30 May 2015

Surviving Depression, A User's Guide

There are things some of us can do while depressed. I can write these words, I can teach a class, I can watch my favorite team win the FA Cup final, I can run, I can eat. These things are distractions. But the writing stops, the class ends, the match is over, your run stops, the belly is full. Then it is just you and that overwhelming feeling that life is sad. So sad it is damn near unbearable. You start to cry but it seems so much effort and instead there is the sigh. Not a deep contented one, but a shallow sad one. Unfulfilled.

You can feel you're a victim. That this is not your fault.That it is unfair. A cruel joke. All this is true. But that should not mean surrender or acceptance. You need to push on no matter what.

I’ve made quite a point of something in my writing and that is that you have to show up everyday. Keep going. Take on the tasks in front of you to the best of your ability. Come hell or high water or depression or panic attacks or the death of a loved one. You may pause but you don’t stop. Being depressed flies in the face of this idea. It can seem utterly pointless to go through your usual routine or especially to try something out of the ordinary. It seems to make more sense to give the hell up and just sit there or lay there or stand there and stare at the never ending vertical abyss that is just within the end of your line of vision. You can be hypnotized by it. How beguiling to study the void beyond especially as you draw no conclusions nor reach any understanding. It is a waking coma. Transfixed, immobile and virtually dead to the world.

Snap out of it. Move. Break eye contact with infinity and look at the tangible. Breath deeply a little, breath normally a lot. Eat. Walk. Go. The world needs your mindful participation. You cannot sit it out. Even if it is for just minutes at a time you have to shake the awful ennui long enough to function and produce.

There is life beyond the pain and despite its struggles and miseries and disappointments it is worth participating in.

I write these words and feel fine. I stop and the misery surrounds me waiting to envelop me completely. But I keep writing. When I finish I will look for something else. I intend to make something more of this day than I already have. I need today. It is the only one I’ve got right now. I have to live in it. I deserve it.

Many years ago this ailment didn’t afflict me because I liberally employed drugs and alcohol. I had an out. I could drown my pain in liquor, activate my mind with cocaine. I could be happy and social and fun. Of course I set no boundaries and was incapable of stopping until my brain or body came to a screeching halt. The next day Satan would invade my soul and torture me mercilessly. I called it being hungover. A richly deserved punishment.

I write about addiction and panic attacks and depression a lot. I also write a lot about my mother who was insane. I am an abuse survivor. Of course I’m going to write about these things. I have to. I have to for me to deal with it all and help me appreciate what I have and the mere fact that I’ve got anything at all. I have to write about this because someone who has suffered as I have may read it and feel less alone and perhaps encouraged that there are better days to be had. Even today as the black dog of depression rears its ugly head I count my blessings. Actually I count some of them, I have far too many to count in one day or ten. And they keep coming.

But all of these gifts from life are wasted if I don’t take steps. Move forward and make the effort. If you ever get stuck in life, if you ever find yourself in battle with anything that threatens to shut you down, don’t balk. I cannot say don’t let it get you down but that’s hardly something that one can avoid. But I will say that having gotten down your next move is to get back up. Ever forward. Don’t be intimated. You have marvelous resources at your disposal. You may have friends, you may have family, you certainly can find support groups, you can certainly find professional help and guidance. There’s no sense feeling alone. You simply aren’t. You’ve got to reach out. Be a seeker. Look for answers and truth and help and love and support and meaning. Move on. Never yield to the empty when life is already so full.

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