Facing my depression, and saying it’s name out loud, has been work.
Sometimes the work has been exhausting. It has only been easy on rare occasions. Most of the time some effort is required on my part to call out depression’s antics and to work through an alternative that doesn’t involve unhelpful thinking.
Yet in the past, time travel worked.
I was able to ruminate about the past without having to face the consequences. And getting to hang out in the future gave me plenty of time to daydream. So, I wasn’t wasting time trying to make sense of my thoughts and actions. I was free to dawdle anywhere in time I would like, just by envisioning it.
READ MORE: I didn’t time travel this past weekend. October 19, 2019
This superpower, the ability to time-travel, gave me enormous strength.
I used the power to see the future. It was easy to make things happen because I would have a vision of what I wanted, and then I set my mind to making it happen. Any and everything that furthered my goal I clung to. Any thought or idea that was negative to my vision, I quickly discarded.
Time-travel gave me the power to create.
And my success rate for achieving the dreams I envisioned has been incredibly high. I built a vending business from $90,000 in annual to sales to over $250,000 (that’s a ¼ of a million dollars) in 21 months. I joined a big box retailer as a senior manager and set my sights on becoming a general manager. Within 7 years I had achieved that goal. There were less than 300 GMs when I was promoted, now the company has over 800.
And while all this personal growth was going on, I had depression.
During my focused achievement time, I ignored any signs of depression. Being less than perfect was not an option. Failing to achieve my goal, once set, was not an option. And even a hint of me being human and having human frailties was not something I was ready to hear.
I was a superhero and needed to see that without distraction.
Now I am human, and humans have human limitations. We cannot breathe underwater like a fish without wearing a wet suit and tank. Or survive in outer space without a spacesuit and all that goes with it. And we cannot pretend certain diseases are not real and ignore their consequences. Sometimes, what we chose not to know will kill us.
Biological depression, depression that is in our genes, never gives up. It wants to be a significant part of our daily lives. Well, I am sure that my depression is of that mind. It hints, cajoles, and intimates ideas that it is certain I will adopt. Then the secrecy begins. It knows better than any of my support groups. What could they tell me that would be better than what depression lets me think?
I can think whatever I want when I am with depression.
And depression always agrees with me. I don’t have to discuss options or try to imagine how an action will make others feel. Depression makes sure I believe it is all about me. And it is only about me. With considerable patience, depression hangs around, just out of view, signaling signs of encouragement that I consume. And it always feeds me what I want. No Brussel sprouts, just red meat, and potatoes.
My depression does these things without any thought for its own needs.
Yet its goal is to put me up against the wall so tightly, that I cannot see any way forward. The metaphor of the abyss is, for me, an accurate depiction of the sense of nothingness depression can share with me. When I am in depression’s complete grasp, I could be in a black hole where no light escapes. In those moments, depression is in its glory.
READ MORE: Up Against The Wall – 10 Unhelpful Thinking Styles, May 3, 2019
My suicide is not depression’s endgame, for then its host is gone.
Depression knows that I am so terribly chicken about death, that I could never go through with it. So it can get me into the abyss over and over without losing its partner. And when the episode ends, as it has every time so far, depression takes a holiday while I pick up the pieces.
Once again, I have started down a train of thought and have been derailed.
Last night before going to bed, I scratched “should I forget facing it?” on a pad I keep on my bedside table. Writing a note about what’s on my mind at bedtime lets me sleep knowing I will be reminded of that thought or idea when I arise the next morning.
For almost three years since I made the choice to face my depression, I have been seeing the subtle ways depression acts.
And I have been amazed at how my depression can infiltrate even the simplest of decisions. If I go to visit Mom, then depression reminds me that I should be working on getting tax information together. If I work on the taxes, depression makes me feel guilty for not visiting Mom.
This often is just life, not necessarily life with depression.
However, depression seems to exaggerate and intensify my feelings. It soon becomes all or nothing. Either I go see Mom or I am the worst son that there has ever been. Ever!
I don’t remember feeling all this guilt before I faced my depression.
Why is it coming out now? At times, there is even some shame mixed in with the guilt. I am ashamed of my thoughts, that I would think preparing our taxes was more important than visiting my mother.
Before coming out to myself, these thoughts were not top of mind.
It’s possible and probable that I would spend time with unhelpful thinking. I’m sure we all do at some point in our lives. Now, for me, it is that constant, day-to-day, role that I see these thoughts assuming. Instead of having an unhelpful thought every so often, most days I have worked through ½ a dozen before lunch.
Challenging these thoughts requires a huge investment of energy on my part.
And believe it or not, I only have so much energy to expend each day. Now that’s another thing I don’t believe I focused on before my hospital stay 3 years ago. It never occurred to me that I could not do something. I never thought, “I only have so much energy today, do I want to spend it unproductively?” Weighing the consequences of my actions was never much of a thing.
If I wanted to do it, I did it. And if I did not want to do it, I did not. I am remembering my thoughts in a simplistic way. For example, I wanted to go float fishing for the weekend with some of my friends and we went. I had talked about it with my wife, and she supported it.
So, I went fishing, without dragging a bag of guilt behind me.
Now, both the canoe and the Jon boat sit, and I rarely even think about fishing. There was a time I lived for it. And each of my children shared that at the lake. There was no huge amount of guilt following me, like the dirt trail behind Pigpen in the peanuts cartoon.
The jury is still out on my facing my depression
Understanding what it is and what it has done over the years gives me great insights into both depression and me. And facing it does make it harder for depression to pull me into the abyss. In fact, I have pulled out my Wellness Recovery Action Plan several times in 36 months.
Each time, I was able to see where I was, and what I looked like when I was well.
Then I could look at what I needed to do to get back on track. And I have done this. Plus, I have a support team that I never knew existed. It turns out they had been there all along, but I had not recognized them. All the tools I have been introduced to have made a huge difference in my ability to keep depression from gaining a foothold inside my head.
The consequences of my decision to face depression I am still discovering.
I have no regrets about my decision to seek professional medical help. However, I am still learning how I will use my newfound information about my depression to lead a balanced life with depression.