“When our hearts are most broken, they’re most open. It’s the openness that makes us whole. This is the way we become enlightened through the darkness.” – Miriam Greenspan
It doesn’t get easier – trying to find a way to fit depression into your life. To invite depression in for slumber parties or tell it when it has something between its teeth. And why would you want to? Why would you choose to sleep in the same room with a darkness that only you can see? Why would you choose to give depression the attention it clearly doesn’t deserve? The thing is, those of us who have experienced depression know that this condition is not a choice. You can choose to seek help. You can choose to allow yourself to sink in and sleep the day away, but the weight of depression does not give you the choice to sit up in bed. Depression does not allow for the every day idiosyncracies and routines that most people move through without thought – brush teeth, shower, commute, work, laugh, talk, live.
Only recently have I come to terms with this – that my experience with depression is not something I choose. Because it is an ‘invisible’ illness, people who silently live with it tend to self-stigmatize. Why can’t I just get over this? It’s been weeks. Why am I not strong enough to pull myself out of this? What’s wrong with me?! This negative thinking only keeps the wheel of depression spinning. But how to explain this experience to people who don’t have firsthand knowledge of depression’s socially paralytic numbness?
I’ve pasted a few of my journal entries (2007 & 2011) and a free write piece (2011) to exemplify how a depressed mind perceives the world and the self, as well as the affect depression has on all aspects of life. One thing that all of us can understand, living with mental illness or not, is that every moment is a gift and ought to not be wasted. A person sans depression can be reminded to not take [insert a word indicating something special to you here] for granted, but, as a person who has been living with depression for over 15 years and who has ever so slowly been learning to manage life with the illness, I have come to treasure and acknowledge the moments that I feel OK. OK is special. Very.
:: Journal Entry ::
I live with an intense amount of insecurity, anxiety, laziness, solitude. My days are consumed by worrying about the future and obsessing about the past, and how it has brought me to where I am today, and who I am today.
I’m engaged to a virtuous person. Someone strong, tender, sensitive, supportive, creative, everything that any woman would want. I feel as though he doesn’t know me very well. Granted, we don’t know each other very well, but he hasn’t seen me as a person who can’t give anything, because I can’t even give to myself.
I’ve been feeling like a fraud. Faking each word and expression.
I’ve been on 150mg of Wellbutrin XL for just over 2 weeks, and I’d like to track my progress. I’m ready and want to change my thought patterns. Hindsight of my emotional past is kicking the shit out of my esteem and hope about change, but the pugilist in me tells me to keep going.
Conversations are one-sided these days. I just listen mostly. Even listening is painful. I haven’t even been able to feel comfortable around P. I don’t even feel comfortable with myself. I second-guess myself when I’m alone! There is a lot of work to be done.
So, the “blessing in disguise” of not making it into the Peace Corps is that it has forced me to face my issues. The ones that I pretended I was over and got covered up by the dependence of another relationship. The difference is, there is distance. There is no person here to reassure me constantly. And this is good! I shouldn’t need it. I don’t want to need it.
Interesting that I don’t feel like I know who I am when my current love interest is not around to define it for me. I don’t want to be a sponge. I don’t want to mimic those around me. How do others see me then? Emotional. Quiet. Moody.
There was a group of people standing outside the bakery for a while just now. Even that made me anxious. I feel like I’m being watched…even when there’s no one around. Am I psychotic? My family tells me that no one’s normal and people tell me I’m not alone, but shit. It really doesn’t feel that way sometimes.
And another thing. I eat a lot when I’m anxious and depressed. I keep reading that XL causes loss in appetite. I wish that I had that side effect, but such is not the case.
3 months to get in shape. I plan to visit S. for Christmas. Everything is on an anxiety-ridden timeline. I hope I’m “semi-normal” by the time I see him. I cannot lose this man.
Written Friday, August 31, 2007.
:: Journal Entry ::
Here I am again – found my way back to this document to chart my mood-disordered life. I read through my previous entries and it surprises me every time to learn that I’ve been ‘here’ before. In this emotional space. But my words were glazed in hopelessness. Hopelessness that things would get better. Hopelessness that the depression is who I am. But there’s been a shift. I am hopeful. Even in the moments of hopelessness I feel hopeful. Emotional Alchemy. I learned this term from an article I read in Ode magazine about embracing and allowing your fear to flow. The fear will eventually find its way to the sunnier emotions.
7 Steps of Emotional Alchemy – ‘Letting go’ of fear.
1. Let it be.
2. Affirm the value of the emotion.
3. Allow yourself to begin to tolerate the emotion instead of running from it.
4. Contextualize the emotion – where did it originate?
5. “Non action” – Building affect tolerance – visualize yourself swimming through your fear and allow the emotion to flow.
6. The way of action – now swim!
….reclaim the full range of your emotional sensitivity!
Written Friday, May 6, 2011.
:: Freewrite ::
The past few days, weeks? Month? Have been fuzzy ones. A fuzzy one. Transitioning from India to Seattle -> A bit of an identity crisis. It took a while to find the rhythm, to fall in to a routine. But it wasn’t there before I left. I don’t follow the same steps, at the same time, on the same days of the week consistently enough for idiosyncratic sediment to settle. Like my poetry sometimes, when I’m not trying too mindfully, the words don’t rhyme to the naked eye. Words in the lines change. Terse verse, no worse than loquacious luscious descriptions of the day. Parsimonious is peaceful. Lazy is long-winded. The moves and moments are never wrong.
Written Sunday, November 3, 2011.
“In the depth of winter, I found that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus