This is day one of attempt to combine a desire to get back into writing with a desire to combat an ongoing wrestling match with clinical depression. I am hoping that by writing daily about things that I am doing (beyond popping prescribed pills) to increase the measly number of neurotransmitters I have available to me.
Brief history: I was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 18 and it has continued to plague me off and on for the subsequent 23 years. Holy cow. That's longer than I thought. Which is both an "Oh crap!" and a "Go Me!" Since the opposite of struggling with depression is often not struggling at all. So I am still fighting the good fight.
Things I know that work well for me: yoga, healthy foods, anti-depressants, and laughing.
Things I do not feel like doing while I experiencing an uptick in my depression symptoms: doing yoga, eating well, taking my meds (or remembering whether I have already taken them...), and laughing.
I am what I like to call a "high functioning" depressed individual. Many people who I work with have no idea that I am depressed unless I let things get very bad and stop answering emails or forget to turn in my timecard or start crying in the middle of a meeting.
And this is what is hard to explain to people who have not experienced this. It is not about mood for me. I am not necessarily sad. Although I might be. It's not like being depressed makes people immune to sadness, after all. Sometimes I am even happy. When my depression is bad, my brain just doesn't work.
I have trouble sleeping. I have trouble waking up. Small things are overwhelming. Like laundry. I avoid answering the phone, answering the mail or opening my email. I don't want to see anyone. Or talk to anyone. It's hard to make my facial muscles do much of anything. My face feels like it's made of unfired clay. Heavy and wet, not dry and brittle.
When I had my first major depressive episode in high school, I noticed that my abilities went away gradually...
First I couldn't do my homework because I couldn't concentrate on the big picture while reading text. I could understand words and sentences, but paragraphs were a big problem. So I stopped doing homework.
Then I found that I couldn't drive anywhere without getting hopelessly lost, even if I had been between the two locations many times before. So I made sure that other people drove me or I was able to follow behind someone else's car, panicked that I might lose them and circle forever like an ant that has lost the trail back to its hill.
I couldn't smile. Even if I tried really hard. It felt wrong and looked terrible.
I couldn't follow the plot of even the most mundane television shows, so I stopped watching T.V.
I couldn't practice piano. Which was a problem because I had a job as the church accompanist. They should have fired me. I am eternally grateful to them that they did not. I badly "sightread" the music every Sunday, loud voices drowning out my mistakes.
I couldn't read for pleasure.
I couldn't remember when I had done things. Brushed my teeth? Eaten a meal? Changed my clothes? Taken a shower? Had I just done these things moments ago or had it been days? Weeks?
Time was unreliable.
I had only the energy to stagger through the school day and then come home to stare at a yellow dot on my bedroom ceiling from when my brother through some playdough and it stuck there, leaving a stain even years later.
All of this and I still didn't want to go get help. I had recently been through treatment for an eating disorder and was too busy patting myself on the back for conquering that monster to realize that I wasn't done with recovery.
Here's what got to me: I was at band practice at school. The director handed out new music for us to play. And the notes on the page looked like Arabic or Greek letters to me. I couldn't make any sense of the black scribbles. I have been reading music since the age of four. I burst into tears and fled the room.
That's when I went to get help. Within a week on Prozac I was feeling like... me.
So I know that when my depression is controlled I feel better. I am better. I want to get to that point again. I plan to do at least 2 things every day to improve my poor beleaguered brain and post them here to keep me honest.
Quaker, teacher, parent,