Depression triggers a debilitating double-bind: you want to have good times and feel connected to people you value but you don’t have the will or energy to do anything. You distance yourself in an effort to conserve what little strength you have to perform basic tasks, alienating yourself from the outer world and in the process feeling isolated, which only makes things worse. You feel lost and alone with no one and nothing to distract you from your ennui. And distraction is the best you can expect; no one can really inspire or lift you out of it. They can’t save you. All they can hope to do is help you to temporarily feel a bit better and assure you that they’re there for you. But you know they’re too far away to throw you a life line. On a certain level you’re drowning but too tired to swim. After the nice little rendezvous, you’ll go home and either sleep a little more soundly or feel exhausted from the interaction. The guilt is sometimes the worst part. You lose track of whether it’s your turn to get in touch with friends and family, people generally, and you fear you’ve dropped the ball and have pushed people away. If they’re true allies and understand without taking it personally, you’re still missing out on the relationship. While other people seem to be getting closer to one another, you know you’re missing out and yet no amount of shame or disappointment can rouse you to do anything about it.
Why do you have depression? There could be a lot of reasons. Lack of sleep, allergies, medication, winter, a sudden shock or loss, being a victim or even a survivor of violence or abuse, reproductive issues, hormonal issues, etc. The last thing anyone suffering from depression needs is to not be able to nail down the cause. Yes, meds can and often do help, but finding the right chemicals at the right dosage can be a long drawn out process. It takes a minimum of one month to feel the effects so if you haven’t found something that works, you’ve got to start over again. That’s the pharmaceutical approach. No matter the cause of the depression, you’ll need therapy. Pretty much everybody should do therapy. This is especially true when you’ve been in a crushing state for a prolonged period of time. Those dark thoughts and heavy feelings act like waves; they erode the edges of your mind and change the landscape. Your outlook on life and your place in it is dramatically altered. Just like any other illness, there’s a rehabilitation period.
For two days now I’ve been feeling better. Even if I haven’t had enough sleep – and of course I haven’t, for a number of reasons – I simply feel tired, like I need a nap and then I’ll be fine. It’s an altogether different sort of fatigue from the kind that sticks to you and drags you down. I hope I’m feeling better thanks to the tweaks to my meds and not because it’s a temporary reprieve caused by some mysterious factor. I mean, a break is always welcome and often the one thing that keeps you from going under. But I want to be well. I want to live. For the moment I don’t feel like I’m struggling to get out of my own head. I can tolerate the thought of going for a bike ride or organizing that pile of stuff I loathe having to stare at day after day.
I feel like I can talk about my illness rather than just get through it. Maybe the cobwebs are starting to clear. I’m optimistic. I’m grateful for that much.