Monday, February 4, 2013

A Few More Thoughts on Depression

Yup, I'm dealing with it again.

I had a really bad bout from August to October or so, and then it tapered off, and I'd been feeling pretty OK, and then it started attacking again a couple weeks ago. I do think this is one instance where it is being heavily fueled by circumstance - these coincide with the times when I've been away from Jacob the longest. (The fiercely independent "YOU DON'T NEED A MAN TO BE HAPPY" voice in my head is mad at me for letting that fuel my depression, but then the more rational voice says, "Well, you ARE marrying the man, so clearly you love him, so it is perfectly reasonable for you to be extremely sad at not being with him.")


There are a couple things I have noted about my bout with depression this time around:

1. My blog might be pretty fluffy for awhile. I've had about 15 "serious" blogs I've been meaning to write - things about church and introversion and quotes I read and movies besides just random lists. But when depression hits, it robs me of my motivation and my energy to find the words to say what I want to say. And I care about finding the words I want to say. I don't want to just throw out a first draft and be like, "Yup, good enough, done."

I don't know when I'll get around to writing a couple of more serious blogs again. I'd like to, but if those are the blogs you're holding out for, it might be a little bit.

2. Taking basic care of myself becomes much harder than usual. Yesterday morning it took all the energy I had to motivate myself to get out of bed, put on clean clothes, and brush my hair and teeth. I had nothing left to give to things like putting my coat on or climbing in and out of the family van, much less socializing with people at church. When I'm depressed, showers and eating just don't sound like they're worth the trouble. If I'm not careful, I'll go a couple days without eating. (I'm sure a fair amount of this is aggravated by my arthritis, which also robs me of movement and energy.)

3. It's cyclical, and breaking the cycle is hard. I get depressed that I'm not accomplishing anything, and then that depresses me so much it paralyzes me and I can't get anything accomplished, and then I get depressed that I'm not accomplishing anything all over again.

4. Motivational speeches from friends don't work. Not so much this time, but in the past I've had well-meaning friends encourage me to get stuff done and help hold me accountable - "You should do this today!" "Go get some work done and tell me when you've finished!" "Just get one thing done today and you'll feel so much better!" If I was just feeling lazy, this would absolutely work. I love having people I can report back to. However, if I'm depressed, what ends up happening is this: every time I fail to accomplish something, I am overwhelmed by thoughts that I'm letting that person down. I start withdrawing from them because I don't want to admit today was my twelfth bad day in a row and I still haven't finished that application for the job I actually want. I start imagining their disappointment and their thoughts of, "Why haven't you gotten it together yet?" and instead of motivating me, it paralyzes me further.

Withdrawing from everyone and going the route of depression alone is obviously not a good answer. Loving support from friends and family is clearly important. But I'm learning what methods of support work for me and which ones don't. This is good, this is a step up. I had a friend who offered to help me by letting me report successes to her, so I told her I'd love to accept her help but she had to promise me she wasn't going to expect anything so I wouldn't feel like I was letting her down. We agreed on this arrangement, and I'm hoping that if I never feel like she's expecting success from me, I'll be freer to actually find success and share it with her without guilt.

5. I have to have to have to remember that, ultimately, I'm okay. I have a place to live. I have loyal friends and a wise family and a thoughtful fiance, and they all love me. Arthritis aside, I am fairly healthy. I have space where I can go to be alone and space where I can be surrounded by friends. I know who I am and what I want in life.

Most importantly, I know the depression is temporary. It may not feel temporary. But in the back of my mind, I know that these feelings come and go. It may be another week, or another month, or another year, but I've never had a serious depressive period that lasted longer than a couple months, and most likely it won't this time either. If I can keep it together through this season, eventually I will be back in another good season.

There's not really a "point" to this blog other than to share a few thoughts from my own experience and apologize for any impact it may have on my blog. In closing, let me share one of the most (perhaps weirdly) comforting songs for me when I'm in the middle of one of these bouts - "For Now" from Avenue Q.


  1. #4 is so true... Making promises I know I can't keep then getting more depressed when I can't keep them is the very definition of vicious cycle.

    1. Yeah. One time I tried to be all, "I WILL GET SUPPORT FROM EVERYBODY" and it ended up making me more depressed than I've maybe ever been because I felt like I was letting everyone in the world down. Heh. It did not work.

  2. The last time I was in a major depressive cycle, where I could barely get out of bed, let alone feed myself or my kids, my husband tried to tell me to just have a list of things and work on those things, and then I wouldn't be so depressed. If I could just accomplish something, it wouldn't be so bad!

    Yeah, that just extended the depression by at least a day, if not more. When I was finally feeling better, because it's not something I can talk about while I'm going through it, I told him that I don't need a list of the things I'm doing wrong. I need physical contact with people (And my cat, she is awesome at knowing when I need a cuddle) and I need love and understanding. So we agreed that if I get feeling like that again, I'd ask him for hugs and massages, because those things help my brain feel better, and he won't try to "fix me" by giving me suggestions of things I *should* be doing... because my brain is already telling me that I'm a failure at everything, and I don't need anyone to tell me to just do _______ and then I'll be fine.

    When I was younger, I heard a lot that depressed people were just selfish, that if they just went out and served other people more, if they just prayed harder, and had more faith, then they wouldn't be so depressed. I heard this from my parents and from my church leaders. In fact, this is something that my mom said to me just a few weeks ago. That being depressed meant I didn't have enough faith in God. Yeah, that's not so helpful. That just makes me feel worse about myself.

    1. A lot of people who don't deal with depression equate depression with occasional sadness they themselves feel, and so they offer you the motivational tips that work for them, not realizing that depression is a whole new level that can't be magicked or motivated away as easily as we all wish it could.

      And, as I said in chat, the whole "if you're depressed you don't trust God enough" line infuriates me. Heh. The Christian church often has no idea how to deal with chronic depression, and it shows in the advice they give to the people dealing with it.

  3. "Withdrawing from everyone and going the route of depression alone is obviously not a good answer. Loving support from friends and family is clearly important. But I'm learning what methods of support work for me and which ones don't."


    I'm of course sorry to hear that you're fighting depression again and I hope you know I'm a tweet or a Facebook IM away if you need to talk. What I like about this post of yours is that you're being proactive. You're sussing out the support that works for you, which is one of the most important parts of the process. Until you reach that point, it's often even worse when there are people offering their version of support because when it fails, you feel like it's a failure of your own and that only compounds the whole mess.

    Depression support is specialized, because it's a specialized issue. Just as not everyone knows what to say at all, each of us has to find out what does and does not work for us. I'm still working on my own Depression Playbook, but I definitely know that directives like "You need to quit thinking about things" and "Oh, just do something!" only frustrate me and do not help me at all.

    Reese's cups, however, do help and even if they don't, at least they're so much nicer than people who don't know anything about depression inundating me with pithy bumper sticker slogans.

    1. Chocolate sure is nice :)

      I don't know if you meant those specific directives are unhelpful or if you meant all directives are unhelpful, but I'm totally behind both those ideas. Heh. For me, whenever depression-related advice is formed as "you need to do such-and-such," I become distressed that I am unable to follow their advice, I feel not only disappointing but somehow *disobedient* (curse my inner need to follow rules and instructions!) and the whole paralyzing cycle starts again. Even when it may be good advice (focus on something else, find one thing to work on, etc.) when it's phrased as a command, the stakes are raised, and if I fail to do it, or if I do it and it fails to help, everything feels failed.

      It is a slight comfort to me to know that this time around, I have some better ideas of what will help and what will not. And hopefully I'll learn more this time that will help me next time.