The Tail End of Depression

I’ve struggled with depression my entire life. It’s like having an unwanted roommate living in my head. No, that implies multiple personality. It’s more like a heavy, wet, woolen blanket that settles down over the top of me at unexpected times, for an unknown duration. And it blocks out the sunshine. Yeah. That’s it. And while the blanket is weighing me down, the air is the consistency of chocolate pudding, which makes it really hard to move.

So depression, for me, is a heavy, chocolate pudding-covered, sunshine-blocking, wet woolen blanket. One that nobody can see but me.

Jeez, that makes me sound unhinged. Ah, well. So be it.

But in a lot of ways, I’m really lucky. I hear that some depressed people can’t sleep. That must be horrific. Not me. When I’m depressed, I can sleep entire days away if given the opportunity. I actually look forward to it.

And some people live in a state of perpetual depression. What a nightmare that must be. Fortunately, my depression comes and goes like the tide, only with less predictability.

Because of that, there’s this sweet spot between depression and normalcy that I cherish. It’s always very abrupt and unexpected. One minute I’m plodding along, and the next… whoosh! The blanket gets whipped off, the sunshine dazzles me, and the air is fresh and clean. All tension and pressure is relieved. It’s like some blockage has been released. Blessed relief. The hills are alive with the sound of music. I get to embrace the normal again.

I have no idea what causes this mood conversion. I wish I did. It would be nice to be in greater control of my brain chemistry.

I’m glad I don’t go the opposite direction, though, into mania. That’s a roller coaster ride that I wouldn’t want to be on, because I bet the end of mania is like the very opposite of my sweet spot, and that would be my definition of hell.

On a brighter note, my depression has really made me appreciate those times when it’s not with me. I can’t imagine taking normalcy for granted. I will always know its value. I may not always have joy, but I’ll always have gratitude. And that’s a good thing.

I wrote this for those of you who can relate. Maybe you’re unable to express yourself in this arena, but need to hear your struggle put into words. Maybe you can share this post with loved ones who don’t quite understand. Regardless, please know that you’re not alone. I’m sending you some sunshine to see you through.

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Examining Irritation

True confession: I get irritated by stupid stuff.

It’s not that I enjoy irritation. In fact, it irritates me. But sometimes it feels beyond my control.

The good news is that the older I get, the more level headed I seem to become. I think part of that is due to the fact that I can’t work up the energy to be annoyed as often as I could in my younger days. I just can’t be bothered.

Oh, but there still are things. Someone cutting ahead of me in line. People blocking grocery aisles to chit chat. Rude individuals. All things Trump. The common denominator here is that people aren’t playing by my rules. I have no idea why so many people have overlooked the memo that I am Queen of the World, but there you have it.

Another thing that has improved with time is my self-awareness. I am getting better at seeing the physical warning signs of my irritation so as to nip it in the bud. Is my heart rate increasing? Am I feeling adrenalized? Am I starting to fidget? Uh, oh. Time to evaluate the situation.

First off, am I already Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Then I need to H.A.L.T. Because any one of those four states are bound to cause me to overreact. At times like those, I’ve been known to look for a reason to be irritated. How stupid is that?

Next, I need to really look at what I’m feeling. Sometimes irritation is a mask for other, less comfortable emotions. Fear. Fury. Depression. Grief. Disappointment. Dissatisfaction with your relationship with the person who is triggering your irritation. A feeling of being disrespected. My own stupid impatience when someone doesn’t comply with my self-imposed time line.

In many cultures, we are taught to suppress “negative” emotions. But emotions don’t hold a positive or negative charge. They are what they are. You feel what you feel. If you suppress that, it’s just going to find a way out in other ways, such as irritation when your boyfriend leaves his dirty socks in the coffee mug. It helps to check in with yourself about what you are really feeling. (For example, you’re annoyed, and frankly a little scared, that he doesn’t care enough about your feelings to put the mug in the dishwasher and the socks in the hamper.) If you aren’t adept at that, and many of us are not, I suggest that you consider therapy. I highly recommend it.

Another thing I try to do is a reality check. When I get irritated, I try to figure out which one of my rules is being violated. (As in: footwear and kitchen utensils don’t mix.) And then I try to remind myself that a) people are not mind readers, and b) not everyone goes by the same rules. (If both the footwear and the kitchen utensil are dirty, perhaps your boyfriend doesn’t see their intermingling as a big deal.) Then, maybe the two of you can discuss your versions of these unspoken rules and form a consensus. That would be ideal.

Probably the most important thing to think about, though, is that you are never going to be able to control other people’s behavior. Never. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t partially to blame for not hearing you when you tell them, however ham-handedly, that their behavior triggers your irritation. What it does mean is you have total control over your side of the equation. You can change the way you react. You can examine it, deconstruct it, and make alterations within you. You might be surprised. That could lead to changes in the other person, too.

But take your irritation seriously. It’s horrible for you and everyone around you. Here’s when irritation gets out of hand:

  • When you find yourself annoyed at what you know, logically, is a trivial thing.

  • When you get aggressive by yelling or being hostile or becoming violent.

  • When you have a chronic problem, such as getting annoyed, over and over again, at the same thing. (How is that working for you?)

  • When your temper gets worse when you drink or take drugs.

If any of the above applies to you, you have an anger management problem that you should take seriously, and I encourage you to seek help. Your life doesn’t have to feel like a miserable nightmare, and those around you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells, either. Life is too short for everyone concerned.

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Living with Pain

At the moment I have a migraine and I’m at work, so I can’t do anything about it. To say I’m not functioning at my peak would be putting it mildly. I wish I could go home, take my meds, crawl into bed in a dark, quiet room and just wait for the pain to go away. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury. But at least I can comfort myself with the fact that this, too, shall pass. At least until it happens again.

Not everyone is that lucky. Speaking from (thank God) past experience, living with chronic pain is life-changing. If you’ve never experienced it, you simply don’t understand. You become like an animal. You are all about the pain. Nothing else matters. Everything takes ten times as much energy, and you are constantly exhausted. You would do anything, anything, to just stop hurting.

When you are in that state, you often feel very misunderstood. People become impatient with your foul mood, your lethargy, your increased mistakes. They don’t get why you have trouble focusing, and why you are forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events. They may become frustrated with all the things you can no longer do, and the accommodations and compromises they must therefore make.

It’s very hard when you’re doing the best that you can, but your best isn’t nearly what it ought to be or what it used to be. The constant pain never lets you forget that, but the people around you often can. It alters you. It makes you and everyone who loves you feel helpless.

If you are living with pain, I wish I had a solution for you. I hope you find one. I also hope that you at least get a little bit of comfort from the fact that many of us really do understand.

[Image credit: examiner.com]
[Image credit: examiner.com]