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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dealing With Depression

How do you cope with a sadness when it is immobilizing and completely irrational?  This is a question I have asked myself countless times throughout my life.  I have struggled with depression for most of my life, but I have managed to set aside most of the symptoms for many years now.  Once, I had a friend inquire as to what it feels like in the thralls of my worst moments and I have to say that the fires of hell would have to pale in comparison to that terrible place.  It is a black hole deep in the earth from which you must ascend without the strength to even stand.  All of your loved ones stand at the top of the hole screaming down at you to "snap out of it" but you can't even grab the rope they have tossed in your direction.  

Depression is a very lonely and selfish state of mind.  It is completely destructive and highly contagious.  You can slide to the bottom with a single careless step and spend months analyzing your fall -- time lost for everyone who has the misfortune of loving you.  Ultimately, my husband and daughter's suffering prompted me to change.

I can recall the moment very vividly.  It was my daughter's second birthday and I realized that because of my issues I was not the mother that she deserved.  As I laid on the bathroom floor, deciding if I should take my own life I concluded that it wouldn't save her.  If I chose the coward's path, then she still would have spent the rest of her life wondering why her mother had held her in such little regard.  I loved my little girl too much to hurt her like that, yet I couldn't go on just existng for similar reasons, so something had to change.  That day I decided to live with an awareness which was absent before.  I avoided toxic relationships and focused all of my efforts on being whole.  Have I tumbled over the abyss since then?  Absolutely, but now I can recognize where I have lost footing and end the down-hill spiral before I reach the bottom.  Just like any other health issue, early intervention is paramount.

Several years later I read somewhere that depression is a signal that your mind sends to your body when something isn't right.  It is a residual primal instinct that cues our bodies to fight or flight.  Since neither is a possibility in modern society, the pheromone builds up in our system and manifests itself in the form of sadness.  This made total sense to me, only my instinct was triggered by the opposite of most people.  The majority of people fear the unknown while I fear stability.  I was secure and the feeling was so foreign that I couldn't abide it. 

This concept probably sounds as strange to you as it was for my husband or anyone else who comes from a functional family unit, but that wasn't my childhood.  Looking back on my early years, I found that the few fleeting moments of happiness were followed by the rug of security being ripped out from under my feet.  Here is the root of my anxiety.  I had the ideal husband and a beautiful little girl, but my schema was convinced that it would never last.  My certainty was such, that I was subconsciously sabotaging my happiness every day, hurting not only myself but everyone closest to me.  The pattern was prominent within my mother as well and I could see that I was carrying on her tainted legacy. 

Recognizing the pattern was first but most important step to recovery.  I still held a lot of anger and resentment directed towards my parents, which inadvertently created their worst attributes inside of my household.  Forgiveness and understanding was the only way to get past my negative feeling so I actively sought out their experiences.  Through the life-stories of my mother and father, I discovered how much better my childhood circumstances were compared to their own.  With empathy, came my acceptance and ultimately, the ability to let go of the past and move forward.  It was much harder to forgive myself, but eventually I saw the person I am through the eyes of others and decided that I wasn't so bad.  With self-acceptance came a whole new world full of light and new experiences.  For the first time, I could see the world around me filled with beauty and wonder.  Why would I want to live in the dark with all of this sunshine beckoning me with laughter and warm breezes?

I don't believe in treating depression with medication.  That is like throwing a band-aid over a gushing wound.  It is the symptom and eventually the cause will rear its ugly head through the drug-induced haze.  The only person who has the power to end my sadness is me.  Every difficulty I encounter is filtered through my perception and I am the one who is in control of that.  Do you know that 70 % of all experiences are internal and only 30 % is external?  It is not what happens in life that will define me, but how I perceive those trials.

1 comment:

  1. I ran into this post, almost by accident, today. Thank you for being so brave. It's an awful place, a place with which I am ever too familiar. I think I am still denying some of the roots of my depression, but you described it just about perfectly. I'm so glad you are seeing the beautiful world without the dark cover! :)

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