Friday, February 17, 2012

Depression Sucks the Life Out of Me

The past year, for me, has been the hardest of my 47 years.  I've had some tough years along the way, but this one takes the prize.  As I sit here today I feel... numb.  I'm finding it hard to even grasp words I need to describe the depths of emotion I feel.  Depressed?  Yes.  Anxious?  Yes.  Worried?  Yes.  Scared?  Absolutely.  I feel all of those things and yet, it's difficult to describe the combination of emotional soup that is my mind and heart.

The year has been fraught with illness and crises.  One, after another, after another.  A friend said to me yesterday (something like) - each situation, if taken singly, is enough, but add them all together and it's overwhelming.  It's true; it's overwhelming.  But, I'm not writing this to pull on anyone's heart strings, or complain about my horrible lot in life nor even to garner sympathy for the downtrodden me.  I'm writing this mainly for myself.  I need to, somehow, make sense of it all and try to press on.

I say that a lot - press on.  I say it because I believe it's what I need to do in life.  I need to experience life, the good and the bad, learn a lesson, and press on.  It's kind of my "thing", motto in life, if you will.  At this moment, however, It's difficult to learn the lesson, whatever it may be, much less press on.  I'm pretty tired of having to learn lessons through bad experiences, illness and crisis.  Right now I am mad at depression and anxiety and I'm railing against the wiring in my brain.  The brain which doesn't make enough of the right chemicals to keep me from having to deal with life the hard way.  I'm angry that I have to be on medication just to be "normal".  I'm frustrated that medications stop working at different intervals and I sink into depression, becoming "not normal" again.  Over and over the pattern has shown itself in my life, and frankly I'm tired.

The type of depression that I have isn't the can't-get-out-of-bed-I-want-to-end-my-life, depression that many people may imagine when they hear that someone is clinically depressed.  Mine is more of a constant, moderate feeling of sadness, helplessness and sometimes hopelessness, along with it's ugly partner, anxiety.  This type of depression, while not imminently life-threatening, as some types of depression are, is still very hard to live with.  I would say, it's equally as hard to live with, because it's less noticeable to the world.  I am able to (most of the time) appear very normal.  I take care of my family, I run errands, attend church, go to parties.

No one, unless I told them, would even know that inside I'm feeling like I just want to be left alone.  I just want to pull the covers over my head and sleep until the low feelings pass, but I don't.  I can't; too many people are counting on me.  I don't want to let my family down.  I don't want my friends to think I don't love them.  I don't want  people at church to think I have "mental issues".  I have to appear normal whether I feel like it or not.

Trying to appear normal, I believe, is the most taxing of all.  It's exhausting.  If I don't do it, though, I fear those around me will know that I'm not normal.  They'll feel sorry for me.  They'll worry about me.  Or, worst of all, they will reject me because I have a mental illness.  I fear I'll be considered a high maintenance friend/wife/daughter/mom who has periodic bouts of instability that those close to me have to help me manage, so I won't be worth the effort in their minds.  I can't risk that.

Over the past year, with all it's upheaval, has made it nigh on to impossible to push myself the way I normally do, however.  More than once over past 12 months, and most especially lately, I have found myself less able to push away the sadness, but instead lean into it.  Leaning in scary to me, yet oddly comforting as well.  I think the comfort comes from acknowledging the sadness is real.  It's not made up, or overreacting -- it's real and it's present.

Yes, I understand that leaning into the depression is not an answer to the problem.  I realize it's not the learn-a-lesson-and-press-on mentality that I should embrace.  However, even as I know this, I also know it's the reality of how I feel right now.  I'm tired.  I'm bone-weary of fighting and I can't pretend otherwise right now. The pretense is too much for me.

I can't keep the happy face in place any more.  I can no longer use food as a coping mechanism, as has been my practice this year, without my even realizing it along the way.  That's not working any more.  It makes me feel even worse as I peer at myself in the mirror and see nothing besides the extra 30lbs I've gained, along with the face, no longer the same, since the Bell's Palsy took over.

So, now that I've gotten that out in the open, what am I going to do about it?  That's the million dollar question, right there, but something's got to give.  Obviously I still have a family whose members need me to be present in their lives.  I still have responsibilities and obligations, so I can't just become a hermit, which is what I feel like doing.  I have to find a way to overcome whether I want to or not.

My faith, it does keep my stronger than I actually am.  I know, in the depths of my bones, that my God will never leave my side, but at times like these, it's harder to feel his presence than it normally is.  I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and take each day as it comes.  I really have no choice.

This prayer may help me through the coming days as I struggle.  I'm sure most of you recognize it in it's abbreviated form, but the whole prayer is beautiful in it's simple profundity.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

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