The thing about being diagnosed with depression or bi-polar or any of the other items on the current mental illness menu is that it’s hard sometimes to discern between having a “bad day” and being in “a depression”. Once handed the label or diagnosis of “clincally depressed” many of us chalk up bad feelings to “the depression” rather than looking at where these feelings are coming from. Often we ignore the viability of a feeling and throw it off to uncontrollable bio-chemical phenomenon.
Everyone has difficult times. The last few days for me have been tough. I have a challenging relationship with my youngest 15-year-old daughter and it wears on me like sandpaper on my soul. I also have had challenges with my husband adjusting to my lack of neediness. It’s almost as though he incites things to put me back into a state of mind where he is my caretaker rather than my partner. It is a feeling of power for him to care for me when I am sick. It’s a whole different ball game to have a relationship with someone who is not emotionally needy.
A couple of days ago I was talking with a friend and as the conversation unrolled, I found myself saying;
“…and I don’t have depression anymore”…
Wait a minute! What? You don’t get “cured” of depression – you “manage it”. Right?
But the more I think about these unconsidered words, the more I find the evidence of the recent past to support this possibility. Cured of depression? I never would have imagined.
I haven’t had a debilitating depression since 2010 when after about 7 weeks in bed I experienced a major spiritual shift in my life. It’s hard for me to believe since I have lived with an underlying feeling of sadness every day for so many years. It’s very new for me to recognize that what I have experienced recently wasn’t depression – it was just a bad day!
What’s the difference? Well, in my case it’s a huge difference. It means I am not taking the events of my life PERSONALLY. It’s not always ALL about me. Even last night when my husband was uncharacteristically nasty with me, which would normally have thrown me into a downward spiral, almost like an unconscious desire to make him “pay” for his nastiness by making him see he “broke me”. The strange thing was, when he said it, although it hurt my heart I didn’t feel like giving everything up and walking away. I didn’t cry. I didn’t blame myself. I didn’t make it all about me. What a relief!
One of the things I have come to understand which has disempowered the influence of the reactions of people and my emotional ties, is that I really see how absolutely nothing people do “towards me” is personal. None of it. Not even compliments. Everyone has bad days. Days when nothing is turning out right, everyone is bringing you their shit on a plate and they expect you to eat it with them. You know those days when the phone calls are bad, the knock at the door is bad, the news you get at the grocery store is bad, the bills are piling up, the work isn’t coming in, the kids are nuts, your spouse is bitchy, your work mates are pricks. WE all have these days. But they don’t have the power to bury me anymore it seems.
So, now what? What happens when you decide not to be sick anymore? because really, that’s all that has happened. I have made a choice. I have decided that everything isn’t about me all the time, that people express based on their own experiences, and even when it’s like poison throw at me, I can still maintain some sense inside of me that tells me that I need to have compassion for the person throwing it. I can see that THEY are hurting.
I have CHOICE.
My choice is to either be a victim of life’s circumstances or be an observer. I can see it all through my ego or through my heart. Consciousness or conscious living means that when something happens that triggers a feeling in me, or when I am tired, overwhelmed and having a day when I feel bombarded by life’s twists and turns, I have a choice as to whether or not to react or not. Not having depression gives me that choice. Not associating every bad feeling with depression reminds me of that choice.
But if you have depression your reaction to these normal shitty days might be different from a non-depressed person.
What I am finding in retrospect is that, when life became unmanageable to me, my brain would shift into “make it all about me” mode and this is the EPITOME of depression. It’s the mindset that says, if I can’t change the events and situations around me to suit the way I want them, I will make it ALL about me and take the focus off the issues that need to be dealt with. Depression makes it so that those events, which are not personal, become all about you, all about your feelings and the focus shifts so that you are no longer needing to look at those things that cannot be changed outside of you, so you focus inwards and the problems stay unmanaged.
I totally understand that if you are feeling depressed, the last thing you want to hear or do is “just walk it off”or “get over it”. I understand that there are events in life that will throw us all for a loop and there are times in EVERYONE’S life when they feel like life is about to wash over them like a big giant wave of sad. I understand the feelings of self-hatred, of ego, of guilt, of inability. But these are illusions. The reality is that if you have depression you can believe with every molecule of your body that you don’t have choices; that you are stuck in whatever place you are and life is dark and nasty and never going to get better.
But it is. You know it is. Although there is a part of your mind which is busy hammering at you, telling you are inadequate, “not enough”, incapable, ugly, stupid – whatever. This is an illusion. It’s the ego mind trying to keep down the creative process of your soul! How is someone supposed to live their best life if they can’t get out of bed? How is someone supposed to make the most of it when they don’t care?
Decide. Make a choice. Small choices at first.
If you are in a really bad state, start with the small choices. Do the next right thing.
When I was in my last really bad episode I had to follow some very basic and important instructions for how to keep on keeping on. Get out of bed, wash my face and teeth and brush my hair as about al li could manage after day 1, but I did it. It felt better to make a choice on my own behalf. Even something as minor as getting up and brushing your teeth can feel empowering after 7 weeks of debilitating body pain and suicidal ideations.
Everything we do is “one day at a time” as they say in 12 step programs. I can’t tell you what it will be like for me tomorrow – and frankly I don’t really care anymore. I have stopped my incessant worrying about tomorrow and now make a daily assumption that if I do the next right thing, turn my life and thoughts over the a power greater than myself, and just try to do my best, I won’t be disabled by depression anymore.
I am grateful for my depression. All those years of struggle and turmoil have shown me who I am and who I am not, and I like who I am even when I’m not perfect. each incident has brought me closer to becoming aware – conscious. AWAKE.
I met a woman once who told me that “you can’t be a victim of something once you are aware of it”. I am very aware of my mind when it wants to hide in depression now. And I even have times where I can be grateful for it. My depression has forced me to be more aware of myself than someone who has not suffered in the same way I think. Today may not be perfect and I don’t live a problem free life…but that’s ok. What would be the point of a problem free life? Everything exists in my life as a tool to show me who I really am, where I fit into this life and what it is I have to contribute. As long as I remember that it’s not all about me, I am going to be just fine…for today.