the danish outpost
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gardenia

31.01.2002

feeling kinda how a girl feels

Depression is a deserter. It feels, as one of the women I interviewed says, 'as if your brain has betrayed you'. Those of us who have experienced depressionknow how painful the absence of ourselves during a depressive episode can be. When you're depressed, your mind ends up a lonely defector, wandering around unconnected to all that you'd previously known and felt. The kicker is that in the midst of all of this wandering, you rarely come upon anything useful. Instead, you find yourself suffering in a kind of wintry solitude that is home to the yammering undercurrent of your disconnected self.

Lauren Dockett, from the foreword to The Deepest Blue

i owe you an explanation, dear readers. i took an unexpected hiatus again over the last month. i didn't plan on it. i didn't want to. but i didn't have much choice.

i've been dealing with clinical depression again. or, perhaps i should say, still. i truly think that once depression gets you in its gaping maw (as if there were any other kind), it will be your constant companion. you may not be in the middle of a depressive episode (quaint term, which makes you feel as if your life is a bad TV show, and you're waiting for the February sweeps to get you out of it all), but it's always there, hovering. you learn how to keep it at bay, and just when you think things are good, it starts sneaking back in, thru a window you left open by mistake, or in your mailbox.

i've wanted to talk about it, write about it, get the words out there, talk to others who have been in this sad blue place, people who know just what you mean when you say that the pile of dishes in your sink scares you. but i haven't been able to sit at the keyboard and write.

i'm not being flip or silly when i say the dishes scared me. i'm dead serious. i would walk thru the kitchen, eyes averted, desperately ignoring the two weeks worth of dirty plates and forks, hoping that i could make it from the couch to the bed without collapsing or having a panic attack.

and it's not that people who haven't been depressed wouldn't get it. you very well might. but there is something immensely comforting to talk to someone who really, really gets it, and who looks back with empathy in their eyes and says, nodding, 'my laundry used to bite me on the ankles.'

there have been a lot of things going on that have helped me come out of this bout of blues. my friends are prime among them. i can't even begin to express how much your support has meant to me, guys (and gals). being there to listen to me at any hour of the day or night, joking around, pushing me to do things that i'm scared of doing but need to do, sending kind notes and checking in on me, calling when i haven't called in a few days - it all makes a difference, and reminds me that there is a reason to surface.

i didn't think i was going to make it thru the holiday season. last year, i spent most of the holidays in tears. this year was easier, as the now ex-boyfriend and i have found a happy medium, which cut out some of the mopieness. plus, i only had my own family to deal with. not that that was easy; i still feel like the spinster aunt, and my mom gets to a rougher place than i do. balancing my worries and hers was tough. but i made it thru intact.

or so i thought. the deceptive thing about depression is that once you've learned some coping skills, you can put of acknowledgement for a long time. this is otherwise known as Denial. (yes, my condo has a very nice view, TYVM.) looking back, this episode really started in October. i spent most of the last few months sleeping 18 hours a day or going on an insomniac whack for weeks at a time. my stomach didn't handle it well either; not that you need the details, but let's just say the intestines were doing the same swing as the sleep cycle. i put all of that off to another flareup of IBS and pushing myself too hard, with too much work and too much socializing.

but that wasn't it at all. i was sinking into the mire of another round of depression. pharmaceuticals have also been key. when it finally hit me, like smacking my head against a brick wall, that i Wasn't Functioning, i sprinted right to my therapist and got a scrip for antidepressants. of course, i had forgotten how much they screw up my stomach, which was already unhappy, so i went thru a few weeks on the ramp up dose like this: take pills for two days. spend 24 hours a day feeling like vomiting. 'forget' to take pill on third and fourth day. lather, rinse, and repeat. so instead of one week, it took me three to get into the pharmeceutical groove. now that i am, the drugs are my friend. and this time, i think i'll stay on them for a few years before reconsidering.

i had a good friend in high school. he was much older than i was; he and i went to the same church, and Warren and i would chat over coffee after service. he was a wonderful person, someone who was able to talk to a younger person without condescending. we had fabulous conversations about everything under the sun. and every few months, he would disappear. then he would surface, with no explanation. when he came back, he was always a little off, but i could never quite put my finger on it. then my mom told me that he was manic depressive. i cried for days after finding out. there was still a huge stigma about it in those days, and i couldn't see how God could be so unfair to a friend of mine as to deal him that card.

what happened was this: Warren would take his lithium for a while, and start to feel human again. he would come back into the congregation, and be part of the community. then he would decide that he was healthy. and he would stop taking his drugs. and he would disappear.

i didn't get it then. i got mad at him for not accepting that he had to be on the lithium, always, every day, no matter how he felt. he was a smart person; why didn't he understand? i still don't really get it, as i'm not dealing with the same thing. but i now completely get the idea that you can believe you're healed and you don't need the drugs. i don't think i'll be as quick to reach the conclusion that i'm 'well' this time.

if you haven't dealt with depression, this might all seem like Greek to you. if it does - try to catch the rerun of the Once and Again episode called 'Gardenia'. Karen is trying to come to terms with her own depression, and it is the single best depiction i've ever seen of what this all feels like. the show's conceit of interspersing black and white soliloquies, to let a character explain what they're thinking, with regular scenes, works fantastically in this case. we watch Karen in bed, and her alarm goes off. B/W Karen comes on and says (i'm paraphrasing) 'when you lose the map, you wait for pictures. alarm goes off. picture: waking up. and then you wait for the next picture.' she captured the whole feeling of losing yourself and then starting to find yourself again amazingly well. seeing the interplay between her thoughts and her actions, you get a sense of the disconnection.

so. so, the writing has been hard because it's difficult to find the words to explain all this. and it's been painful, because i've had any number of collab entries to do for public projects. my normally heightened sense of striving for acheivement and fearing failure was magnified a thousand fold. i was petrified to sit down and write even the collabs, even after i had written them out long hand. what if the entry wasn't good enough? what if i wasn't good enough? so i procrastinated, and wrote in the paper journal, and begged for extensions, or just completely failed to write to people and explain.

i'm getting there. i'm thinking of spring, and picturing myself as a snowdrop - tiny white flowers that are the first to burst out of the snow and herald the coming season of growth. i'm building a network of people who call me and whom i call every other day. i'm focusing on small steps, and trying to be kind to myself. and i'm moving forward.

yesterday :: tomorrow

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