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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Full Swing: Good Depression v. Bad Depression

You should all know that I am not a trained mental health professional. The subject matter in this post is about mental health, specifically depression. This is a post to work out some thoughts, ideas, maybe spark a conversation. In no way should anything that I have written be construed as a diagnosis or prescription. That said, by all means, consider this a launch point for a conversation with your mental health provider or counselor. I do not have an answer, but I have a lot of questions and observations.

I can tell that I am depressed. I do not find much of anything that I enjoy to be enjoyable right now. I made plans to go walking with a friend and I would like very much to blow it off. Painting is not a great outlet because I am so frustrated with how much I have forgotten about the process. The real tell-tale signs that depression in indeed in full swing is that I don't feel like cooking. I am hungry but I can not make myself eat.

ALDI hosts German week this week and I was all excited about Butter cheese and the pastries filled with spinach and cheese and fruits and nuts (Not all together. Two separate kinds of pastries!) Also excited for authentic wurst. But today, as well as  yesterday after my pen pal and I finished our conversation, depression has come for a visit. There is no telling how long it will last. And the more I fight it the more it holds on.

And the funny thing about it, I just had a therapy session in which we talked about the break up. The whole expectation v. reality bull drizzle that happens in every encounter. Of course, the family had company yesterday. Said company brings a passel of melancholy with it when it visits. And the melancholy hangs around. So since I am an empath that could be part of the problem. It is just odd though that I can walk out of the therapist office and know that things will be ok, feel that they will be ok and then have this huge weight around my neck. I feel like I am drowning.

All of my go to things are not working: meditation, netflix is dull now, I screwed up the breakfast that I did make and my coffee tastes like crap. But it is the same coffee beans that I had two days ago that were wonderful. Facebook is usually a good place to practice the funny and work out those good deeds of cheering others. That didn't help. Wil Wheaton's dog died, which seems like it shouldn't matter because I don't know will personally. But I know Riley pretty well because she has guest starred on his blog for 13 years. Julian Lennon's mom died. And while I don't know him or her personally, I do follow his posts and developed enough of an attachment that I cry when I hear the sadness in his words.

So maybe Facebook is the wrong place for a depressed empath. Maybe when the empath is depressed she shouldn't be trying to help others. This might be a clue that I've been spread too thin and need to regroup. I mean, every day is like that so why should being depressed mean I have to throw myself into the world?

I have new followers thanks to Google+. Hello all! And while each new follower is a feather in a pretty scarcely decorated cap, this week the newness hasn't even begun to make a dent in the armor that depression locks me into.

Soooooooo...... [Totally just had an epiphany!!!]

Bear with me. I have an idea.

What if some depression is not illness but insulation?
What if some depression, like the one that happens when we grieve, is supposed to be the armor that protects us from doing drastic and potentially idiotic things?

I very much want to do nothing. Feel nothing. Be nothing right now. I am antsy to be sure. My body wants some kind of activity while it wants to sleep. It is a weird paradox and I do not know how to make a decision because the impulses to do and to not do change so fast that by the time I am doing something I do not have the energy to do it. Paradoxically, I have sustained a desire to write long enough to get this far.... weird. Possibly a bit wibbly wobbly in the psychology department. But let's keep going....

In the past week I have dealt with a lot of emotional people at work, personalities clashing and dealing with the idea of saying goodbye to one job while saying hello to another. It is all, understandably, a bit overwhelming. And the teenager has been in the house for two days. She is an emotional bundle of unprocessed psycho-kinetic energy with no ability (as she lacks desire to learn) to master or understand any of the emotions that she has. She is an example of why Betazoids do not have pets. I have also had to deal with my own grief. So.....for the weeks worth of emotional expenditures, one could logically say the depression is an armor. Or a stockade. Let's go with a stockade.
This stockade is keeping me homebound. Being home means that I am not going to be constantly dieting on other people's emotional bullshit. It means that I do not have to deal with the triggers of grief at work, which oddly enough include Sir Knight. (zip it, Shayne.) And right now home has no one in it but me and the cat. She is hiding in her mom's room because there is nothing of interest happening outside. It is grey and rainy and could be contributing to the icky depressed scene. Since I am locked in this emotional stockade and am doing nothing (except writing you all) I am not overstimulating the mental and emotional circuits that have been over stimulated already.

Perhaps their is a good depression and a bad depression like their is for cholesterol. I might be having an episode of good depression. Like having the flu forces you to stay home and not load up on more germs you're already fighting.

If we look at the happenings of the last month, which I feel we must because the strength of the stockade seem excessive for the week's worth of over load, we can see some more triggers:

  • Being dumped, the exchange of hostilities that may not have been deserved, the loss and all the triggers around me that refer back to the fresh loss.
  • Trying to reconcile issues with an old friend that has resurfaced
  • financial concerns
  • being sick with the bronchial weirdness
  • reconciling the conflict between a positive career advance and inexplicable sadness over the change
  • physical pain from my hip and thigh bones
  • separation from the boyfriend due to conflicts of school
And we look further back over the last quarter and half year:
  • heavy work schedule
  • conflicts with personalities at work
  • physical pain from the heavy work load
  • time usurped by the demands of the boyfriend's mental illness
  • trying to fit someone into my life who might not belong here
  • regaining the things that were set aside for the boyfriend
  • disappointment with the delay of personal goals due to financial issues
In short: I have been emotionally, mentally and intellectually overstimulated for the better part of a 12 month period. 

I have to say, I think that the only way to keep me from completely draining all of my mental resources is to be depressed. The more I think on this the more I think that there must be two kinds of depression. This is not the Depression that Lies™ as Wil calls it. 

The Depression that Lies™ tells you that you are crap, that everything about you is wrong. It tells you that no one likes you, your friends are not your friends, that you are never good enough. It tells you that every paranoid thing you think is true. It hates all the things that you used to love. And by hate I mean that when you think of doing the things that you like to do, you become enraged. Anger is the first response to an impulse to do something you enjoyed about two days before Depression that Lies™ showed up at your door. This is the depression that brings out suicidal thoughts. This is the Depression that hates everything. 

The Depression that Lies™ is not the depression that I feel right now. This is the kind of depression that says, "slow down you are moving to fast for your ability". It says "You will burn out if you don't sit this out." This is the depression that says "You need to be alone to get rid of everyone else's garbage." This is the Depression that is a Time Out. 

Neither kind of Depression is lessened with distractions. Neither kind will be sped along with platitudes. Both kinds require help, but the kind of help differs. The time out requires time. Good chunks of alone time. And it requires that you not be afraid to be a lone. So, for those of us who are not good at being alone, we need help learning to be alone. And we might need help with keeping things clean for a few days. The need to do nothing is paralyzing. But that doesn't stop the animals from needing fed or walked. And it doesn't keep the garbage from stinking. We might need help being fed. In this day and age of take out and delivery this might not be much of an issue for some. But for others, friends will have to make sure there is something to eat. The real challenge in a time out though is being left alone with yourself for too long. 

And you never know how long that is going to be. The Depression that Lies™ needs medication and regular therapy. Without treatment it is a short slide into anxiety. And the Depression that Lies™ is probably not a stand alone disorder. It comes with its own bag of garbage like PTSD, bipolar, dis-associative and personality disorders and probably is a part of every spectrum disorder in addition to being able to stand on its own. That kind of Depression is rather insidious because we might not always know where the root of it is. And, as in the case of PTSD, knowing the root cause does not guarantee we can find a fix.Time out Depression could probably use a boost with a temporary med, like taking an antibiotic to prevent pneumonia, but the real fix is time. I think. 

I don't know. I am not a professional. I have been afflicted with both kinds of Depression. And I can honestly say that Time Out Depression, is rough and painful and you think you are going mad. But it is short term. It has a root cause, its progression can be traced and it is not a life threatening mental disorder. In fact, I think the Time Out Depression is a defense mechanism that our minds need to calm down the chaos that caused us to feel weird in the first place. But this kind of depression can slide into the Depression that Lies™ if we don't use the Time Out efficiently.

I have always been able to be alone. And I have always preferred to be alone. I joke with the housemate that I was born wanting to be left alone. I am easily overwhelmed with people. Animals not so much. But people fatigue me. I am an introvert. That is the way I was built. And that is perfectly okay. I get lost when I try to fit into the extrovert world, try to force my Sherry shaped personality into a box designed for someone else's shape and that brings on the Depression that Lies™. I can handle being in the Time Out Depression because I like being alone. 

Oh... one thing about the Time Out Depression is that when you do not distract yourself there is a still place in your brain that can take over. Literally, nothing conscious is happening. It looks like you are sleeping, loafing, being generally unproductive. And it drives extroverts absolutely MAD to see you "doing nothing". It isn't like meditation because you are not actively trying to achieve the state of mental stillness. But you become still. Your brain spins on its hamster wheel for so long that it does eventually get tired of spinning and just stops. The only thing that is actively happening in your brain is the automatic functions that keep your body alive. The thoughts just stop. The feelings just stop. 

It is like taxing your brakes driving in the mountains. At some point the brake pads are so hot you have to stop and let them cool down. This is what happens in time out depression. You brain is cooling down. It's a little like being in a hyperbaric chamber. There is no stimulus internally because your brain just stops. It conserves energy by preventing you from doing things (distractions). There is no stimulus externally because you are usually hiding in your bed. 

Because everything just stops we freak out. In the freak out you get uncomfortable with the silence, the stillness, yourself and you undo all the good being in time out was doing. So the process has to start all over again. And I think that is where we get into trouble. The perpetual cycle of being sick and pale with grief. I am totally ok with being depressed today because I can see that it is a time out. I have been over stimulated by change, grief and a few other emotions that I don't want to share right now. I do not mind being alone. I relish it in fact.

I am only having trouble because of the conflict between want to do and need to do and feeling like I have to do the things that need to be done when, in truth, the world will not fall apart if it isn't done.

And I think that I can safely cancel my walk this afternoon.  

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