You have heard me go on at length about how you need to baby your whole body during depression…
It turns out there is a reason why it’s more than just Feeling Sad. A landmark study from the University of Michigan has shown that the body clock of a depressed person is, well, completely ratfucked. And this might explain why you want to eat icing out of a can, why getting out of bed is such an exhausting prospect, why you’re up with the hamsters all night…
…and why it’s just more than Choosing To Be Happy.
Depression fucks with you on an absolutely cellular level.
Just look at this diagram.
So, forgive me, Happy Folks, but teasing that bit of yarn apart is going to take some time and some serious recovery tactics.
Stay strong, my fellow fruitbats.
I just listened to J. Michael Straczynski talking about Michael O’Hare, and his battle with mental illness during and after Babylon 5. It moved me to tears.
It reminds me that my own struggle is not imaginary. It’s not something I can just “snap out of”. It is not a sign of weakness of character. Depression is a real, physical illness. So, I’ll get up again tomorrow, take my meds, and keep on fighting.
Having a bad brain day.
Feel like I have forgotten how to life.
Lifing! How does it work?
This is not the first time I’ve noticed my depression get worse around this time of year, late Mach/early April.
It may be related only tenuously, but there is this: I’m 44 now, so 42 years ago, my father, who doted on me, was lying in a V.A. hospital in northern Arizona, slowly wasting away from cancer. My mom would drive over a mountain (literally) each day to visit him.
I guess my sister and grandmother took care of me, but I was young enough that I have no memory of it.
I have no memory of him. Not directly.
I just have stories, and memories of old photographs and Super 8 movies. I grew up idolizing a man I couldn’t remember,because I was repeatedly told how much he loved me. That is good. It gave me something to hold on to when my mother’s volatile alcoholism confused and frightened me.
I am grateful to Fate that my son has had the chance to have a father for 7 more years (and counting!) than I did.
And when my depression is bad, the thing that holds me grounded to this world is being here for him, in a way that I did not get to have someone be there for me.
The darkness is stealing my heart, and the bravest thing I do today may be just going to the grocery store. If I even do.
When I deprive myself of sleep, my depression lessens and my anxiety abates.
When I get caught up on sleep, my depression surges. When I get a surplus of sleep, anxiety takes over.
Which is the rock and which is the hard place? Which is Charybdis and which is Scylla?
Yesterday, I slept all morning, met Stevie for lunch, then came home, and after a couple of hours, headed to bed early. So, of course, I was up for a few hours in the middle of the night, but then I slept again.
And then woke up to a lovely anxiety attack. It passed relatively quickly, but has come back at a lower level. I walk around feeling like I could jump out of my skin. Sitting here writing this is soothing, but as soon as I’m done, I’ll have to be with myself again, in my own skin, feeling on edge, ready to lash at at any threat, and anything could be a threat. Or everything is.
The past three days had been bad. My depression is hitting me harder than it has in a while, and my emotional and physical resources for dealing with it are at a low. I’ll get a little bit of a break later today: my son is going to spend the night with his cousins. I may just go to bed early and try to catch up on rest. Or maybe I’ll try to get something done, so I feel like I’m getting myself unburied from under all the stuff I’ve let pile up.
But I don’t even feel like putting words together right now, and since that is often something that helps me mentally process my way out of the downward spiral, that should tell you that things in my head are bad. Sometimes, just acknowledging it here helps. I’m hoping it does this time.
My feelings are raw. No reason. Or, biochemical reasons.
My son has friends over. They are playing Minecraft on the Xbox.
I have put in earplugs. They are supposed to reduce sound by 30 decibels. They are perfect. I can still hear the kids clearly enough to play referee if the need arises. Meanwhile, I won’t wear myself out fruitlessly telling them to keep it down and eventually lashing out because my feelings are so raw.
It’s simple: I know sometime in the past few days, I’ve missed at least one of my evening doses of antidepressant. Possibly multiple. It happens when I get tired and go to bed early. Or, oddly enough, when I stay up too late. Then it takes a few days for the effect of missing that dose to actually become evident. And it’ll take a few days for the medicine to build up in my system again.
So, I tell myself, my feelings are exaggerated. The sadness means nothing. The impatience means nothing. The irritability means nothing. I try to be conscious enough to interrupt my emotional reflexes—to not lash out at the innocent. There is a split second between the beginning of an emotional outburst and its expression that I can catch it, if I care to. If I plan to. If I intend to. And for my child’s sake, I intend to.
Today is a small scoop of flavor #6.
At least it’s small. Small scoops are when I force a smile and wait for my feelings to catch up to my body. Small scoops are when you can push yourself to keep going and just ignore the feeling until it passes.
Pain is meant to be useful, to provoke a reaction that removes the source of the pain because it is doing harm to us. The pain that comes along with depression is diffuse. It’s impossible to locate a spot in the body where it originates. It’s just everywhere. That makes it difficult to determine what the harm is, and what to change to make it go away.
For some pain, there is no effective painkiller. No analgesic.
I’ve made a to-do list. Many of the things on it are incredibly simple: “Low hanging fruit.” Maybe checking things off will make me feel a little better. Maybe it will just help keep me distracted. Either would be fine.
I need to be more diligent about taking my antidepressants. The problem with taking them at night is sometimes I fall asleep without following my nightly routine—especially nights when my son is with his mom. I have a hunch I’ve missed a couple of doses lately, and that really doesn’t help.
Depression weakens my self-control. Strains my patience. Shortens my temper.
In that regard, it makes me a poor role model for my son.
If I prayed, I would pray that my son never has to face this demon. Chances are, he will, though.
If he does, then I hope my struggles help him find his own way of coping. I hope medicine advances. I hope he finds a partner who loves him and stands by him, even when things are dark.