Before I found this platform, Facebook was where I put a lot of my poetry and some of my journals. Today when I opened my FB page I found a FB memory at the top of my feed that was a journal entry from one year ago today. It was startling familiar. My posts, exactly one year apart, are nearly identical. A pattern is apparent. Here is the memory that FB shared with me today:
“It happened again this week. Lots of things contributed to its arrival. It had already started by the time I recognized the signs. When I realized what was happening it was too late to prevent it. Once the sequence has been initiated this far there is no reversing it. When depression arrives all I can do is take care of myself while I ride it out.
Depression isn’t a feeling you can decide to get over. It is an unannounced and unanticipated life sucking brain betrayal. I am a smart woman. I am a strong woman. I am vibrant, creative, and beautiful and I have people in my life who value me and love me.
It doesn’t matter.
When this shit hits, it is powerful and at its worst it takes everything I have not to give up. Most people have never experienced what it is like to be pressed to the floor in despair, unable to out think your own misery. People say things like “Buck up!” or “You don’t have anything to be sad about.” What they don’t realize is that when I am depressed I can not make my brain feel better no matter what I do. In a very real way I am suffering from a physical illness. My brain is literally sick.
Normally I can alter my emotions by altering my thoughts. When I am depressed, I feel hopelessly unhappy. No matter what thoughts I generate, this heavy heartedness won’t go away. The emotional mood stays regardless of the thoughts I think. Sadness sits on my chest and refuses to move. Positive thoughts or outlooks have little to no effect on how I feel. It is crippling to experience the loss of internal control over my own emotions. I start to fear I will be stuck in this emotional state.
I try to tell myself that what I am experiencing is a just a part of my brain that has run amuck. The problem becomes, which part of myself do I trust? Would I be in this much pain if things were really okay? Not being able to trust my own thoughts and feelings is terribly defeating. It feeds the machinery of hopelessness.I begin to feel that I might never be able to feel happy again.
Today was the first day I felt any better in awhile. I had to self-medicate to get started. The chemicals kicked open a mental door which allowed me to see the world differently – it let the light in. Sometimes, to break negative thought cycles I have to chemically disrupt them.
This evening I stood in the kitchen. I mean I really stood there – grounding my feet on the ratty, permanently dirty linoleum we will someday replace. I felt my lungs fill and my ribs expand kindly to accommodate them. I felt both relax in concert. They did their jobs perfectly. With my nimble, sensitive fingers I felt the tough, smooth skin of the tomatoes from my garden, testing each for the give in the flesh that betrays its over ripeness. I focused on the intimate details of that ordinary moment and
I. Was. Still.
Such a soft, delicious peace stole into my soul.
It was like the warmth I experience when I think of my most happy childhood memories.
It was like an unexpected 70 degree day in February when your skin hasn’t felt sunlight in so long it has forgotten the sensation.
I stood in that place and felt the neural pathways linked to pleasure engage. The fist of depression that held my mind hostage fell open, like a blossom, and peace was upon me.
I allowed myself to surrender to that space. I gave all of my attention only to the things happening exactly now. I palpated the red fruits, sliced them, felt the skin resist and then split beneath my dull knife. The light from the window fell weakly into the run down room mixing with the happy sound of a sitcom playing on Netflix. I felt warm, comfortable, peaceful, and content alongside my depression. Although the low was there, I felt at home with myself.
These moments in the midst of melancholy are really important and significant to me. Having them reminds me that this weight can and will dissolve.
Once I surface again, for awhile, I live in fear and try to prevent depression from coming back. I know it will probably return. All I can do is structure my eating, exercise, work, and thought patterns to set up scenarios that give me the best chance for prolonged happiness. No matter what I do, I have to accept that in all likelihood, depression will come around again and I need to know how to take care of myself when I am in that space.
What matters is what the woman at the helm does when the hurricane descends, when the wind and waves punch her ship and force her to the floor.
Does she struggle to grab the wheel and fight the elements with all of her strength?
She knows she cannot steer the ship in this weather. Exhaustion will overtake her and make her useless. She could die in the attempt.
It appears her vessel will capsize. Does she tie an anchor to her ankle and dive into the abyss to control her own destiny? To force, if not salvation, then peace?
No, that journey is later. This is not the last day.
Instead, she acknowledges the storm. And she does what she can to protect the ship. Then she ties herself to the mast and focuses on the sun she knows is above the thunderhead. Because even though she can’t feel it, she knows it is there. It is worth surviving this even if her mind can’t believe it right now. No tempest is eternal. One breath at a time through each pitch and yaw. In. Out. In. Out. Through thunder and salt. This too shall pass.”