So that post yesterday, maybe you liked it, which would delight me. Maybe you didn’t, maybe because you suffer from depression and want to smash my face for having the audacity say that shit will even work. You know what? Sixteen years ago, I would have been right there with you.
You see, I suffer from depression and have for my whole life. It has taken me to dark and horrid places, including first wanting to kill myself at the ripe old age of eight. I even started, with this blue and yellow jump rope. I wrapped it around my neck and pulled, tight as I could, until I realized I didn’t have the strength to finish and had no idea how to tie a noose. Thank goodness there was no such thing as an internet tutorial back then.
The depression waxed and waned, and the next time I felt suicidal was in high school, which is difficult enough, but I had a LOT of drama at home. The final straw on my fragile camel’s back happened when a “friend” super-glued all of my folders together in the library. In theory it is funny, and I would like to laugh about it, but, even some twenty-five years later, I am overwhelmed with the same feeling I had when it happened. The body remembers. I flipped out and was wise enough to tell my parents I needed counseling. It helped, and I actually felt good for a while.
Most often, my depression manifests itself as a gloomy heaviness and negativity with mind-blowing head aches. What actually led me to discovering that I suffered from it and not something else was a doozy of a head-splitter in my early twenties that lasted two years. My doctor gave me every medication and shot imaginable, but nothing helped. Which made me worry and feel heavier and my head ache more. It was an awful cycle.
I finally saw a neurologist to eliminate the possibility of a brain tumor. My first MRI, and it was scary! The doctor found no tumor but rather matter-of-factly gave me a prescription for anti-depressants and a referral to a psychiatrist. Zing!
She didn’t do a lot to help me, including putting me on lithium (very bad news for my body), save confirm the fact that I was indeed depressed (ah, the DSM IV), and from my history and that of my family, had likely suffered, on and off, since I was a wee sprout.
In some ways, the diagnosis was freeing. I did not have a brain tumor! I was not dying! My head was feeling better! But it did nothing for the heaviness, the inability to escape the couch, bathe, even blink. I remember my eyes burning from staring intently at the wall and me actually telling myself that it would be okay to do it, that it was better than the pain I was feeling. So sometimes I blinked, and sometimes I didn’t, preferring the pain and feeling like I deserved it, for some unknown sin (damned childhood Catholicism).
I should also mention that much of this happened in the first years of my marriage. How about them apples? More reason to extol the virtues of that hubster of mine because he helped me (and continues to do so) in ways beyond measure and tolerated a shit storm of wicked behavior on my part.
After giving up on my first psychiatrist, my neighbor, Judy, who also suffered from depression, recommended that I get a counselor and a psychiatrist; one for talking, the other for prescribing. “Because psychiatrists are lousy with feelings.” My counselor’s name was Nancy, plump and pretty, with a sweet voice. I did not like her. She told me things like, “Take a bubble bath!” and “Make a list of what makes you happy!” Maybe like you yesterday, all I wanted to do was smash her face. She had not one fucking clue. So I stopped seeing her, stuck with my new psychiatrist, and coped as best I could.
I finally knew what was happening and had my meds. They had some wretched side effects, like hair loss, seeing stars all the time, and being dizzy while lying down. But, at least I wasn’t suicidal and my head didn’t hurt like it had before, though I still got migraines from time to time.
Then we moved to Oregon, I found a new doctor, and my life began to change. I asked him to renew my meds, and he suggested otherwise. I listened (and have not taken medication since). He had other suggestions, too, like lying to myself. “I don’t feel so bad.” “I can do this.” “It’s okay.” “That animal is not dead but, rather, sleeping.” He suggested exercising more, too, and I did.
That’s when I found yoga. And as much as this will sound like treacle to some, it changed my life. That first class was the first time I didn’t hear all the voices in my head telling me how worthless I was. Oh, gosh, I guess I forgot to mention that, the inner critic. Well, mine, like the amp in Spinal Tap, went to eleven. So imagine that, from eleven to quiet! And it helped with the pain of my endometriosis, too. I found my holy grail! Praise be to everything stretchy and bendy!
After that, yesterday’s list started to take shape. I read books and searched my soul. I saw another counselor. Flash forward to today. I now practice yoga at least five times a week. I walk. I dance. I lie to myself. I do everything on that list and more. So, sorry Nancy, maybe you did have a clue.
And, yet. I still get depressed and even suicidal, for though my nature is happy, my chemistry is not. I recently discovered that I have a genetic mutation that predisposes me to this, but I will tell you about that later. The fact is, I choose happiness (people hate that one, too), every single day, and work my ass off to keep the claws of depression from digging too deeply, from swallowing me whole.