Seven months ago, I wrote my last blog entry. Seven months ago, I started to slide into a depressive episode and I’m only now starting to climb out. Yes, it’s taken seven months. I feel like I’ve spent seven months in the desert. Away from the things that brought me structure, comfort, a sense of purpose.
During these past seven months I’ve attended individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, and I’ve seen my psychiatric nurse practitioner on a regular basis. I’ve been medication compliant. But, none of that could prevent what happened.
What did happen? I’m not exactly sure. If I knew maybe I could have prevented it from happening and prevent it from happening again.
I talked it out. I talked it out in therapy. I talked it out with my NP. I talked it out with Scott. I talked it out with God.
LIKE THE TIDE
That’s the thing about depression. It ebbs and flows. Even with therapy. Even with medication. Even with a support system. Depression can still make an appearance. And, it’s ok. It’s not my fault.
What’s important is that I communicate when my mood is changing. When the depression is once again rhythmically growing…flowing back toward me like the tide moves toward the shore. And, I wait. I wait for it to decline. To move away from the sandy beach that is my whole being. I wait. And, I wait. It takes too long. Far too long. And, the waves…they beat my body down. They beat my body up.
I can feel myself drowning, and me, the person who advocates…the person who is a champion for others with mental illness…the person who empowers others to tell their stories, can’t tell her own story because she can’t get out of bed. She can’t take a shower. She can’t brush her teeth.
I can’t get out of bed. I can’t get a shower. I can’t brush my teeth.
Much less put words to paper.
I used every ounce of energy to continue working on Color Joy, but I could not continue with my depression and anxiety support group. I couldn’t write my blog entries. I felt like a fraud. In hindsight, I wish I could have shared my journey as it was happening with my community. Maybe next time, because I know there will be a next time. To deny it would be denying that I have depression. I would be disrespecting myself because depression is part of who I am. It doesn’t define me, but it does shape me.
IDENTIFYING THE TRIGGERS
This is what I can tell you about this episode…
In September the days started to get shorter and shorter. And then October happened.
October was a year since my oldest grandsons moved out of state with my daughter and son-in-law. I was used to seeing them all the time. ALL THE TIME. It was also the anniversary of the last day I worked for the VA after becoming a whistleblower, being reinstated, and being forced to go on leave without pay and then medically retired.
I was being triggered and I didn’t realize it. It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last time. It was Facebook memories that popped up in my feed that reminded of all the October observances. All the October triggers.
“Ahhhh,” I thought, “This is what’s happening.”
Sometimes identifying and acknowledging a trigger strips it of its power. Not this time. This time I was feeding it. I always thought autumn was my favorite time of year. I'm rethinking that because although I love the smells and the sites of autumn it brings darkness with it.
It took me much longer to climb out of this episode than my recent memory serves me. And, if I’m being honest, I’m still not completely on the other side of it however, my good days outweigh the not-so-good days.
AND THEN IT RAINED
As I started heading toward the top of the elusive and invisible mountain, ready to come down the other side, I came out of the desert, and the storm clouds rolled in. COVID-19 hit the news.
I’m not in the high-risk category.
Shane has an autoimmune disease and is on immunosuppressants.
Carianne has a rare kidney disease and is on immunosuppressants.
Cassy lives in New York City.
My mom has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.
My dad has heart disease and has had a triple bypass.
They’re all in the high-risk category.
My anxiety started to spin out of control and took my depression right along with it. Flowing again when I wanted it to ebb. I take anti-anxiety medication, too, but it wasn’t working. So, some medication was added. Some was increased.
I used the tools in my toolbox. I was practicing my breathing exercises. I was still going to therapy. I was diffusing lavender. I was taking naps. I was coloring. I tried hard as I might to go for a walk, but my feet couldn’t carry me out the front door.
I often wanted to cry, but couldn’t. The tears wouldn’t fall, but the rain. The grey clouds. They cried for me. Oh, the rain. The rain reflected my mood for me when I couldn’t speak. Didn’t want to speak. Just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep even when I wasn’t sleepy.
Then, therapy was canceled – group and individual. Just when I needed it most it wasn’t there.
My NP appointments moved to telehealth.
Every day I woke up in the morning, crawled out of bed, and moved to the couch – where I would lie down and take a nap. Struggling against the tide is exhausting. So very exhausting.
I’m only human. I had to remind myself. I’m human. Not superhuman. How I wish to be superhuman. To be advocate, mentor, champion, and permanently healed.
The sun is shining longer. Brighter. The rain is less frequent. I’m able to work more consistently.
I HAVE DEPRESSION
Depression ebbs and flows.
Sometimes I'm in the desert.
Sometimes I'm in the storm.
I am not perfect.
I am not superhuman.
I am human.
And, I have depression.