Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On Depression

I've had a long internal debate over writing this post. Even now, beginning it, I'm not sure if it will be finished, or posted. But beginning is better than nothing.

There are a million blog posts and articles on the internet that you can read about depression. Why add to them?

But one thing struck me in all my Googlings of military wife depression and prenatal depression and that is that I didn't come up with many personal stories of depression from in the midst of being depressed. And I know that for many people, that's because depression is such a dark place that trying to form anything coherent about depression while they are depressed is impossible. I know. About two months ago I was in the same place.

But what about when depression isn't the black hole, but just the daily grey? When you feel like your life isn't terrible, and yet joy and happiness and hope seem like distant memories, or only come in occasional flashes, too soon gone? When people ask you how you are, and you say, "okay", not because you feel okay, but at least you're not suicidal, you're functioning at a basic level, and you're worried that if you talk about how you really are, people will just think you're whiny?

The impression I get is that it's become more socially acceptable to talk about experiencing depression– but only after the fact. We're still rather uncomfortable with depressed people– we'd rather they have recovered and can tell us where they were and how far they've come.

That's one reason I thought perhaps this would be a good post to write.

The other reason was because of something a friend of mine, who has also had depression, said. She asked if I'd written anything recently and I said I hadn't written in months, and she said that sounded like a depression. She said, writing is part of who you are, and depression can make you temporarily lose parts of yourself. And I thought, "Huh." It made sense, and it stuck with me. And so now I've thought maybe, just maybe if I can wrench back that part of myself out of the fog and the daily grey, then maybe it will be a step forward.

So yes– I'm depressed. It's not the first time I've had depression, but this definitely seems like the deepest and the longest it's ever lasted. It's had a few hours/days of downright hellishness, when the only thing that I could think of was going Home to Jesus and Livia and Lucy (and yet at the same time not being able to bear the idea of leaving Sean, or Nate, so I had several vague wishes of a nuclear holocaust so that we could all just be in Heaven together) but I think for the most part that may have been a combination of pregnancy nausea and nutritional deficiencies, since once my midwife ordered me to start taking extra Vitamin D, such morbid fantasies retreated. For the most part, it's not hell– it's just a daily sojourn through the gray, which sometimes is a light mist, and sometimes is a thick fog. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel able to engage with Sean in a way that is good for both of us, and I can stay on top of the household tasks, and I can at least imagine coming to feel at home here on this base in the middle of nowhere in this desert waste, or at least finding enough friends to make it a home. And I imagine things like baking and crafting again, and inviting other moms over to hang out and eat home baked scones while our kids play. And then other days I defeatedly turn on WALL-E to keep Sean occupied because I just cannot give him the attention he asks for, and just unloading the dishwasher feels like a monumental task, and I try numb the feeling of failing at life by playing a computer game or reading an article on a topic with next to no relevance to my life.

One thing I've learned about depression is that it makes small things seem absolutely gigantic. I remember one particularly bad day when I ended up sobbing to Nate that I'd spent the entire day knowing that I needed to wash my hair– this was in the still-nauseated phase when my hair lived in the same uncombed ponytail for days and days– and yet it just seemed so impossible that I didn't do it. What is the matter with me? Why can't I wash my freaking hair? The trusted family and friends I've consulted with agree that counseling would probably be a really good idea for me right now, and I have it written down to call a counselor who comes highly recommended and who might be willing to do counseling over Skype (since she's in Colorado Springs and I'm here.) I've had her number for nearly a week now. I agree with everyone that counseling would be good. And yet here I am. Just the idea of calling up a stranger on the phone and saying, Hi, I'm depressed, can you help me? just seems crazy.

Another thing about depression is that it's really kind of awful to be depressed when you've moved to a new place and are in desperate need of community. Depression is isolating say all the articles and experts but it's crucial to have support. Of course I have my people to whom I've already reached out for help and support and virtual shoulders to cry on, but none of them are here at Edwards. And for someone like me– an introvert who doesn't find making new friends easy anyway– depression just ratchets that up to crazy difficult. In this social climate, friendships rarely begin with vulnerability. People have to know and trust each other before sharing their messiness becomes safe. But for me, at this point, I feel I have nothing to offer but messiness. And being lonely becomes preferable to the chance of being rejected because new acquaintances would rather not know about my messiness. Thus social situations become times when I don my "fine" mask and do my best to pretend, for an hour or two, that I'm normal. Pretending is exhausting, and so the temptation is to isolate myself even more.

I wish I could think of some clever or interesting way of ending this post, but I'm tired. And maybe it's just as well. Depression isn't clever or interesting, and life with depression doesn't tie up in neat little bows and uplifting endings. At least not when you're in the middle of it.