I am all over the place today, but If you read to the end, I finally get out what I’m thinking.Authors Note
Our heatwave on the east coast is mild compared to the temperatures recorded on the west coast. And we have been spared raging wildfires like the ones consuming thousand and thousands of acres in the northwest. A few days of afternoon thunderstorms, some with damaging winds, have brought the grass back from its crispy, crunchy state.
And more impactful than the heat is the resurgence in our area of Covid.
Community spread is the new buzzword. We have gone from low to extreme rates all within the past 30 days. Masks are now a thing again, at least for work and indoor spaces. And decisions about back to the classroom seem to be, again, a very contentious work in progress, vs a done deal.
Did I mention the Haiti earthquake, the tropical storms, global warming, and instability in the middle east?
Worse, I recently have found myself spending time on social media or a news channel on my phone. And I am looking at all of this. Then I scroll to another story, this time about Trump’s latest gaffe, or I click a link and become immersed in celebrity photos taken at Studio 54. Then I’m off to see what’s been posted on LinkedIn.
None of this trolling is good for me, yet there I go again.
Trying to live a balanced life with depression, these online activities are draining. Now I do cut myself some slack when a new news event happens. I have a brother-in-law who has family in Haiti. Luckily, they live nowhere near the epicenter of the earthquake.
But when that leads to, “oh let me check my Pinterest account for followers” and “I wonder who has posted on FB”, then I am lost for at least 30 minutes, maybe more. My day-to-day has been much better of late, and I plan and execute projects without gnashing of teeth. The fact that I am planning for the future is a marvelous sign that I am on a more balanced path.
Processing all the world’s problems takes a tremendous amount of energy.
And I have come to realize that my supply of energy is not limitless. Even 10 years ago, this was unthinkable. Bit now I sometimes need to rest between adventures or projects. On days where I will go to work later, I don’t spend an hour in the sun with the push mower mowing the hill that steeply slopes to the lake. I choose less aggressive projects.
But watch out on my days off.
I get satisfaction when I can cross something off the list. Yet that is not the same thing as it is making me happy. I’m still working on happiness. It is hard for me to say that “I deserve to be happy.” My sense of self-worth has been tied to so many physical attributes. Or I judge my self-worth with labels, Father, manager, author, husband. But when it is just me, I am still working on seeing my potential.
Loving myself, for myself, just as I am hard for me.
Now I won’t lie and say I never feel like I am worth it, but those times are few. I understand that this is selling myself short. And depression is constantly reminding me of my shortcomings in the past. I have so much guilt and anger about things I have done or more often could have done in the past. This makes it is exceedingly hard to love myself.
I do practice self-care, but mine doesn’t look much like the Pins on Pinterest.
Mine can be working in the garden or being outside doing just about anything. Because my day job keeps me inside, I get out as often as I can. I keep sunscreen in the kitchen and on the workbench in my lawnmower shed. Self-care for me is a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch.
From the rocking chair, I have a great view of the bird feeders and the occasional rabbit.
And recently, we have had a mother deer and her two fawns making daily appearances on the property. Quite often, they will appear multiple times each day. One fawn is more independent and will do more exploring while the other stays quite close to Mom. It is easy to forget everything while watching them.
As I write, I sense that I am circling my feelings, afraid to put them on paper.
Once again, I attribute this to my depression. Yet I am now on a personal quest to understand how much of what I do and have done is my depression, and how much is me. That’s the thing if I break a leg, it is easy to see the fracture. And the cause is usually clear; a fall, a slip, something falling onto the leg.
Depression isn’t as clear in its origin or its operations.
No X-ray can see depression like there is when x-raying a broken bone. With few exceptions, a broken bone is easily identified on an x-ray. Most people never give another thought to someone with a broken bone. They may say, “oh, I’m sorry you fell and broke your arm. So where are we going for lunch?”
For me, hiding my depression, from even myself, was my goal for over 40 years.
Keeping depression, a secret even from myself, I slogged through the bad times and immediately forgot about them when they ended. I never stopped to try and understand what had happened. I refused to entertain the thought that I might have something wrong with me, that I might have “nerves.”
To shield myself from the truth, for example, I have, almost lovingly, referred to 1977 as my “lost year.”
At the end of this episode with depression, I was living in a campground and had contemplated suicide as a way out. Instead, I began walking. This led to running, which lead to me losing weight, and buffing up. Within 6 months, I was in the best shape I had been in my entire life.
I had been a ½ miler in high school. For track practice, we often ran on the Yorktown Battlefield trails. My high school boarded the National Park. Over the past 40 years, I have jogged, ran a treadmill, and ridden bikes for exercise. For me it is relaxing; it is my form of self-care.
To better understand what is going on in my own mind, I have started researching depression and decision-making.
I am trying to better understand the power depression has in my decision-making, versus my responsibility. While my initial scan of the scholarly articles reveals that depression can interfere with decision-making, I want to know more.
Right now, I feel I am 100% responsible for everything I have done.
Each time depression and I went off the tracks, I had free will to make my own choices. The fact that, in my head, I was listening to depression, doesn’t negate the fact that I made the final decision. Each time, I had to say “I am going to keep secrets and do this thing that I dreamt up with depression’s help and guidance”
I personally say that I will do this, that I will go down the path towards the drain and the abyss.
Having no one to blame but myself, I feel defeated. Even with all the tools and peer support, and knowledge of depression I now have, it is easy for me to slip into “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” And from there I begin to ruminate on the past, on the decisions I made and the consequences of those decisions.
Lying to myself, I would ignore what others around me may be thinking or experiencing due to my secrecy surrounding my decisions. It was all about me. And depression has done everything it can to reinforce that view of my actions. Depression is happy when I am its only friend.
So, my project now is to better understand the relationship between my depression and my decisions.
I have come across many studies related to depression and decision-making. But so far, I haven’t seen anything that focuses on how much of a decision is mine, and how much is my depression? Maybe I am trying to get off the hook for the decisions I have made.
Or maybe, by better understanding the relationship between depression and my decisions, someone may be better able to recognize what is happening when depression comes knocking. Regardless, I am looking at this for me, to better understand my depression.