May 22, 2013

Big Black Dog

The last few days have been glum ones for me, mood-wise. I don't know why. It may be sleep or not drinking enough water, or not enough sunshine or ebbing levels of I don't know what. Knowing a 'why' used to matter more to me, as if knowing the why would somehow allow me to prevent it happening again.

As someone who has had a years' long battle with low-grade depression, may I share something? I understand why my emotions and mind-set don't make sense to someone else. They don't usually make sense to me. My mind is often filled with a litany of reasons why I shouldn't be sad or apathetic. All my reasons don't turn the gray into blue skies. If you know or love someone who has depression, please don't try to fix things. Telling me reasons why I shouldn't be depressed only echoes the voices in my head, usually pushing me further into the realm of "why can't I just get it together and quit being this way?"

"If you got out and exercised, you'd feel better."
I know this makes sense. Movement would help me feel purposeful, and exercise releases endorphins that elevate mood. For whatever reason, my body doesn't work this way. I push, nag, guilt, shame and even browbeat myself to be active--then don't feel better afterwards. I'm only aware of the fact that I DID get myself to do something, so why have I been so lazy up to that point?

"If you'd just do something, no matter how small, you'd feel better."
Again, this makes logical sense to me. I could point to that chore, even if it's only changing the toilet paper roll, and know that I DID do something. It doesn't play out that way for me. I do whatever mental scolding is necessary to accomplish the task, then A-feel shame that I haven't done more up to this point, since I obviously am capable of getting SOMETHING done and B-I fight internal critiques of how I should have done my little chore differently or better or more or sooner or anything other than how I did it. Is it any wonder that I'm not eager to bully myself into a more intense mental battle?

I know a thing or two about handling my black dog of depression now. I don't do well to engage it; I am not strong enough or canny enough to take it down with reason or logic and make it go away. It only seems to grow bigger with attention. I cannot ignore it or deny its existence; it seeps into my life in little ways and shows me up for a liar. My best option right now is distraction. If I am called to do other chores and don't have the time to think about what I feel or why, I don't have the luxury of internal critique. This morning my mood dissipated a little in the melee of clothing, breakfast, morning chores, and maintenance tasks. If chores aren't demanding attention, I seek out sensory things: playing piano, taking a shower, gardening outside, time snuggling with a kid or our very real black dog. (I smile at the irony of my physical black dog standing between me and my figurative black dog of depression.)

If you know someone with depression, please respect that they know themselves better than you do. Be aware that they have spent far more time calculating viable solutions to their problem than you possibly could--they live with the problem every hour of every day. Ask them what sorts of things work to distract or encourage them, or even ask what things make it worse so you can avoid those. Encourage when you can, but focus on simply being present.

1 comment:

Kari said...

I appreciate this.