Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional. My frank discussion of my personal journey should not be construed as medical advice. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other medical concern, there is no substitute for qualified professional guidance.
Have you ever tried to run in water? No, not the shallow breakers, but in up to your neck. It’s not easy. You struggle to make any forward progress. It wears you out. That’s what living with depression and anxiety is like for me. There are a few things that keep me from giving up altogether, various forms of “therapy.”
I have an awesomely supportive family. They don’t all know the details of my struggle but they’re always there for me. My Mom especially understands what I’m going through and has an uncanny ability to know when I need a little extra support.
Charlie is my emotional flotation device, always the optimist no matter how dark I feel, always available for me grab onto if I want to come up to the surface for some air. My stepson Chris is sensitive and notices little things that indicate I’m having a bad day. He gives great hugs.
And I don’t know where I would be without my niece Amelie. She is the embodiment of hope and joy, and she never fails to lift my spirits.
My Social Network
Being a natural introvert, I have to work at having any social network at all. I’m not much for joining, but it helps to have some sort of structure. For example, the Chamblin’s Uptown Open Mic Night is scheduled once a month. This gives me a chance to feel mentally prepared to go out. I don’t always feel up to reading my work, but I show up and I get to hear the words of so many other sensitive and talented people.
Exercise in the Fresh Air
Stress and anxiety fuel depression. With my high-strung nature, I need to dispel all the anxiety I can, and exercise is a proven tool. A daily walk through the neighborhood or in one of our parks can do wonders for me. Charlie is my best cheerleader for this. Sometimes he has to drag me kicking and screaming at him, but he makes sure I get out, and I almost always feel better and apologize after a brisk walk.
Yoga is another form of exercise that’s good for me. It helps me develop strength, flexibility, and deep breathing for relaxation. It’s even better when done outdoors. On the first Sunday of each month, I go to Memorial Park where my friend Brenda Starwalker leads a free outdoor Yoga class called “Practice World Peace.” How does that song go? — “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
Being in any natural outdoor setting is therapeutic for me. I love going on hikes to explore new areas. In warm weather I would walk — or sleep — on the beach for hours if my skin wasn’t so fair.
Gardening is another type of nature therapy for me. Getting my hands in the dirt, planting seeds, weeding, training the cucumber vines to grow on a trellis, checking on the progress of our vegetables, picking the first tomato — these activities make me feel productive and bring me great satisfaction.
Better Living through Chemistry?
Since 1991, I have taken antidepressants most of the time. I feel very ambivalent about this. They do help take the edge off my symptoms, but they aren’t perfect. It’s not as if I pop my happy pill and feel magically chipper and ready to face the day. If symptoms are bad and my dose is high, they numb me out so much I don’t really give a shit. About anything. This might make me easier to live with, but it’s not so great for work where a sense of urgency is required.
Further, these medications are harmful to the liver. I worry about that. And as badly as I wanted children, my need for medication was one factor (of many) in deciding not to get pregnant (Does anyone remember Andrea Yates?). You can’t just stop taking these medications. The withdrawals are horrific. The last time I quit I lost 20 pounds in 3 months, and it wasn’t a pleasant way to lose the weight.
I’ve been there before. It has its pros and cons, or shall I say, con artists. I’ve had a couple of great short-term therapists, but my long-term therapist, the one who diagnosed my condition and coached me for years, left me feeling used. Despite all the good things she did to help me, she encouraged me to stay in an abusive relationship. In the end, I felt her true motive was to keep me a paying customer. Staying in the relationship as long as I did caused lasting damage from which I still have not fully recovered.
That said, I’m about to give talk therapy another go. It’s my recognition of the damage done and an attempt to heal it.
- Getting Real
- I Said “No”