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What I Hope to Remember the Next Time I Slip Into Depression

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The darkness seems to be lifting after what feels like ages, but has been about a month. It is already too late to write about it, as it slips out just as easily and swiftly as it swept in. But I must pen down some thoughts so I can share them with my therapist so she gets a peek into the darkness and can help me tread the alleys carefully out to the light the next time.

It starts out wickedly. Just feeling less sleepy or more sleepy. A few aches sometimes. A little irritability. What comes to mind is an impatient buffalo or elephant stamping its foot to flick away an annoying fly. Or a trunk used to dribble some water or mud upon its itchy back. It is so mild that one can almost miss the first signs. Yet I have learnt to hear the soft deceitful footsteps of the Dark Monster peering into my soul, lurking in the corners, waiting for just the right moment to slide in. I prepare myself, fear already twisting in my stomach, my breath normally at six  breaths per minute rising to 10-12 breaths a minute. I cook. I clean. I want to make my family as comfortable and prepared for the upcoming turmoil. There shall still be hot meals and clean floors even when mom is lying on her bed sleeping the hours away or weeping uncontrollably (this shall be done in the silence of the night when my babies are asleep). The dread. The anxiety. I step up my game. Coping strategies, all of them pulled up.

Crochet, crochet, crochet. Sci-fi and fantasy. This time I watched endless fascinating nature documentaries. They seemed to help a little, but mostly on the upswing, when I was starting to feel better already. It seems that coping strategies do not really help when I am down and out. But when I start to feel even a little bit better, these coping strategies act like a catalyst to hasten the getting well process. This time also, sleeping continued to be the dominating “coping strategy.” And I did plenty of it while allowing the husband to take over the household. There were bouts of energy in between, 12 hours of frantic activity where I cleaned and cooked mostly to the point of exhaustion. But had I not done it, I would have felt bad about myself. In this cycle of depression, I am proud to report that there was no guilt. No self-recrimination. I allowed myself to sink into the very bottom of a bottomless depression. There was a particularly challenging day and night when I thought nothing would ever be right again. For perhaps the first time, as I cried and cried and couldn’t stop I contemplated the real possibility of taking my own life. Momentarily. But that brief moment scared me like no other. I howled and howled. My eyes and head ached. I didn’t know what I was feeling. I remembered Wordsworth’s words:

“To me that morning did it happen so; And fears and fancies thick upon me came, Dim sadness — and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.”

If I had to pick labels for what I was feeling they would include: fear, the fear felt by the prey while being chased by a predator, so I know I must have anxiety hormones running through my body, sadness, the feeling of being alone and not within reach of any source of solace, anguish/pain, I still cannot put my finger on what exactly caused the pain but it was unbearable emotional pain. Relentless. And hopelessness, the surety that hope would never be felt again. I think these feelings dominated. There were perhaps others, but I can honestly say that pain was by far the worst. I clutch at memories in times like these, trying to find some happy ones. But it is amazing that even my happiest memory causes me intense pain when I am in this phase. In fact, the happier the memory, the more the sense of loss and pain. The knowledge that this is a memory, and a memory cannot be re-lived again. Only virtually experienced. So perhaps that is the pain I felt? I try hard to stay in the moment during the depression phase. Think about the now, as both past and future intensity the turmoil. But the present, unfortunately, is unable to offer the solace I need. Very often the husband suggests playing a word game when my crying and anguish gets too much for me and my heart is beating frantically and I can barely breathe I am so overcome. I have to say that word games sometimes work to calm me down. This time we played a word game too and gradually I calmed down enough to fall asleep or so I thought. I woke up a few minutes later and then could not fall back asleep. It is worthwhile to note that I have been sleeping very well at night (and even in the day time some days) in this past month. Except for that one night of panic and sleeplessness I have followed a very disciplined sleep schedule.

Soon after the crying bout which lasted a few days, things began to settle a little. I found myself getting angry, irritable and restless. A sure sign that I was coming out of the depression phase. Today, three days after the “Night of Tears” I have energy and dare I say it, a little joy in my heart and a bounce in my step. Already I have worked myself to exhaustion because when you have felt listless for so long, you don’t sit around and bask in feeling energetic. No siree! You make the most of it, it is that silver lining on a dark cloud you were longing for. I am hoping that I continue to improve, and I feel certain that it is an upswing now, but in the off chance that it isn’t, this note will remind me during the next bad phase that things do improve no matter how steep the climb to normalcy. I just have to ride it out. Perhaps I will always have these depression phases, perhaps they are part of my core makeup. They make me “Me.” We are together in this life, my depression and I. My only goal? To be compassionate to myself as I experience bad days and to make the most of the good ones.

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

Originally published: September 24, 2020
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