Back a millenia ago, I wrote this post about my dance with depression so far and titled it Part 1. Yes, you are all on the edge of your seats, i can cut the anticipation with a butter knife. Between that day and this one, my hard drive decided that it had had enough. The load was too much to carry for this technophobe who doesn’t save anything anywhere but her hard drive. Under appreciated, stretched too thin, my hard drive collapsed. Died in a silent, dark exhale with no flickering blue screen light to be seen.
Can we just talk about this for a moment? Is there anything worse than having a lot to say on a blog and being the kind of person who loves to be validated by being heard and not having a computer? Fine. Maybe having a leg caught in a bear trap is worse. Or actually showing up naked for the SAT’s. Or telling the hairdresser to just take an inch off and they hear to just leave an inch….the day before your wedding. For the sake of this conversation I will grudgingly concede that those things are pretty bad. But, when compared to weeks sans ordinateur, (stay with me monolinguals!), those other things, yes even the bear trap pinched leg, seem like mere annoyances.
Luckily, the good people at the Geek Squad and at Apple have restored order to my world. And, in an all too infrequent bout of preparedness, I had purchased an extended warranty so all of this was covered. Not a copper coin was exchanged for this service! Now with my electronic nervous system rebooted and my perspective firmly restored (the bear trap is infinitely worse and given a choice I’ll take the naked exams and the angry inch (boom, my theater geeks!) any day): Onward!
So, where were we? The depression dance part deux.
I (and I suspect you) like to be noticed for the amazing things that we do are the amazing things that we are. Honor roll? Yes, that IS my certificate. Great hair? Thank you. Bulging biceps? Yep, earned those. Nice house? I enjoy it. Fascinating painting! Made it. Piercing eyes! Good genes and a little L’oreal. Depressed again? Ummm..you talkin’ to me? Why are you sad? Me…sad. No, I’m fiiiiiine. Did you just spend three days in a mental ward? WHAT? What are you talking about? Moi?
The stigma of depression (again, fill in whatever “darkness” you do the two stop with) was not in my top ten favorite characteristics. In other words, I did not want to wear a big fat “D” letterman jacket. And, here’s the delicious irony. The more I ignored that part of myself, the more I tried to pretend that depression and I were not locked in a vicious dervish, the more it took the lead. Looking back, I think it was what people mostly saw. The darkness defined me. L’il Abner and his rain cloud? Eeyore? Yep, me.
Then, in a moment of piercing clarity, I realized that I was a special needs kid. And, I felt no shame in that. I felt no more embarrassment. I would always dance with depression but it was up to me to take the lead from time to time. It was time to do the tango with my depression. (For those who don’t get that reference, with the tango, partners switch the lead back and forth.) The very first step with this was ACCEPTANCE. (Dear, dear readers, that word is so much easier to type than to live!)
ACCEPTANCE (can’t type that thing lowercase, so important it is!) that I am weak. Whew. Deep breath everyone. Yep, weak. And, weak is totally okay! Not only is it okay, accepting the places I am weak is the only way to find strength. My depression became my ally. Not my friend necessarily, although several years into this journey, I can almost call it that. (Not the friend I want to hang out with all day, every day, but a very useful, wise friend that shows up in the strangest places to remind me of something deeper that others don’t let me see.)
I allowed my depression to be something more than a mental illness. I allowed it to be a multi-faceted creature, just like I was. It could be my ally. It could be my teacher. It could be my pet. It could be my tool. It could just be another part of me, like brown eyes. I don’t wish my eyes were a different color. I don’t worship them. They are just a part of my face that connects me genetically to those that came before in my ancestral line. My depression, too.
When I allowed the stigma to melt away of being mentally ill, of being a special needs kid, I was then ready to actually tend to my special needs. Let’s take a breath here, shall we?
Okay, I accept that I have special needs. I am not like those who do not have a mental illness. Now what? Well, now, I embarked on a quest to define what those needs were. This only took a year (or nearly 38, depending on when you start the clock). It was a lot of book research. A LOT of self experimentation. And, so much self discovery. Oh, dear, lovely ones….it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always unicorns and rainbows. When you dare to look into the abyss, there is some scary stuff in there. There are things that seem like monsters. These monsters, though, feed on me not looking at them. Once I look them straight in the eye, they become tame beasts that hide gems of great value in their fur.
I know that this sounds airy fairy and totally poetic instead of practical. I grant you that. It is also incredibly difficult to not get that way when I talk about this. This is both a very literal and a richly symbolic journey. And it took both the scientific research and the gut-led time with my own body (Where was the depression held? What did I eat that fed it? What posture made me feel sad? What days did I feel good? What were the patterns that had what result?)
These were some of the things that I discovered:
1. I had a profound surplus of unexpressed rage.
2. I did not do well when I sat around thinking about life. (This is a huge depression trigger for me. I am incredibly comfortable in the intellectual. I can only think for a little while before I reach the logical conclusion of our complete annihilation. See what I mean?)
3. I did not do well when I ate sugar of any kind.
4. I did not feel good when I ate grains.
5. Movement coupled with awareness of my environment was almost a magic bullet.
6. I had to take time every single day to be grateful. I had to write it down.
7. Journalling about my depression was a total backfire.
8. Sleep is sacred.
9. I am allergic to taking care of people who can take care of themselves.
10. Tea fixes just about everything.
These are just some things. I have so much more to share with you and I will have a list of things, all practical, to share with you in Depression Dance Three. But, I would love to hear some things that you have to say about you dance with whatever you perceive as your darkness.
*None of this is a prescription. Just sharin’ my story.