Sunday, August 17, 2014

about depression

Lately I feel the need to write, but can't seem to find the release valve to let out the words.

And then Robin Williams died. 

Perhaps I am naïve, but I've been stunned by the reactions I've seen about his death.  I've also been deeply moved.

I only know the things I know from my own personal experience.  What I've seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears, felt in my own self. 

I come from a place where "Children are to be seen and not heard."  It was easiest for me to be a good girl, invisible, nice to other people--always--so people would like me. 

It is very difficult to live always being more concerned about what other people need, to refuse to acknowledge you have anything other than good, nice, happy feelings.  Because if you have any other feelings, you are bad and people won't like you.  So you be nice and up, always, because you have to be that way.

But life isn't always about good, happy, nice.  Shit happens in every life.  All around.  Nearby, immediate, everywhere.  It becomes more and more difficult to stay up and be nice when hard things, hurtful things are happening in your life and in the lives of people you love.  You know that's life really, but if the only way you know how to behave is up and nice, you find yourself in this deep inner conflict that you cannot resolve.  And so the inner battle is on.

I remember clearly the first time I considered suicide.  It was as though a voice outside of my head offered me relief from the inner conflict from which I could not escape.  I remember looking around to see who had come up with that brilliant, frightening idea. I knew it was crazy.  Unacceptable.  I considered it, horrified, and quickly realized I was too responsible to kill myself.  But it offered such relief from the pain.  And it was crazy and irresponsible so I set it aside.  Until it came back.  Often.

The idea of ending the pain stayed with me for several years.  I considered various methods, the pros and cons of each, always concluding a nice, up person wouldn't kill herself.  It would be irresponsible. 

I am alive today because I got through each one of those moments intact.  Moments.  When I didn't have a gun, or the right combination of pills, or a clear understanding of hanging, or a certainty that a fall or car accident would be fatal, in those moments when I didn't think I could stand the pain of living anymore.

I've had a lot of back pain in the past few weeks.  Thought I was getting better but it kept coming back.  Finally went to the ER yesterday to get it checked and to be treated before leaving town again for work.  The ER doc ordered an MRI that showed the pain is still caused by muscle spasms.  She gave me a couple of prescriptions for medications and one for physical therapy.  In a few weeks, I'll be good as new.  My pain will be gone again for now and I'll be able to move again. 

If I had cancer or heart disease or diabetes, I would want the same outcome.  I'd want to find out what was wrong and I'd want to understand the treatment and I'd want to feel better and get on with life.  There might be people who would think I could have avoided the cancer or heart disease or diabetes by living a different lifestyle.  And maybe I could have.  While I've never had cancer or heart disease or diabetes, I've certainly seen others who have died from these diseases, loved ones who have done everything possible to live for as long as possible.  I suppose some might have said enough, no more pills or tests or pain, just let me go.  I've heard people say after someone dies that they gave up or they lost the fight or now they are at peace.  I'm just not sure we are in charge in these situations.  After all, every body dies in the end, no one gets out alive.  It seems clear though that humans are wired to stay alive, to keep breathing for as long as their bodies can do so. 

In my experience, there is depression, a real true brain illness, which, in my case, eventually led to suicidal thoughts, which led to suicidal ideation, which in just a moment or maybe five minutes, could have easily led to death with its sweet release from the pain of depression.  Luckily, so far, I've gotten through those moments still alive. 

Like my back pain, the depression pain comes and goes but so far, I'm 100% for getting through it alive.  But it is a part of me, just like my back pain.  It goes against everything I've ever thought--doing something that will ease my pain but cause tremendous pain to everyone who loves me, doing something that is so completely opposite to what our minds and bodies are supposed to do, that is, keep ourselves alive, no matter what.  It makes no sense, but I suppose it makes total sense because it comes from an ill brain.

When I heard about Robin Williams, a tiny part of me hoped he can finally be at rest.  I'm grateful to feel good right now, staying in this real place where I experience all of the feelings and recognize when I need to see the doctor for my brain, just like I finally saw the doctor for my back.

Obviously, this is a complex topic.  I'm just thinking that if I could have one wish, I'd wish for more compassion, more understanding, more whatever it takes for us to be less judgy and more kind.  But that might be exactly how I got into this place.  Maybe I would just wish for safe, effective, complete treatments for brain illnesses--or maybe for starters, for everyone to recognize brain illness as just that, a real illness that causes real pain that people sometimes can no longer endure.

1 comment:

Johanna said...

I would wish for stigma to be removed so people wouldn't be afraid to ask for help.

People call it selfish and it is that (as far as we know) one person's pain is ended and other people's begins. But what people don't realize is that in those moments the darkness just feels so real, like it's the only thing that's real, and that there is no way out.

That's the lie. With help, there's another way out.