I know my depression recovery is not a straight line.
And, in the animal kingdom, some species are more active at certain times of the year. This includes raccoons that I see now on my nightly commute home. Having traveled the same back roads for almost a year, there are certain spots where I expect to see wildlife. Over the winter, I saw way more foxes than I am seeing now. Opossum was out at night for the past month. And don’t get me started on the deer.
Having had two encounters with deer since November, I am keenly aware of where I need to slow down and watch.
With the rut coming up this fall, I plan to equip my truck with a wrap-around metal guard to protect the radiator. I was much luckier than the deer that I hit, with it penetrating the front end and dislodging the radiator. But the radiator itself was not damaged and I was able to drive home. After a $2,600 repair, I hit another deer causing minor damage to the right fender. Once again, the deer did not fare as well.
As I begin to see the patterns in nature, I got to thinking about my depression and my recovery.
READ: If I Live Through This
These most recent wildlife adventures are possible because of the time of day I am commuting and the many back roads I travel. After a year, I am beginning to see a pattern in what animals I see when. And where I see them is consistent. But there are always surprises, as the second deer I hit can tell you. Or it would be able to tell you if I hadn’t hit it.
I’m finding that my depression has patterns.
Holidays, the first anniversary of being hospitalized for MDD, and significant events such as a worldwide pandemic all have an impact on my mental health. And seeing these patterns, I can better prepare for and anticipate my attitude towards them. Allowing myself to have power over my thoughts has been a struggle. But in many ways, I have done that for most of my life.
Staying away from the woulda, coulda, shoulda thinking, I have kept my focus on the present and the future.
Splashing around in the muck, feeling sorry for myself, has never been something I have engaged in. Well, at least not for long periods of time. That is one thing I am proud of when I think about all the unhelpful thinking I have done over the years.
Back to the raccoons, about 11:50 PM, I am traveling through a remote section of Orange County, and I see two eyes glowing in the grass ahead. They are bouncing along, slightly higher, then a little lower. My first thought was a fox. This is the same area where I see many foxes. Getting closer, I can see it is too wide to be a fox.
Getting even closer, while slowing down, I can see that it is a big raccoon.
It stopped moving as I went past, with its eyes watching the truck. It was very husky and well-groomed. When I see Opossum running along, they always look unkempt and in need of a bath. This raccoon was shiny and in great health. I’m guessing about this as I am not a veterinarian and I do not play one on TV.
As I passed the raccoon, I had flashbacks to two events last year.
Last summer, on the road ahead, I saw a multitude of eyes glowing at me. They were low to the ground and seemed to be tumbling over each other. Slowing down to evaluate what it was, I saw 10 to 12 baby raccoons crossing the deserted country road, with Mom or Dad leading the way.
Two nights later, I saw another raccoon family, awfully close to where I turn off our country road to head up to our house.
Seeing raccoons out and about, it makes sense that soon I should see a family on an outing. The summer brings new sightings of fox, opossum, and deer. Then when the rut kicks in in the fall, I need to be most vigilant. The deer are only interested in one thing and it doesn’t include looking both ways before crossing the road.
Depression, my depression, is exhibiting similar patterns.
Understanding that is helping me have a better attitude towards it. There will be times for moving forward and times for standing still. I could break into song or poetry; “there is a time to every season.” Yet the most important thing I take away is that different days bring different challenges, different rewards, and my attitude toward each is what I can control.
I remember last summer writing many times about one bad day.
Is this day the beginning of the end for me? I was almost obsessed with feeling positive all the time. And as soon as I had a day that was not positive, I could see myself circling the drain, one step from falling into the abyss.
Fast forward a year, and I have tools to help me make sense of each day.
I am indebted to SMART Recovery for giving me tools and training in how to handle unhelpful thinking. The many worksheets, online training, books, videos, and meetings all reinforce my goal of leading a balanced life with depression.
And my WRAP plan helps me see what I look like at different stages.
Knowing what I look like when I am well, I can better see when I am slipping. And listing triggers gives me a way to either avoid them or understand why I am feeling a certain way. I think about my struggle with road rage and slow drivers. This can be a trigger for me. Understanding that there is a season for different activities, I can look forward to things. I can also anticipate stressful times and have my toolbox open, ready to use if needed.
Knowing the raccoons are out and about, I am looking forward to seeing a family on their nighttime excursion.
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.
Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder last year, I am sharing what I learn. If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share.
I very much appreciate your comments.