Recently I’ve been thinking about depression a lot. Partly school (I’ve begun my masters in counseling psychology), partly my current bedside reading material (may I recommend Sunbathing in the Rain), and partly my current state of mind.
I have not, thanks be to God (written as a prayer not as a platitude), suffered a serious bout of depression for over a year. I am also grateful that my depression is not due to dysfunctional neuro-chemistry but rather a combination of genetic predisposition, Seasonal Affective Disorder and sometimes living life in a totally unsustainable way.
Through days of my sister cajoling me out of my bed and nights spent terrified of my own thoughts, I’ve learned that I have early-warning signs that I’m slipping back into my grey world:
- I wait until I’m home alone and then do I nothing, lying in one position on the couch or in bed, ignoring the need to pee or eat for hours at a time, until 30 minutes before someone is due to home and then I become a panicked tornado trying to do enough little chores that I can convincingly pretend I’ve had a productive day.
- I become convinced that I’m alone, that all the friends I think I have really just put up with me. I feel watched and judged. Walking in between subway platforms I think every person who makes eye contact is laughing at me. These thoughts become a constant low hum in the back of my mind. I become mentally shifty-eyed.
- I lose time. One minute it’s 10 am and the next it’s 3 in the afternoon. I cannot for the world tell you what’s happened in between. All I did was watch some TV, stare out a window, obsessively search for something online.
- Textures begin to scare me. This is perhaps the most difficult to explain and the one that sounds the most…like I’m a bonafide crazy person. But if I see coral or sea anemones I can only imagine those crevices and porous textures or masses of tiny tentacles coating the inside of my ears or covering my hands. The images in my mind become so vivid I have to feel the inside of my ears to make sure they are still smooth, I have to rub my hands to convince myself that what I see with my eyes, and not my mind’s eye, is what is real. Textures are my enemy when my world begins to lose colour.
These are just a few of my private smoke signals, like my subconscious trying to warn me that the ship is headed for stormy waters (or perhaps more aptly, that the wind is going to fail and soon I will be stranded in a calm). You would think that I would takes these signals as an opportunity to slow down and try to change course. Usually though they just make me panicky. What if someone finds me in bed one evening, pajamas and greasy hair with no vacuumed living room or pasta on the boil to protect me from being exposed? Or what if the constant drone of fearing what others think of me becomes so loud that I’m too scared to leave the house? Or what if my ears do become coated in tiny tentacles?
This post is not about how to overcome depression. There are many ways, some will work for you and others won’t. This post is about my compulsion to write, my need to exorcise my scary thoughts by wrestling them into sentences, by pinning them down with descriptions that give them a discernible shape.
It’s also my smoke signal to those around me. As I think back to other times I’ve become depressed, I remember always writing as a way to try to warn my family. As early as high school, poems of fear and loneliness found their way out of me. I vaguely remember my mother finding a poem I wrote about wolves and my peers a few months before my teens years became a series a sad choices. None of us knew then what the poem represented. We’ve learned, I’ve learned.
On that note, I’m going to watch a funny youtube video, look at pictures of fuzzy baby animals, take my puppy on a long walk tomorrow, snuggle with my husband, eat something comforting, sleep, talk my heart out to someone who will listen, Skype with my mom, goof off with my little sister, have a philosophical conversation with my young niece and nephew, try to make my big sister laugh (oh the sense of triumph when I succeed!) and pray and pray and pray. All the things, some trite and some not, that make coral just about bearable.