My treatment plan

Okay folks, sit down, get a drink, this is going to be a long one.  I haven’t written about my journey through/with/of depression in awhile so I thought I’d give everyone an update. Now, this is MY story, MY life, so before you read it and get to the end and scoff, feeling like you could never do this…remember that everyone is different.  This isn’t a judgement on people. This is my attempt to help others see that there is hope. So here we go for a journey into my demented mind….

 

I’ve had maybe one relapse of depression in two years.  

 

Just one.

 

What set me on this course of treatment that I gave myself was a couple TedTalks that I watched that discussed neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.  Well, my thoughts on this were that depression is an injury. Attachment disorders are an injury. I was off the meds by then because I was so frustrated with them trying to add more when one wouldn’t work.  “Oh, Viibryd makes you jittery? Here, have some Klonopin. Your mood is everywhere? Here, take some Topamax”. While I still had enough original thought I completely weaned myself off the meds. I was starting to lose who I was.  I was on the path to become an automaton. I value my individuality entirely too much to let that happen.

 

This is the moment I started becoming self aware.

 

Self awareness is one of the biggest keys to my treatment.  It can also be called the “common denominator effect” (I just coined that.  Don’t steal it.). Basically I made myself look at every single bad thing that had happened in my life and what was the common denominator? Oh, that was me.  Yes, I’ve been mentally abused, cheated on, mentally abused again, had attachments violently ripped away that left me adrift, and had people be truly horrific to me.  Why did all this happen?

 

I let it.  I put myself in situations where it could happen.  I did not have the presence of mind to recognize sociopaths. I ran at red flags like they were a dare waving in the wind.  I had no boundaries in which to protect myself from attachment.

 

I did this to myself.

 

So instead of demeaning myself for these behaviors and instead of dwelling on them…I forgave myself.  I realized that I had to take responsibility for my actions. Along with that I had to fix it. I had to fix whatever it was in me that thought I deserved poor treatment.  

 

I had to start loving myself.  I had to be able to look in the mirror and not cringe.  Not because of my looks but because I saw fear in my eyes.  Fear of being hurt. Fear of being alone. Fear of change. Fear of myself.  And I had to stop hitting the self destruct button.  Happiness and contentment scares the daylights out of me.  I had to breathe and be okay with it.  That one is still hard for me to deal with honestly.  I might touch the button but I never press it.

 

Self Awareness was my first step to recovery.  I looked myself in the eye and said, “you have to change or you are going to die”.  Maybe not even a physical death but I was completely losing trust in myself. I was losing my core values.  I was letting other people’s integrity become my own. I refused to let that happen.

 

Well, in those TedTalks and others they speak of how we can literally change paths in our brains with just thoughts.  I decided to try visualization. It wasn’t an immediate fix. It took awhile to get it to be effective but it does work for me.

 

One of my biggest areas I needed to improve was how attached I got to people and how their problems started affecting my life.  I have always seen relationships with people as threads that bind you together. Some are a single thread and others are so strong that they become ropes, ya dig?  Anyway, I started imagining different colored threads for people. I pictured the threads connecting me to that person. I took a deep breath and I used my mental scissors to cut the cord.  Now this might sound easy and trite.

 

It wasn’t.  I argued with myself about some cords.  Being an extremely empathetic person, it is hard for me to deal with feeling “alone”.  I did it though. At first, it was just a simple exercise. After time though it quieted the anxiety.  I was okay without being “attached” to someone all the time. My brain recognized that fact after awhile.  The other person was okay AND their life was their life. They didn’t have to be tied to me to survive.

 

Well, this visualization exercise turned out pretty good so I moved on to others.  When negative self talk was happening I pictured a stop sign and redirected my thoughts. Sometimes I had to picture a brick wall.  This started paying off in huge amounts. Guess what? You don’t enter crappy relationships if you have self respect and self worth.  I no longer based my worth on who liked me.

 

The greatest hurdle to cross was the depression.  My visualization for it had to be a bit more elaborate.  I picture my soul as a pale gold orb…about the size of a basketball.  I hold it in my hands and I clean it. I wipe the soot of depression off my soul.  Sometimes I have to scrub but it gets off there eventually. I take deep breaths as I do this and I let all other thoughts go away.  If anxiety is an issue I think of the golden orb being covered with bright red parasitical blobs. Anxiety is harsher than depression, it will dig in and not want to let the racing thoughts go.  I pry these off and clean the stains. Sometimes, I can have depression and anxiety still based on hormones. My normal visualizations weren’t working. I came up with hormones make your blood run hot.  So now I picture getting an injection of something cooling. I visualize the needle going into my skin and releasing coolness (if you’ve ever had an IV just picture that feeling when they inject the saline in).  This really worked great for me.

 

Why does visualization work?  I could give you a bunch of medical jargon and such but you’re already doing so well reading this far that I won’t bore you with it.  It basically comes down to mindfulness and living in the moment. We are constantly thinking of the past, the future, and everything else in the world.  If we can lose ourselves for even a minute it helps our brain heal itself. There are numerous studies done on this subject.

 

Once I became self aware and was able to get through the rough times I realized something.  I was glad for the bad times. Why? Because they shaped me. Would I be the empathetic, critical thinking, creative badass that I am now without them?  I don’t have an answer for that. I just know that I am grateful for every lesson that life has taught me because it has made me someone that I am proud to be…including my faults.  

 

With gratitude and self awareness came another realization.  I was talking to the Dude (yes, there’s a dude, he’s pretty nifty) about a bunch of things as we do but I think it was about creativity and depression and I remember that I leaned in and told him something I had never said aloud to another person.

 

“The truth is, I like the darkness”.  

 

Yep.  There it is.  The darkness is a part of me just as the light is.  I’ll give it another term: Passion. Here is a most excellent quote by Joss Whedon about passion,

 

“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead.”

Without the darkness would I be able to touch people with my writing?  Without the battle with the monster would I know how to help people? The trick isn’t to get rid of the darkness.  The trick to find the balance of the passion. If you go over to either side too far you’ll be sucked back in. Everything is about balance.

 

Which leads to my other coping mechanism: Creative outlets.

 

There have been numerous studies done on the parallel ride that creativity and mental illness take, some of it linking it and some of it saying there isn’t a link (correlation does not equal causation…you’re welcome, Dude).  I’m not your Google mommy, go search for it yourself. I do know this much: If I don’t write or sing or do SOMETHING creative, the depression tries to come back (no! Bad boy! Stay down!). If I don’t get rid of pent up emotion in some way…be it sadness, frustration, happiness or the ever present rage…the darkness will tip the scale.  It’s a requirement for me.

 

So let’s recap.  This is my experience.  So far it has worked. Maybe it wouldn’t work for you.  Maybe it would. There is no harm in trying.

 

Self awareness (or the common denominator effect).

 

Visualization aka being in the moment

 

Gratitude for the lessons learned from the bad things

 

Accepting your darkness

 

Let the passion out.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Maybe it will help one person. Do your own research on all the things mentioned.  Maybe I’m not as crazy as I sound…

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Accepting the pain of the last year

I have spent the last year stagnant.  I have simply survived the day and kept doing the same thing over and over again.  There has been very little done with passion or intention.  As I wean myself off of the antidepressants I am now having to deal with a year that was very hard.  While on the meds I didn’t even realize to what extent I was not paying attention to my life.  Now I sit here and I’m lost.  I have no goals.  I have no direction.  I am full of indecision and I despise indecision.  And yet…and yet with a grateful heart I will look into the last year…and the coming one…and ask for more to be thrown at me.

 

On February 6th of last year I lost one of my best friends to a brutal murder.  My chest is still so heavy when I think of it which is often.  I think of the fear in her last moments.  I think of the life that was cut short.  I think of the laughter we shared and how she would never want me to still be in mourning.  I mourn Mary Lou though, I mourn her immensely.  Grief is a funny thing that while we are trying to fit it in our heart with all the love and joy that we had with that person it sometimes starts to eclipse it.  Our love turns into rage and denial that someone can be gone from our life in an instant and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.  Death…is the only guarantee in this life.  

 

On February 13th my on again off again boyfriend of 9 months told me that he loved me but he “needed to figure some things out”.  This after 3 months of him sometimes living with me, playing a father role in my kids life, being unemployed, and then when he went back to work he left me and got back together with his ex wife who he always said was “his best friend but he wasn’t still in love with her”.  I have forgiven him.  I even emailed him and told him I wished him well.  My God, it still hurts.  I loved him beyond all reason.  It hurts to be taken advantage of, to be set aside, and to know that he is now married to someone else.  I have to forgive him though or I would never be able to move on.  

 

On November 28th my ex-husband, and the father of my youngest, died by suicide.  We had not seen him in 8 years.  8 years that he sometimes didn’t pay child support, that he never contacted her, 8 years of being so mad at him I couldn’t stand it.  8 years of missing him, and knowing that I would have taken him back even knowing that he was a habitual liar and cheater.  I never stopped loving him really.  I mourned him for 8 years and now it seems I’ll be mourning him for a bit longer.  The amount of rage I feel towards the man has grown.  He left me another mess to clean up.  He left her with the loss of hope.  No longer can she think that maybe she would see him when she got older.  He’s gone.  I still miss that man and the way he made me laugh.  

 

This past year was a year of many doctor’s appointments and the diagnosis of Celiac Disease and possibly Rheumatoid Arthritis.  My health has gone downhill quite a bit and I’m so very tired all the time.  I just want rest.  Physical, spiritual, and emotional rest.

 

I don’t write all these things to show “oh look.  I had a really shitty year!  Feel sorry for me!”  or, “oh yea? You think you have it bad? Look what happened to me!”.  I write this because I will be grateful for the things that rip my heart out.  If I had not lost these people, if I had not gone through this pain, would I be who I am?  Stretching back through all the years when you think of all the sorrow, joy, struggle, triumphs, and sometimes the vast expanse of nothing-all of these things made you who you are.  I could hate them and hate who I have become.  The past few weeks I’ve been struggling to find the words and to find the emotion that I am feeling.  I am feeling stagnant.  Restless.  Uncomfortable. These are feelings of future growth.

 

If I didn’t have depression would I have the compassion for others that I do now?  If I didn’t have physical pain would I have the empathy for suffering that I have acquired?  If I hadn’t lost loves and lost loved ones to death, would I have a heart that gives more than it ever takes in?  

 

Most importantly, if I had not had this life would I be able to write effectively and reach so many people so that they don’t feel alone?

 

Feeling grateful and blessed to have felt this grief, loneliness, helpless, and rejection is what I was meant to learn.  I spent most of the year in a stupor, having no clear idea of what I was doing.  I still don’t really know but I am learning and I am growing.  Pain is about growing.  You learn from it.  Sometimes you just learn that you are tough enough to withstand the pain.  Sometimes you learn that you have to accept it and not wish it away.  Pain will always be here while we’re alive.  It’s what we do with it that matters.
Even as I am being battered by the storms of life, ridiculed, forgotten, maimed, judged, and deceived- I will lift my face to the sky and ask for more. It is not my place to be comfortable but to comfort. It is not my place to be accepted but to accept. Storms bring renewal after the damage and they reveal the truth by blowing away that which isn’t solid. Give me the storm that I will know the strength of my roots and the beauty of a life that was tested.

Can’t we rest?

There are layers upon layers that swirl around, not stopping because of other pathways, but making new ones or going through the existing ones.  I try to follow one path only to end up on another one and then another only to find out that I have been going in a circle all this time. Defeated, dejected, and somewhat perplexed, I look around trying to find the right path.  The one that will lead me to the clarity I had not minutes before.  By now there are so many intersections, pathways, interruptions, responsibilities, other thoughts that I want to pursue that I am so lost it hurts to breathe.  My chest heaving, I look around for a guide, a signpost even, that will direct me to where I go.  Everyone sees my confusion and starts telling me the path that they took to get where they wanted to be or they tell me to look above.  I look above and the Almighty smiles tenderly at me and tells me that He has given me the directions I just have to find them.  Disgruntled, I keep searching but by now the exhaustion has come and it has decided that what I need is sleep. Sleep will help me figure it out.  

 

I try to sleep.  I lay my head down, say my prayers, and try to go to that quiet place where I can rest.  There is no rest though.  There are more thoughts and directions I feel I should be taking as well as the dreams.  Dear Lord, the dreams.  The dreams that seem so real, and he feels so real, but he’s not, and he never was and he is gone.  I wake up, always, at 3:30 am.  I have yet to figure out what is so important about that time.  I try and sleep for a few more hours.  I wake up, exhausted.  Wanting nothing more than to rest but I have many miles to walk through the day.  Always seeking out what I can’t find.  If I could just find it, that place that I seek, where there is rest, compassion, solace, clarity, and softness then I could be content.  The world is so dark, and hard, and negative, and striving, and grasping at me.  It’s this monster that is always telling me I am not good enough, never going to get enough done, that my kids are better off without me, that everyone is against me, their laughter and jeers follow me everywhere, and I can’t get off this merry-go-round that is my life.  

 

I see glimmers of hope sometimes but then reality comes in and takes it away.  My hands, my poor, bleeding, swollen, hurting, helping hands are battered beyond belief at what has become of them.  Where I would love nothing more than to help people I am left attempting to help myself.  There are some days that I can’t even keep myself together let alone others.  Those are the hardest days.  The days in which I want to do so many things but I can’t.  I can’t get up and do the dishes, or vacuum, or even put on makeup.  My mind is so exhausted that my body collapses.  My kids are there needing me, needing me to be okay, needing me to support them, and there are times I just can’t.  

 

And so starts the circle again, trying to find the way back, trying to find the light, trying to follow the cues that I’m given, and I just want rest.  Is that so bad?  Can’t we all just rest?

Demons

Hiding in plain sight

The demons lurk behind storm filled eyes

No one ever knows

The pain that’s taken hope

I wish I had no heart

No soul to fill with love

What has it ever given me

But tear stained eyes

And blood filled hands

Life beats you down

Nothing ever comes easy

Apathy or excess

No in between

Dear God in heaven

What is wrong with me?