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Swing Low

February 13, 2016

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Depression is just so fucking impolite.  Truly, no manners whatsoever.  It’s like an uninvited houseguest who shows up with ten suitcases demanding dinner and kicking you out of your own comfortable, familiar bed.

I mean, it could at least give a gal a little notice.  Maybe a quick text or phone call: “Pardon me, I realize you’re doing okay right now, but momentarily you will see a few candid photos of yourself that kick your self-esteem in the ass, followed by a bad-mommy-moment that sparks some serious self-loathing, and perhaps some cancelled plans with a  friend to make you question whether anyone actually likes you.  Then I will slip inside your head ever so quietly and make you want to crawl under the covers with a box of wine.  For a month.”

On a “normal” day (whatever that means), none of this would even faze me.  I know unflattering photos happen and shouldn’t measure my self-worth.  I realize parenthood can be hard and that all of us raise our voices from time to time or handle situations with less patience than we should.  I understand that cancelled plans are just cancelled plans, that life happens to us all and that it has nothing to do with me.  But when my old nemesis comes calling, every molehill becomes a mountain, and the smallest thing is enough to knock me down.

For me, depression has taken many forms over the years.  Social anxiety when I was younger, crippling postpartum darkness, low tides of self-destructive behavior and incredibly shitty self esteem…it seems to change masks in order to slip in undetected and bring me to my knees when I least expect it.  Sometimes it’s such a subtle shift in my emotions I don’t even recognize it at first.  Other times it knocks me down like a tidal wave and no matter how I struggle to come up for air, I keep getting tossed underwater where I can’t breathe.  It also causes me to mix metaphors, apparently.

Fortunately over the years I’ve learned what helps.  Medication is not optional for me.  I’ve tried life without it and I’m just a better human when I’m drugged.  This idea has been a real struggle for me as I lean towards a natural approach to healing.  I won’t take antibiotics unless I’m hospitalized with a life-threatening infection.  I would rather drink tea for a sore throat than take Tylenol.  But my brain is wonky and without chemical assistance I am a lousy mother and wife.  And that’s just unacceptable to me.

Eating clean and working out regularly are my other lifesavers, but when I get low they’re the first things to go.  I slip into self-destruct mode like I’m throwing on a comfy old sweater that I happen to be violently allergic to.  I know it’s bad for me, I know I should donate it, but man, it’s just so soft and warm.  Sure, my mood is way more level when I eat right.  Yes, alcohol is a depressant.  Of course, exercise is the ultimate upper.  But imma sit here on this couch and binge eat instead.  Because I’m not really worth the effort and I’ll just fail anyways and GOD I hate myself…*slugs wine and eats a bag of Cheetos*

I tried light therapy and it actually seemed to help quite a bit, but then my dog chewed through the cord to the light box and well, going out in public and buying a new one just seemed hard.  And maybe winter was right.  Maybe life just sucked and I should go back to bed.

Therapy has never appealed to me because I hate talking about my problems.  Probably that means I’m someone who really needs it, but writing this all down is as close as I’ve ever come to putting my personal shit out there.  I’m the one other people unload on, not the one who calls a friend to talk about her lousy day.  I would much rather listen than share.  (So posting this is rather like a relaxing swim with sharks or a casual walk across a 20,000 foot tightrope.  Whee!)

My poor husband is the exception to this rule.  He is my safe place, the one person I am completely vulnerable with.  For some reason he’s decided I’m worth keeping around and as a result he’s subject to my dark times and scary thoughts.  He struggles with wanting to fix me.  Having never experienced depression, he has a tough time understanding that there’s no reason for my feelings.  Over the years I’ve gotten better at handling it and so has he, but sometimes I’m sure he wants to give up on me.  Guess that’s real love, when you refuse to do that even when you wish you could.

Meditation helps.  Prayer helps.  Reading helps.  Cuddling with my kids helps.  Talking to my husband helps.  Petting my dog helps.  Hanging out with my parents and sister helps.  Being around people who are real and honest and messy helps.  Being outside helps.  This is my arsenal.  When depression attacks, I have many, many ways to combat it.  Sometimes it’s a long battle, sometimes it’s bloody, but always I win.  Do I question if I always will?  Maybe in my rawest, shakiest moments, yes.  But I’m not giving up without a fight.

I hope and pray I don’t pass this onto my children.  I want to shelter them from this (and all) pain.  But if, God forbid, either one of them ever suffers from it, I want to be there holding their hands and showing them my (metaphorical) scars and NOT LEAVING.  Because that’s the thing.  The not leaving is the best way to love someone with depression.  You don’t have to say the right thing or come up with the answer.  You just have to stay.

Here’s the other thing: spring is coming.  Dark times don’t last.  When you’re living them, they lie to you and tell you they’re sticking around, but they can’t.  Light wedges itself in there when you least expect it and drives out the dark.  Sometimes you just have to wait things out.  Under the covers.  With Cheetos.


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