tax the healthcare system? How many will expose others because they do not know they are infected?
Depression statistics are a known commodity.
One in five will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime. And there are statistics on how many people take their lives annually. I am still a chicken when it comes to death and so I do not look at the statistics. But suicide is the number two cause of death for a certain age group, or at least that’s what I remember.
We do not have enough information about Covid 19 to say what we can expect.
Our world is learning about this almost at the same time. While it appears to have started in China, Italy has been the hardest hit so far. And based on a few graphs, we can expect it to get worse before it gets better.
As I near my first anniversary of checking myself into the hospital, I wonder what the rest of my life will look like.
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Am I on the right path to finally lead a balanced life with depression? Understanding that I will never be rid of depression, my goal is to understand as much as I can about it, so I can minimize its impact on my life. From what I know of depression, my life has had weeks, months, even years where depression has been in the background.
Now there are times when it sticks its nose into things it shouldn’t, but I know I have had a time where it was on holiday.
And then I have seen how vengeful and destructive depression can be. As I am learning tools to deal with depression, it is getting madder and madder at me. It can’t believe I am giving up spending my time in secret with only depression. And why in the world, it says, would I want to get in touch with my feelings? After all, most of my life’s trials and tribulations have resulted from closeness.
My relationships have been a source of resentment for depression.
Depression is much happier when I am alone. When I am alienated from others, depression has me thinking that everyone is the enemy. Thoughts like “they won’t understand” or “they are out to get me” fill my head. This makes me more secretive, which makes people seem more distant from me, which just confirms my suspicions that they are against me.
Or at the very least they are not in favor of my depression tainted plans.
The isolation I have endured in my life is epic. And the things that I have put my family through I’m sure rival any Steven King novel or horror movie. It is a wonder some of my relationships have survived. The odds certainly have not been in my favor until recently.
In many ways, my isolation was a form of “shelter in place.”
Depression had me keeping my distance from others. Getting sick wasn’t the motive, getting well was. If I interacted with others, it was possible that I would feel better. Feeling better has led to me discarding depression. Over the years, it looks like I did this a few times. And I am sure it made depression mad as hell.
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Yet I only remember being happy, not thinking that this is a break from the doom and gloom of depression.
I didn’t have the awareness of what was happening to me. And even when the clues and signs were right in front of me, I choose to ignore them. Or even make fun of them. I still call 1977 “my lost year,” and have not revisited this to understand more about what was going on in my life. I do know that depression played a major role in my actions or lack thereof. And yet, this time of self-isolation set the stage for the biggest recovery I have had in my life.
Alone and isolated as 1977 turned from summer to fall, I took up Yoga and began to run.
I started out walking, then jogging, and ended up running 6 to 7 miles a day. And by that following summer, I was in the best shape of my 22-year life. Then the next ten years would include marriage, graduation from college, an incredible rise to store manager with over 100 employees inside of a year from an entry-level management position, and the birth of my three children.
Sheltering in place, for us, was pitching our tent (home) in new towns many times in seven years.
Had I not been to the depths of the abyss, would I have found the will to go after greatness? Is there a lesson for me in how this played out? One of my Peer Advocates reminded me that in 1977, psychiatric drugs for depression were very different. The odds of me ending up with 10 years of relief would have been stacked against me at the time.
Using my own free will and exercising my body, changed my body chemistry, and produced enough positive endorphins that I could tackle complex projects and have a family.
As bad as the short-term will be, our future will be better as we come out of this global pandemic. Politico interviewed forward thinkers in many disciplines. Some of their ideas on the future of human beings give me goosebumps. The positive coming out of the negative is encouraging.
So, remember to sing two verses of Old McDonald had a farm while washing your hands, and use social distancing.
If we end up sheltering in place, I will still be writing.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.