Okay. Do you remember when I told you I’d write about depression but I had to be in my dark place to actually tell you about it? Well, here I am, deeply stuck in mental purgatory.
Here’s what it looks like from down here:
Please know that it is not easy for me to stand naked before you and share these, my most personal feelings. But, I believe that I must tell my story so that I can help others who suffer, or know or love someone who does. (There are approximately 340 million people worldwide who suffer from depression.) One of my favorite bloggers, The Bloggess recently posted about her depression. It inspired me to “come out.”
This is not going to be pretty. It could even be scary for you to read some of the thoughts I must process when I’m in this dark place.
If you believe you may think less of me or any one of my fellow humanoids who share this brain chemical issue, step away from the computer. Do not continue reading.
What I do not want this to be is a call for sympathy, or a license for you to judge anyone who has an issue with this mental illness.
(OUCH that was hard to type… mental illness)
But it’s true. You’ve heard it before. It’s just like any other illness. I cannot help that my brain chemicals sometime do not work normally. It just happens. Like diarrhea. (See, I can still keep my humor.)
It is a myth that these low spots can be helped.
Is it hereditary? In my situation, it’s very probable. I’ll let you do your own research on this. I’ve gotten beyond the why stage, and trust me; it took me decades to realize that there is no one to blame.
My child came to us through adoption, and although we do not share the same genetics, it is possible that her own heredity makes her more susceptible to depression. I have tried very hard to keep our household upbeat. I did all I could do to hide my darkest times from her when she was little. It wasn’t easy. I could win an Academy Award for some of my performances. But since she is old enough to understand, I have talked openly with her about this subject. Mental health education is as important as physical health education.
On a good day, I will tell you that it’s these dark places that fuel my creativity. It’s almost necessary for me to go into myself to find the words, or the painting, or the ideas. Its’ a part of who I am. I’d like to say I embrace it, but I don’t. I fight it.
In order to not feel alone, I did some investigating and found that I am in good company. Many artists, musicians, writers, actors and people from all walks of life deal with depression. You may be surprised.
The first time I remember feeling depressed was when I was very, very young. I must have only been about 4 or 5 years old. I recall having an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. I tied a sewing thread around my neck and placed the other end around my bed post and jumped. No one knew, except my brothers who witnessed this event. I recall them laughing. After all, who has ever heard of a suicidal preschooler? If hypnotized, I may learn that it had nothing to do with depression, and everything to do with being a part-time drama queen. I do not know. Maybe we’d just seen Peter Pan and I was inspired, and the thread was just to hold me close to home in case I did fly. Maybe that’s why I felt hopeless…because I couldn’t fly?
There was another suicidal stage when I was an adolescent. No one understood (including myself) and it was brushed under the rug. During this era, depression was taboo. No one talked about it. No one admitted to any feelings that were anything except what was considered normal. Thank goodness this has changed.
The dark place has traveled with me all these years and through trial and error I’ve learned how to tame it, to survive. Sometimes I can jump right back in the game. Others, I choose to trade in a letter and sit out a turn. Sometimes I recover in a day or two, other times it takes weeks.
No matter what, I always climb out. I know my limits. As I get older, I learn more self-help strategies.
For those of you who have never felt depression, and for those of you who may be able to relate, this is how nutty my thoughts get when I’m in my dark place:
I feel trapped, like a wild, tired, scared animal who really doesn’t know which way to turn or how to dig out. My mind is dull, yet working overtime. Nothing is processing correctly. A comment from someone turns into a threat. A small problem becomes an obsession. A tiny headache becomes a brain tumor. I look in the mirror and I see an ugly, repulsive monster. Who could possibly love me?
I quit hanging out with my friends, sure that they don’t care. I could easily be a hermit.
Paranoia takes over in this obscurity, and I fear for my livelihood, my relationships, my sanity. Anything and everything that I could possibly worry about comes up front and center.
While my mind is running away full speed on the crazy road, people on the outside think that I’m just grumpy or angry or tired, or just plain weird. It’s a type of self-absorption, maybe, but it’s unintentional. I’m quite aware that there are horrible things going on around me that are much worse than this mental state. There are sick and hurting people out there. I have no reason to feel the way I feel. I am physically healthy. I have shelter. I have a wonderful family, friends, a job, and I live in a safe environment. How could I feel depressed and so hopeless?
There are other times when I put on my best acting skills and no one knows that I’m having a hard time.
At other times, I put myself into a tail spin of anxiety and can hardly catch my breath or control my tears.
Anxiety is what I refer to as a side effect of my depression. Anxiety attacks are not fun. They are scary and debilitating. They are the physical embodiment of my mental state at the time. It’s fear, out where the world can see.
Here’s a snippet of a day in the life:
I went through my Facebook account, removed my repulsive face from my profile and replaced it with a flower. I hid a lot of my info and photos and seriously thought about closing my account all together. I looked at my friends list and thought how all of those people really hate me.
All day, I contemplated dumping my blog. It’s stupid, unnecessary and silly. Why did I think I had something to write that anyone would enjoy or find pleasure or help from? I should quit writing.
I thought of getting rid of all of my art supplies.
I went to my car at the end of the day and it was gone! That’s because I had parked it about 3 blocks in the other direction this morning and my mind was so dull and absorbed in darkness that I did not remember.
I knew I had to help myself the best I could. I walked and I worked out. I ate a healthy dinner, and got to bed early. Sleep is important. Shutting down is okay, as long as it’s at bedtime. Reading also helps. It’s a great way to let my mind travel.
Hopefully, tomorrow I will wake and be able to see that spring is all around me, I have loved ones and that it’s all going to be okay.
In the words of the late Dan Fogelberg –
I have these moments
All steady and strong
I’m feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself
Starting to crumble.
The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don’t know what you’re
Going to do next.
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message comes
Through to you.
Some kind of message comes through.
And it says to you…
Love when you can
Cry when you have to…
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand…
Please have patience with those whose light goes out for a while. They will come back, but if you fear that they are not, help them to find what helps. I know it can’t be easy living with someone who has depression issues. (Thank you, Sweetbuns ♥, for always loving me through these events.)
If you, yourself need help, seek it. There is no shame in asking for therapy or medication (I’ve had both…another true confession.)
Share your struggle. (Gee I hope I don’t regret telling all of this. Sometimes the disgrace is unbearable.) It helps so much to know that you are not alone.
Peace to you,
– Libby Lu (Debbie Downer, but for this post only…I hope. ☺)
P.S. In writing this, my cloud has lifted again. Thank goodness, for all of our sake.