Thursday, May 23, 2013

Depression. There. I said it.

This post is not for pity.  It is partly because I need to write, in order to sort things out and it is partly to be open. Depression should be something people can talk about.  Things that are hidden get too much power, and this doesn't need power.  It's strong enough already.

What does depression look like for me?

This is not a crashing depression.  Technically it might be called moderate.  In exact terms, I measure in the moderate range on the Burns depression scale.

No matter what time I go to bed, I still ache to go back to sleep most of the morning.  After that I want to listen to podcasts or the radio, or check out email or facebook or the NPR website because all of those things drown out the thoughts that persist in my head.

These are the kind of thoughts that tell me that I really should be vacuuming instead of taking a walk, or washing dishes instead of vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom sink instead of washing dishes or I should be getting some exercise or having devotions or helping someone or practicing mindfulness or anything but what I am actually doing...until I want to not do anything at all because no matter what I do it won't be enough.  So maybe I should just sleep, but then I would be lazy. But who am I kidding?  Look at this place! It's obvious I am lazy so what difference does it make? And not only that, but I don't really do anything well.  I'm not a good mom or a good spouse or a good daughter or a good Christian or a good friend and there are all these lists of things I did wrong that back up those assessments.

When those kinds of thoughts are the thoughts I can't seem to silence, then tv and videos and podcasts and news changes the channel for a while and I can escape.

But escape isn't a helpful answer.

I'm taking some meds.  They are helping some.

I'm seeing an excellent counselor.  She is helping lots.

I married well.  On a bad day when I've given in to the 'sleep all morning' demon, Chuck comes in and gives me a hug and I feel loved instead of judged and I want to get up and  do something to be worthy of that love.  Except he will love me whether I'm worthy or not.  Which is such a gift.

I'm trying to practice some healthier ways of being.
  • Tell myself the truth as much as I can.  Every person, good or not, makes mistakes and the mistakes are not what defines them.  I am a flawed person, as is every other person.  That doesn't excuse the flaws, or allow me to cling to them.  It does allow me to quit kicking myself about them so hard.
  • During the day, I have to practice noticing and being thankful for the things I get done instead of obsessing about the things I did not get done.
  • Related to that, I have to be intentional about being thankful, which is not necessarily the same as feeling thankful.  Recognizing good things is important to becoming healthier, even if it doesn't feel better right away.
  • Setting limits is important.
  • Be willing to make mistakes.  Fear of making a mistake just keeps me from doing anything at all, which is a mistake. :-)
  • Exercise and fresh air and sunshine are good.
  • Laughter is important.
  • Being with people is important.  Being alone is important too.  Balance is good.
  • Using my gifts helps, even though right now it isn't something I feel like doing.  After I go ahead, I feel better and grateful that I made myself do it.  Teaching Sunday School is one example. I pretty much always feel good after teaching.
  • I need to practice staying in the moment.  Compassion meditation has become a form of prayer that seems more accessible right now. 
Depression for me also involves a spiritual component.  In the past, depression was part of a struggle to keep God in the box that was comfortable for me.  So there are ways that I'm wrestling with God, right now, but I'm OK with that.  I think God would rather have a fight than a fake relationship. Through my own faith and especially through the words and kindness of others, I'm finding God quite filled with gentleness as we break down the walls of the current box I want God to stay in.
I want to be sure that it's clear that depression is different for different people, and that a moderate depression is different than a severe depression.  Many of the things I am doing to become more healthy would be good for anyone to do.  At the same time, becoming severely depressed does not mean that a person has been doing all of these things wrong.  It also doesn't mean that if they would try these things they would automatically feel better or become healthy.  These are good things to do.  But depression involves chemistry and genetics as well as behavior and behavior is very important, but not the only important thing. I'm not writing this so that people can judge someone else who struggles. 

That's enough for right now.  As I said before, I'm writing this as an effort to be honest, but not so that anyone will feel sorry for me or take responsibility to make me feel better.  That is my job, and I'm doing it, one day at a time.