I guess in many ways I still am.
I am learning how to live with depression after avoiding facing it for over 43+ years.
I had a whole system in place to protect myself from the truth. I lived through at least four major episodes before winding up in the hospital a year ago.
That marked the turning point in my relationship with depression.
Now I am on a first-name basis with depression. I know where it works, where it lives and who it hangs out with. I understand how it always wants to keep secrets and how it tosses land mines all over the place and gleefully watches as I step on them.
Depression loves it when it gets me to think its ideas are mine. Then it shuts me down, so I become secretive and everyone else is the enemy. Funny thing, though, once the stuff hits the fan and the plan unfurls into a real mess, depression heads out on holiday and doesn’t answer the phone.
Now it’s just me paying the bill, both financially (usually) and emotionally (always).
Lately, I have been reading over some of my first blog posts. What I was writing then was raw and unchecked. One day, I felt like a whirling dervish and I think I just made a list of everything I was thinking. No rhyme or reason, just what was popping into my head. It was my first attempt at living a more balanced life with depression.
Road rage, on the other hand, I cannot really blame on depression.
It does help to think of it as a choice and that is how I have overcome it. Or at least kept it mostly under control, most of the time. I can see when it has acted up that the true source of my “road rage” had nothing to do with the driver in front of me. I was displacing my anger at depression, my boss, a customer, or something else unrelated to the person driving.
But I can sure make it feel like it is their fault.
Now I think about unhelpful thinking styles and cannot entertain that anger. Instead, I might say something like, “boy that was a dangerous and silly thing to do” as I watch them make a right turn across three lanes of traffic, effectively cutting off several cars because they were in the wrong lane.
Going forward, I am working very hard to lead a balanced life.
Using all the tools I have learned is making the going easier. I am catching myself more quickly when I start down the “shoulda. woulda, coulda” trail. My ability to catch me time traveling has gotten better, too. I am spending more time in the present than I ever have. This is new, unexpected when it occurs and a little scary.
I was into social distancing before that was even a thing.
My motto was, “always be leaving.” An excuse to leave early, a reason not to stay, an out for not attending. I’ve got a million of them. And each one, over the years, distanced me just a little more from those I love. And those who could have been better, even closer friends.
My knowledge of people is two miles wide and two inches deep.
I know thousands of people and interact with thousands more every month. Yet, I only know the basics about almost everyone. I know you have a birthday coming up, someone else is buying their first home, another is having their second child.
All of this is great, knowing what to ask about for each person.
This forms a connection that I appreciate. But it can get uncomfortable for me if someone begins to volunteer too much information. I shut down or flee at a moment notice. “Oh, look at the time, got to run.” And I am off. No fanfare just exit stage left.
Now that I am trying to be in the moment, I am having to fight this “flight” feeling.
I would have made a pretty good caveman, I think. Well, I sure have the fight or flight part down. This has impacted decisions about my employment, where I live and who I stay in touch with. And I am sure it has impacted many other areas of my life; some I haven’t yet explored.
Allowing myself to be a mess is part of my self-care.
Understanding where I came from is helping me understand where I can go. Getting the basics of how depression operates, I am seeing how it has infected every pore in my body and still sneaks in and tries to disrupt my recovery. Finally, I am not as fearful about going back towards the abyss.
Why? Because I have my own Wellness Recovery Action Plan, I wrote out especially for me.
In it, I have written out what I look like when I am well. Then, what I am doing and feeling when I am starting to slip. And another set of conditions that mean I am closer to the abyss than to a balanced life.
Knowing what each stage looks like, and what I can do in case I am feeling like that, is what’s keeping me positive.
READ MORE: Are these really early warning signs?
I know the course is not a straight line to eternal bliss. And any life, with or without depression, will never be 100% up. Everyone has days that are less than ideal. Days, where it seems staying in bed, might be the best thing to do. Dump depression on top of that and it gets messy quickly.
So, as I work towards the end of my first year, acknowledging and facing depression, I remind myself that “I have depression, depression does not have me.”
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.