Dealing with depression isn't popping a pill, going to a therapy session, or reading Psychology Today. It is living with a constant awareness of your state of mind, and endless micro adjustments to your interaction with the world, other people in your life, and how you understand yourself. It is a frustrating process, never being quite in control of when symptoms are going to crop up, but you become better at recognizing them and "cutting them off at the pass". In this sense, the disease makes me much more self-aware and more aware of my relationship with others. I think in this way, it may make me a better person in some aspects, in that it definitely pays to be on top of my cognition of everything I do and say, every second. With the preamble complete, let me tell you about my week, or rather my weekend.
This weekend was a tough one. The kind where you say stuff that you end up apologizing for later. Depression in men especially has the added fun tidbit of unhinging your mouth from your brain and when you may disagree with someone, or if you perceive you disagree with someone, the result can be an explosive launch of verbal insensitivity and offense that seems to spill out like Jell-O flipping out of a bowl. Once it goes, it goes, and in the end, nobody is happy. It can be triggered by stress, environmental factors, not taking your meds, not eating right, or whatever, but it can be triggered. Well, this time, it was dealing with negotiations with the ex-wife concerning after school child care programs. Doesn't sound like a profound, impacting, life event? Doesn't have to be. Remember, depression is a mental illness - it's not a rational thing.
So, here's how it goes (and nope, not going to bash anyone - I have depression, I'm not stupid). My ex got a new job which will require her to put our boy in an after-school program on her weeks. That's understandable, but some ideas she has don't jibe with some concerns I have. I discuss with my current wife and total wonderful love of my life (she reads this), and she gives me a few pieces of input, which I am conflicted about. Now the particulars don't really matter, and in the end everything worked out fine, but at the time when I was discussing with her on the phone, my response was, and I quote, "Why don't I just do what everyone else wants me to do?!! What about what I want?!!! F*** it! Just f*** it! I have to go. Bye!" [Click].
Yeah. That's why depression can ruin relationships among other things. That's what I mean when I say you apologize a lot when you have depression. The other thing is that after a slight little overreaction as illustrated above, you often snap out of it and realize that you just peed in your Wheaties.
This is where an understanding of the disease both by the afflicted person and family and friends can make a huge difference. Of course, the goal is to manage the disease so these little incidents don't happen, but every once in a while they do. Well, Connie didn't leave me. She didn't file for divorce. We sat on the bed and talked. I told her I felt very alone. I didn't mean this as an insult to her and she knew this. It was a description of a symptom just like, "I have a runny nose". I told her some other things too that I was feeling. She laid her head on my chest and said she was there for me. That made all the difference. She knew what I was experiencing and knew what to do. She reassured me and made sure that I knew that she was in my corner and wouldn't abandon me. That's like Penicillin to depression.
Now, that doesn't mean that depression goes *poof*. I still felt bad throughout the weekend but I knew what I was dealing with. I communicated more readily with Connie. I told her that I was moving slow, my back hurt, and I didn't feel motivated. She stepped in and motivated me, and she knew enough about depression to know what works for me. "Jim, why don't you go for a bike ride?"
So, I rode. I rode hard, and although it didn't cure me, it did feel a little better and had an accomplishment in the bank. Sunday I did the spin bike, and ramped up the climbs to double what I usually do. The hard workout was a good shot in the arm. Today, I visited my massage therapist and that carved out a good hour of "Jim time", to take care of my sore legs, and tight neck and back. Once you get in a depressive state, it needs to work itself out, and it can take a while. If you are treating the disease, it may take a few days. If you are not treating the disease, it may take a few weeks, or it may kill you. Fortunately, I treat it, and live with it. Key words - live with it.
Depression is a disease that you learn to live with, and the learning part takes a long time to master. I am still learning, but every day I get stronger and this affliction has less power over me. One thing I know for sure is that had I not gone to my doctor the first time, I would have learned nothing, and there is a very real possibility that I wouldn't be around to write this. Depression is a silent killer, so I talk a lot and I talk loud about it.
You may recall, that when I started this blog, I promised to share everything about my journey, and you can see that the journey isn't just about miles on the bike. It's the road that I travel not as a cyclist, but as a human being with a challenge borne by millions of others. I'm like you. I slip. I get up. I keep going.
I almost feel like I am writing to someone in particular tonight. So, I'll finish with a message. Don't give up. You are allowed to make mistakes. If you have depression or some other mental illness, remember that you didn't ask for it and you don't deserve it. It does things to you and you can get tired. You can slip. Maybe it will get the better of you at times. But it is okay to forgive yourself (someone who suffers will understand what I mean). It's okay to acknowledge that you are not okay, and it is okay to ask for help. It is okay to tell someone you love that you feel vulnerable. It's okay to accept support from someone who wants to help you. You are not weak. You live and move forward with a weight that a lot of people don't have to haul around. You are strong.
And it takes guts to live with it.