Monday, February 25, 2008

Depression Deleted...

I stumbled into my computer screen today to write a post about “being” depressed. I wrote the entire post…then, I erased it. It was filled with images and words about “feeling” sadness, anger, and fear, not “being” depressed…as I reread my own words, a light went on inside my insular tunnel and I decided what I was TRYING to say wasn’t really what I meant. So this post was written instead…

In my early twenties (and frankly, well into my early thirties), I withstood several bouts of serious depressive episodes. These episodes would wash over me without warning or cause, yet I always seemed to search tirelessly for their meaning and the catalyst that created them. I spent thousands of dollars on therapies, medications, trips of avoidance, and STILL the depressive episodes would suffocate me…like a giant wave or a tight noose around my neck…making the simple act of breathing in life a struggle.

I “know” depression well because I have BEEN it…felt it, touched it, tasted it, and breathed it…I “know” depression well because I have lived it… I “know” depression well because I have and continue to work with it daily in my chosen profession and have born witness to it, watching its profound affect in the many faces and lives depression touches. I recognize depression when it shows itself and, because of this familiarity, I can work with it in others, holding their space within my hands, in hopes of molding depression into something less frightening for them.

In my twenties, I wrote poems about my depressive episodes in an attempt to find meaning amidst the words. Poems such as the following flowed out of me like violent rivers jumping their banks:


Looking out
And hating in.
Worthless feelings
Dance inside.
Stirring the dust
That’s in my mind.

Spinning downward
Inside myself.
Empty fear to
Taunt my soul.
Giving in
And letting go.

Feeling dead
Yet breathing air.
Violent cries
To end the pain.
No way out
Alone again.

I think I’ll self-destruct.

Depression seems to carry a language of its own, often requiring translation for those less familiar. And, but for the grace of God go they, those who have never endured depression whispering in their ears, struggle to make sense of the words. To someone who has never experienced true, clinical depression, the language can feel quite foreign and be entirely misunderstood. The language of depression can also become “inviting” to use without understood definitions…much like throwing out catch phrases picked up in High School French class or street slang heard in movies. We unfortunately think we are “relating” by using the language in “catch phrases”, when in fact we are simply confusing the translation or carelessly misusing the impact…further alienating the person who is in the depressive episode.

I say all of this to explain the light that went on inside my head today and WHY I deleted my previously written post about “being” depressed…because I am NOT depressed…because I was carelessly using the word “depressed” as a catch phrase to describe the sensation of feeling out of control of my life in the moment. Which, if I exam my current situation closely, IS ONLY A MOMENT…not forever, and not feeling forever…simply a moment of discomfort in time.

When one truly feels depression, there are no moments…only lifetimes. And those lifetimes of feeling become longer than any hours of a day, week, or year one could imagine enduring. There are no “segments” of feeling joy…there is no vision of a future without depression…there is no hope OF a future. Most often, there is no “hope” at all and many times any identifiable feelings such as sadness, anger, or hurt, have been drained of any recognizable substance…one who feels true depression sometimes cannot identify their feelings because those feelings simply no longer exist…they have been sucked into the void of darkness.

I am sad, frightened, and angry about my current moment in life…it saddens me that I cannot jump up off my couch and participate in my usual life at the moment. It frightens me to feel this vulnerable in my MS and not be able to predict my future. And it angers me that I have to experience this “moment” in my life at all…thanks to life’s curve ball circumstances of a car accident/serious virus/MS onset symptoms. But I AM experiencing these feelings and so very thankful to have them and be able to identify them…I am grateful my life DOES contain joy, peace, and comfort, and that it is not cloaked in the darkness of depression.

Don’t get me wrong here…I am NOT whistling “Zippity Doo Dah” out my ass, but I also am NOT depressed. And I do not want to negate or degrade another’s experience of depression by using the word as a “catch phrase” for expressing my feelings. I can translate the language, but I am NOT speaking it now…

Now, as a disclaimer (because I cannot and do not offer medical advice here, even though I pride myself in playing a doctor on the Internet!), I must say…if you are finding yourself caught submerged under the wave or in the noose of depression, tell someone…anyone…even if they cannot fully understand the language you are using. The person you disclose this to will hopefully find a translator for you that CAN understand what you are saying. And if depression is griping you so strongly that you are feeling no way out of its grasp other than suicide, give yourself a moment to BREATHE…and then another moment…and another.

What I sometimes tell people is this: If you are depressed and suicidal and have NOT tried every available intervention to alter your circumstances, you owe it to yourself to do so. Most of us would try every intervention known to medicine to cure our cancer/MS/diabetes/heart disease/etc., before giving up and laying down to die…depression should be no different. It would be a great loss to kill yourself BEFORE realizing the intervention you needed was right around the corner. And if you have already decided suicide is your only answer, then there IS NO RUSH TO ACT UPON THE DECISION. Give yourself a month, three months, or six months to TRY another intervention(s) until you have truly exhausted all probable assistance. Again, if you have already come to the suicide conclusion, you can always hold this decision in your cards for later use, but you do NOT HAVE TO PLAY YOUR HAND IMPULSIVELY NOW. Be wise about any permanent solutions.


Anonymous said...

Again your words resound in me. Thank you. I'm all too familiar with the state described in your poem. If you read through my poems in 'Paradox', you'll see a parallel life of struggle. So, thank you. I spoke with my doctor two weeks ago about my depression and am trying some medication to help me win this battle.
Stay inspired!
Expand your mind ~ visit Brain Angles

Lisa Emrich said...

Linda, this is a fabulous post. I've been depression before. I've known timeless moments without joy, sadness, anger, happiness, fear, humor, rage, anticipation, or breath. To be able to identify individual emotions is a blessing to be treasured in life. I am thankful to know sadness and joy, anger and love, and all the wide variety of emotions available in this human life we live.



So many "languages" in this life...the language of love, the language of war, etc. And it's not necessarily a "good" thing to be bilingual in the language of depression!

Best to you in facing yours with new meds...and cheers to you for trying.




In a dualistic society where thinking runs in extremes, i.e., black and white, good and evil, happy and sad, etc., it is believed one cannot truly know the other without experiencing both sides...depression is not so easily categorized and presents quite complex and multifaceted. It most likely contains elements of ALL of our emotions, which is why depression is so misunderstood. And yes, it is a wonderful blessing to be able to experience ALL depths of feeling rather than to be numb or void. I'm very glad you are able to identify for yourself what these depths are for you...and to call them your own.


Callie said...

This is a great post..... I've posted a chuckle video for you all, that is if goats entertain you as they do me. I think I'm lucky to have the people in my life and my animals to keep me grounded. Even at my worst.

Have Myelin? said...

Linda this is great. I'm not sure what I'm feeling right now but numb rings a bell. Fake it till you make it also resonants with me.

I think it has to do with the question "Who is this new me?"

I guess I can't identify what these depths you are talking about for myself. Or how to call them my own.

I can't honestly say "I need to think about this" because my thinking cap blew off.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda:
I come from a long line of relatives that have committed suicide. Some succeeded and some didn't. Given that, I think that is the reason why I would never consider it for myself.

Call it running away, or delaying confrontations, whatever you want, but my answer to problems that would be serious enough for one to consider suicide - is to remove myself from that world. No, not take myself out by suicide. But to actually, physically, leave the situation.

I guess that's why I ran away from home at age 15 and stayed out. Lived on friends' couches for months until I could afford to live on my own.

Even when times were at their worst for me (via child abuse), the thought of suicide never occurred to me. After all, I wasn't the problem. I didn't have the problem - my abusers did. So why should I do away with myself?

Since it is in the genes though, I am watchful of my sons when dark moods come upon them and carefully steer them to a different way of thinking, put them on a path to a better resolution. Thankfully neither of them has ever mentioned suicide.

Depression is a terrible state of mind and we all deal with it in our own way. I just choose to redirect it instead of letting it consume me.

Thank you for this post. It touched a nerve. :-) Anne

Bubbie said...

I have nothing to say except excellent post Ms. Cheese.



And I SAW your goat video! They are rambunctious...




Your thinking cap blew off?!? LOL Must be where your use of the word *fucktard* came from. LOL




I hope it didn't touch your last "good nerve"...don't wanna be tapping on THAT one!

Thanks for the honesty in your comment(s) does appear you've learned what works best for you when it comes to depression. Sometimes there ARE choices, sometimes there are not...but I think we ALWAYS have the choice how we will ACT toward our feelings/circumstances/emotions.




The BUBBIE speechless? Hmmm...may have to rethink my next move...LOL


Jaime said...

Thank you so much for this! Sometimes we do get lost in a moment and don't know where to go. I am one of the fortunate ones who has never had to deal with serious depression. I have however had to deal with (and am currently dealing with) the feeling of things being out of my control....being lost in the moment not sure how to make things better. This I am afraid is part of having MS. We have ups and downs, but it is important to remember that the up will come.

I have missed you....reading your blog. I hope that your moment passes very soon. Take care!


Steve said...

Linda, I don't know what it is to be depressed. It's occurred to me before, having worked so closely with so many who are clinically depressed that I'm immune only because I'm so totally out of touch with my feelings.

I have, however, had two dear friends commit suicide. One was my buddy in high school who killed himself rather than tell his dad he was gay. I was 15 and went the entire day thinking I was a real jerk for not feeling sad about it, and then inexplicably broke down when a teacher I didn't particularly like asked me innocently how I was doing. And one was a coworker of mine who, rather than deal with the pressures of being a closeted gay, muslim man living in post 9/11 Atlanta took his own life. In both cases, I am ashamed to say that I was completely surprised.

But I will say this... zipadeedooda or ANY music of any kind should not come out of anyone's ass at any time. While beans are indeed a musical fruit, no one should have that kind of control over their rectum as to modulate the tones such that true music is the result. That was a PSA.



Life is just a series of moments...some far more pleasant and exciting than others!




You always bring such a fresh perspective here...thank you!

And, I can see you are a fartologist, too...LOL


Anonymous said...

Oh, me too. I have been depressed pretty constantly since I was eight or so. I am forty now, also have MS and am also a Leo!