Conundrum – a confusing and difficult problem or question.
This single word is what comes to my mind when I think about depression especially as it relates to myself. I was thirty-five before I ever was diagnosed with it officially and I’m forty-five now. Starting at this time of the year, when the days are short and the bad weather impending here in Ohio if it hasn’t already arrived, I start to get anxious and fearful that “depression” will arrive and suck me under into its dark, tarry depths where living becomes the equivalent to trying to walk through a tar pit. Each step is a struggle, each breath exhausting. People who have not experienced depression probably will feel I am making up that description for dramatic effect, I only wish I were.
Most people who have never suffered from depression usually believe it’s as simple as “snapping out of it.” If it were that simple, don’t you think we would do it? If the pills were a miracle cure, then why do we keep needing them? They feel like a Band-Aid to me. They were helpful when I got so deeply depressed that I wanted to literally not wake up the next morning, so that was a good thing but it doesn’t cure depression, just helps you through it. Is there a way to prevent depression? Only thing I found that truly helps is riding my bike as much as possible and taking good care of myself. But it is a continual battle it seems. A battle I’m quite tired of dealing with.
Depression is mostly a chemical imbalance in your brain (from how I understand it, I’m not a doctor). My cousin suffers very similarly the way I do so maybe it is inheirited. We ebb and flow with the winter months being our worst time. Obviously there is something to that seasonal affective disorder. Maybe we are sensitive to things that no one is aware of or maybe our brain chemistry is just a tiny bit off making it hard for us at times to function without struggling with depression.
The holidays are fast approaching and with it comes sadness for me after losing my mom. Personally, I would like to just skip the holidays. I don’t get any joy out of them anymore. They are just stark reminders of who is no longer with us and how the celebrations have changed but I guess that is truly just part of life. But it doesn’t mean I like it. Or that I have to like it. I may not be able to change it but I don’t have to like it. But regardless, this time of the year starts bringing on the start of depression for me again. Top it off with I have to get surgery in a few weeks to check for uterine cancer, I’m really not flying too high because I’m more worried than anything. Anytime the word “cancer” comes up, I panic and for good reason. My mom died of this horrible, painful disease.
I was out walking in the woods the other day thinking about how tired I was of fighting and worrying about depression. I was thinking, why can’t things just be normal for me? No, it’s not normally a life-threatening disease (though it can be) and it isn’t cancer so I should be grateful it’s not more serious right? My way of trying to look on the bright side. Be positive. I’m trying to figure out ways to be able to work out hard enough this winter because last year the gym membership didn’t help and hiking or walking doesn’t do enough. Cycling has been the biggest help but I need to be able to do it for more than an hour and pretty vigorously. My trainer I can’t ride more than 30 minutes if I’m lucky because riding in place is hard for me and my trainer is pretty hard to ride anyway. I don’t run because of my bad knees so I was trying to come up with a solution.
Then the thought hit me, what if instead of fearing the depression, I just let go and go with the ebb and flow of it? Except of course if it gets so bad that I am considering self-harm which hasn’t happened since I was first diagnosed with it ten years ago. Actually, I wasn’t really considering self-harm, I was just wishing I wouldn’t wake up. I suppose that is just as bad. I always feel like I need to be “on top of it”. But I’m tired of being super vigilant. I wondered as I picked my way around the now bare trees on the trail, what if I just accepted the feelings?
What if I just laid on the couch for a week and watched Lifetime movies and ate crap? What if the depression is really my body’s way of telling me listen, you need to stop, you need to take way better care of yourself not only physically but mentally and maybe step back and really look at what is making silently angry or what isn’t working in your life or what if there is a dream or purpose you are ignoring? They say depression is really repressed anger which may be what affects the brain chemistry and considering I’m so sensitive to everything, it probably affects me sooner than other people. Maybe I need to really look at my life, I am sure a lot of my anger is based on losing my mom and the way such a sweet, kind and loving person had to die.
Oh yeah, I’m pissed at cancer, it’s epidemic and no one seems to realize this. I’m pissed at being treated less than a person at times at my job, though I console myself with the fact that isn’t just me that is treated that way there. Corporations all over the world treat employees this way. Sometimes I feel like starting my own business and putting people to work under me in a place that treats them as people and not numbers or stupid children would be proactive but it’s a lot of work owning your own business. And it doesn’t feel like my particular calling. Maybe there is a long suppressed dream of mine I am not fulfilling. Maybe I need to focus more on my writing. I suppose it could be anything. But I owe it to myself to sort it out though I am guessing it’s not going to be instantaneous.
I am going to try an experiment of sorts. I am going to start listening keenly to my body, my mind and my heart. Stop doing the things I think I should if it goes against what I feel I want or need. Granted, I still have to go to work, do laundry, grocery shop and clean the house but I think there is a lot I could do to honor what I need rather than pushing it off. Things lie if I’m tired at 7:00 p.m., I’ll go too bed and not listen to the people giving me a hard time about being old. Or if I want a candy bar, I’ll eat it but if I want an orange I’ll eat that too. Or maybe I don’t feel like exercising like a maniac, so I don’t. Or I would rather hike than bike. Maybe trying to meet mileage goal for the year on my bike isn’t something that is truly important to me. If I was training for competition, maybe this makes sense. But I’m not.
For a little while at least, I’m going to just give in and take care of myself regardless of what other people think or say. I will take care of my responsibilities and double check that I’m not doing too much for someone else who should do for themselves. I’m good at that, caretaking, without even noticing it. I have a tendency to jump in where I shouldn’t. I should just listen and not fix.
Listening to my body is something I have been working on for years. Listening to my needs and wants is going to be a little newer for me. Trusting myself, my body is something that I’ve been trying to do but now I need to move it up to a more finite level. Picking out the small cues I was taught to ignore. I’m anxious and excited to see what changes this will make in my life. I have a hunch, once I do this, I may not be fighting depression as much. I also have a hunch that once I start honoring my calling and path (as New Agey as that sounds), the depression might subside altogether. And if it does show up, I will just roll with it as it is telling my body something, delivering an important message. Maybe to slow down, maybe to exercise more, maybe to not eat crap, maybe to stand up and say NO.
Maybe sometimes fighting depression isn’t the right thing. Maybe it just means I need to listen more closely and cross each bridge as I come to them.