Although I have always known in my heart that this was true for me, I can now categorically say that once I experienced depression, it was something that I had to learn to live with forever. Before I write today’s post I need to say to my friends who follow my blog that I am fine; I have lived with depression for 15 years; yesterday really wasn’t any different from any of those days.
I awoke yesterday morning with a list of tasks to complete for G as a part of his move to Sydney. This is the reason that I came to Canberra and I was happy, willing and able to complete the list, nothing too onerous or challenging at any level. When I started with the tasks I started to feel overwhelmed. I kept saying to myself, “Break it down, deep breaths, break it down.” I continued to work through these feelings all the while wanting to curl up in a ball and pull the doona over my head. Now, you have to realise that what I had to do was manageable, more than manageable but I absolutely could not galvanise myself into action. I experienced the full gamut of emotions that I had experienced for the last 15 years. The hardest emotion to control for me is anger. The problem with anger is that being angry with myself makes me beat myself up. I use statements to myself like, “You are being ridiculous,” “You must be able to cope”. As a parent and a manager of people, I would, except in extreme circumstances, divorce the person from the action and speak of behaviour in a non-threatening way. I do not use the words ‘should’ or ‘must’ but rather use softer alternatives like ‘could’. I see that with both my children and the team that I manage that it is destructive to speak in absolutes but I cannot afford myself the same latitude.
Earlier this week, I came to the conclusion that I needed to go back onto anti-depressants in the short term (albeit at a very low dose). I realised that with the stars aligning of G needing my support and my home bursting at the seams with both of my children living with me short term, although these are both things that delight me, they are nonetheless stressful.
I found packing to come to Canberra extremely challenging. Every ounce of common sense told me that I was being ridiculous but I packed, unpacked, repacked. Bear in mind that I went through this going to Tasmania and still had to buy warmer clothes and actually the purchase of those warmer clothes did not cause the world to end. I recognise that when stress starts to spill over into depression, I find making any decisions, however minor, extremely challenging.
Depression also brings to me extreme exhaustion. I had mostly completed what had to be achieved by around 2PM (see definitely not onerous) and went to sleep, soundly for about two hours. I awoke still experiencing the fog of a depressive episode. G is very tuned in to my moods and emotions and unfortunately, as soon as I collected him from work, he was aware that I was not travelling well. This made me feel worse as his emotions are on a roller coaster of tying up loose ends, goodbyes and thank yous and my desire and intention was to be there for him and support him, not add to his pressure. Last night we headed to a school performance that our niece was participating in and the light relief of normal social activities was a welcome distraction. I then fell asleep on the couch soon after dinner, exhausted from the emotional roller coaster that I have been on over the past few days.
In accepting awesome, I have said that I had withdrawn the permission that I had given myself to be depressed. Sadly, this is not a choice that can easily be made. In fact, it is not a choice that can be made at all. The choices are to move through and accept the feelings and to act to regardless of those feelings. As a person who makes a sport out of giving myself a hard time, accepting that I can have these feelings is much more difficult than moving through them.
The decision to take anti-depressants is a very hard one for me. I have to say that, particularly now, I see it as a sign of weakness where-as I could just as easily see it as a sign of strength; being strong enough to acknowledge that I need some help right now.
Part of the issue for me is that G is going from strength to strength with the submission of his PhD and the move to his new job. All I have to do is provide support and I should (there I go again with ‘should’) be able to give him that support. I have always compared myself to G from a professional perspective, given that we studied together and then worked together for many years. Some time ago, I realised that G was travelling down a path that I did not wish to follow. His strengths and mine are quite different, with me being more comfortable managing at a people level rather than at an organisational level. Although when I was younger, I used to feel competitive with him, we now work as a team, fighting external foes together. We respect each other immensely and ask each other for advice when we move into the areas of each other’s expertise. I guess that I just find it hard to accept that I can’t necessarily leap tall buildings with a single bound.
Another aspect of depression for me is that I go to sleep normally and quickly and then wake up in the early hours of the morning. I will then stay awake, generally for a couple of hours. Sometimes I use this time to solve the problems of my world or catalogue what has to be done and how to achieve it; sometimes I just lie there concentrating on not concentrating on anything at all. Over the past week or so, I have returned to those early morning mind musings that anyone with depression will know are absolutely debilitating. Days are marked by exhaustion; nights are spent in the company of unwelcome thought processes.
Last night I slept better; I attribute this partly to having achieved everything that had to be achieved yesterday and partly that the anti-depressants would about now be starting to kick in. A good night’s sleep makes a huge difference to anyone. That difference is magnified many-fold when a person is depressed. I have mentioned before the irritability and lack of decision making ability that I experience with depression; both of these symptoms are much more prevalent when I am tired.
The ability to make decisions is very important to me. Because my normal modus-operandi is to ‘see it, make a plan, execute the plan, recognise any issues and fix them’ before most people would even have got past ‘see it’, the frustration I feel is immense. I have learned, at work, that when I operate my preferred way, I am likely to leave dead bodies (figuratively) along the way because this way is very stressful to those people around me who need plans and details and I have modified my actions and expectations in this setting. However I still expect myself to act with purpose and spontaneity outside of the work setting. I need to think some more about this one; perhaps if I modify my actions on a personal level, as I have at work, life will be easier for me.
Well, having slept well last night and completed all of the tasks I had for G’s move, I am about to head out for some fresh air and a walk. Life is feeling much better today and my learning from yesterday is that I will have days, weeks even, when I am feeling down. I need to work towards managing these times and pushing myself through them. And I need to stop being so bloody hard on myself! J