Every person on earth goes through a bout of depression in their lifetime. The length of time one is stricken with the malady depends on a few things. Biological history of mental illness within a family, prolonged stress, or a major loss a person is confronted with. This loss can be of a job or home, or the death of a spouse, parent, sibling, or child. The onset of depression doesn’t happen overnight. It is not like you wake up one morning and find yourself depressed and totally shut yourself off from the world around you.
There are “triggers” which start the process. These triggers can be dealt with and processed through our everyday life and be rendered harmless when a person knows the stress of the situation they are in is all part of the process of life and will be over in the immediate future. Having a healthy confidence in yourself and a supportive family makes the transition from the “trigger” to the bout of depression and out the other side back to wholeness a fluid movement with little or no lasting effect on your coping ability to deal with the stressful ordeal you find yourself in.
My depression has been triggered, on and off, over the past several years by one all encompassing fear. Joe’s declining health. I waffle between loving the truck driving job I do and thoroughly hating the job. In the event that Joe goes before I do means that I will have to figure out what kind of work I will be able to do to take care of myself. I don’t want to be a truck driver for the rest of my life but I might have to be. The other trigger is stress and this one plays a huge part in my mental health. When I’m not stressed I can be focused in my work, set schedules for the work I have to do at home and on the road. When I get overwhelmed with stress my mind and body seem to take separate vacations. Leaving me in a kind of limbo that makes no sense and is illogical.
My daily life hasn’t changed. There are the same tasks to be done either at home or on the road. Not having the “down time” to just relax and give my brain a chance to settle down and allow my body to rest is what sets my depression in motion.
I have goals set for myself with a time frame that is unrealistic. Cramming several tasks that would normally take a month to complete into the time frame of a week and a half (or less) stokes the fire of stress. That fire soon turns into a huge bonfire and then it is all over with but the crying. What I don’t finish while I’m home will be added to the new work the next time I’m home.
Clinical Depression, as cited in an Internet article from WebMD, can last for many years. Having a family history of mental illness in my biological family – my mother – tips the scale just a tiny bit more toward the longer bouts of depression I can find myself in when I ignore the “triggers” or warning signs. Being vigilant and staying in tune with my mental and physical health helps me to maneuver the tricky road to wellness and enjoying my life. Neglecting to pay attention to my body and the triggers have found me down in a black hole with steep and slick walls as I try to climb out and back into the light.
My main trigger is STRESS. Prolonged stress, and pretending that it will go away by ignoring it sets me up to fall in the hole. Kind of like walking through a grassy area you know had been populated by cavorting dogs. You know there will be dog poop in the grass. My vigilant self would be watching the horizon as I walk to make sure I am headed in the right direction while glancing down at my path to spot the poop and avoid it by stepping over the pile or going around it. I can also keep track of the terrain on my trek and prepare for any steep inclines I will have to deal with and also to be watchful of the steep declines or ravines that are on the other side of the hill to be taken slowly and carefully.
This bout of depression has been coming for a long time. The signs have all been there. I’ve seen the dark mounds in the grass and I’ve smelled the odor. Rest assured, I am on my way out of it BUT I am not quite yet on safe ground out of the hole and far enough away to not be pulled back in.
My working life is odd. I’m away from home for three weeks to two months at a time. When home I have the normal duties you all have. Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, paying bills, getting the mail. I also have the added work of keeping books for our business, making sure the taxes are filed yearly and on time. My work ethic gets me in trouble. I’m either working constantly or I’m falling down on the job – as I have been this past week. Doing something fun and soul refreshing has been relegated to the back burner to a time AFTER the work is done. And this thinking leads to being overwhelmed by STRESS for me.
The “Symptoms of Depression” can be:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions. I am having each of these symptoms. I’ve been trying, since about 10:00 this morning to get this post done. It is now 5:11 in the afternoon. I can’t seem to concentrate on what I want to say. I’ve changed this section of the post five times because I can’t make a decision what I want to say here, and now I don’t remember what I wanted to focus on. I have been in this weird world for the past two weeks. I’m physically here and in the present but my mind and emotions are on some other planet. Normally I have a plan to my day and this post would be knocked out in an hour. Not today, and not for the past two weeks.
- Fatigue and decreased energy. My body feels like it is weighted down and sluggish. I feel like I need to go take a nap. I’ve felt like this since I got up this morning. Thoughts of vacuuming the carpets come and go. The most I can seem to muster is energy to work the television remote and surf the channels. Nothing is interesting enough to make me want to stop and watch a program. I don’t even have a desire to complete a task, like run the vacuum sweeper.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness. Joe has asked me to balance the checkbook. Have I done that? NO. Why? Don’t want to. Joe has asked me what is for dinner. Do I care? NO. Why? Don’t want to be in the kitchen. Am I ready to take my paperwork to the accountant to begin filing our 2012 taxes? Yes the paperwork is done. Do I want to go? NO. Why? Because I don’t want to leave the house. Guilt is the monkey on my back right now. Worthless? No. That was a few days ago. Helpless? No. I can do these things I just don’t want to do them.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. Pessimism? Yes. In my normal days as a fully functioning adult I have schedules for myself. Schedules are what keep me sane and on track. Keep me out of depression. While in the throes of depression there are no schedules. Why bother? Seems that sooner or later it will all come right back to this point anyway. Not hopeless, because I know that I will get back on my schedules but right now I’m a little lost.
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping. Normally I am an early riser. My day begins at 5:30 in the morning and continues until around 11 in the evening. Full of activity and work. Sleeping in late, way past 8 in the morning, has become my new normal. This then sets the tone for my day. It is too late to begin doing something because the morning is more than half over. So……the answer is to just do nothing.
- Irritability, restlessness. Irritable? Definitely. Cranky? Positively. Moody? Absolutely. I’m not happy with the way I feel and I know what to do about it but I just don’t want to. Joe gets snapped at. I’m upset with myself for allowing this to happen when I could have stopped it sooner. Castigating myself with my thoughts and sniping away at Joe when he asks a simple question. Restless? Yes, I can’t seem to be still for long periods of time and concentrate on anything.
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex. I’ve ventured into my craft room several times while home this past week. There is nothing in there that even sparks an interest in being creative. Watching YouTube videos that used to spark my creativity is now just noise and I snipe at the computer screen telling the person in the video to move along faster and just shut up. That is not good.
- Overeating or appetite loss. One day I’ll eat anything that is not nailed down. The next day I don’t want any food at all. One day I’ll find all the sugar stuff. The next day I will only drink water or coffee. Never the same, never predictable.
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment. No, I don’t have any of these symptoms.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings. Anxious and “empty” feelings that come and go. I’ve had several days where I’ve felt like I need to have a good cry. Since I don’t cry that feeling gets stuck in my throat and takes a while to leave.
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts. Been there and done that.
The logical side of my brain tells me that this is an easy fix. Set a schedule for myself and stick to it. The emotional side of my brain can come up with a myriad of reasons why NOT to be logical. These past two weeks the emotional side of my brain has taken over. I have had hours of guilt about not letting my friends know that I am in difficulty. I’ve avoided everyone that I possibly can, except for Joe whom I have been joined at the hip with 24/7. Trying to come up with a reason for why I dropped off the face of the earth has been a trial. Waffling between telling the truth…I’m depressed…and telling a whopper of a lie. The whopper construct has been varied. Coming up with a plausible story why I have not looked at my cell phone to even see if anyone has sent me a message or tried to call. I’ve toyed with embellishing a story of how I left my phone somewhere and have had to have it mailed to me. Then there was the one about blaming the phone company with bad service. Although that one may have worked since our internet service was off for a couple days. Getting caught in a lie is even worse than telling the truth.
Clinical depression is not something that can be righted by making a schedule and sticking with it. Although this has worked for me in the past and I have been able to work through the depression it is not a cure. I have gone through the therapy and medical treatments many years ago. Time and the proper medicine helped me. The other factor in this downward spiral has been dealing with my quitting smoking. I have days that I am down to three cigarettes for the day and I have had a seven cigarette day. Guilt and self recrimination for not wanting to quit smoking, and for the self sabotage has not done me any good in getting myself out of this depression.
So there you have it. I have been down in the dumps. I’ve fallen and I’m trying to get back up.