A year ago, my focus was on Major Depressive Disorder.
Would I figure it out? Was there life for me going forward? Could I see past the wall that I was up against? Although at that moment, I could not see the big picture, somewhere in my anatomy, I knew I would make it. Remember, I am very competitive and would never want to see depression win.
As I figure out depression, COVID 19 has put a whole new twist on living.
People I know and care about are dying. And many more are vulnerable and potentially could be contracting the virus, even as I am writing. The coronavirus is killing people. My attitude towards that has gone full circle from, “I’m taking enough precautions,” to “am I taking enough precautions?”
Deemed an essential worker, I have been showing up for work without fail.
I wear the mask and wash my hands more often. With everyone in my workplace required to wear masks, I feel protected. At least, on the outside, to my staff and our customers. But deep down, I too worry that I am in a situation where I can contract Covid-19.
Like many of us today, I evaluate my single cough or a tickle in my nose against the warning signs of coronavirus.
Our local radio station updates the number of new cases in our state, along with the number of deaths. After being addicted to the count, I am finding myself not turning to that station as often. Tens of thousands of cases with no light at the end is depressing.
Our state’s phase one reopening plan is rolling out.
Haircuts by appointment, outdoor dining with social distancing, and churches operating at 50%. What does that even mean? And many businesses are requiring people to wear face coverings to gain entrance.
Refusing to wear a mask, a Dollar General employee was shot by a customer.
How messed up is that? The employee is shot for trying to protect the life of the person who shot them. I’m at a loss for words. Having been on the receiving end of people’s verbal aggression, I am shocked, but not surprised, that a person’s frustration could result in their shooting someone over a face covering.
So where does that leave me?
I am fully aware that my days on this earth are finite. I will not live forever. As a twenty-something young adult with a wife and three small children, it never even occurred to me that I could die. My life was in full bloom and the possibilities were endless.
Had I recognized then that someday I would die, maybe I could have addressed my depression earlier?
But I did not think about depression, in fact, I systematically refused to see myself with depression. With each episode, I would sweep up the debris and hide it neatly under the rug. Having concealed depression, some say high-functioning depression, was a secret I did not want to share.
I was very good at hiding my depression from even myself.
Being “evergreen,” it was my job to always, and at any cost, project a positive, can-do attitude that others can count on. None of this vulnerable stuff. No emotions, just the facts. Emotions and feelings just screw everything up and require me to feel. My role has always been a reporter. I am very very good at recording the facts. But add in how I feel about the facts, and everything goes sideways.
I sat down to write about what I would do if I had 10 days to live.
It can easily pull up inspirational quotes and tell myself “I will live each day like it was my last.” But carrying that out is complicated. On our death beds, none laments not getting into the office one last time. But they wish they had said something to Mom before she passed, or had spent more time with family. More time with the ones they love.
Understanding how I feel about death and how I choose to live my life is now a focus for me.
My goal now is to fill my days with purpose. As I finally understand the costs of some of my actions, I can see that ignoring my feelings has been costly. The blocking mechanism I developed at an early age has made my ability to be empathetic much harder.
Not that there hasn’t been a case where I am “all in.”
Helping people achieve their goals has been a shining situation for me. Teaching my children was one of the brightest spots in my life. And as I work with clients or employees, I get great enjoyment when I see “the light go on.” Knowing that they now get it, they are free to pursue their dreams and to achieve new heights in their own life. I am so proud of so many who have taken a spark and turned it into a bonfire of creativity and positive growth.
So once again I have danced around my feelings about having 10 days to live.
I have many new tools that are helping me think about my feelings. And I am making progress in recognizing, sometimes almost as they happen, unhelpful thinking styles. This has been a huge help to me in recognizing how I can control my attitude towards events, even if I cannot control the event itself.
I wish I was brave enough to examine how I feel about my own mortality.
But I am not there yet. With 365+ days behind me since my hospitalization for MDD, I am still learning about my emotions and how they work. SMART Recovery, WRAP Techniques, Peer Support, therapist appointments, and my Psychiatrist all are helping me move toward living a balanced life with depression.
Feelings and emotions are messy business.
Staying with them and experiencing them fully is surprisingly new for me. You would think that after 64 years on this planet, I would be an expert at emotions. But the reality is, I have spent my life NOT wanting to experience my feelings or emotions. I keep coming back to “messy.”
The facts are the facts.
Facing what I would do if I only had 10 days to live quickly becomes an emotional exercise. I am still working on this, about how to incorporate feelings into my life. I am seeing the value in sharing my emotions, but I have so little experience in doing that.
So, if I only had 10 days to live, I would strive to be present in each moment.
What would you do?
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder last year, I am sharing what I learn. If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share.
I always appreciate your comments.