Update 2016: This article was featured in my book
"Saying NO to Suicide", with added commentary.
Sometimes when faced with encroaching Depression we are given a choice: to exercise will and overcome or give in and wallow.
In my last article on the subject (Part I), I discussed my daughter's own struggles with Depression and how she chose to give in to the sadness. No matter how much I encouraged her to fight it off, only when she decided she was done being depressed did she summon the will to do so. Today I will share a bit of my own struggles with Depression.
I received some bad news yesterday*. It was crushing news, actually. I spent the night devastated, then began my day feeling no better. When I awoke this morning I simply did not want to get out of bed. I lied there doing nothing except feeling sad. A little later, after I had convinced myself to move about, my thirteen year old said she had never seen me so depressed in her life, not even when I was approaching the Big Four Oh and hadn't made many of my personal goals. I was so sad I could barely function. I didn't eat. I didn't shower. I managed to dress in clothes from the day before. Then I sat there at the kitchen table feeling so miserable I could scarcely find the energy to breath.
The black dog had grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and was dragging me down further. This was how I used to feel years ago before I learned how to manage it. So what was I going to do about it now?
I began by self-analyzing. Did I have reason to be depressed? Boy, howdy, did I. OK, next question: Was what I was feeling appropriate for the situation? Heck, yes. This, of course, is the flaw in the system. If I'm too depressed I'll answer "yes" every time. There is a third question, however: Do I want to continue feeling this way? Whether I feel justified to be depressed or not, the answer to this question is always "no". The crushing sadness, the darkness at the edges, and the thoughts of "they'd all be better off without me" are all foolishness born of Depression.
I decided to clean the dishes thinking that organizing messes always lifts my spirits. Unfortunately, I could barely move a cup before being overwhelmed. I tried again. And again. Each time I cleaned a bit, but then could do no more. Finally, I asked my daughter for help. This was the turning point for me. I had made the decision to come out of my shell instead of remaining depressed.
Next, I fed myself, something I had been telling myself I didn't deserve. Then, I logged out of @TheLaughingImp over on Twitter (way too busy) and focused in on my quiet stream, @DouglasCootey. I did this because the constant flow of information was overwhelming. I needed to reduce noise and distractions. I then commented on my condition, but then noticed a friend was feeling down. I tried to cheer her up. This was my next turning point: caring about somebody more than myself. I also had a friend do the same for me. Within a short time, my spirits had been buoyed and I was feeling better.
Looking back I am struck by how seemingly insignificant my efforts were. What banal activities! Yet at the time they were monumental efforts. Don't worry, however. I won't bore you with a complete list of my baby steps. Things improved quite rapidly at that point. After reading some news, I called both my Senators and my Representative and gave their receptionists a piece of my mind over this bailout debacle. I even declared I would not vote for them if they voted for the bailout as it was currently detailed. That felt great.
My heart still ached as if it had been gouged with pretty, purple fingernails, but I was coping. I was surviving. I was managing. Then I went out for a bike ride and pushed that aching heart so hard I thought it might pop. In the end, no more blackness. The dark clouds had cleared away.
Depression for me is a low note that sounds in the background of my life. The trick is to not let it drown out the other sounds. I have developed a method of dealing with depression and it works for me and others. We decide to not wallow and to push the depression back. We change our thinking so that we can change our lives. It is difficult, but ultimately rewarding. For many people, anti-depressants are not an option. We are either sensitive to their side-effects, unable to afford them, or ideologically opposed to them.
And that bad news? It's turned around. Do you know why? Because I climbed out of my depression to resolve the situation. Allowing myself to remain in the sway of Depression has never served me well. Nothing good comes out of it. Instead, I fight and I win and I live to smile and even laugh. If I had allowed myself to sink and wallow into a deeper depression, I would not have been able to resolve anything.
We truly do have a choice to exercise our will and fight or to give in and wallow. Antidepressants cannot help everybody. Some of us need to dig ourselves out of the hole.
If you've battled depression and won, how did you go about doing it? I'd love to read about your experiences.
Read more on this topic:
Depression: Will or Wallow? Part I
Depression: Will or Wallow? Part II
Depression: Will or Wallow? Part III
*This article details events that occurred on Thursday, September 25th, 2008.
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