A year ago, I wouldn’t have given much credence to the concepts of ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’ as serious afflictions. I never gave much consideration to the thought of ‘being depressed’ or ‘feeling anxious’ as a condition. To me, they seemed like things that should be acute – like hunger or a headache. I have certainly felt anxious – before an important meeting or when I was worried about something in particular – but I never quite made the connection when people declared that they had panic attacks or general anxiety.
When someone said that they were depressed, my first mental question was “About what?” You can’t just be depressed – you have to be depressed because your dog died or somebody called you a scruffy-looking nerf herder. And you just came to the realization that you are scruffy-looking. That’s depressing.
My logical, neat front brain has lately been engaged in a border dispute with my cave-man medulla oblongata for control of some of my daily functions. Like heartbeats. My doctor says the heart palpitations are from stress and anxiety. I’m learning now that trauma from long ago can trigger real physical reactions in the present that are quite disturbing. Reactions that I can’t control or predict, and that’s pretty frightening for someone who has always prided himself on being in control. Control by repression can only work for so long. At some point the dam breaks.
Anxiety is like that lead apron they put on you when they take dental X-rays. It sits on your chest and makes you fully aware of each breath. It feels hot. When it gets bad, you can add water to the equation – instead of a life vest, you’re wearing that lead apron in a pool and it’s dragging you under. You gasp for breath, your heart pounds in your chest, and the world around you takes on muted colors. Imagine if someone unexpectedly popped a balloon right next to you – that sudden feeling of panic and a need to flee – but that feeling can last for hours instead of moments. Panic attacks are now a real thing to me.
Depression, on the other hand, has been my roommate for quite some time – I just hadn’t noticed him. Depression is the slacker friend inside me who says “I can’t”, “I won’t”, or more honestly “I just don’t feel like it.” He likes to wear sweatpants and watch TV on the couch. He keeps me up late talking on and on about how much his life sucks and who did what to him. He eats too much, cares too little, and would rather stare blankly at his keyboard than update his blog. What’s the point, anyway? Why bother? Who cares? He sure doesn’t.
I identified that guy a couple of days ago and I’m calling him out. I don’t like him. In fact, I think I can honestly say that I hate him. I hate what he does to me. I’m going to fight him and I’m not going to let him take me. He is me, but he’s a manifestation of what events in the past have done to me, not a reflection of what’s currently going on in my life today or what could happen tomorrow. I am no longer being bullied by kids on the playground. I am not watching my parents fade away from illness. Those things and more happened – but I’m still here. I just have some screwed-up connections in my brain that I need to get straightened out.
I am always functional even at my lowest points – I’m able to get up and go to work and do what needs to be done, but I’m not having much fun doing it. I’m not enjoying myself when I’m in one of those down cycles, I’m just putting one foot in front of the other and slogging through the day. I feel bone-tired all the time, but sleep can be elusive or filled with horrible dreams. My brain hates me, and I hate what’s hidden in its depths. Depression is walking through thigh-deep mud in the dark – to a place where you didn’t really want to go in the first place.
Despite the protestations of that guy on the couch, I’m going to move forward. When the weather permits, I’m going for a walk. When it doesn’t, I still have an exercise bike and plenty of places to (not) go. Maybe I’ll sit here and type cathartic gibberish like this in a blog post or I’ll go and talk to my therapist – take that, sweatpants guy. He knows I know he’s not paying rent here, and that lessens his power. He doesn’t like it when I throw the curtains open and let in some daylight. Too bad. He didn’t stop me from buying a house. He didn’t keep me from writing this page. Some days I win.
I’m hoping a change of venue and climate in the near future will help even more. Talking and writing are good, but I feel the need to do. I have a million things I want to do, but right now I can’t. I’m just hoping that when I can, I will still want to.
I just noticed I used the word ‘hope’ a couple of times. I think hope is good. At least it’s the opposite of despair.