I pretty much earned the Girl Scout badge for depression, although it was a long time ago. But because of it (and lots of therapy), I can say that I recognize the signs very well. And this week, I was headed toward depression, which culminated last night. Fortunately, this is very rare, in fact so rare, I barely recognized it. Because I had to learn to change so much, to perceive things differently.
But depression FEELS different. It isn’t the same as being sad. It isn’t the same as having a bad week. I’ve been both for at least a week. And as always, it’s a combination of things.
I can remember having a conversation with the psychiatrist about the kinds of things that made me depressed, and I would say, but that can’t be it. It’s just too minor to make me feel this way. And he would say, Yes, but what about Y and Z? Couldn’t X, Y, and Z together make you feel this bad? When I said, surely not, he would say Why not? Hmmm. So we would (or I would) painstakingly pick apart X, Y, and Z, and put them back together in a new configuration. A way that wasn’t as scary and made just as much sense as my old way. He was a genius, although I had to do the work.
So this week, here’s what happened. I read a book that left me feeling very unsettled. My sister’s dog died. My boss sent me a snarky email. (Okay, that one was easier to get over, but it just added to the general downward spiral.) My bookkeeper and my assistant manager at work did a couple of really stupid things and I had to have a word with them. (It IS my job, but I still hated it. They are both marvelous, admirable people.) I found out that my neighbor’s dogs had been seized by Animal Control and one of them was euthanized. Since I reported the neighbors in the first place, this is of course all my fault. (Not.) I’m having trouble with my computer.
I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I always have very vivid dreams that I can remember, but I’ve been having nightmares that wake me up. Yesterday the newspaper posted the videos of interviews they did with breast cancer survivors, which I participated in. And that was the last straw. All I could think about was how old I looked, and to a lesser degree, how I should have worn something different.
Last night I couldn’t even go to sleep, much less stay asleep.
Spiraling into depression is hard to describe. It’s like falling down a well. I had forgotten. So what you have to do is refuse to fall all the way. You have to grab onto the bricks on the way down and cling, even if your fingernails break. You have to dig your toes into the cracks between the bricks, like a rock climber, and cling.
The mental equivalent is that you have to force yourself to focus on the good things you saw or experienced lately, because they are there if you can find them. A friend (that I didn’t think was speaking to me) unexpectedly dropped by my office and took me to lunch. While reading at my picnic table this week, some sort of little black waspy thing that was annoying me captured some sort of very fat white larva. It was apparently so heavy that the black waspy thing couldn’t fly. So when I tried to wave it away, it would just waddle to another part of the table, because letting go of the prize was not an option. I was so amused I was practically in tears. But there is a serious lesson there…it might seem like a small thing. It might seem like too small a thing to counteract the bad things, but it is, if you will let it be. Plus, never let go of the bricks.
Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I was surfing TV channels. First I watched a little of Discovery ID (No. Women killing people.) Then NatGeo Wild. (Okay better. Wild cats killing food.) But the next program was about spiders. No. No spiders. I finally ended up at the Cooking Channel where Alton Brown was doing eggplant dishes, followed by bananas.
I fell asleep somehere around Bananas Foster. Today I feel cured. Who knew that all it would take was eggplant?