I must tell you I am very unsettled about this.
On the one hand, I have collected and am using a wealth of knowledge about depression. My personal experience includes high-functioning depression, concealed depression, and Major Depressive Disorder. Recently, it was pointed out by my psychiatrist that Anxiety has been present.
My life with depression spans 50 years., and yet I am still here, still working away to lead a normal life.
Defining normal has changed for me, especially in the past 28 months. Spending four days in 5 East set me in a brand-new direction. I developed a new attitude towards my depression. It was in the hospital that I discovered, “I have depression, depression does not have me.” I learned that I cannot control events, but I can control my attitude towards these events.
Attitude, my attitude, is the only reason I am still here today.
Or I may be here because I am too afraid of not being here. I have said before that I have not made my peace. My life is still unfolding, and I want to hang on to every piece that I can, for as long as I can. There is still so much I want to see, including watching my children develop their own lives, complete with grandchildren.
Ok, so it is only one grandchild so far, but I know more are coming at some point.
So, I am committed to being here for as long as I can. And I am learning every day about how depression niggles its way into my everyday life. Unhelpful thinking styles used to be automatic. Even as I bragged to myself that I didn’t do that, I was clearly an expert in many of the top ten.
I am still working on decision-making, trying to understand what I decided and what depression helped me decide.
There is a body of scientific work surrounding decision-making and depression, but it is not focused on my question. It seems clear, that people experiencing depression score lower on tests that measure their quickness in identifying things like patterns or differences in objects. My question surrounds how much of my decisions are depression and how much is on me.
If I were not experiencing a depressive episode, would I still have made the same decision?
My life would have been markedly easier, had I not made certain decisions. And knowing that, I can quickly descend into a woulda, coulda, shoulda state. This pity party begins to suck me into the abyss, circling the drain as I bemoan my fate.
“If only they had not made me…” is the next step, blaming my decisions on outside forces, which are vague and undefined.
They are a way to shift the blame for a decision and its outcome away from myself and onto others. Anyone but me must be responsible for my depressive episode. I am too smart to let this happen. Exceptional forces must have created conditions where I was powerless to make a different decision.
“Its any one else’s fault, it’s not mine.”
I know a little bit about depression and unhelpful thinking. In the past year, I have recognized it not only in the big moments of my life but in the small, day-to-day decisions we all make. Depression can be very, very sneaky and is able to work its unhelpful thinking into the smallest of decisions.
This has opened my eyes to one-way depression works.
So, what do I do with all this information? I can use it for my own benefit. In fact, most of the first year after my hospitalization, this is what I told myself I was doing. I enrolled in a SMART RECOVERY meeting leaders’ course. I received my certificate in November of that year. Through On Our Own, I discovered WRAP and wrote out my own personal wellness recovery action plan.
My therapist and I use the Change Triangle to map out situations.
I have read books too about how to use the change triangle. And then there is DBT. I have devoured several books and books on tape about the subject. I have attended Peer Support group meetings that have made me appreciate what others are going through.
This has given me a new perspective on who is really a superhero.
With all this knowledge wrapped up in 50 years of living with depression, what is the next step? Should I be content to use this knowledge only for myself? 50 years is a long time to not know, or even want to know, what was happening when depression was at its strongest.
Or can I use this information to help others see there is hope?
With over 427 blog posts shared with the world, I have not kept my diagnosis a secret. But I also have not actively promoted it anywhere but on my blog. Ok, so I am sharing on Pinterest, too. But I have steered away from sharing at work, on Facebook, or even to relatives that weren’t aware of my hospital stay.
Stigma is what I fear.
And I haven’t been strong enough to face that. At least not so far. My journey with depression has covered most of my life. Yet my attitude towards depression has only had 28 months to develop. I know I can and will continue to get stronger.
My attitude towards depression is markedly different than before my hospitalization.
Before, I was much more interested in putting whatever had happened behind me. I didn’t want to know that it was depression. There was no learning what had happened so I could prevent it in the future,
Sweeping the leftovers under the rug and moving on as if nothing had happened was how I dealt with each episode. That is until this last time.
This time, I knew that I had three choices:
- End it all
- Keep doing the same thing and keep expecting different outcomes
- Seek professional medical help
Being a chicken, I could not see taking my life. Choice #2 was looking crazy, as I had tried that over and over, and had never gotten a different result. This left choice #3, which that morning, was the least frightening of the three choices I had.
So, I continue my journey with depression.
Thankfully, I have a new attitude about my relationship with depression. Now to be clear, this has developed over time. The first few weeks after I was released from the hospital, I really saw no path forward. It was just putting one step in front of the other. Finding and joining On Our Own was a huge step forward. The Peer support and tools I was introduced to at On Our Own have made a gigantic difference in my life. I will always be thankful for finding them.
Once again, I circle back to what’s next?
Going forward, there is a myriad of possibilities, but today, it is living a balanced life with depression.