Depression and Anxiety – Coping with “Me”

It must be time to throw out some more dirt on me, me being me of course!

I don’t know about you but I find I am always in dispute with myself. The me that is me on the outside that everybody sees and who has expectations to live up to, many of which are my fault because that is what I have lead them to believe that I am capable of, and then the me that knows me, who is constantly trying to get me to find somewhere quiet and away from other people, somewhere I can just cry and wallow in my misery, because that me knows that although I can do those things, really my whole life is a sham because I am not living the life of the real me, the me that wouldn’t want to do those things even though I can….does that make sense? And so life goes on, day after day, week after week, year after year, millennia after millennia (thank goodness we don’t live that long). Quite frankly I am so tired that I just don’t feel like fighting any longer, after fifty years of this battle I am wrecked, honestly I am amazed that I have lasted this long!

It amazes me that just a spark of light at the end of the tunnel seems to be able to empower one enough to keep them going another day. Someone asked me not so long ago, what it is like to have this ongoing battle. I have to say that I struggled to put it into words, but what I came up with is this, it’s like having a fight with your conscience, you know you have done the wrong thing and you should admit it but you don’t want to, it works for a while but eventually you become exhausted, you run out of energy, you think “I just can’t hide this any longer, I have to admit my error”. When you do there is a sense of relief, it’s out there, I’ve done it, then you can get on with life. Unfortunately with the depression battle, there is no way to release the pressure, there is no escape route, if you blab all over the country side, at the end of it the battle is still raging, everything you do will have varying degrees of success in helping you cope, but eventually you just have to concede that the battle goes on.

How do you go when people see you achieving or accomplishing things, sometimes very difficult things, and say ever so annoyingly, “so you are better then”, or “you’re doing so well, are you still on medication”, or even worse “I don’t think you really had depression”, aaaahhhhhhhhh. Do these people not realize how much effort it took to just keep breathing, let alone accomplish anything! For me this starts a whole new war within. Me and me get into a real arm wrestle over this, me wants to do some physical harm to them but me just wants to crawl into a hole and never try anything again. I have a lot of this kind of kindness shown to me, probably because of what I have done through the years. As noted in my About page, for most of my life I didn’t realize that I had an illness and thought that everybody felt like me – oh yeah, I’m sharp alright :-/. Imagine being so dumb that I thought that feeling like this was normal! Anyhow, as a result I would just push myself harder and harder, running multiple businesses, having multiple jobs, studying computer programming at the same time, sometimes going for long stretches where I would be getting only a couple of hours sleep a night. Can you imagine how me and me handled that! Not real well, however it took until the beginning of this year before I had my total melt down, but in the couple of months leading up to that crash, my whole life spun out of control, I destroyed relationships, friendships, the lot, from high achiever to trash in one fowl swoop. And me and me were no help at all….they just kept on fighting in the background.

Well that’s my story, what’s yours? I would love to know how widespread this me and me epidemic is!!!!

Depression and Anxiety – Doing something constructive!

Now this sounds like a nice positive subject….it is, but with a twist! When I say “constructive”, I actually mean doing some “constructing”. Yep I am constructing furniture (I mentioned this in an earlier post – “I thought I was doing so well”). Since it has always been an interest of mine, it was my favorite subject at high school, I decided that early retirement is my opportunity to spend lots of money on all the fancy equipment and launch into my hobby. I was sick of our wobbly legged coffee tables so that was to be my starting point…hmmm can’t even see them on the list any more! That’s right, once people found out I was heading off into this field they suddenly had things that they wanted and they would love me to do it for them, simple things like bedroom units with six draws, mobile kitchen island, display unit for their lounge, oh and coffee tables (not mine), etc.

In all fairness though they are family and some are for my benefit as well. My wife and I are soon to be moving into a “granny flat” arrangement with one of our sons and his wife and child living above us in another part of the property. Our flat is all brand new but quite a bit smaller than our current living areas, so out with the old furniture and in with new. The mobile kitchen island mentioned above is for us as there is not a lot of work space in the kitchen.

The great thing about doing this is that it is a great substitute for “mindfulness” and therefore helps keep my depression and anxiety at bay. Not that it totally stops me from thinking about other things, but it does make it more manageable. It is something that I do get very drawn into, so it is much easier for me to drag myself away from thoughts that drag me down. Cooking has a similar affect but unfortunately it does not last long enough to get me through long periods where depression is at the door. With the furniture building, I can be absorbed for days at a time. Right now I am going through a very low depression state, it has been going for weeks with only very small periods of relief, the furniture building has been giving me some needed respite.

As soon as I get my first piece done I will put a photo of it on Facebook. There have been some anxious moments when I realized that something I planned wouldn’t work or was too difficult. I watched some Youtube videos to get ideas on how to install the drawer slides, looked so easy that I changed the way I was going to install them….after the first drawer I went back to my original idea, much quicker, much easier. Anyhow the job is at least 80% completed, the drawers all slide nicely, my depression has been kept under control, what more could I ask for!

The Wind

I wish I were the wind. I sit on my veranda and watch the trees being blown by the wind, the plants in the garden and even the grass all move and sway to the winds every demand. Such impact, touching everything in it’s path, yet I’ve never seen it, no one has ever seen it. If I were the wind no one would see me, I could do what I need to do, I could go where I need to go, but I would be safe, no one could hurt me.

I wish I were the wind. I have seen large trees ripped from the ground, left to rest like a ship on a reef, looking peaceful but so out of place. I’ve seen calm seas become violent and destructive with ships and land at their mercy, all because of the wind. Such strength, such power…how I envy the wind. If I were the wind nothing could cause me pain, I would be safe, no one could hurt me.

I wish I were the wind. I have traveled to many parts of the world only to find that the wind got there first. Relaxed and at home no matter where it goes. In the fields, in the mountains, in the cities too, it is just around every corner, entering every abode, touching all in it’s path. If I were the wind I would envelop those I love, be a refreshing breeze on a summer’s day and a warming north wind on those long winter nights. Unseen, invisible, but always there caring for what is mine. If I were the wind, my loved ones would be safe, no one could hurt them.

I wish I were the wind. Invisible to all it comes from behind to rustle the newly fashioned hair, to catch the frail of step by surprise making them wobble unsteadily. Invisible to all it comes head on with an icy cold sharpness that makes faces turn from it’s path. It’s always there, whether hot or cold, whether strong or light, like a trusty friend it has you in it’s hand. If I were the wind, I would be that friend, I would watch over those close to my heart ensuring they never come to harm, no one could hurt them.

Depression and Anxiety – I thought I was doing so well…

Have you ever thought this as you plunge head first into a black hole? Yeah, it is another of those little traps that most often befalls the overly confident or newbies to the depression gig. Now no one has ever called me ‘overly confident’ or even optimistic, my wife always calls me a pessimist and ‘overly negative’, yet I stand here to say that I too fall for this trap. In this past year my life has taken so many different turns, ups, downs, rights, lefts, every which way, and for the first time I have had serious thoughts about suicide – these are currently in remission, although the strong desire to die is still there. I can still remember that suicide period where I would spend hours of every day planning how I would kill myself, I didn’t want it to be someone I care about that would find me so location was important, I had my letters written, I would go to my weekly group sessions and talk about my roadside death wish thoughts, I became so relaxed about talking about it that I was continually getting myself into trouble. Then one day I looked back and realized that it had been a couple of weeks since I had had any such thoughts. So began another period where I let myself think I was getting better. Sadly it didn’t last and I learnt the lesson all over again.

So much has changed/happened this year in among my worsening depression – I have taken early retirement (partly due to me depression), I have taken up walking…for miles each day, I have started writing (including blogging), I have taken a hobby (furniture making) and started taking orders for bespoke furniture, and I am looking for a part time job to fill up all my free time. :-/ Now the fact that I am able to look at my life and say “hey I am filling up every spare minute of my time” should be ringing alarm bells as this is how I got through the previous fifty years, leaving myself no time to deal with my depression issues until eventually I crashed and burned…taking others with me, but it’s not, instead here I am writing about it! So taken in by the “I’m doing well” syndrome that I am ignoring warning signs that I know mean something. What is that, arrogance? or just stupidity? I guess I am like the bipolar sufferer who has stopped taking their meds, they are on a high which should be warning them that something is wrong, but instead they are just enjoying the euphoric feeling of the high. Watch this space for a wreckage report!! On the bright side…I should get a lot done while it lasts!

In reality though I too am a newbie to this life. Although I have had depression all my life, it’s really only this year that I have been getting treatment and trying to deal with it in a responsible way, so I’m allowed to make some mistakes. I guess the moral of the story is though that when these disappointments happen, when we crash after having a period where we think we have been doing so well, it doesn’t mean we have failed or that we are a failure, it’s just part of the sickness, so don’t let it break your resolve to keep fighting. Try to have a talk to someone who has been there and done it before, have a cry together, then a laugh. If you do you will already be on your way to feeling better.

And don’t forget to check out the link on the left to “This is a depression blog”.

Depression and Anxiety – Resilience

Now here is an interesting word. Dictionaries define it as the “ability to recover readily from illness…”, amongst other things. You hear this word used a lot by medical professionals when talking about depression. When in hospital, there were whole sections of the treatment program dedicated to the subject. They would talk about “being resilient” and “building resilience” so that we can “bounce back” as it were from periods of depression. In my mind I couldn’t help but think about jelly…poke it and take your finger away and it returns to exactly how it was.

I find that word doesn’t really do it for me. Yes we need to be able to function, so we can’t just remain in a depressed state, we need to get through it and get on with our lives. I don’t think I see myself like a lump of jelly bouncing back into shape and carrying on with life like nothing happened. On the contrary, I feel that every episode one gets through leaves a scar to some extent, and that doesn’t really fit the ‘resilience’ meaning which also says “the ability to return to the original form…”. This whole thing makes me feel like I have to get through the depression and then resilience will help me to be just like I was before it happened.

I (and I have to make it clear here that these are just my ideas) have a habit of using words like ‘tolerance’ and ‘fortitude’, which convey more a meaning of having the capacity to get through the period of depression and come out the other side still in one piece. I find that when depression strikes, the last thing on my mind is, “I must get myself back to where I was”, I just want to survive and at the same time, be able to continue to function while going through it. All through my life, even when I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I didn’t have the option to throw in the towel until the depression passed, I had to keep functioning. Perhaps not knowing what was wrong with me was a blessing. I think I was one of the fortunate ones who through the circumstances of my life, had built up a level of inner strength that enabled me to just ‘grit my teeth’ and carry on. I remember days when I would be so sad that I would be driving to work bawling my eyes out – no I didn’t hate my job that much, well not at that point anyway! I could go for days at a time where just getting through the day was an achievement.

So from where I sit I think the thing that is an absolute necessity to have is that ability to get through the down periods, understand your depression so you can see the path you are heading on and know that “this too will pass”, because the moment you let it overwhelm you then you have a bigger fight on your hands – I for one do find this hard because I have grown to like my depression, once I am in that place I just want to wallow in my misery, hence that even greater need to see the path and have the ‘fortitude’ to stay on it. The right medication and treatment help you to do this so if you haven’t as yet consulted a mental health specialist, don’t hold back, don’t procrastinate, it will help you far more than you might imagine (seePriority One – Getting Help).