Sunday, September 18, 2011


I suddenly knew that morning that the depression was over, at least temporarily.  You see, I wanted to get up.  When the hall light seeped through my eyelids and cast a ruby glow on my dreamy world, I wasn't tempted to bury my head beneath the pillow, and I didn't immediately start belittling myself for the many things I had to do--like brushing my teeth--that just seemed utterly impossible.  When I heard my husband's voice, I was floored by how much affection I felt for him.  I noticed every detail of the way my oldest son's pajamas gathered around his little rump that he had pushed into the air while he slept--something he has done since infancy.  I was amazed by the warmth of the little one's feet pushing against my legs and clambering up my back in his (multi)daily stim.

I was floored because I knew that as suddenly as it had come, the depression had evaporated.

I don't know why it comes.  I don't know why it stays.  I don't know why it goes.  I only know that since I was a very small child--almost as long as I can remember--there were long dark periods.

This is not about being happy.  I am a happy person.  I am always smiling.  I can usually think of something encouraging to say.  And, in fact, most of the people I know who struggle with depression are some of the "happiest" people you will ever meet. 

No, this is about living life through novocaine.  This is about knowing you need to get up, that you want to get up, that life is waiting for you, but being unable to reach for it, unable to open your eyes or get your feet to respond to your summons to repel the covers.  For me, this is about wanting to look up but being blinded by the sun.  It is a low level stomach ache that is always present, always nauseating, always craving never-satisfying food that it has lost the ability to taste.

Depression is about pulling away from those who love me and crawling into a hole that I just can't get out of.  It is about forgetting to eat and sleep, forgetting to dress my children and brush their teeth.

This is not about the power of positive thinking.  Positive thinking for a depressed person is deciding, after three hours of hitting the snooze button, that there might be some shadow of a point to getting up after all.  Positive thinking for the depressed is choosing not to eat the comfort food because in an hour and a half the sugar high will drop you from the cliff's edge into the ravine of despair below.  Positive thinking is dragging your butt out for a run or a walk because you know that if you can just stay out for at least 20 minutes in the sun, your seratonin receptors will work a little better, and if you can just get in that run, even if it's only 10 minutes, your anxiety will drop just a bit.  Positive thinking is dumping the tylenol bottle before you can down all the pills and telling a friend before you jump out the window. 

But why write about it at all?  Why bother?

Because so many people suffer from it.  It's humiliating.  We don't like to talk about it.  We like to blame each other.  And there's no easy answer to it.

And depression is not somebody's fault.  You may have a situational reason to be depressed.  You may not.  It doesn't matter, and it's not your fault or anybody else's.

Depression has visited so often now that I know the sound of its footsteps.

I knew that depression was coming when my allergies and my eczema suddenly flared, followed by waves of fatigue, low level migraines, and sudden urges to weep over little things like finding a flying beetle that looked surprisingly like a dead begonia blossom in the wind.

I knew the depression had arrived when I heard the swift scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch of my mother-in-law's early morning sweep of the yard and instead of being propeled out of bed, I wanted to vomit.

I knew the depression was pulling me under when my son held his hand out to me, and I didn't even have the strength to take it.

Depression robbed me of gifts of happiness that I would have liked to have given my in-laws before we returned to the US, things I just wanted to do for them that I was suddenly unable to muster the energy to do.  I didn't have the chance to once again take the satisfaction I used to get from managing to clean the floors before my mother-in-law .  I wasn't able to move myself to see as many people as I wanted the last week.  I just couldn't put the words together to let my family know how very much I love them before we went home.

Yes.  Depression took that from me.

But I also took something from depression.  After a lifelong struggle with this "friend," I have learned to fight back.  I look for ways out.  I grab vicarious happiness.  I read novels all through the night if I must in order to imbibe the delight of fictional characters, to sip hopefulness from between the lines of fabricated lives.  I make the trip outside as often as I can make myself.  I get a suntan.  I force myself to both laugh and cry, hoping that the chemicals induced by the outward expression of feelings I can't feel might somehow restore balance.  I run when I can.  I walk when I can't.  I try to make a friend, even if I feel it's killing me.

And when it suddenly departs and I once again find myself in the real world, I realize just how much my friends and family have helped me.  I give thanks to my husband for forcing my butt out the door to walk or run, to my children for taking me by the hands and leading me into the life activities of brushing teeth and eating popsicles, to my sister for calling and calling and calling, to my friends for waking me up to joy and encouraging me to reach to it.

I don't have an answer for it, or a nice pleasant ending for this post.  But this I hope I have shared, depression cannot be beaten alone, although it may seem a lonely battle, and judgment and blame of the depressed or his/her loved ones for the depression does absolutely nothing to help.  When you see a hand out, grab it.  When you hear a cry for help, respond--even if you don't have the answer, maybe even expecially if you don't have the answer.  Yes, perhaps that's the important part.  The key is to respond, not to answer.

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