Monday, April 13, 2015

When the Light Wins

Here's the thing about depression. You don't really know that you are deep in until someone points it out. Or validates it. Or notices.

At least that's how it was for me.

Today while I was working I hit a road block that had me questioning just why oh why I do the crazy work that I do when I realized something pretty big. A few months ago this very thing would have meant that my work day was over. Road blocks set me spinning into a "no go" zone which meant I might as well give up for the day. Usually it also stopped all practical work; no house work, productive errand or really, anything else would happen. Maybe I'd climb between my cozy flannel sheets and sleep or maybe just curl up on the couch and stay there.

Someone asked me a few months ago how I could tell the difference between the grief of losing my dad and depression. I didn't have much of an answer at the time--my brain was still in a fog, but the question stuck with me. Now, some distance out, I know the precise difference--in fact it is more of a Venn diagram with no intersection at all. Two different animals completely, with maybe a river or even an ocean separating them.

Grief is sadness, loss, regret for missed opportunities and a longing for things that will never be again.

Depression is hopelessness, feeling numb about everyday things (oh my God I have to choose what to eat? What to wear? Really?)  and wishing the pain of living would just be over.

That spin art of depression can take a person to some dark, dark places. For me it also hurt, I mean physically. My joints ached like I had some horrible inflammatory disease. But, the strangest symptom I experienced was an almost completely atonal voice. I think I am usually pretty expressive--but at the height of the depression it bored even me to listen to myself speak. I guess really, everything was flat: voice, energy, will to live.

I'm sure losing my dad contributed to my depression in some ways as did a whole lot of other events in my life. It's not been a good year. Or years. But some of this is about the way I think and the way I've been thinking all my life. Negative, or well, horrible and abusive self-talk can pile up a bit over the decades. It's kind of like laundry--the pile grows and grows until pretty soon you've got nothing left to wear. No place to hide.

For me I came to a point when something happened that one distant part of me recognized as just not OK. It was just too far, and if I squinted a little I could see that maybe I was actually worth at least a smidge more. That's when I finally called the therapist a friend recommended. It was hard to get that diagnosis--the validation that no, it actually was not OK. I was not fine. And not everyone feels this way. Not just depression, but severe. Like--really severe depression with a couple of co-diagnoses for good measure. It was an earthquake of the soul.

Bad stuff. Bad news.

But no. Actually, no. It was not bad news. It was good news. It was really good news because therapy with a good therapist begins to rewire the thoughts and feelings and reality that we all build for ourselves. For me Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a good fit, and it has mended some of my very broken places, at least a little. Still, though, I have done some damage in my life that I'm not sure can be repaired. Folks think I'm maybe just not very organized or that I have terrible follow through. I see it and hear it in the daily interactions. And while my memory is much better I still have a hard time remembering details. Hell, I'm always bad at details and have developed elaborate systems to track them in my normal life. But this depression was brutal on my ability to recall, well, anything.

In truth and hindsight I should have taken a few weeks or maybe months off from work. But in the deep depths it's hard to know what you need. Impossible, even. It never occurred to me to ask.

So, here I am. Hitting road blocks and actually navigating around them. Getting better. Being better.

That is good news. Victory really. I am rebuilding my life. Finding joy and hope. Mental health trouble is so wildly stigmatized in our world, yes still, that I deeply fear even talking about it because, well, because of job searches and personal and professional reputation and being judged for what happened to me as being my new normal when it is absolutely not. But to hide is to be ashamed of the depression. And that gives it power.

That is not OK. No more power for the pull of the dark side. No more. It's over. The light won and the truth is I know that if not right this minute, that pretty soon I'm gonna be OK. For real. Whole and holy and good. And that is a good thing, a very good thing indeed.


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