I woke up this morning, as I have many mornings the last few months, lacking a sense of purpose. Depression does that. It anesthetizes even my most simple of intentions, and I struggle to remember that sunlight makes me happy, if only I would look outside and see it.
It’s been 13 years since I’ve felt this way. Twenty five years since the first time. It’s nothingness and futility, acute dread, and the stinging pain of powerlessness that turns every motion into an Herculean effort, both emotionally and physically. Who knew getting out of a chair could require such debate?
But unlike 13 years ago, I won’t put a down payment on a handgun. I won’t stare into the river and call myself Jezebel. I won’t hide under the sheets with someone who doesn’t love me or numb the numbness with a bottle of tequila.
This time, I’ve packed a more useful toolbox to work through this depression. Notice I didn’t use the words “solve” or “cure.” Solving depression is like grabbing air. Depression is in my DNA, so it will likely return some day. I want to give its reincarnations a fighting chance at being less difficult and shorter in duration, so this time, I’m allowing the feelings in rather than trying to keep them outside. Just like the smell of skunk spray, sadness and worthlessness will find their way inside. Better to keep the windows and doors open to allow fresh air to move about and neutralize the odor.
One of the tools I’ve adopted is reading positive books and reading weight-loss/maintenance blogs (many of which are written by those of you reading my own blog. I’m out there lurking, just not always commenting), and blogs that deal with everyday, real life issues. I read other people’s words for a sense of solidarity, as well as to learn how others cope with their own struggles.
Ferrucci asserts that kindness is a “universal remedy – first for the individual, for we can be well only if we are able to care for ourselves, to love ourselves.” Being kind to ourselves means being honest with ourselves, to recognize a problem rather than to pretend there is none. To illustrate, he tells the story of his son, Emilio, who was going back to school after vacation.
“He did not like the idea at all and was filled with anxiety. To him, the approach of school days was like a monster that threatened him and wanted to squash him.”
As his parent, Ferrucci would do anything to ease his son’s fears, so he decided to give his son something that was considered taboo in his family: French fries from a fast-food restaurant.
“Usually anything that is prohibited appeals to Emilio, especially junk food. I thought I had the ace up my sleeve. But no. Emilio’s reply ought to be chiseled in stone: ‘Dad, you don’t solve problems with French fries.’
“Touche. You don’t pretend problems do not exist, and you can’t solve them with ephemeral distractions. You have to face them with open-eyed honesty.”
My depression won’t go away by ignoring it. Only by saying, “I see you and I feel you” can I begin to dismantle the barbed wire fence that threatens to bloody my life.
“People wait. They wait for the elusive day when they’ll finally have enough time (guess what? – you never will), enough education (there’s always more to know), enough money (no matter how much you make, someone will always have more)…People wait until that fateful day when they wake up and realize that while they were sitting around paying dues, earning their keep, waiting for that elusive ‘perfect time’ their entire life has passed them by.”
Reading that last line, I realized that for the last few months, I’ve been sitting around waiting for depression to leave me, like it’s a houseguest who understands that her boarding pass must be used by a certain date. No, I realized, I have to be the one to kick out the houseguest, to tell her it’s time to go home now. Here, let me do your laundry, help you pack, and drive you to the airport.
Only by engaging my depression can I learn what motivates it, what feeds it. This is my depression and I am only speaking to my issues. I know depression affects individuals in many different ways and often requires medical and pharmaceutical interventions. I do not rule those tools out, but for now, therapy, reading, meditating, and crying (yes, it can be a therapeutic tool, even if it’s an all-day cry) are making a small hole in that barbed wire fence. Someday I will pass through and I will once again intuit that sunshine makes me smile.