Tag Archives: depression

Is there ever really a cure for depression?

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I read an article the other day about how a girl cured her depression, after not having much luck with therapy and medication. It was a lot of good advice, along the lines of make yourself do things, let go of unhelpful friends and make new ones, and learn to replace negative thought patterns with positive ones. (That latter is cognitive behavioral therapy, in essence, so apparently therapy did help her?)

It’s the “pick yourself up” cure for depression, and she’s not completely wrong. Those actions can go a long way toward fighting depression, or to simply make it through until it passes on its own.

I could have written much of that piece myself in my 20s and early 30s. Mine would have, of course, included a lot of yoga, exercise and meditation, because those were activities I found very healing and helped me move through some difficult times. I had bouts of moderate to severe depression that I was convinced I had pulled myself out of through sheer effort.

And, naively, I thought everyone should be able to do the same. I thought I would always be able to do the same.

But at some point, no matter what I did, the depression wasn’t lifting. It wasn’t getting better, no matter how much I exercised or took vitamin D or meditated. There were no affirmations that made me feel like I could improve. Meditation usually made me just more aware of how miserable I was.

Long story short, I got treated for depression, for the first time in my life, with medication, and I felt like I’d nevdepression-sitting-silhouette-cliparter felt before. I was really interested in life, in trying new things. Even if there had been times I hadn’t been moderately depressed or worse, I realized I had probably been mildly depressed for the majority of my adult life. I was a diligent worker and resilient. I knew how to work toward goals. I even fell in love during that time, but before I had meds, I had never experienced this sense of openness and willingness to be completely alive and engaged – even with activities I really enjoyed.

That lasted for a short while, and then I thought I was cured for good.

Now I think depression, for me, is something I will have to deal with more as a chronic disease that can go into remission, but is always there, waiting to return. I’ve been having more symptoms of depression recently, and while it hasn’t gotten as bad as it was before, it’s been a struggle to keep up with my daily activities. I haven’t played the guitar in weeks, and that had been something I only recently wrote about as a fun daily activity.

And yes, I am doing all those things that help: talking to my friends, taking positive action, exercising. And it really  is helping, but I have to stay vigilant. And if it continues to get worse, I’ll be having a chat with my psychologist sooner than planned.

For those of you who have dealt with depression, was it a one-time cure for you, or did it go into “remission,” and you have to continually work to maintain your equilibrium?

Letting go

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via I Suppose I Should Fight — A Glimpse Inside of a Troubled Mind

 

This really struck me just now, going through my blog reader. The way the best sayings do when they speak to your heart… I am holding on to regrets, expectations, and judgment- mostly of myself.

 

Medication helps so, so much. You know, it’s easier to let go when I’m feeling balanced and present. Which is a really hard state to maintain when you’re depressed or anxious. The mind will latch on to anything to validate the negative in that state, as if it’s searching for a logical explanation: why do I feel this pain? Why am I so sad?

 

It’s been interesting, since I started the afternoon dose a month ago, I’ve started to notice when the morning dose is wearing off. At first I noticed the physical symptoms, the heaviness and deep fatigue, the sense I cannot pull myself through this life with any sort of grace.

 

As I’ve become more aware of this shift in the day, I’ve noticed the earlier symptoms. A vague restlessness, the itch to get away from whatever I’m doing, usually work. I work in a fitness center, and everything starts to seem louder and more grating. I will take more frequent bathroom breaks, thinking, “I just need to get out of here.”

 

Or if I’m somewhere else, like driving, I suddenly can’t stand the radio anymore, or that a car is following too closely. The thought pattern here is, “I just can’t deal. I can’t.”

 

These thoughts and symptoms all but stop when I take my meds straight away. Which is a little scary. In that I’m soooo not in control of my brain. I have always stubbornly thought enough exercise, deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation would “fix” me. The last year had taught me that wasn’t entirely true. The last few weeks have driven it home.

 

I can help myself with all those activities and practices, and I DO, but nothing has helped as much as meds, and they help radically.

 

They help me to let go of what isn’t helpful.

 

But now I need to let go of expectations, and trust this process. I have set the bar pretty low, I guess. I just wanted to regain some interest in life, and some happy moments. And I did, but I was far from well… and I don’t know how well I am now, to be honest, though I am definitely better.

 

Maybe I could still feel better than this, and maybe I could be not just interested in life, but excited about it? I don’t know.

 

Maybe.

Just this

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Sometimes I don’t want my life. I just want to trade it in, and hope for a better deal the next time around.

I know I have it so much better than so many people in the world. Logically, I know this. But I don’t like it. I am just feeling sorry for myself, I guess.

It’s been nice being off work, mostly. I’m not really sure it’s good for me, though. Maybe I SHOULD travel next time, instead of having so much time alone with my thoughts. I’ve had too much time to wallow in regrets and missed opportunities.

Like the other day I started thinking about how, when I was finishing up my English degree, I was encouraged to go to grad school by two of the people in the department who could have guaranteed my admission. I started berating myself about all the ways my life could be different.

But I also remember I didn’t want to keep going to school, and I didn’t want to get too caught up in academia. That I wanted to write popular fiction, and never mind if I haven’t yet, I still do, and grad school doesn’t lead that way.

I still wonder if I’ll ever be happy, whatever happens to me. I know I’m still relatively young and could do anything I put my mind to, but everything seems so disappointing in reality. I thought my current job would be so much fun and I’d be happy.

Magical thinking – that a person, job or thing will come along and create your happy ending.

So the path is ever thus: Seek contentment with what you have. Gratitude for the good things, acceptance of what isn’t ideal. To live this life, this moment, as best you can.

This morning I am working on a novel. A cat is on my lap. Dog sleeping nearby. I had a really good breakfast… it’s foggy and drizzly, and a great day to stay home and write. Can I be grateful for this? I think so. Forget about yesterday and tomorrow, and just live.

Just breathe.

Chillaxing

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Vacation! Not going anywhere, but the older I get, the less I want to travel at all. Flying is a pain, and gas is expensive. Then to figure out what to do with the pets, and then I worry about them while I’m gone…. I am pretty happy about the chance to stay home, really.

Spring is here, I think! It’s so warm and pretty right now. It will be cold again this weekend, but I deeply believe this is a passing phase, so March-like.

I can tell the added afternoon dose of antidepressant is working, just by the fact that it’s after six and I’m posting this chipper blog. I have typically been pretty brain dead by this time. I’m really, really grateful for an attentive psychologist.

In other news, I have to get a new car, the sooner the better. It pretty much got the terminal diagnosis from the mechanic this week.

I am planning to buy a used car. This is am imaginary car bought with imaginary savings. But I’m hopeful; maybe something will come along!

(Yep, meds are definitely working.)

To feeling better, and then better again.

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I have been on medication for depression for almost a year now. I felt so much better than I felt before that I’d show up to psych appointments super positive: All the projects I was working on that I’d previously lost interest in, how well my job was going, how great my dog is.

Yesterday he asked me some casual questions about my socializing. Which is, um, non-existent … I don’t socialize, unless it’s a mid-day event. And even that is difficult. Evenings just feel too hard, you know, early bedtime. And he asked me about dating, which I basically said is too much work. And I may have gotten a little teary when I said it.

Then he asked me to take him through my week, which led to my admitting that mornings are hard, and after 3 or 4 is hard… not just tired, but pretty blue as well. So we’re adding a second low dose of meds in the afternoon, that should help. I was already on a pretty low dose.

I had suspected for a while that I needed a bit more. Why is it so hard for me to ask for what I need?

Things have been getting to me lately; what should be mild worries can be devastating. Like money, which is difficult and stressful, but shouldn’t leave me a useless wreck, either. But at least one time in the last week, it did. These are signs….

But I still wasn’t as bad off as I was, and I guess some part of me still thinks I don’t deserve to be happy, that I should just be satisfied with okay. Or that I should push through, grin and bear it and not complain too much. Those could be my farmer genes talking….

Anyway, I am looking forward to feeling better than I have been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coping with pain and isolation

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Chronic Pain

I’m starting to understand why people say chronic pain is isolating. I see so many people supported by strong communities and families through their hardships, so I figured it was only isolating for people (like me) who don’t have strong support systems in place. But I don’t think that’s really the case now. I think, even those people who are supported by the most loving people possible, ultimately feel completely alone in what they’re going through.

Living with chronic pain sucks. Mine – Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – is invisible, for the most part. My rheumatoid symptoms are: depression,  getting sick often, hand pain (this was probably the most obvious symptom I ignored the longest – don’t ignore it!!!), leg pain, mid-back pain and neck pain. I started to have a strange pulling and tingling sensation last week in the front of my shin, which was baffling until I remembered my pain will show up in weird ways. Other symptoms include deep fatigue, and when it’s really bad, flu-like symptoms: generalized pain, can’t-get-up fatigue, low-grade fever.

I don’t limp or shuffle (except early in the morning). So this is a good thing and a bad thing: good, because I don’t get a lot of pity and can focus on my work; bad, because no one knows how much I’m hurting and it makes me feel pretty alone sometimes. When I’m feeling completely awful and like I need to go home, I push through, because I get strange looks when I say I’m hurting, or feeling tired.

I work in fitness, so people make assumptions. Or I perceive they do.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like my job hurts me. I can look back and see that it hurt me pretty badly when I was full time, how it conspired with RA to make me feel terrible most of the time. But even part-time, I can tell some aspects of my job hurt me more than others. I really enjoy Spinning, but those are the days I go home from work and feel like I’m coming down with the flu.

But it’s manageable, I guess. I’m not thriving, but I’m doing a lot better than I was six months ago. Everything seemed so hopeless then. Now I have a plan to manage everything, and that includes lots of sleep and rest. And it’s mostly working.

Well-meaning or something like it

I do get seriously annoyed by the things people suggest, sometimes. They tell me, either directly or indirectly, that I should lose weight, cut out sugar, cut out gluten, meditate, do yoga and exercise. I have a hard time not getting defensive about this. Hello, I’m a fitness professional. I’ve been meditating since I was sixteen, have been teaching yoga for years. I may not have mastered Clean Living, but I’m at least well-versed in its benefits and I do the best I can.

I also get really annoyed at all the sites on the Internet that promise an arthritis diet or say there is special arthritis food. There is no such evidence of this, none!

Just don’t give advice to people about a disease you know nothing about, okay? I’m going to follow this advice from now on, too. I think about how many overweight people must deal with this every single day and it makes me feel so sad. Everyone has an opinion, but even professionals have a hard time focusing on the facts sometimes.

Mornings

Starting every day is a struggle. I am tired and achy and nothing feels like it matters. I remind myself that I can’t be complacent about depression, even though that, too, has been manageable of late. So I buck up and go through my routine: Morning Pages and coffee, exercise, shower, meds.

By then things are beginning to look up.

I know people who have RA who feel bad all day and through the night. I guess that might be me down the line, but I just can’t think about it right now. I am told that starting medications in this early phase can prevent the worst long-term damage, and I hope that’s true.

In some ways, this makes me feel worse. Like I’m stuck in my life and I can’t really plan to do anything because I don’t know what I’ll feel like tomorrow or what my future will be like. I can’t plan to travel, to go backpacking, or to be a foster parent. (I know people do all of these things with RA, so there must be a way, but the unpredictability of being able to function at all leaves me confused. I can’t imagine trying to do these high-level things.)

I feel stuck in my job, because I can’t afford the rheumatologist on my own, not to mention all the lab work and prescriptions. Not that I was planning to quit. I just hate the feeling that I couldn’t if I wanted to.

Alone

So I feel pretty alone. I don’t feel like anyone understands what I’m going through. I haven’t been a very good friend because I’ve been so focused on trying to get through each day, and my recent attempts to reach out have largely been ignored. I guess I’m not a lot of fun to be around, though I try not to complain. (Which, yes, makes me feel even more isolated.)

Loneliness and depression are not a great combination.

I’ve been thinking about getting a dog to deal with loneliness. I have to admit that it’s not a great idea, and I can’t really afford it, but it might overcome loneliness more than my cats do.

Or maybe I should just try to appreciate my cats more.

Using Pain

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Julia Cameron just posted this on Twitter:

Pain does use our energy, but we can consciously channel it toward positive action if we are willing to look at our options with fresh eyes.

It spoke to me like a message from the universe. My first thought was related to Rheumatoid Arthritis, for which I am currently being treated. I haven’t talked about it a lot here, but it’s been a big part of my life the last few months. (And I was suffering from it for a long time before that, but didn’t know what it was; the depression I have discussed was likely tied in to the chronic pain as much as anything else.) It’s been a relief to have answers, and the medicine I’m taking will likely prevent long-term joint damage.

Quick public service announcement: RA manifests in ways you might not expect. I had physical pain that I attributed to overtraining (and it wasn’t), but there are a lot of other symptoms I wasn’t aware tied into RA: fatigue, depression, getting sick a lot, flu-like symptoms. I thought I was going crazy, and I probably would have had a nervous breakdown if I hadn’t gotten a physical and learned more.

I’ve been feeling much better the last few weeks, due (I think) to a combination of medication and lifestyle change. I don’t get wiped out from everyday activity anymore, though I do still feel crushed if I overdo it. (Which is pretty much every time I teach Spinning.)

I’ve had to completely restructure my life. I was already pretty big on self-care, but now it’s the priority. Work is not my priority, though it’s going very well now that I’m part time, and don’t feel like I have to drag myself in at 7 a.m., feeling wretched and hating the world.

Anyway, the quote above, about channeling pain toward positive action, hit me in a way it wouldn’t have before. I have certainly used painful emotions as creative fuel in the past, but I’ve never considered how physical pain can make you look at your options “with open eyes.” That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the last week.

I know a 9 to 5 job isn’t possible for me now, maybe ever. With that in mind, I got a copy of the Writer’s Market 2015 from the library and started looking at my options. There are several great options for entry-level freelance in fitness magazines, for example, that I wouldn’t have considered before. I have stopped thinking of how low my chances are for making a living as a writer, and have instead focused on “filling the form” to work toward that future. I have started to see this disease as a gift – oh, I know, cliché city, right? – because it has ruled out what used to be my safety net.

I am finally feeling brave and strong enough to listen to that little girl inside who wrote stories for fun. So, I’ll write today’s pages, and do today’s research. And that is enough.