confessions of a depressed mind: bad habits

Standard

Communication. It all comes down to that, when you think about it. I knew this! (It was my major in college!) I’m an actually rather effective communicator – and an active one at that. But this is one of the things that I lost in my fight with depression. It’s time for me to take it back.

Another thing my depression messed up was my ability to read how other people communicate and interact with them accordingly. As a result, some of my post-depression “episodes” have been caused by miscommunication or mere lack of communication all together. And in these situations, I’ve taken a passive-aggressive stance, retreated, failed to state my own needs and expectations, and taken things WAY TOO PERSONALLY. Even though my depression is gone, depressive habits are still there. And they trick me into thinking I’m still depressed. It’s time to break them.

So I made a list of things to be extra intentional and proactive about doing to enable me to fully return to emotional, spiritual and social freedom.

1. TALK ABOUT IT. I need to stop going into mental retreat mode every time a conflict arises. 

2. KEEP WRITING. This has already been a tremendous help in my entire journey from my very first breakdown to now. And I’m not just talking about blogging. I’m talking about journaling, scribbling, vent writing, writing letters, notes and prayers. 

3. DON’T ASSUME, ASK! You’d think I would have this one down already, considering how often I feel like I preach it. But I’ve found myself trapped in the rut of assumption more than once that few months and it gets you nowhere

4. MEET UP WITH PEOPLE. There was a point in my life when I had weekly dates with friends for coffee or lunch or dinner. It kept me connected, provided a human outlet for the deeper things of life, and reminded me that I was loved. Dinner or lunch with a friend was always the high point of my week. I don’t do that anymore. In fact, I haven’t for a very long time. It’s time to start again

And finally…

5. START CREATING FOR FUN. The sense of accomplishment, pride and productivity one gets from finishing a project is satisfying; and it’s that satisfaction that reminds us of what we are capable of. It re-releases and empowers the imagination. It keeps the creativity flowing for the next project. I need to start designing things again. 

This is my action plan for permanently breaking off those bad habits from my depression. And I think it’s also appropriate to declare that this post represents my transition OUT of a depressed mind and will be the final “confession” of one. Here I go, choosing to live a happy life again.

Thank you for reading my words, and as I reflected on my own experiences with depression, I hope people were inspired, encouraged and helped. You can find the other blog posts I wrote about this journey by searching “depression” in the sidebar. 

Advertisements

confessions of a depressed mind: going it alone

Standard

Training for the marathon I ran back in January had me in great physical shape, though I was completely bent out of shape emotionally by depression. Before I ran my marathon, I was struggling with a lot of hurt triggered by the fact that most of my close friends here in Taipei were not going to be at my race (you can read more about that experience here). A friend asked me if it was possible for my friends to run the marathon with me. All they could do was they are already doing in their hearts: supporting me and cheering me on. 

Those words were hard to hear then, but every time I think about what she said to me, her words make more sense. There are some things in this life one simply must do alone.

In the words of Walt Whitman: “Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, you must travel it yourself.”

(Those words are actually from a longer piece that I recorded and shared here.)

It’s a difficult line in general, I feel, to draw between what you must face alone and when you need the help of others. Many times, I’ve found myself depending too much on others; and other times I completely resist them, refusing help and isolating myself in my problems. And most of the time, I fail at communicating what I need, leaving others completely in the dark about my whereabouts and weaknesses. It always only hurts me in the end.

Unless, I’m writing one of these posts, it’s almost like I can never get the spontaneous expression of negative emotion right. Whatever I say or do comes out wrong, I don’t get a response; I have no idea what people are thinking. It makes me wonder where space for expressing negative emotion is, as it seems to be lost in my life right now. I either can’t get it out, or it comes out the wrong way. This further confuses the role other people have in my emotional journey. 

I’m discovering this to be the most difficult part of the healing process for me, especially in terms of rising above memories that threaten to drag me down. Every part of a memory – the people, the place, the event, the mood – represents a very dark and painful time for me. I find myself needing other people to help me through that, to be a part of making it new. It’s like going back to the place where you first met your ex-boyfriend. Or the restaurant where you celebrated the birthday of a close friend who’s now gone. Or the last place you saw your grandmother. These experiences bring a pain that should also bring closure. But I’m going back to these places alone.

I’m going back to these places alone because I was the only one who was depressed. I’m going back to these places alone because no one else has any vividly damaging memory of it. I’m going back to these places alone because the people who are part of it don’t even realize they had also become demons in my head. I’m going back to these places alone because there is no one else to go there with me. 

That’s how it feels. It feels like I need to go back to these memories and fight them alone. And maybe that’s exactly what I need to do.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been depressed before, you probably understand the difficulty of explaining to someone that you’re depressed, even though happiness surrounds you. It doesn’t make sense to the person on the outside of you. It’s something you find yourself facing alone.

So perhaps this is one of those things I must deal with alone. No one else can run my marathon with me. 

confession of a depressed mind: DROWNING

Standard

depression

I’m somewhere in the ocean, but still in sight of the beach. The waves have taken me under; I’m using all my strength to fight the current that threatens to end me. Moments of oxygen are few and far between, and then they stop all together. I look up; I don’t know if I’ll be able to resurface again. But then something happens; some force pushes me up about of the water and the vicious waves that were once swallowing me are stilled. I can breathe again. I’m treading water. I’m exhausting but I’m breathing.

I can see the beach. I see all my friends, my family, people who love me, care about me, think I’m a cool person. They see me now, and they’re waving. I wave back. I’m so far away. All I have to do is swim to them, swim back to the beach, swim away from the waves of death I didn’t think would ever end.

Back on the beach, I’m so, so tired. No one else is as tired as I am. No one knows the fight I just had out there in the water. No one realizes I was drowning out there, but something saved me. All I can do is cry; everyone around me is happy and having fun, but all I can do is cry. Because I’m alive. Not everyone survives what I just experienced, and I did. I’m alive.

You think I’m sad, but I’m actually just so happy to be alive.

When things were super dark, there was a time I didn’t feel loved by my friends. I felt so far away and cut off, and I started to believe that I was in FACT cut off and far away and therefore didn’t mean anything to any of them anymore. I could slip away, get on plane to America, and just leave Taiwan; and it wouldn’t even matter. No one would blink twice after I disappeared. I’m very thankful to have worked past these lies in my healing process, and my distorted perspective of my relationships with people have been restored.

Now that I’m in a place where I no longer hold things against the people around me or initially assume judgement or attack on their part and feeling ashamed to be around them, my eyes have been open to what I’m really up against. I can see much more clearly what is happening to me when I fall into a bout of depression. I’m drowning. 

As soon as I came across that image during one of my google searches, it was like my whole being responded. That image “got me.” It articulated exactly what happens inside of me. I’m drowning.

These moments of drowning always have triggers, sometimes external, sometimes internal. External triggers might be a person or something that is said in conversation. Internal ones might be a negative memory or a situation that I’m hung up on. A lot starts happening once one of these triggers pull me under. And even when I manage to cognitively conquer the trigger, it’s not enough to pull me up to the surface. I’m already caught in the current of depression.

The “force” that finally does push or pull me to the surface might be a person. A friend that notices my upset state (my countenance and posture both completely change when this happens) comes over and hugs me. Someone just sits next to me and pats me on the back. I get an encouraging phone call or text message or email. Sometimes, I need an entire mental rest day free from stress and full of prayer to completely come out of it. I’ve learned to give myself those times of recovery.

As I’m crying there on the beach and friends are coming around to comfort me, all I want to say to them is this: You have no idea how tired how I am. You have no idea how hard it just was for me out there. Do you realize what I just went through? I was drowning! I almost died! I almost died. And I wonder if I should say this out loud. If I should tell everyone what happened. Or maybe it’s just enough that I’m with everyone again, together, on the beach.