Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A day in the life of my depression

I drive up to the gate, put the car in park, and get out. 
Inadvertently, my gaze is drawn to that house. My heart starts beating faster, and I feel my palms getting wet. 
I quickly look away and busy myself opening the gate. "Stay calm," I mutter under my breath. 
"Breathe."I take a cleansing yogic breath that doesn't do a thing to calm me down, climb back into the car, drive through, stop, get out and close the gate.

The goats are greeting me as they always do, and my panic rises. Are they louder than usual? They're too loud, aren't they? People will hear! Omg, what am I gonna do? What if they will complain again?
I drive down the driveway in a panic. Rich is there, watering the horses, and I jump out of the car and race up to him, shouting, "I can't do this! We have to sell the goats! It's too much, I can't do this anymore!"
Without waiting for  reply I turn around, run into the house, collapse onto my bed and promptly burst into tears. 

In that moment, everything seems hopeless. I'm questioning my life, my marriage, our decision to move, the way we live, and my inability to re-shape my husband to my - and the neighbourhood's - expectations. I'm also berating myself for not being a better wife, housewife, person, and all-around grown-up.
I know that's my depression talking. I have extensive experience with her wily ways, because I have lived with her for almost 25 years.

But even though I know that she is lying to me about all this, I can't really trust that knowledge. Because right now, I feel like the biggest loser alive. I have an endless ticker tape of things that are wrong with me flashing before my eyes: I don't cook every night; I don't make my husband help more; I don't support my husband enough; I don't keep him in line; I'm not more self-confident; I'm lazy; I'm a bad friend;  I'm a bad daughter; I'm bad, bad, bad
Am I wasting my life? Shouldn't I use it more effectively? Shouldn't I do, I don't know - more, somehow?
I have to turn my brain off, right this minute, or I'll go crazy. 
I pour myself a large glass of wine, set up my ironing, and turn on Grey's. 
For the next couple of hours I sip, iron, and watch the drama unfold on the screen in front of me, desperately trying not to think. 
At some point I go to bed, so exhausted I want to cry. 
So I do just that: I start crying. I'm crying uncontrollably for a long time until I fall asleep.

The next morning I wake up feeling completely drained, with swollen eyes and zero energy.
I can't bring myself to get out of bed. 
I usually love mornings, and I'm eager to get up, make myself coffee and start the day.
But on the days when depression is in charge I'm leaden.
I'm weighed down with a burden so heavy, it's impossible to move. 
So I don't. I grab my book from the nightstand and start reading, desperate to escape this dismal reality. 

If it's a day where I don't have to work I will read, watch TV and nap all day, only getting up to go to the bathroom or to get something to eat. 
But this time it's a day where I do have to work at noon. 

The knowledge of work is another heavy burden settling down on my chest. 
Every fibre in me is screaming to blow off work.
I'm so tired. I can't even put into words how tired I am. I can barely move a muscle - how will I be able to get through eight hours at work? It's impossible. 
But I know, deep down, that I can do it. That I will feel better when I do it.
As unimaginable as it seems right now, long experience has taught me that I have to get out of the house.

Even though I know this, no other force in the world would get me out except work. My willpower isn't strong enough, but my German roots are: we only call in sick for work when we feel like we're dying. I may feel exceptionally crappy today, but I know that I'm not dying. So work it is.

Still, it takes me  an agonizingly long time to get out of bed. 
I do the whole "5-more-minutes"-routine way too many times, and in the end I have to rush my shower, don't have enough time to properly blow-dry my hair, and don't pack a lunch. I hurry out the door with my hair half-wet, my body heavy and my mind anxious with nervous anticipation. 
Even though I doubted it, as soon as I walk into work and see my favourite co-worker, my heart lifts and the burden on my chest lessens. 
It happens every single time. Work always makes me feel better. And yet, I'm never sure. 
Because depression is such a damn good liar. It tells me that I'm weak, that I'm useless, that I'm better off hiding from the world. It makes my body weak, my mind go crazy, and it always makes me doubt my entire existence.   

I've been on this merry-go-round for years now. I know that it's always bad at the beginning of winter; worse around the holidays; and worst when I'm stressed. 
In addition to that I have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), the mean sister of PMS, which causes me to bloat like I'm 6 months pregnant, makes me irrationally fearful and worried about everything, and has me question everything about my life. It arrives like clockwork every month exactly one week before my period, and even though I know it's coming, it's a bitch every single time.  

Because that's the thing about illness: even though you know what to expect when you've had it before, you always forget how bad it was. Our marvellous, clever body manipulates our memory so we never remember the exact amount of pain we were in, making it seem easier than it was. It glosses over the bad parts and enhances the good ones. It's a really good friend, our body.

That's why it's always a shock when the illness hits again. The couple of times a year when I get my bad bouts of depression I'm always surprised at the severity of it. 

What it does for me is shine a spotlight on whatever is bothering me at the time, and make it seem a thousand times worse than it is. 
It could be anything: a tiff with my sister, a disagreement with a neighbour, something going on at work. My depression will take the small, normal, solvable problem and blow it up into this huge, unsolvable, life-destroying monstrosity. And because my defences are weak and my self-esteem is non-existent I will believe her. Every.damn.time. 
It's annoying.  And exhausting.
It kicks me down to the ground. 
That day, that night, my life's problems seem insurmountable. 
During those hours, I understand. I understand the ones who thought they didn't have another way out. Because that's the lie depression tells you. That's the awfulness of the disease: it tells you that the world, your loved ones, and everybody in your life will be better off without you. And for a moment, you wonder: is life really worth suffering for? Is it really worth fighting, when I'm so tired?

But that's when you remember how you smiled that morning when you saw the foals gallop across the field together. 
You see the dogs pressed up against you, wanting to give you comfort, needing you. 
You know that your husband loves you, because he just told you so. 

But most importantly? You deserve to live because you are you
You haven't offered everything you can to the world yet. 
You are not done. 
You haven't experienced enough yet.
You haven't seen enough yet. 
 YOU.ARE.NOT.DONE.YET.

Whatever it is that carries you through the darkness, keep it close to you. 
Your children. 
Your partner. 
Your pets. 
All the books you have yet to read.
The Northern lights you want to see.
That cat who snuggled up on your lap today.
You just need one thing. One small, little thing that made you feel good today, even if it was only for a second.
Because if something can make you feel good, even for a second, you still want to live.
Don't forget that. 

Remember it in the dark hours. 

Because tomorrow, you will be so glad you did. 



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6 comments

  1. Miriam,
    You are so brave. Your honesty is inspiring to me. When you share your thoughts and feelings, especially around depression, it reminds me that I'm not alone. I have recently tried to be more open/honest about my own struggles and I like to ask myself, "What would Miriam do?" Please know that you are valuable, you are important, you are worth it (whatever IT may be).
    Also, you make me laugh- I have the same feelings about work. I never call in and am usually okay/good while I'm there. I do find that it takes a lot out of me though. I come home and hide in my bed. Even when I know I should take my dog for a walk or do some yoga. I have to remind myself that I can only do so much when I'm depressed and sometimes that means going to work but not getting anything else done for the rest of the day!
    I'll be thinking of you.

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  2. Dear Ann, thank you!! Thanks for sharing that you feel the same sometimes, it means so much.
    I keep talking about it so people realize that a happy, joyful person can have this illness. That being content and living a great life doesn't automatically exclude us from having depression. They both can - and DO - coexist together.

    Have you ever heard of the spoon theory? A woman named Christine Miserandino came up with it to explain to her friend what it's like to live with a chronic illness.
    Christine explains to her friend that a healthy person wakes up in the morning with a large amount of energy.
    The healthy person doesn't have to make decisions how to spend their limited amount of energy, because it's not limited. They can make spontaneous decisions and change plans, because they have enough energy to do so.

    Not a sick person. A sick person has a limited amount of energy, and they have to be careful how they use it. That's where the spoons come in.
    Let's say you start out with 10 spoons. Getting out of bed costs you one spoon. Taking a shower costs another (two if you shave your legs). If you have to go to work that day, you're already down 3 precious spoons before you even got dressed.
    Now imagine you want to go out for dinner with friends, or you have to do grocery shopping after work, or vacuum the house - you can't do it all in one day, because you don't have enough spoons. That means that you have to make many, many choices every day, deciding how to spend the little energy you have.

    I think the spoon theory applies perfectly to us with mental illness. If we use up our spoons at work (which is good for our mental health and our bank account) there is nothing left for dog walking, cooking or exercising. And that's okay. We don't have to aim to do it all - it's perfectly acceptable to just do a little. Or nothing at all some days.

    Let's keep fighting the good fight and support one another! We are not alone.

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    Replies
    1. I love the spoon theory. I first heard about it from The Bloggess!

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    2. She's the best, isn't she? I just love her! I read every blog post religiously and read both her books, 'Let's Pretend This Never Happened' and 'Furiously Happy' several times.

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  3. My dear Miriam, you are such a beautiful soul. And I am so honored to get to read your words, your thoughts, your struggles, and your celebrations. Thank you for putting your life right out there for all of us to see + be inspired. Big love + magic to you! xo

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, dear Liz, for your beautiful words!
      Sharing my journey in this space is such a help for me, and if it's beneficial for others that's even better.
      That's what blogging is about for me: sharing our lives to make others feel understood and seen. Thank you for being part of this magical blogging community!❤

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