I cannot believe depression had me thinking this.
Having just gone through a period of four weeks with increasing signs of a relapse, I am relieved that it is over. Well, over for the moment. Not over as in I will never have to go through that again. Yet each time this happens, I want to think it will never happen again.
Coming out of the abyss, I see a new world, full of possibility.
Possibility and thinking ahead, planning is a huge step forward as I leave my latest depressive episode behind. When I am in the abyss, I am up against the wall. There is no daylight, no way forward. It is just me and depression, all squashed together. Depression is grinning and I am only trying to survive another day.
READ MORE: Up Against The Wall – 10 Unhelpful Thinking Styles, May 3, 2019
Knowing how it works, you think I would know what was going to happen as a wave of depression wafts over me.
It turns out that this time, I was just drawn a bit closer to the edge. I never actually saw the edge or anything even remotely like the abyss. But all of the warning signs were flashing. My triggers were firing in rapid succession. There were tell-tale signs of withdrawal from people. Depression was attempting to separate me from my support group.
I began finding excuses to not take calls from my peer support person.
She has been such a positive influence on my understanding of depression. Plus she helps me see through what is happening and provides thought-provoking questions. She can take what I am saying and restate it in a way that lets me see what I am thinking. And she reminds me that I have others in my support group, my psychiatrist, and my counselor.
I rely on my psychiatrist for medication management.
She helped me as I began to mirror the symptoms of SAD. We tried a course of action that made things worse. And then she offered a suggestion that gave me a new lease on my day-to-day life. And as we spoke this week, she has laid the groundwork for reducing my medication as the days get longer. Being outside in the sun and fresh air is a marvelous tonic.
My talk therapist on the other hand has not heard from me in two months.
This kind of came about by accident, but I took no action to correct it. We had a session scheduled for 7:30 PM on Zoom. I was supposed to leave work at 5:00 PM, get home by six o’clock and have a bit of dinner before the call. Instead, I worked until almost 6:30 PM dealing with messy personnel issues, and then rushed home.
I was so relieved to be home, that I forgot all about the call.
The next day, I emailed and apologized for not making the appointment. We settled on a different day and time. Within 24 hours, I had let him know that I was not going to be able to make that new time. Seeing where this was headed, he suggested that he was available many evenings and all I needed to do was to let him know when we could get together.
That was two months ago, and I have still not made a new talk therapy appointment.
So as the days get longer, my outlook is getting brighter. Parts of it I am excited about. That’s the future. Parts of it I am sad about. That’s how I acted in the past. Now I am time traveling and depression is smiling. Depression knows that it is just a matter of time until it finds the right carrot to dangle in front of me. And it will use that to lead me towards the drain and then into the abyss.
READ MORE: I didn’t time travel this weekend, October 15, 2019
Does this lead me to why am I expecting to not see depression again?
What in me starts the band playing while I am calling out “kumbaya little buddy?” And what’s with all of these rainbows appearing in the sky? Why am I seeing brightly colored unicorns doing synchronized swimming?
I know deep inside me that depression and I are destined to spend the rest of our days together.
And there will be times when we are intimately connected, and times when I don’t hear so much as a peep from depression’s side of the room. This is a sobering realization. Of course, to put this in perspective, I will have hypertension the rest of my life as well. And for that, I have been taking 20 mg of Benicar for over 30 years.
My mind doesn’t jump back to those halcyon days before I was diagnosed with high blood pressure.
It’s just an unpleasant fact. I am aware of it, and I do things to mitigate it. But at the end of the day, I still have it and will always have some version of it. So, what makes my having depression any different?
Both could kill me if I didn’t pay attention to them.
And both require my daily vigilance. Taking my medication, exercising, eating well, and drinking lots of water help both conditions. These actions are easy for me. Ok, so I am currently having trouble with snacking at night. But even this is a passing thing. Longer days call me to the garden, our orchard, and many other outside interests. Each of these can involve work, but to me they are self-care.
In my work with SMART Recovery, I have learned the phrase I will lead a balanced life with depression.
This does not involve unicorns and rainbows, but it does involve work and focus. It means paying attention every day to the things I must do to stay on top of my physical and mental health. Living a balanced life also means not expecting to never see depression again. What it does mean to me is expecting to lead a life much as others do.
There will be difficulties, sadness, and joy.
But I will not let any of these feelings lead me to believe that my relationship with depression is over. Or that depression can take me to the abyss without my knowing what is happening and reacting forcefully to that. Armed with my personal WRAP plan, I have negotiated several recent attempts by my depression to lead me to the edge.
Yet going in the opposite direction has been harder for me.
I am still learning to be positive. With high-functioning depression, I can fake it in any situation. But in my own head, it has been hard for me to see and feel happiness. Once again, I am not looking for parades, rainbows, and unicorns. But with continued focus there can and will be more opportunities to feel joy and happiness.