Recently, I was up against the wall.
100 or so days ago, I was sure that I had no way forward; I could not even see that there was a way. It was pitch black, or worse, colorless, and my life was emotionless, too.
I was going through the motions, not appreciating or enjoying anything. Just before I checked into the hospital, I was forcing myself to eat. I dropped 12 pounds in two weeks.
Today I looked at an inspiring blog post from someone who was on the brink of not being here.
15 months ago, Sue was up against the wall. She had the same choice of the three options I felt I had the morning I drove to the hospital.
My three choices were:
1. Take my life, which was the most frightening thing I could think of
2. Keep doing what I had done for 43 year and expect a different result
3. Go to the hospital and ask for professional help. And that choice was damn scary,.
The author, Sue, I was reading about today chose the first option, and she almost succeeded.
But she didn’t succeed and she is still with us. Her journey then took her off all her medication and through diet and exercise, she has beaten depression and is the poster girl for recovery. Another hero in my book.
Sue’s concern is that people may not want to hear her story. That people may be more interested in the suicidal thoughts and the on-going depression. Personally, I have the opposite view. I am hoping that people will understand my challenges as I talk about my darkest thoughts and challenges. And that they are appreciating my descriptions of and journaling about my recovery.
Both of us are living proof that depression can be faced, that it can be put in its place, that recovery from deep dark depression is possible. Now as we both have pointed out, not everyone is at the same place. Some are still finding out just how deep the bottom can be.
My last bottom was the deepest, darkest, most horrible place I have ever been.
But you can bet that had I not faced my concealed depression this time, the next episode would be even worse. Knowing how I felt just 100 or so days ago, I cannot imagine how much more terrifying the next downward cycle would have been.
The good news is I have a plan.
It is a good plan. And it is easy to remember. It is WRAP or my wellness recovery action plan. And on top of that, I have become SMART, Self-Management and Recovery Training. These two programs are giving me tools to keep deep, dangerous relapses from occurring. These new tools, which I have shared with my support groups are designed to catch my relapses before I come completely off the rails and begin to head for the abyss.
In my wrap plan, I have listed triggers that can be a sign something is not right. And then I have a series of actions I can take to get myself focused and back on track. The idea is to smooth out the roller coaster of ups and downs, making the downs much less dramatic. This is exciting for me.
Having these two programs makes me think I might have a chance long-term. My recovery is only 1/4th of the way along compared to Sue. SMART teaches me that everyone is on their own path and not to focus on someone else’s timeline. By looking at where I was and where I am now, I can see the progress I have made.
Keeping depression out in the open, where I can keep an eye on it, has been a big help.
The idea of concealing it, not facing it, not even acknowledging that this was a problem for me kept me from a more permanent recovery. Depression was and is still trying to win me over, to show that it is my only true friend, and show me that it is the only one who really has my best interests at heart.
Of course, this is a crock of “you know what”.
Depression is happiest after it has handed me an unhelpful thinking style and has gotten me to buy into that. In the past, the noose starts to tighten, and I feel some discomfort. From there, I would attempt to talk about it or try something different. But depression would fire back and convince me that not only did it have the only good, true idea, but that talking to anyone else about it would make it worse.
Secrecy and deception are hallmarks of depressions’ tools. The more I tried to get out from under its grip, the more it would throw unhelpful thinking at me, until I was lost and only saw the ways of depression. What a sad way to live two-thirds of my adult life.
Getting experience in catching myself in unhelpful thinking has been easier.
Doing the work of asking why I thought that way is much harder. It still means facing myself and this is a work in progress. I do understand and am committed to the work. Going back down that rabbit hole into the abyss is not something I want to experience again.
So, I am facing the future full of new ideas.
While the truth is these ideas have been around forever, they are new to me. And seeing them as new and a powerful tool for my recovery, I am glad to be using them. I am committed to doing the work to get the most out of them. And I am a better, more confident, and hopeful man than I was 100 days ago.