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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Walking the Line

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They say there’s a fine line between creativity and insanity. I would actually draw the line between sanity and insanity, with creativity and insanity on the same side. Sane people would be on the other side of the line. The further you get from the line, the more extreme you become.

For example, people who are creative might be the depressed artists who use writing, painting, music, or whatever to express their pain. But the further you get from the line, the more likely you are to lose touch with reality. The more likely you are to think that things like suicide might be a good idea.

People who are on the sane side might not have experienced depression, but they can imagine what it might be like and have empathy for people who are depressed. The further you get from the line, the more likely you are to believe that depression isn’t real. It’s just an excuse that lazy people use to avoid taking responsibility for their lives.

I would say that most of the time I’m pretty good at walking the line, but sometimes I get pulled over to the insanity side. Usually because I’m feeling someone else’s pain. Because my emotions are pretty intense already. So once they are combined with someone else’s feelings, it becomes too much. Then my demons seize upon my vulnerable state and try to convince me that my pain will never end. Why go on living? Follow me into the woods. You’ll be free from your pain over here.

Writing requires being able to walk the line. I have lots of entries in my journal from the times when I first started to feel depressed but none during the times when I was in the depths of despair. Because at that point, all my energy was focused on survival. If I wrote at all when I was happy, I usually didn’t have much to say because I was too busy enjoying life to have time for introspection.

I’ve been trying to keep my balance over the past month, but sometimes I have to cross over to the insanity side to bring people back. It’s a risk to my mental health, but what can I do? It’s like going into a burning building to save someone you love. How can you stand there and watch it burn down without at least trying?

Maybe it takes more than one person to bring people back to the sane side. Maybe you have to form a human chain like you do in a tug of war, where someone is anchored at the line. That way the person who has to go deep into the woods won’t get lost. They have people who are holding on to them, pulling for them, making sure they’re able to get back. That way demons can’t win.

So maybe I need to start recruiting for a team, just like I do in tennis. Find a few sane people, some people who can walk the line, and a few who are adventurous enough to cross the line so I can save someone who is lost.

If only I could find some sane people.

 

 

Still Depressed

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People have been so kind to reach out to me after I published my last post, expressing their hope that I’m feeling better. I wish I could say I do feel better. That it was just a one day thing and I’m no longer feeling depressed. I feel like I’m disappointing everyone.

It’s not like I’m depressed every minute of every day. I made it through work and survived being on call. I played tennis. I went to dinner with friends. I seemed like a normal person when I was around other people.

I continue to be frustrated that all of my efforts to prevent depression have not worked. Maybe if I hadn’t stayed up to watch Federer and Nadal play on Saturday night it would have made a difference. Except I didn’t wake up until 1:30 in the afternoon, so I wasn’t that tired at 2 a.m. And it’s not every day that you get to see Federer and Nadal play, even if it was only a set.

Last night I had a realization that helped me to not beat myself up over all of the things I could have done differently. And that is, it’s not my fault. It’s not my fault that I am prone to depression. Not my fault that I am particularly vulnerable at this time of the year. That I am not able to handle the client overload as well as my colleagues. That my family stresses me out. That I’m not perfect in doing all of the things that are supposed to help with depression. This was the most helpful lesson in Tara Brach’s book Radical Self-Acceptance and Paul Gilbert’s The Compassionate Mind. I’m glad that I remembered it for some reason.

The other realization I had last night was something I learned in the self-compassion retreat that I attended last May. And that is, trying harder doesn’t eliminate pain and suffering. It is not for a lack of effort on my part that I feel the way I do. As much as I like to think that if I just work hard enough I can make everything better, life is filled with pain and suffering, no matter how hard you work. And while this did not make my pain go away, it helped me to accept it more and to beat up on myself less.

I have appealed to God for some salve for my wounds. Something to make the pain more tolerable. But I feel guilty for asking, given all of the things that are going on in the world. All of the people killed in Paris, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, and other places. All the people who have terminal illnesses. All of the people who are hurting worse than me. Sometimes thinking about these people helps to put my suffering into perspective, but that is not the case at the moment. Right now I can barely tolerate my own suffering. So for now I’ll just have to focus on me.

But I am learning through my practice of self-compassion that it’s OK to focus on me. My pain counts, too. I can wish for my own well-being for as long as I need to.

Perhaps if God has any angels left over after he sends them out to all of those other people, he can send an extra one to me. Just for a little while, until I feel better. An angel in training, even, like Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And if you believe in God and angels, please feel free to pray that God will send one my way.

Waking Up is the Hardest Part. But All of It Pretty Much Sucks.

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Despite my best efforts not to get depressed during this time of the year, I woke up with a full-fledged depressed mood. Not like, oh no! I think I might be getting depressed! Maybe I can sleep it off. More like, I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t even think I want to go to our cookie exchange party.

If you knew me well, then you’d know that this is a clear sign that something is wrong. Not to want to go eat a bunch of cookies. That’s up there with not wanting to play tennis.

You never think that you have a good enough reason to be depressed. Yes, I am seeing a bazillion clients, but so are my colleagues. And yes, I spent 5 days entertaining my parents, which was about 4 days more than I usually spend. But normal people entertain their families all the time. And yes, I was sick last week, but so what? Lots of people get sick without getting depressed.

Plus, there was nothing I could do to prevent these things from happening. The client overload. The extended time with family. The sickness. These things happen every year during this time. Which makes it all seem so pointless, this trying not to get depressed stuff.

I tried really, really hard to control the things that are in my control. I have not reversed my sleep cycle. I religiously take my drugs. Get sunlight or sit in front of my light box. Meditate. Journal. Pray. Practice mindfulness. Spend time with friends. Knit. Read. Play tennis in moderation. I say no more often. Practice self-compassion. I am practically the poster child of good mental health. And yet, here I am, feeling depressed like I always do at this time of year.

Waking up feeling depressed is a lot like having a flashback of some traumatic experience. Oh no! Not this again! I am filled with terror. Because when you’re sick, you know it will suck but you have a pretty good sense of when it will end, and there are drugs that can alleviate some of your suffering. But with depression, you never know. It could be a few hours. It could be a few days. Or weeks. Or months. And I’m already taking the drugs that are supposed to help. But sometimes the depression slips through the cracks of my mood disordered brain, anyway.

I am trying my best to practice self-care. To alleviate whatever suffering is in my control. Trying to find some balance between being kind and gentle with myself but still making myself go to the doctor, get some work done, go to the party. Because I know it will help.

I feel better at the moment, but I’m still feeling a little panicked. Because tomorrow I don’t know how I will feel when I wake up. Maybe I’ll be fine. Or maybe it will be a Herculean effort to get out of bed and go to work.

I guess I’ll tell myself what I tell my clients. That it feels bad now, but at some point, I will feel differently. I might even feel better when I wake up tomorrow.

We’ll see what happens.