Depression is like…

A snake. Hiding in the grass, ready to strike when I’m not alert. Or even if I’m watching for it, it bites me. And I’m surprised. Why am I surprised?

A dark cloud. Bringing shadows to my everyday. Everything looks gray. Sounds are muffled. My focus is inward and downcast, and I can’t see the sun.

An old frenemy. Familiar in its symptoms, luring me into a false sense of security. I’ve been here before. It’s so subtle that I don’t even feel it creep into my life. It somehow feels comfortable.

A heavy blanket. Pulling me downward. I feel like I’m hunched over, under the weight, the heaviness, of loneliness and hopelessness. I want to crawl under the blanket and not come out.

An anchor. Gripping the depths of the deep and pulling me under. I can’t get enough air in my lungs. I might drown.

A liar. Telling me I’m all alone. I’m worthless. I will always feel this way. These are not truths, but they feel real.

A deep well.  I try to climb up but the walls are slippery and I can’t get a good grip. Medicine and therapy and time will help me reach a ledge, but the climb out is slow.

Every transition in my life brings the possibility of another depressive episode. I was alert, I thought, but it still caught me by surprise.  I’m mad at myself about that. I thought I was on guard.

When will I learn that depression lurks in my life, waiting to sneak in and take over? How many times must I go through this before I can beat it?

That’s the thing. I don’t think I’ll ever beat it. I’ll always have it, waiting on the fringes of my life to jump in and make a mess of me. So I need to learn to roll with it, get help when I need it, and live fully when I’m in remission.

And I need to remember to pray. God knows what I’m going through. He’s with me in the depths. He loves me even in my mess. He could choose to heal me today, or He can use this in my life to help others.

Father God, help me to be content with Your plan for depression in my life. Help me to be a light to others. To speak out. To fight with Your strength. To seek help. To bring You my pain and sadness, and let You heal me as You choose.

 

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It’s baaack.

I spoke too soon in July. Depression is back.

It shouldn’t surprise me that much. The doctor and I reduced one of my medications a while back, and I am very susceptible to changes in my meds. As it was, I felt like I had been on the cusp of a depressive episode ever since we moved to Virginia over a year ago. So that change was probably enough to send me into the depressive spiral again, just over these past 4-6 weeks.

I didn’t admit it to anyone, until my psychiatrist asked me at today’s appointment how I was doing. Then I burst into tears.

I’ve been hiding it from everyone, even from myself. Felt ashamed, really.  Which is part of the depression. But I kept thinking I could fight it off, that the symptoms weren’t really there. The doctor added them up and said “It’s back.” And there’s relief in not trying to fight it anymore, but just give in and let the new medicine do it’s work, stop living in denial and accept that I’ve relapsed. I have depression. I’ve had it before and gotten better. I’ll get better again.

The past several weeks, I’ve cried a lot. Been incredibly lonely. Going through the motions of stuff, but not really wanting to do anything. The biggest red flag, though, was increased sleep. I’d go to bed in the middle of the day, for hours, just to escape. And I’d still sleep fine at night. Would stay in bed as long as I could because there was nothing to get up for. Same with sleeping in the day – why not, since there was no reason to be up. I’ve got nothing going on. No one needs me. No one will miss me. I can stay in bed and no one is the wiser.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this lonely, if ever. And that’s been true since we moved here. The only bright spot in my day is time with my husband. The rest is drudgery.

I haven’t felt like doing anything, though I go through the daily motions of work and errands. I felt pretty good on the friends and family camping trip, even read a couple of books. But here at home, I’d rather sleep than read. It’s hard to concentrate (another symptom of depression) so even mindless TV is difficult. Sleep is the easiest.

That was my biggest clue that something was wrong. I’ve never done the sleep thing before, though I’d known it to be a symptom of depression. That, along with the loss of interest in normal things, the loneliness and teariness. The negative self-talk, especially shaming talk. I’m not proud that I go to bed. I’m embarrassed. I kept thinking if I would just look on the bright side, count my blessings, work on gratitude and pray for contentment. But those things weren’t enough, and I was ashamed they weren’t working.

And all of this is part of depression. I told my psychiatrist, who pointed out the signs and told me I’d relapsed. He says we’ll get a handle on it. I hope so. I always have gotten better before.

 

A relapse, not just a bad day :(

So perhaps I was wrong. I had been hoping it wasn’t relapse.

But it’s been longer than a week, and I can’t shake the blah mood. My head hurts, my jaw aches from clenching my teeth. If I think about it at all, which I’ve avoided, I feel my breath get shallow and speed up. Last night and again today, I was overwhelmed with feelings of deep sadness; it took incredible effort not to cry.

I’m trying to figure this out.  How does the definition of depression change for a person who has had it before? Are the symptoms still the same?  What about for the 10th episode? Or the 12th? Or the 30th?

Does the ability to smile or laugh mean I’m not depressed?

If I want to stay in bed and sleep all day but I get up anyway, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If hopelessness is a symptom but as a Christ follower I have hope because Christ is with me, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I’m not hungry at all but I eat because I’m supposed to, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I want to be alone, just me and the TV, but I enjoy a little social time with friends, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I can’t see “the light at the end of the tunnel” but experience has taught me that these blah feelings will go away, does that mean I’m not depressed?

No, it doesn’t mean that. It probably is depression, just not as dark and deep as I’ve had before. But depression again – and still real, still hard.

I’ll have to fight back; it won’t just work itself out. It won’t last forever, either, though I might think that at times. I might lose sight of hope, might doubt myself. I’ll probably talk to myself harshly and try to isolate more than is good for me. I won’t want to increase my exercise. I don’t want to take new medicine. I don’t want to do anything, except to curl up in a ball until depression disappears. Someone make it go way. Jesus, please?

In response, He reminds me that I’m not alone. I never have been, and He won’t leave me this time, either. He may heal me now, or not until I reach heaven. He promises either way that He will not waste my pain, but will use it somehow to help others. He loves me in the midst of my misery. And these things don’t change, with or without depression. Thank you, Lord.

It’s a blah day, not a relapse.

For many mornings in a row, when the alarm goes off I think, “Why bother?” I get up because that’s what I do, not because I want to. I have nothing to get up for. And then I remember that I intentionally planned something into my day so that I will get up. Otherwise, I think I’d stay in bed all morning.

I’ve had several days of feeling “in a funk” – not really happy but not really sad either. A blah mood.

A year ago, I would have blamed all of this on the weather – the gray clouds of the upper Midwest that cover the sun for days and often bring snow and cold. But I’m in Florida now, and while it’s been unseasonably rainy, there was sunshine and even warmer temperatures today. So what’s my problem?

I think it’s because it is February. And traditionally, February has been a tough month for me. According to my old psych doc, even though it’s the shortest month of the year, it’s often the hardest emotionally. Not sure why. But perhaps I’m feeling the way I do because I’ve felt this way for the past nine Februarys. Emotional muscle memory.

It took me a few hours today to figure this out – this thing about February. I should have seen it sooner – I knew I was feeling less than good. I kept arguing with myself that the mood would simply go away, and I suspect it will, now that I’ve identified it and called it by name.

A blah day, or even a blah week, doesn’t mean relapse. It doesn’t mean depression again. It means I’m in a blah mood, and I’ll be in a blah mood for a few days, and then it will get better. To keep it from descending into depression, I’ll keep doing what I know to do – eat well, get enough sleep, exercise some, take my meds, reach out. Get up and do the day.

And if I need to take a day to stay in bed all morning, that’s ok too.