Well, I couldn’t start your week with a post about DEPRESSION, so I decided to wait until Tuesday. It’s a good thing, too, because I’m feeling better anyway. Several people have asked me about this depression-thing since I’ve mentioned it a few times lately, so I will try to clarify.
For those of you who might think depression is just a bunch of hoo-ha or is an example of “White People Problems,” well…the thing is…I get it. When I’m not depressed, I think those things, too. Then, when I am depressed, or even come close, I think, Oh, shit. I forgot this is REAL.
Interesting observation: The people who have either been through depression themselves or been around me when I’m depressed have asked: “Is it coming?” The people who don’t have personal experience with it ask, “Are you sure you’re not just a little down?”
The answer to both of these is: “I don’t know.” First of all, past experience shows me that I don’t really know I’m in a depression until I’m out of it. Second of all, past experience shows me that “a little down” sometimes leads to “can’t get out of bed” and this is what makes me more terrified than other people of feeling “a little down.”
There are all sorts of suspected causes and treatments and preventative measures for depression. I’m interested in learning about them when I’m well. When I’m depressed, I’m only interested in getting better. Either that, or dying. I’m not being sarcastic or lighthearted. While I’ve never considered or attempted suicide, I have thought, many times, “I might be the first person who has died from despair and that would be OK.”
This post would be way too long if I wrote everything I have to say about depression, so I’ll just say this: I have both genetic and environmental factors that contribute to depression. I experienced depression a good ten years before I understood what it was. Being pregnant and having the twins made it significantly worse, yet, ironically, gave me a tangible reason to get better. I firmly believe in a mind-body connection and understand the resistance many people have to medication. I also believe that sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Right now I’m taking a small dose of an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant drug (a serotonin and norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor for those of you who understand this) and working with a therapist on “self-care,” which means sleeping, exercising, meditating, eating, etc…. The sorts of things that seem to come automatically and easily to some people that become debilitating for me when I’m all fucked up. (Pardon me, Mr. and Mrs. W, for the lack of a better description.)
Here is a post I began last week, that I couldn’t finish. For whatever reason, I have woken up the last two days with peace, clarity, and energy and can finish it now.
I was hoping I’d feel better by now, but I don’t. Not really. I’m hesitant to say I have sunk, but I do feel like I’m sinking. It makes blogging scarier than usual because I feel like my old companion, Depression, has been rough on our friendship in the past. Depression is rough on all my relationships in such cruel, paradoxical ways. It makes me irritable and then the people I love, who normally don’t irritate me, do. It makes me negative and tells me no one wants to listen to my negativity. I get angry or, more passively, feel anger, which isn’t so normal for me. All of this—the irritability, negativity, and anger—cause me to isolate myself and then I feel dropped (to use a cycling term) and alone. It’s a vicious cycle that gets hard to break.
So far, blogging has been part of my “practice,” in the same way running, meditation, and yoga have. I love the idea that meditation is just practice; it takes the pressure off from feeling like you fail if you aren’t getting it right. I practice mediation on a regular basis when things are going well so that the routine feels familiar and safe when things aren’t going so well. I think this is probably why runners are often so methodical and sometimes called “obsessive” about their sport. It’s the same for most people, I think, about whatever their rituals of choice are. It’s so comforting to slip into a state of mind that feels like home. When I went through training to be a flight attendant, one of my instructors told us, if we begin to melt down in times of stress, to stop and brush our teeth. It’s a ritual that has become so automatic, we sometimes do it without even thinking. When the mind is stressed, it needs this sort of automatic, soothing, repetitive motion to bring it a sense of calm. (One time, back when I was single, I got super-stoned at a friend’s house and grabbed the nearest toothbrush. I went to town on my teeth, which helped, but my friend’s roommate, the owner of the toothbrush, was pissed.)
Anyway. So far, blogging has been practice. But when we started this, I knew a time might come when it would be harder to share my thoughts with you and our readers. Most of the time, I feel like I could write all day. But sometimes, the words are slower to come or feel like they aren’t there at all. I promised myself, even during those times, I would try—keep practicing—as hard as I could to be honest and real.
I’ve been going to weekly sessions with my therapist. She mentioned recently that we may want to give the bi-polar diagnosis another look. I said that it’s possible I’m on the spectrum, but I want to be on as little medication as possible. I’ve cut way back on anti-anxiety meds, and am hoping to cut back on my anti-depressants altogether. We came to a mutual agreement that I should have time to re-establish my “self-care,” which has gone by the wayside with the move.
So I pretty much forced myself to the gym at the Y this morning, to get in a run. Outdoors is almost always better for me, but the treadmill lets me put Sola in childcare and work up a sweat. It seemed harder than usual to get there this morning. I didn’t like the way someone had parked their minivan in a “compact car” space. It felt like a slap in the face of humanity. The regular worker at the child center was gone and her sub seemed harsh to me. I didn’t like that she was focused on making a child who is new say “please.” By the time the Russian woman at the towel counter gave me a hard time for asking for two towels, I was ready to burst into tears. I saw my reflection rushing past the mirrored weight room. The woman I saw looked tired. Sad. Unattractive—no—ugly.
I have a routine on the treadmill at the Y. I walk a half-mile at 4.0 mph before settling into a 5k run. I’m not a fast runner: I start at a 6.0 mph pace (about a 10-minute mile) and vary the pace, going up or down when I feel like it. Today, when I got up to 6.0 mph, I still felt like I could cry at any moment. I decided that I would increase the speed by .2 mph (I’m an even-number person, unless I’m hanging pictures) until I didn’t feel like crying. I went to 6.2. I settled in for a bit. I felt like crying. I went to 6.4. I settled in for a bit. I still felt like crying. I kept going, pausing at each increase for a minute or so, until I reached 7.4 mph.
By then, my legs and lungs and arms and mind felt like they were wild and on fire and could tear down the Palo Alto YMCA board by board.
And I didn’t feel like crying.