Friday, March 17, 2017

Thoughts on the Color of Depression

Depression is an illness.  It is not an easy thing to describe because it is different for everyone who is afflicted with it [think 500 shades of black].  Its' onset is bedeviling.  It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.  See that very slap-happy person over there?  Chances are he or she is actually a person suffering from depression.  See the extremely successful professional?  Chances are there are deep down fears that propel them to seek success continually, and it's  not about's about how deeply they are depressed.

Depression doesn't disappear overnight.  Catchy pep talk-like "Buck up!  It'll be a great day!" have no effect on depression, other than to make it worse in the individual suffering from it, and such sayings have no true positive value.  It is the kind of reaction people have when they can't "fix" depression.  They don't want to "catch it" either, when they see it in someone else.

Those of us who suffer from chronic depression don't have the smart answer to "What is wrong with you?" or "What are you upset about?".  I honestly believe people want to help us out of the "darkness".  But what is it we are "in"?   Darkness, it seems, isn't always black or a state of blindness and floundering.  This "darkness" is without color or hue.  It exists where no one else can see it but the person afflicted with chronic depression.  It blankets the interior of the mind, clouding cognitive ability, as well as creating an immobilizing effect on the person it covers.   We want to do things, productively, creatively, socially.  Yet, we are paralyzed, stuck and unable to take action.  We often don't sleep well, have flashbacks, anxiety attacks, and forget to eat.  We sit in dark rooms, staring out of windows, and we are numbed by it as if by anesthesia.

We don't want to be this way but it seems there is no way out from under "the blanket".  Medications, psychotherapy, groups, journaling are a few of the ways depression can be treated.  And there are times none of these treatments work.  That's when the patient suffering from depression needs to call a friend or minister, or a help line network to stop the feeling of being on a runaway train, out of control and down a steep mountainside, thinking that an even deeper darkness can make the train stop, when the darkness becomes too, too much and the person ends up in a black tunnel of self-loathing with apparently no escape.

So what do we do about it?  For the person afflicted with depression, it is a constant pushing against the bubble from inside out, trying to break through.  It is a tremendous effort to lift "the blanket" that weighs so heavily upon us as we struggle to take a step forward.  We expose ourselves to as much daylight as possible, as we have been told it will help lessen the sadness.  And sometimes, it helps.  But then the next day comes, and the Greek myth plays itself out again.  Sisyphus trying to roll the great stone uphill only for it to fall back down to the base of the mountain.  Trudging back down, we keep trying, and trying, and trying.

We engage in real practises to help get us jump started the next day.  These practises can be physical:  walking, running, yoga, martial arts.  These practises can also be spiritual:  meditation, contemplation, prayer. Usually morning is my window of opportunity, and if I miss it, well, the rest of the day is a wasteland.  So far I have highly unsuccessful at restarting my walking regimen begun in 2009, and in 2012 I was running again.  I had lost 100 pounds and felt at the top of my game and in the best health...probably ever.  Depression overcame me though and in 2013 I almost stopped walking completely and gained back 30 of those hard-fought for pounds.  Add some fiscal issues, health issues, and personal issues and you have the ingredients that call Depression's name and here it comes a-runnin' to do its duty.  It's like being in quicksand or a sticky mud bog.

It hits when you are down most the time.  The sneak attacks when you are at your peak of joy or success.  Bam.  Add 45 more pounds in 2014-15 and well, part of you thinks, "Whats the elf-ing point?".

So are we hopeless cases that have no chance at a life free from Depression?  Yes and no, sometimes and sometimes not.  There are new and improved medications, the therapy of kindness, patience and love that some friends have and others need to learn. Learning how to take the air out of seemingly overwhelming circumstances can be done, with the right support and perspective. Somehow I have managed to learn a few techniques for de-stressing, seeing a thing and confronting it in such a way as to have the upper hand but a gentle one toward the thing and myself.

Learning to understand that being alone is not loneliness, that being solitary is not a prerequisite to isolation; one can be social to the degree one is comfortable and know that you can politely retreat from social settings without feeling weird about it, or that someone will judge you on it [and if they do, that's their problem, not yours].

Physical activity is helpful but don't think it has to be all about "exercise".  That is an automatic turn off for most people with Depression. If you are a neat freak, then Spring clean as needed [and no, you don't have to wait until actual Spring arrives]. Gardening, yard work, hedge trimming, painting the house, basic house maintenance.  Beading, knitting, sewing, coloring [as in an actual coloring book--they are all the rage now], and other forms of expression are good too, as is screaming into a pillow, writing a letter but not sending it, and so on. I have found that moving furniture around every week or so is also a form of exercise.  Puzzles, taking an engine apart and putting it back together is a puzzle for most of us, walking your dog, cat or other animal or reptile is good too.  You get the idea.

So this post was begun a few years ago but never published. I decided to finish it out and post it today.  I think there are depressed folks out there, and more likely than not it is about the outcome of our 2016 general election.  A new Fear is present.  The fear of a new American Nazi culture and country looms over us.  Resistance is NOT futile.  This is also a good therapy and exercise for the depressed if we can muster ourselves and realize there are more people out there like us now and if we can find a way to talk and communicate, we can slowly, carefully, find a way to manage Depression in our life's journey.

Disclaimer: though I suffer from Depression, I don't claim to know everything about it or all the various ways of how to go about dealing with it.  I am not Everywoman, and I am certainly not All-Knowing...I just know what I know and what works or has worked for me, and what might yet work for me in the future.  Thanks.

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