Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In the fog . . .

One of the blogs I read, Scoutie Girl, has a post today about depression, and has encouraged her readers to write about their struggles. I have written about this before in general, but I wanted to get a little more specific today.

I was a classic over-acheiver in high school. I joined everything I could that had to do with creativity or academics: International Thespians Society, National Honor Society, French Honor Society, Social Planning Committee, you name it. I volunteered for everything, did every play and musical, was at school more than I was home most days. I hit the ground running at 5:45am and didn't get home until after 9:30 most nights.

At the same time, my mother lost her father, and she had a complete nervous breakdown. No one else in the family wanted to acknowledge it or knew what to do, so I took over. I badgered my father to get her help, I became her therapist whenever she needed to talk or cry or scream, I made sure bills got paid and things got done around the house. I went from a 16-year-old worried about college and prom to a woman worried about whether or not her mother would be alive when she got home from school.

My mother got help and I got myself out of there when I went to college, and I thought things would get better. But, after spending so long taking care of everyone else and ignoring my own issues, they slammed into me like a freight train. I broke down my sophomore year in college, staying in bed, missing classes, bursting into tears, forgetting to eat, not sleeping, and yes, contemplating suicide. I hid this as much as I could from those around me; I had always felt that being in any kind of pain and letting it show was a sign of weakness that others would despise me for. I finally got help, went on medication for a while, and came home.

Again, I thought things would be better.

Ten years later, the fog is still around. It seems like it doesn't take much to trigger me: a little stress, a few setbacks, and suddenly the world is ending. But, I have learned a few things along the way too, that help me through the fog:

1) Have an outlet. My writing and creating keeps my thoughts and emotions focused on something other than stress and fear.

2) Give yourself permission to cry, and then let go. Bottling up the tears just makes it worse, but you can't wallow in them either. Cry, and then stop.

3) Acknowledge the depression. Say it to your friends and family, and ask for their help.

4) Don't let yourself stay in bed, or on the couch, or in the house. Force it if you have to, but get outside!

5) Whether you believe it or not, this depression will end. There is another side to this, and you will feel better in time. Remember that.

I have been having a tough week or so, weepy and snappish, but I know this will pass. I keep working on my novel, keep making hats, and keep my eyes trained on my destination, and I know the fog will lift. Eventually.


Tricia McWhorter said...

I just read back over some of your older posts (I was drawn by the tiny but beautiful photo of "What a weekend" and was horrified to hear what your folks had just experienced. So glad your sales are doing well, though.

This current post is full of good advice. I've been in "the dark pit" myself more than a few times. I've learned, over time, to repeat the mantra "this too will pass" over and over again. Getting outside does help. Movement of almost any kind helps. SAMe helps. But just continuing to keep trying new things probably helps most of all.

Keep on keeping on!

TMCPhoto said...

excellent advice all around. I suffer from mild depression that was really the basis for my bout with Post Partum Depression after The Peanut was born. All of the coping strategies you list are the things that were stressed during my support group and they all work.

Wealie said...

Depression is an insidious disease that never leaves you. The emotional connections needed by artists to create makes it all the more powerful for we seem to feel it that much deeper and are unable to turn aside from it. There is a slightly perverse need in us to take it out, examine it thoroughly and create something extraordinary from it.

For me acknowledging the disease was important, understanding that it is like an addiction, it never really goes away and complacency is not a luxury you can afford. I have good coping mechanisms through my artistic mediums of writing and painting, but sometimes I need to give the depression full reign, just for a day or two, let it embrace me, remind me that it is my companion, but also that it is in within my power to be its mistress!

Thanks for sharing your experience, the more we break down the barriers and the misconceptions the better others that come after us will be prepared to deal with it.