When a person with depression gets Some News.

I woke up this morning to a grey sky and cold air. After yesterday’s warm sunshine, the stark contrast convinced me to skip Jazzercise and stay in bed a bit longer.

Then I received some disappointing news. The nature of the news is irrelevant to this post. But to set any inquiring minds at ease, no one is in mortal danger and life is generally still fine; the news was just disappointing. And my brain revolted.

The trajectory I experienced upon hearing this news was:

  1. This news sucks.
  2. Therefore there’s not much of a reason to live.

Keep in mind the news was just disappointing, not earth-shattering or life changing. There are possible solutions to this news, even. But it didn’t matter–my depression-riddled brain does not care about logic or solutions in times like these. I imagine healthy-brained people do not always react in such a way; though I fully admit I’m assuming, since I don’t know what having a healthy brain is like. Maybe their trajectory is like this:

  1. This news sucks.
  2. But other things suck too.
  3. I wonder what I can do about this sucky news.
    1. Solution A
    2. Solution B
    3. Solution C
    4. etc….
    5. One of these is bound to work.
  4. Nothing I can do about it now, so time for sushi and friends and things will work out.

Instead, I have to fight back with what I’ve learned from cognitive behavior therapy, and I did the following:

  1. I took a deep breath.
  2. I picked up a Cadbury creme egg (it was 9:30 a.m., and eggs are breakfast food after all).
  3. I put down the Cadbury creme egg, telling myself chocolate was not the answer right now.
  4. I looked at my calendar for the day and saw the following events:
    1. Lunch with friends
    2. Volunteering at a flood relief distribution center
    3. Hanging out with my niece
    4. Baseball opening day
    5. A new cookie recipe to try
  5. I took another deep breath.
  6. I decided to *not* cancel on lunch, volunteering, or my niece, even though I wanted to.

Then I fixed myself a dirty Diet Coke and got ready for my day.

It might seem like it was a simple exercise in mind over matter, but in truth, it was a Herculean effort. And while I distilled things into six steps there, it was probably closer to 18 steps total, because each major decision required multiple small decisions. That’s what it takes sometimes when my brain decides the depression is going to have A Day.

Lunch was great, volunteering was holy, the time with my niece was delightful (she’s my favorite–she told me so), the cookies delicious, and though the Braves lost, it’s opening day and there’s a thousand months of baseball until the playoffs.

Sometimes I forget how much progress I’ve made, how incrementally easier it is for me to recognize what my brain is doing and do the Necessary Things to stay healthy. So for that realization alone, I’m actually a little grateful for today’s disappointing news.

What I Resent The Most.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

Yesterday, faced with the reality that if I was unable to change things on my own, I’d need to seek professional help again, I mustered a tiny sliver of working brain and plotted my day:

IMG_4987

If I couldn’t do this, I told myself, then on Monday I would make some phone calls and get help before things got much worse.

It’s 8:03 p.m. as I write this, and I did every thing listed here, save for two items–I didn’t write at 2:30 because something came up at work that needed my attention, and I’ve closed down the last programming lesson tonight to make up for that writing time.

As I drove to the afternoon Jazzercise class, I turned off the podcast I was listening to and listened to myself instead. I compared how I felt in that moment to how I felt 24 hours earlier. 72 hours earlier. A week earlier, at my darkest point.

I felt better. And I immediately resented it.

I don’t like that in order to be well and productive during the summer, I need to plan my life in 30 minute increments, give or take 5 minutes here and there. Why can’t I just be productive?

Every summer when school gets out, it’s a struggle to create a routine, but I know without one, I can spiral fast.

Today, I moved from one task to the next, and only checked social media accounts for about 3 minutes at a time (as opposed to earlier this week when I couldn’t tear myself away from Twitter for, I dunno, hours?). I’m sure this helped my frame of mind as well.

What’s more is that I don’t feel nearly as exhausted as I have other days this week. The tasks were planned meticulously, to make sure I gave myself breaks to read and write and practice the piano. I made sure I gave myself a longer buffer around meals so I could sneak in The Daily Show or an episode of a sitcom to lighten things up.

So while I resent planning days like I did today, it’s clear that I must. And since watching a movie is next up, I best get to choosing which movie I’ll end my day with.

We Interrupt These Six Word Stories…

This school year, I’ve composed a six word story about each day. While at school, I am on the lookout for the funny, the inspiring, the poignant. Some days I have too many six word stories to choose from. Some days, there’s nothing.

And then there are the days when the six word stories I could compose would invite speculation or questions. Today was one of those days. The only things I could think to write must exist in my personal journal, and most likely will live only in my memories and perhaps an occasional conversation.

It didn’t help that I woke up sad, so some of today’s events just augmented that sadness. I started to panic a little because spring break has started, and breaks are notoriously difficult for me.

And then this post popped up in my Facebook memories.

I can’t quite articulate how much work it is to keep my depression in line. Work I often do not want to do.

Here’s a scene: at 3:00 p.m. today, I’m sitting in our office with Stueve, and students are milling in and out of our office, grabbing equipment and asking questions. I know I should eat my yogurt and granola, because I know I should go to Jazzercise at 4. But I don’t want to do any of those things. And I say it out loud, I don’t want to eat my yogurt and I don’t want to go to Jazzercise.

I want Cheetos and Ding Dongs and an 8-hour escape to Stars Hollow.

And the student sitting in a chair in our office said, “You should eat your yogurt and you should go to Jazzercise because you know you’ll feel better if you do.”

She’s right. I know I’ll feel even marginally better if I do. So I eat my yogurt and I go to Jazzercise, and I feel marginally better.

It’s the first night of spring break, and here’s what I know: writing will help, and scheduling time with friends will help, and working a little will help, and watching movies will help and of course, yogurt and Jazzercise will help make sure the next ten days won’t send me into a spiral.

So here’s today’s six word story: Some days, you do what’s necessary. #EvenWhenYouDontWantTo.

 

 

Hoping to Find What I’m Looking For.

A month.

Really, over a month.

I’ve been silent for a long time here on my blog, and I don’t know that I’ll ever really be able to talk about why. Not that it’s anyone’s business in the first place. But if you want to read a little piece of why, have at it.

But Week 2 of summer break just began, and in two days I am starting the first leg of a 5,000 mile road trip.

Elizabeth Gilbert went to Italy and India, Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Coast Trail, I’m driving all over hither and yon.

And like Ms. Gilbert and Ms. Strayed, I’m looking for something on this trip. Peace. Clarity. Love.

I have a new phone that can store dozens of podcasts and thousands of songs (not to mention a movie or two), and the promise of friendly faces in every city I’m staying in. I have plenty of snacks and planned meals to eat in the car, and will still go to Jazzercise whenever I can.

I haven’t had a grand adventure since going to Japan three years ago, so I figure I’m due.

I’m sure I’ll post a time or two from the road–at the very least, perhaps a photo dump–but I’m hoping this trip will recalibrate my brain and my spirit. I need help with both.

 

 

From The Other Side.

Shared in solidarity with my dear friend Kirsty, who is always much braver than I .

Spring Break is half over, and I’ve completely rearranged my furniture, seen a handful of movies, read a couple of books…and today I hit my boredom point. I know I hit this point because I dusted.

I never dust.

And as I dusted and rearranged the configuration of my entertainment center, I thought about last year’s spring break.

‘Twas grim, friends. ‘Twas very, very grim.

I had been careening toward a depressive episode for months, I’m certain of that as I look back. And something about spring break last year tripped the land mine and before I knew it, everything around me exploded.

I held on for a month–that was the soonest I could get in to see the therapist I wanted to try–and I really believe that the only thing getting me through that month was knowing I was 30 days from help. Then 29, 28, 27, and, well, you get the picture.

It wasn’t until this past January that I knew I was healthier. At the end of my session my therapist said, “When can I see you next?” and I replied, “I want to try and not schedule an appointment and see how it goes…”

I will never forget the smile on her face, how happy she was that I was better, or as I like to say, in remission.

Because one thing I know about having depression is that it can always come back. I worried about that as spring break started–what would trigger another depressive cycle this week?

I didn’t think it would be something as lame as having a couch delivered, but today I learned just how life looks on the other side of successful cognitive behavior therapy. See, I had measurements for the couch that it would fit in my living space, but I did not take into account how the couch would actually get into my apartment. So when the delivery guys showed up this morning and tried for 20 minutes to get it in the door, I said, full of shame and self-loathing,”Just take it back. I’ll take better measurements and get a different one.”

And both of the delivery guys said, “Oh no. We can get this. We just need to get creative.”

So they did get creative, for 25 more minutes, and I’m writing this from my new couch (which is quite comfortable). But I apologized over and over and felt such shame and idiocy–the exact feelings that triggered last year’s breakdown. But this year, I had tools. I knew what I needed to do.

First, I took a deep breath. Then I challenged all the self-talk that bombarded my brain. That didn’t work. So I allowed myself to be vulnerable, and I “reached out.” I texted a few friends, chatted with some pals on Facebook, explained the horror of what I was feeling. I wrote a little bit in a journal that will be buried with me, then I took another couple of deep breaths, and within a couple of hours, the shame was no longer there.

A year ago, that would not–no, could not–have happened.

I know some people might think that something as trivial as a couch delivery can’t possibly trigger a depressive episode, but I’m telling you, it can. That’s how cagey depression is. It will look at any possible break in resiliency and pounce, regardless of how inane it might look to someone on the outside.

Because even though I’m on the other side of my most recent bout, I will never be on the outside of depression. I will always be aware that I could be sick again, so I refuse to take for granted small and large victories, such as not spiraling into the darkness when a couch delivery took longer than expected.

A year ago, I was really quite sick. I almost can’t believe how sick I was, especially knowing how healthy I feel right in this moment. The “other side” is a lovely place to be.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.