April 22, 2019

Treading water

I have had some form of depression for much of my adult life. It manifests at different levels, and in different ways at different times, but it is always there running in the background.

It has overall been less powerful over the last decade, primarily a result of the counseling I went through as a part of my divorce. Though you cannot rationalize your way out, talking about it nonetheless helped (and helps) tremendously. Just having someone on the outside, looking at it with you, can alter your perspective.

Two other things came out of the counseling that have helped in the intervening years. One was the realization of the effect my depression has on others. This thing I thought lived only in my head, and only made my own life miserable, had toxic effects on those around me. I know this should have been obvious, but in the thick of it, it wasn't. I was surprised to see how this misery I thought I was internalizing, brought others down with me despite my best efforts to spare them. There were many contributors to my divorce, most of which I can only speculate on, but I have no doubt that my depression was a big factor.

The other somewhat related lesson was that trying to internalize everything, to try and go it on your own is a short-sighted response. Depression can make you feel isolated and unworthy, but you are cheapening your connections and relationships by not trusting those that love you. They believe in you, even when you cannot. Where a decade ago I would not think to share my internal spiraling thoughts, I now let people know when I am struggling. Not always, but certainly more than before. I have not been to a counselor in almost a decade, but now I am more honest with my friends and share a larger part of my head and heart with them. I do this in person and also here online.

In sharing stories here someone recently reached out to me to talk about depression. That same night, YouTube coincidentally suggested a couple of videos about depression. The following morning I was crying uncontrollably in the shower.

Depression has hit me in waves before, often feeling like a physical weight on my chest, but I have never felt so out of control as I did that morning about a month ago. I know for many, depression is a chemical thing. Though I had read this and believed it to be true, I had never experienced it a way that made that knowledge felt, made it real. There were thoughts running through my head as the wave crashed, but it didn't feel like they were the quake that set off the tsunami. This felt very different, something apart from thought. And I felt helpless.

One thing that made the helpless feeling a bit stronger was I felt that I had lost one of one of my ways to respond to it. This breakdown in the shower was about a week after throwing out my back, and I could not turn to running as an outlet. There would be no solace on the road where I could try to sort things out. The feeling of being physically broken as well only added to the height of the wave. Also adding to it were the long hours of work in the month and a half ahead. How was I going to get through them feeling this broken.

The tide eventually washed out and I pulled myself together enough to continue getting ready for work.

How the rest of that March day went will follow in the next post.

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