Depressed or Deprived
or maybe I just
Need Some Fresh Air
I have always been a big proponent of getting out, getting going, and doing something…..anything….when the Blues hit….and don’t kid yourself, they do hit us, everyone.
Whatever we want to call them;
“I really need a nap”………OK…a 3 hour, all afternoon “nap” after a reasonable nights’ sleep…….3 days in a row. That’s depression.
Those who don’t have an issue with depression often look askance at people who actually profess, out loud, to bouts of depression. They seem, and are, fundamentally unable to process the concept; it’s a foreign language to them, and one that scares the hell out of them for oh so many reasons.
Depression and insanity have been inextricably linked for generations by a gossamer thread as filmy and tentative as a spider’s web but just and tensile and unyielding. From the insane asylums of the 19th century to the mental institutions and psychiatric hospitals of the 20th, chronic depressives have been shuttled off to the far reaches of society, spoken about in hushed asides, and generally attempted to be un-thought of, at least in pleasant company.
It is small wonder then, even with the coming out of depression as a treatable malady and the media onslaught of modern drug therapies pummeling us from every modality, that in our world today we still have a hard time even thinking the word depression in relation to ourselves no less mouthing the syllables out loud to even our closest of confidants. If we do disclose, we risk the double-edged sword of rejection and isolation. The threat of a lingering stain on our permanent record card is enough of a deterrent to keep us locked in an inexorable cycle of self-denial and hyped-up enthusiasm to pretend, at all costs, to be the people we are generally perceived to be.
And by its very nature, depression is a cyclic vornado of self-fulfillment; you realize you can’t keep up with the whirlwind that is life today as you used to, you get a tad introspective as to why, you self-isolate hoping to plumb the depths of an understanding, your life creeps away on cat’s paws while you aren’t watching, the phone stops ringing because you stop calling…..or you simply stop answering because you don’t have the reserve of pleasantries at hand to top-up the conversational cocktail being over-served to you.
Bottom of the Barrel before you knew you were being pickled.
As a pro-active representative of my own health, when I tried to pry the lid off my own particular brining barrel recently and see the lay of the landscape I was navigating, I had a really….really…hard time.
I am the Ultimate Optimist. The glass is never even half full; it’s always brimming or at least fizzing with the next great taste.
So when I hit this most recent personal pothole I was stunningly unprepared, gob-smacked, pushed off my balance in such a way that I really could not get my bearings. I had no vocabulary for what was happening to me other than I was “tired”, “emotionally exhausted”, “completely done-in”; all perfectly adequate expressors but none that were explanatory, at least to me, or would serve to inform my obviously injured psyche as to the way home.
I had absolutely reliable reasons for feeling as I did. In the space of 6 weeks I went from my Island Idyll on Key West; writing, self-reflecting, taking photos of sunsets, to a crystallizing phone call from my husband….being whipped back into a real world of heart attacks, long distance worry, logistics, fearful imaginings, and late-night terrors of emptiness.
Home once again, getting my emotional footage, our beloved Bella, the Rescue Rottie, died a week later…no time to grieve, I had a healing husband, house guests, and a life to put into a new order with a dog sized hole at the door every time we walked in.
The next week I fell. In surgery the next day they installed yet more hardware in my poor over-worked left foot and gave it yet another 8 weeks of down time and casts.
The NEXT week, Kyan the cat melted down with a life-threatening blockage and was in Kitty ICU for days. While he was touch and go, his brother, never having been separated from him for one day in their eight years on earth, ALSO melted down and was in the other kitty vets.
While both are now home, they are still tentative and like small uncommunicative children, you must watch, interpret, and subjectively rate every movement (literally) and hope you are doing the right thing.
Meanwhile, back at the Heart Attack Hotel, the husband was busy putting the final wrapper on his looooong-planned cross country motorcycle adventure and I was trying to imagine leaving any of the brewing crises here at home to take two weeks of “holiday” time and attend two family reunions, visit everyone and every place I’ve ever known back east and do all this with the normal aplomb I bring to such adventures.
I went to bed. A lot. I got tired, a lot. I got teary.
None of these modes are me.
After two weeks of this I mouthed the word depression to a couple friends. They started to call/txt/message me first thing in the morning, all day, dinner hours; “Are you all right?” “How ARE you?, really?” I love them for that. They are dear and compassionate people.
Most of all, I hated the feeling of needing to have anyone ask ME those questions. I am the one who serves this function for others, always have. I am good at it. I have a clear and adamant vision of exactly what other people need to do to make their own lives better, improved, exultant.
But suddenly not my own. Strange and unfamiliar territory.
And then the revelation. It came from two sources.
I had actually contacted a therapist and set an appointment to begin to unpack what I suspected to be long-buried treasures of emotional torture. Because of the sudden onset of this rockslide of emotions and the intensity of its depth, he wanted me to see my Doc and make sure there wasn’t any underlying physical reason for this anomaly in my current course. Good plan. Doctor seen.
After the appointment I went to lunch with a good friend and was talking about the issue a bit and catching up on life of late and it suddenly smacked me…..hard.
I had not been to the gym in almost 3 months.
Now I am not a rabid body-builder type by any means but I am an exerciser. With four hip surgeries under my belt, as it were, I like to keep moving and when I discovered some years back that I could “run” again on the Precor Eliptical,I went straight to Heaven. And without a thought, I was running 20-25 miles a week, reading as I ran, and enriching myself in ways I did not even take the time to fully understand other than I felt great, was never sick, and lost a bunch of weight.
And suddenly, again without a thought, I was doing nothing, stuck in a cast, leg elevated, crutches at hand, unable to help my recuperating husband, carry my sick cats to the vet, clean the house, weed the Spring garden….nada….
All I could do was revert to my inherited-from-my-mother-mode and worry. I come from a long line of fretters. Not a good familial heritage.
But the realization that I needed oxygenated blood in my brain was like a mainline shot of adrenaline. I instinctively knew that this was my Rubicon, once crossed I would be fine, restored, marching into my future, once more in control of most of what I could logically manage to handle. Once more, I had no boundaries.
That quickly. That simply.
And so, I went to the gym today. I still can’t run or even walk without a significant limp but I can work my weights, heft some oxygenated-sense into my loungingly lazy brain-pan, sweat out some toxins both mental and physical in the steamroom and begin to heal.
I feel better.
I have a plan.
I am upright, mobilish, and motivated.
I have cancelled the therapist, for now, he can always be a path revisited in the future but I am so sure that this was my particular answer at this particular moment that I have no need for further mental machinations. Why complicate recovery with too much lethargic back-gazing? I am here, now, and moving forward.
Sometime soon we’ll talk about aging and the arc of adversity that it adds to the depressive tendencies in us all.
But, as Scarlett says; “I’ll think about that tomorrow!”