I wasn't going to write another depression post. You guys are tired of reading about depression. And I don't want to make everybody think I'm in some kind of horribly low place where I can't function at all and I want to kill myself. That is not the case. Not at all.
But yesterday I was experiencing several of the hallmarks of The Lowest of the Low, even though, as Katie pointed out, I am not anywhere near as bad as I was that one time in 2008. But it's hard to qualitatively rank the lowness of moods, even in the most rational of minds, which was not the mind I was in yesterday. I had the whole How am I going to make it through the day? syndrome, as well as, Why are you trying to ruin my life by making such awful requests as 'please give me some milk'? And I had this really bad moment in the produce department of Target where I went into full worst-case scenario/racing thought mode, not so much a panic attack as just a sudden strike of inability to carry on. It felt like all the people around me were swirling around, in some other world, carrying on about their better, healthier lives. I felt like I was paralyzed by my own thoughts. And then my kid was trying to hang off the side of the cart and knock off whatever items were on the endcaps of each aisle, including pasta sauce in glass jars.
I took a deep breath and moved on. I made it through the day.
But today I knew, just knew, that I better get my depressed ass to the gym and generate some endorphins. Which, let me say, in the lowest of the low, you do not know anything you need to do to pull yourself out. I think that's something people don't understand about depression. When you are so far down, you can't figure out how to claw your way out. Nowadays, I can figure out how, most of the time, although I had to call myself out on my bullshit brain yesterday when it was doing the whole, "No, there's no point in doing [insert fun, life-affirming activity], I will still be sad, I hate doing that, blah, blah, blah." That bullshit is totally depression's BFF.
So today I was just a teeny-tiny hair better and I knew I had to drag myself to the gym. But my kid was all coughing and Bill said he shouldn't go to the gym daycare. I was like, "I'm sorry, I have to go," and left Nathan home with Bill.
Let me say that in that Spin class, I felt like I rode to hell and back, which is saying something when it's a stationary bicycle. About halfway through, I felt physically and emotionally awful. I was seriously going through those same racing thoughts as I had at Target yesterday. I couldn't focus on the class because I was so worked up about my stupid, screwed-up brain.
But I kept on riding because what the hell else was I supposed to do? And somewhere in the middle of that class, I managed to ride back out of all of it. We ended the class with an extra-long, pummel-all-of-it-out-of-you stretching session. At the end of class, I wasn't magically cured of my depression. In fact, I felt so drained that I didn't even want to take a shower.
Don't worry, I still did. And while I was in the shower, I applauded myself for doing a tiny little something to make it better. And the thought occurred to me:
I will do what I need to do to make myself right.
And maybe that doesn't sound like much to you. But to me, it was such an eye-opening thought that I felt like I was freakin' Confucius. As I said, the acknowledgment that I have coping skills that I know I can use to make myself better is a big sign of an upward trend in my mental health. It doesn't mean I'm all better. It means I know there are things I can do to make myself better.
And when I say I will do what I need to do, I'm acknowledging that I have to think about myself right now. I know that sounds selfish. I also know that this entire blog consists of my pathetic navel-gazing, so if you read this you might think all I do is sit around and focus on my feelings all day long. But, like most moms, like most women in general, I spend most of my day taking care of other people. And especially during the holidays, you are extra busy trying to get it all done.
But today I am saying, so what if I don't feel up to buying some Christmas gifts? I can buy them tomorrow. So what if my floor is covered with toys and clutter? I will clean that up tomorrow. Today I will do what I need to do to make myself right.
And I will take my kid to the dentist, which doesn't feel like the horrible affront to my sanity that it would have felt like yesterday or the day before.
Another depression sufferer and I once talked about the gifts of depression. When you are in the thick of it, it does not seem like something you can ever feel grateful for. But as you start to come out of it, you realize that sometimes it takes being smacked to your very core to realize that you need to make some changes in your life. You need to stop playing the martyr who does everything for everybody else all the time.
You need to say, No, I will not get you some milk, because you just asked for water 2 minutes ago, and water is the drink you'll be drinking.
When I went to the outpatient depression program I affectionately refer to as Crazy Camp, the leader told us that depression was like the common cold of mental illness. So to play on this cold analogy, I will say that the worst of depression feels like that bad cold where no matter what you do, you are so stuffed up you can't blow out any snot. And all you can do is ride it out, which, believe me, feels like the hardest thing ever. But, as with a cold, you don't just go from "plugged up with snot" to instantly better overnight. There's an intermediate stage, and today I'm in that intermediate stage with my depression. I can start getting the snot out. And I can see that someday it will be right.
I will do what I need to do to make myself right.