(Language warning if you need that. *waves to family*)
I got knocked down, guys. Hard. I thought I had depression under control… I forgot that control is shaky at best when dealing with a black dog this big and mean.
Much as I don’t like to talk about it and hard as it is to post about this, I think it’s helpful to do so. I wish I’d known more people with depression when I was first struggling with it. I wish more people I liked or admired or just knew about showed me how they dealt with it, how they live good lives in spite of the fact that this shadow is always hovering over them. I wish I’d had more people to say “Yeah, this thing fuckin’ sucks. This is exactly as hard as it seems, so don’t let anyone minimize your struggle. But you are so much stronger than you think. You will beat this. And then you’ll beat it again. And it will always be worth fighting.”
So here we are, talking about it. I was really low for a while. This is a snapshot of me getting back on my feet, promising to blow shit open and get back in control of my life.
Note: This is how I’m approaching the fight this time around. It’s not advice. It’s not necessarily the best way of fighting, but it’s what’s working for me right now. And if you’re lost in your own Despair right now, this is me saying that you’re not alone. This thing is beatable, and there’s no shame in your struggle. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or with taking care of yourself.
This was my fourth or fifth big battle with depression since I was diagnosed about fifteen years ago, but this round seemed particularly unfair in its origin. It started in November, when a doctor decided to put me on antidepressants to treat my migraines in spite of the fact that I don’t have a great record with the drug he prescribed. It knocked me flat, emotionally speaking, and made my previously non-existent anxiety spike hard. I started getting off the drugs before Christmas, but the damage was done. I was not only down, but stuck.
See, when someone pushes you into a pit, the fact that they’ve stopped pushing doesn’t magically get you back to the surface. And eliminating the trigger, whether it’s chemical or situational, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to bounce right back from depression. Sometimes you do, and that’s wonderful. But not always.
It took two weeks for the pills to turn me into an emotionally-flat-yet-terribly-anxious mix of Eeyore and Piglet. It’s taken me months to get myself back to anything like normal.
Well, you know. Normal for me.
I haven’t been sad. That would require energy. I’ve been… not. I was not myself. I was not enjoying anything. I was not functioning as well as I should have, though I forced myself through editing and a book release during the worst of it. I was not thinking clearly. I was not able to take care of myself. I was just not.
Except for that frigging anxiety. That was a something that was, but that contributed a great deal to the not.
But this wasn’t my first rodeo. Though the trigger might have been a new one for me, I was walking through a dark country I’d seen before. Hell, I have the souvenir t-shirt, and I’m pretty sure my next trip will qualify me for dual citizenship. And I’ve found my way out before. I’ve had help, and I’ve fought hard. I knew I could do it again.
And I am. I’ve waited to post about it, because I didn’t want to bring anyone down (and quite frankly, I didn’t want to worry my mother if she was reading). I’m feeling better. We’re cool. I’m back to the edge of the pit. Dangerously close, but confident enough to turn around and raise my middle fingers to the depths.
So how am I fighting the drag, the lag, the damned inertia of depression? Again, this is not advice for anyone else. This is just me. NEVER TAKE ADVICE FROM ME ON ANYTHING EVER.
I force myself to move. To do something. To roll out of bed. To shower. To make the bed. To cook one good meal. To walk the dog when a nice-ish day presents itself. To stretch for five minutes. To write one blog post (hi, there!) or work for ten minutes. Sometimes one thing is all I can do, but sometimes I get a little momentum that I can use for one more thing. And one more.
I let myself breathe. I extend deadlines when I can so that anxiety has less to scream in my ear about. I let myself bounce from book to book when nothing is grabbing me during reading time, and I refuse to feel guilty when the popular thing I should love doesn’t make me swoon. I refuse to feel guilty about not being up to cooking an amazing supper every night.
I make sure my kids know that I love them, that my mood isn’t their fault, and that it’s totally cool to wear the same shirt three days in a row if someone isn’t 100% on top of the laundry. *cough*
I take days off from social media when it becomes more stressful than relaxing, and I use that time to read or re-focus.
I take my damn vitamins and get as much sun on my skin as I can. Winter in Newfoundland is hard.
And I give myself therapy. Sort of. I ask myself questions, I dig deep, and I figure shit out. It’s hard work. Really hard. But I’m making progress.
This post is already running long, so I’m going to leave it at that for now. Next time, I’ll tell you what I dug up when I asked myself some hard questions.
Yeah, it’s writing-related. And it could change everything for me.
(PS: check out the song I referenced at the top. I loves it, I do.)