Friday, January 8, 2010

Depression

I've been rather depressed lately. Well, I was reasonably happy, if a bit busy, for a couple of weeks right around Christmas, but I've spent the better part of the past month feeling very down. Maybe you can tell from the content of my posts. Hating everyone (lawyers, motorcycle cops), ranting about trivial annoyances (parking lot jerks, annoying attorneys), and basically ignoring my blog in between.

It's easy to say, hey just suck it up, get over it, adjust your attitude, be happy.... But as Kim Ayres over at Ramblings of the Bearded One pointed out in a couple of recent blog posts (here and here) it's not that easy.

Part of the problem, for me anyway, is that when you are depressed, you literally can't do anything. Some days, it's nearly impossible even to get out of bed in the morning. So, many of the "self-help" things that you could theoretically do to help yourself feel better - things that might help people who are feeling sad, but not truly depressed - simply can't happen. People will say, "take this supplement," or "get some exercise" or "eat better foods," or "go to the doctor," or "get a prescription for Prozac" and it will help you feel happier. They might be right, I really don't know. I know only that the effort required to get to the store and buy the recommended supplement, or to go out and exercise, or to buy and prepare the recommended foods, or to make and keep a doctor appointment, is beyond what I can imagine accomplishing most days.

I have, so far, managed to hold it together enough to get my kids to school on time (and with lunches made), supervise their homework, take them to their activities, and even to plan and do fun things with them. I've managed to meet my work deadlines (mostly - except for those papers I still have to grade, which were due this week but will not be done until Monday). I've managed to keep the kitchen clean so we can all eat without contracting some dread disease from spoiled food. I've managed to keep up with the laundry enough that the kids and I can get dressed each morning, if we're so inclined (some days, I'm not).

But it's as if those things take every ounce of energy, and then when the kids and husband are gone and the deadlines have been met, there is no energy for anything else. I find myself lying in bed staring at the ceiling, sometimes crying.

My house is a wreck and I'm just not motivated to do anything about it. And I haven't managed to put together the client billing, or do the filing, or install the new printer I got, or any number of other tasks that require energy but don't have a "do it now or else" type of deadline.

And so I lie in bed and feel sorry for myself. And then I berate myself for being lazy. And then I drag myself to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, hoping that will give me some energy. And it doesn't and then I hate myself even more and I feel exhausted and I go back to bed.

And I get really scared. I don't want to be one of those people who truly slips into a huge depression and truly can't get out of bed for days at a time, who completely abdicates her responsibility to her family, work, and friends.

I don't mean to be a whiner. I don't even know what I hope to accomplish by posting this. But when I read Kim's post, it struck a chord. He talked about how people just don't understand. They offer sympathy and suggestions in a misguided attempt to help you "adjust your attitude" and "feel better," but it just doesn't work because it's not about your attitude or your desire to be happy; it's a physical inability to "feel better."

I haven't wanted to admit to anyone how depressed I am. It seems like a moral failing, or like mere laziness (thus, the self-hate, and being annoyed with myself...), but it's not that at all.

I am lazy sometimes. I know when I am lazy: I wilfully choose not to do something that needs to be done because I just plain don't want to. And then later I work frantically hard and get everything done anyway, cursing myself all along for being too lazy to get it done ahead of time. Most of the time I am not lazy. I do, and accomplish, a lot of things in my life.

But this is different. It is a physical and mental inability to do anything. I will lie in bed and truly want to get up and do some research that needs to be done, or sweep and mop the house, or call my grandmother, or write a blog post, or shop for new shoes, or any of a thousand other things that both need to be done and sound like something I would, normally, want to do. I will lie there and think about how wonderful it would be if I could just get out of bed and do these things I want to do. But somehow I just can't. It's not, "I should but I don't want to." It's "I want to, but I just can't drag myself out of this swamp of inertia and fog of sadness; I have to cry some more, first."

I hate this. I want it to stop.

I'm finally feeling a little better this week. Maybe now I'll at least have enough energy to try some of those helpful remedies people are always suggesting. And now that the fog and swamp have receded enough that I can move more freely, maybe, just maybe, some of those ideas will actually help me feel better.

Thanks for listening.

If you know anyone who seems depressed, please do try to have more understanding (not "pity," not "sympathy," just understanding) for them. It's not a conscious choice to be withdrawn and unresponsive or irresponsible. If they could "snap out of it," they would. No one wants to feel, or be, this way.

I'm not sure what you should do with this new understanding. It doesn't lead to any advice for how to help the person. But it might at least help some people be more willing to admit they have a depression problem if there were more understanding and less judging going on in the world.

16 comments:

SkylersDad said...

I slip into that place every now and then. All I can offer is hugs from this far away place.

Not The Rockefellers said...

I feel that way around this time of year myself. S.A.D., Holiday letdown...these are all things that may be contributing factors.
I do start to feel better once the sun is out longer.
I also have friends that don't take no for an answer when it comes to going out for dinner or a movie.
A recent outing involved painting a plate at a ceramics studio. It was really very relaxing.

Take care,I wish you well!

Peace ~ Rene

Kim Ayres said...

As I mentioned in the posts you linked to, Depression is not the same as depression, and the usual cures are no more effective than, say the cures for feeling a bit tired are for someone who has Chronic Fatigue.

There are many different causes of Depression, and identifying them ins't always easy. It can be triggered by life events, imbalances in the chemicals in your brain, and by certain illnesses.

And, if you have suffered an extended period of Depression before, you are at an increased risk of having it again.

But there are 2 aspects to it - one is the feelings themselves - the crushing low, the lack of motivation, the difficulty in focusing attention and all the other emotions that can go with it.

The other, which is far are insidious, is our reactions to the Depression - the sense we must be weak willed and pathetic, the feeling that we ought to be able to just "pull ourselves together" and of course overwhelming sense of guilt. And each of these feedback into the Depression, extending out the cycle.

Other people's advice, given from positions of non-understanding, very often only enhance these secondary feelings. So instead of helping, they actually make things worse.

By telling us to just snap out of it, or go for a brisk walk, or think about people who are worse off than us, all it does is reinforce the tremendous sense of guilt and patheticness we already have. Which, of course, just makes us feel worse.

Very often people suffering from Depression also have one of more destructive forms of self medication as well - something to temporarily blot out or distract from the emotional pain. This can manifest itself in alcoholism, drug abuse, over eating, self harm, excessive shopping, sex with strangers, gambling, or a host of other things. These things all offer a temporary release, but in the long term will only reinforce the Depression. Especially as self loathing is reinforced by all these things as addiction takes over.

So the person battling Depression is very often battling an addiciton at the same time, as well as whatever life events or chemical imbalances are actually the root cause of it.

The initial causes of Depression can be muliple and varied, but the additional guilt that goes with it is the killer.

Seek help and support. Don't think you can just sort yourself out by giving yourself a good talking to - all that will happen is you will dig yourself in deeper.

Doctors are very likely to throw anti-depressants at you, and these can give you a break from the crushing low moods. However, they are not a long term solution and should only be seen as an aid to keep you steady while you seek other ways of dealing with it so you don't return to the Depression when you come off the tablets again.

In my experience, the best chance of a long term solution is through cognitive behavioural techniques, like the "Mindfulness" book I mentioned in one of the posts.

You are not a bad person because you have Depression. You are not "less than" because of it. And the sense of guilt doesn't help.

My email is on my profile if you want to unload any thoughts privately.

With warmth,

Kim

Mr. Condescending said...

Aw legalmist I feel so bad for ya right now! Listen to some old time blues music, seriously it helps. It's like a double negative.

I really hope things cheer up a bit for you.

Suzy said...

I've been to Depressionville. Eventually I had to have the professionals take over and get medicated.

Depression can not be willed away. I'm impressed by all the things you do accomplish because I couldn't even do those things. I used to lie in bed and Thank God I didn't have kids because who would take care of them?

Depression is serious. I also suffer from SADD but while medicated, did not have the usual dips in the winter.

I went off all meds 6 weeks ago and feel great. (so far)I will not hesitate to go back on them if need be.

Why live like you do when there can be a solution?

Just make a call to a psychiatrist. It's easy to keep the appointment when you know it will help you.

LegalMist said...

Here I am, unable to sleep at 3 a.m. Tomorrow I'll be all tired and depressed again, probably. Lack of sleep does seem to make it worse.

SkylersDad - thanks for your long distance hugs. Sometime when I visit Colorado I'm going to have to look you up and see if I can get a real one. :)

Not The Rockefellers - The seasons definitely have an effect. I am so much happier overall, living in Arizona, than I was in Virginia where it rained all the time. But it's not the only factor, for sure.

Kim - I'll check out that book you've suggested. I love to read and "Mindfulness" sounds very Zen-like; perhaps it will help. And thanks for taking the time for such a thorough response. I know you are dealing with far more than I am - CFS, Depression, and tons of rain in Scotland... your words of encouragement mean a lot to me. And thanks for your blog posts. I've been denying my problem for so long and reading your posts somehow did wake me up to the fact that I have to face this problem and not keep ignoring it and/or hiding it under a veneer of sarcasm and fake cheer.

Mr. Condescending - thanks for caring enough to try to cheer me up, but trust me, all the blues in the world, including Professor Longhair, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf, hasn't worked to date. Your blog makes me smile sometimes, though, so that's a good thing, right?

Suzy - I don't know why I resist the idea of med's so much. I know they help a lot of people, and I've encouraged friends and acquaintances to try them when they've asked whether I think it's a good idea. Why do I think it's good for them but not for me? How weird is that? I'll think about it more seriously....

Kim Ayres said...

Unless you've been trawling through by backposts, it's unlikely you'll have come across this post of mine - you might find it of interest:

The Deepest Lie is the one That Feels True

Jaime said...

Believe me, I've been there. Mom. Wife. Attorney. It's demanding as hell and impossible to balance. I struggle with it every day.

Some weeks are tougher than others. Some are damn near impossible to get through. But they all end. And it gets easier.

I've given up on the house. I pay someone to clean for me and don't have it weighing on my mind. Some weeks we eat take out every night. I don't have time to cook. And that's okay.

*hugs*

LegalMist said...

Kim - Thank you for the link. It is a useful post, a useful way of looking at things...

Jaime - thanks for the hugs...

Quilter422 said...

I've had capital-D Depression once, while I was in grad school, and it lasted a good 6 months. You describe it perfectly. Savor the little victories - and the fact that you're coping so well with the kids and family/school obligations is a HUGE victory, IMHO.

Love you honey, virtual hugs, and lots of good thoughts and real prayers going out to you.

The Grandpa said...

I write articles for health consumers. I've been assigned articles about dealing with, managing, responding to depression more time than I like to remember. (I've also been clinically depressed and know people very close to me who are.) And the hardest thing is figuring out how to say all the bromides. Always what I wish I could say is what you've written here. Unfortunately what my clients want are the easy pathways. I don't know why they can't stop and see depression for what it is -- from the eyes of someone who is depressed. Your post also made me sad. I'm thinking about you. If you want to talk, you have my email adress.

Raine said...

You are feeling EXACTLY like I have been lately. I hate it when I say something like I havent been feeling like getting up or doing something and the person says that we are all lazy sometimes. They do not understand. Unless you have depression, you cannot understand. I find it so hard to talk to people because they don't understand. My ex used to get angry because I would tell him that I didnt know what was wrong. He thought I was lying, but I wasnt. Here is a link I was given recently. I hope it helps you: http://dooce.com/archives/depression?page=1

Bella said...

hey blog friend.

just wanted to you know I was listening. Interesting blog, even what Kim was talking about. My oldest daughter suffers from this and has turned to drug abuse as a way to cope off and on over the years at different times. I don't know what the answer is, or if there is one, but an illness is just that, an illness, and treat it accordingly without beating yourself up. Take care, I'll be checking in on ya. I've got drama going on here in Appalachia, and my oldest daughter (not the teen) needs a laywer...LOL...Lordy it never ends!

Jo said...

Just writing your blog post must have taken an incredible amount of energy. I know, because I've been there. You describe it perfectly. You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which a lot of folks in the northern hemisphere get at this time of the year. A light box might help, along with Vitamin D. Depression, whether it's short-term or long-term, is a physical condition, and no one should feel bad about being depressed. The hardest part is fighting the ennui in order to do anything. Sometimes it just takes putting one step in front of the other until one day you realize you are feeling bettr.

Mrs. Lovely said...

I understand, I am actually going thru something very similar to this myself, so I know all about people not "getting" it.

Jan @ Struck by Serendipity said...

I'm sorry you're going through this period. I hope the fog lifts for you soon. (((HUGS)))