This is a follow-up to an earlier post about my depression, What’s Been Going On. Please note: These thoughts are just about my own experience with depression. They are not an attempt to express what depression is like for anyone other than me.
Scattered Thought #1: Writing seems to be one of the things that makes me feel better. I’m also, however, having a hard time finding the motivation to write. Very unusual for me: I’m normally very excited about getting out of bed in the morning and getting started on my workday, and usually my main frustration with writing is having more things I want to write about than I have time to write them. I’m also having a hard time staying focused on the actual writing part of writing, even when I do muster up the motivation to get started.
So my new technique, for the time being, is that if there is any topic that engages me or that I’m excited and motivated to write about, that’s what I write about. And today, I’m feeling motivated to write about the depression itself. Hence, this piece.
Scattered Thought #2: Memo to self: You actually enjoy lifting weights. Right now, anhedonia (the inability or difficulty to experience pleasure) is one of the biggest and worst symptoms of my depression. The things that I generally and reliably get pleasure from are not giving me pleasure, or are not giving me much pleasure. This is affecting me in nineteen different ways: interfering with motivation (what’s the point of doing anything if it won’t feel good?), sleep (I can’t shut up my brain from perseverating on painful thoughts by distracting myself with happy or comforting ones, since my usual happy and comforting thoughts aren’t calming me or making me happy), etc.
But Ingrid and I made it to the gym the other night, for the first time in a few weeks… and I was getting deep, serious, thorough pleasure out of pumping iron. I felt entirely present with my body, and was enjoying my body, in a way that’s been very elusive for me lately.
So memo to self, because writing it down will help me remember: You actually enjoy lifting weights. So don’t just do it because it will help the depression in the long run. Do it because it’s fun. It is one of the few things right now that you actually like doing. So keep doing it.
Scattered Thought #3: I’ve started therapy. I know many of you will be happy and relieved to hear that.
I’m already feeling somewhat better, having started therapy. I don’t think it’s the therapy itself, per se: I’ve only had one session so far, that’s not nearly long enough to make a therapeutic difference yet. But there’s something about knowing that I’m starting to get help, knowing that I’m in the process of getting help, which I’m finding to be a big relief. It’s like when you’re sick with a non-mental illness, and you start taking medicine for it: you sometimes feel better right away, before the medicine has had a chance to kick in. Just knowing that you’re probably going to be feeling better soon can make you feel better. It does for me, anyway. And a lot of what my depression is centering on is feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, and the self-perpetuating de-motivation circle of depression itself… so the simple act of taking steps on my own to make myself feel better is, itself, helping.
At the same time, I’m having some anxiety about having started therapy. Being in therapy means I actually have to delve into some of the ugly, scary, overwhelming feelings that I’ve been barricading myself against. I don’t think this is universally true for everyone, I don’t even know how common it is: but I think for me, when I sink into a depression, it’s often my brain’s way of barricading myself from feelings that I can’t manage. It’s like I turn off all my feelings, so I don’t have to experience the horrible and overwhelming ones. (This may be one of the differences between situational depression and chronic depression. I don’t know. Thoughts?)
Scattered Thought #4: I’ve also started the process of getting on meds. That may take a little longer, insurance being what it is, but I’ve started those wheels turning.
I’m feeling relief at getting that process going. But I’m also finding myself having some resistance and anxiety about starting meds — more so than the abovementioned anxiety about starting therapy. I’ve never been on psych meds before (although in retrospect there’ve probably been times when I should have been) , so some of this is just anxiety about the unfamiliar. Also, I know psych meds can have less-than-fun side effects, and it can take a while to tinker with them to get the right drug and dosage… and I’m feeling apprehensive about that process.
But I’ll be honest: Some of it is that I’m feeling a certain… shame isn’t exactly the right word, but something close to it. I feel like, once I start taking actual psych meds for depression, it’s like I’ll have “Mentally Ill” stamped on me forever. I’m finding that hard to deal with. I know that’s ridiculous. I’ve acknowledged for years that I’m subject to situational depression, that I have to take steps to manage it when it crops up and keep it at bay the rest of the time. I’ve even gotten the official medical diagnosis from doctors more than once. But I’ve never been on meds before. And there’s something about the prospect of being on meds that I’m finding hard to accept. I know that’s dumb. I have approximately 857,768,454 friends who are on anti-depressants or other psych meds, or who have been at some point or points in their life. I don’t think any less of them for being on meds. In fact, I think more of them for taking care of themselves. But there it is. Going on psych meds feels weird. Not sure what to do with that.
Oh, which brings me to:
Scattered Thought #5: I want to say a giant Thank You to people who have been writing publicly about their experiences with mental illness. My good friend JT Eberhard especially. I do have this stupid resistance and sense of stigma and something-like-shame about being on psych meds… but I have much less of that than I would have had, if it hadn’t been for other people being willing to write about it, and speak about it publicly. The more people who are willing to speak and write about mental illness, the more the stigma gets de-stigmatized, and the more mental illness will be seen — by the people suffering from it, and by the people around us — as… well, as an illness, no more shameful than cancer or heart disease. The people who have been doing this have definitely made it easier for me to just fucking well get over myself, and seek out meds and other help despite my irrational resistance to it. Thanks.