Amazing Ted Talk on Depression

Another day. Another fucked up day. It’s 14:55. I’m sitting in… wait for it… Starbucks. I just dropped off some medication at the kids’ school and ran. School ends at 14:45 and I needed to leave before then. God forbid the kids saw me and wanted to leave with me. I can’t handle that today. I can’t handle it most days, but today is worse. My depression is a good bit below my baseline, which is already low. It has been low on average for a few weeks. Markedly so on some days. Last weekend was a disaster. Today is merely bad. I am both comforted by the fact it is better than 6 and 7 days ago, and upset that this day pulls the trend further downward. Is my baseline shifting? I know it is. Today, as happens freqently, I had a lot of trouble getting out of my car. For mental reasons, not physical. Last week it took 30 minutes one day. Today only took 10 in one instance, and 5 in another. I had to use a skill called ‘Opposite to Emotion Action’. It involves pushing us to do the opposite of what our mood tells us. So me not wanting to (feeling like I couldn’t) get out of the car, translates to me pushing myself to get out despite that overwhelming feeling/emotion. I have had to do this a lot during the last few weeks. Another skill I like… no, find useful. I don’t like this skills. They are not fun. I don’t look forward to using them. They are to varying degrees useful, and this variance carries over to different people finding different skills helpful. Back to my ‘nother skill. ‘Describe’ is as it sounds. The person describes what is happeneing and how they are feeling with adding to it with layers of the emotion. Take Sharon… the beautiful bride on her wedding day – “Oh my God. It’s raining and I’m getting married. This is fucking awful. Just my luck. I hate this. It’s bad juju for my marriage.” Of course Sharon is understandably upset. What will her freaking out achieve? More stress. Not enjoying the day. Awful future memories of her wedding. Let’s reframe that Sharon. “It is raining. I am getting married today. I am bitterly disappointed. We were supposed to marry outside. None of this has any reflection on my marriage with [Random Guy]. I have a backup plan. It will be lovely. I may still be disappointed that we could not wed outside. It will still be beautiful.” Now Sharon may still be upset, but compare the two thought processes. They are world’s apart. Sometimes I use a combination of the two. So today in the car… “I feel like I cannot get out of the car (I did not say “I can’t”). I can physically achieve this. My depression is severe today. It makes everything feel difficult. I know that using ‘Opposite to Emotion Action’ is likely to work.” And then I attempt, or do O.E.A. I did get out of the car twice today using this method. I used it for doing the laundry when all I could face was lying on the couch. I find these two are particularly good for depression and anxiety. I never feel magically better. I do complete some necessary or useful tasks however.

It’s half an hour since I arrived in Starbucks, five of that spent in the car. As I was coming through the door I had a thought. Why don’t we plunge deeper and deeper into depression? For example a week ago, last Friday, my depression kicked my ass. It got worse and worse all day. By the end of the day I was debilitated. (A la ‘describe’: I felt debilitated). Satuday started roughly where Friday night left off. I continued to crash until I was a wreck by bedtime. I was a mess of suicidal thoughts, self-harm, drinking, pill-taking urges, and a mess of tears. Sunday wasn’t that bad, and I continued to crawl out of the black hole. For a few days. Wednesday – a mess. Thursday – less so. Friday – tough again. And I got thinking… Shouldn’t we just keep plunging? Apart from this up and down lark, what happens when I have a bad day, and then a worse day, over and over? What if that trend continued. Is there a rock bottom? It can’t keep going down, can it? It felt like it should coming into Starbucks. Is the end sitting in your own filth unable to feed yourself? Is it just existing? Is that what it looks like? Or do people always come a little bit up? Every morning wake up a little more positive than the night before, but similar to the morning before? Apart from the daily ups and downs I experienced, once I got to a certian level I stayed close to that level. Of course there is almost always counter evidence when it comes to mental illness. I had been improving steadily for months when hospitalized for a psychiatric incident. The incident didn’t stem from some desperation, rather lashing out. That hospitalization however threw me into a deep depression which involved me staring out the window, waivering between sobbing and having tears in my eyes. When Tony, my favorite, least favorite psychiatric nurse practitioner asked me about my outlook, I told him I knew I would dead within three-six months. I genuinely felt it would be happen. Not necessarily from suicide, but from actions I knew could lead to my death. I was playing a figurative game of Russian Roulette. We are just past the six-month mark. I am here. Living, breathing, still depressed, but not hoping to die. I am still reckless quite often. Not as much as I was. My psychiatrist recently told me that he had believed I would not make it. He said he was telling me now (then) because I had crossed an invisible barrier. Onto the safe side. From the ‘probably will die’ to the ‘likely to survive’.

I suppose I will never understand my illness. It doesn’t make sense to me. Mentally or logically. I don’t think the scientific community will ever understand it completely. Physicians still don’t know exactly which chemicals do what. Yes – we’ve come a long way over the decades. I am grateful to live now than anytime before now in terms of my mental (and physical) health. If I live another thirty years I am sure to see further great advances. Knowing what plunges people into depression when there is no obvious external cause is still a mystery. And of most interest to me today… why is today so much worse than yesterday? I am not more sad than yesterday. Nothing terrible happened today. Everything is more difficult. I feel heavy. I am leaden. “What’s wrong?” I’ve no fucking idea. In fact nothing is wrong, but I can’t get out of the car, look forward to seeing a friend, clean up the house, pick up my kids early. I just can’t. I feel overwhelmed and I am doing nothing. I am not sad, except I am saddened by the realization that my depression is trending down (up?). It is disheartening. I am worried about having to hold down a nine to five job when I can’t get out of the fucking car. On the upside, that worry shows I’m doing much better. If my depression was severe enough I wouldn’t give a shit about the fact I urgently need a job. That if I don’t get a job I will lose my health insurance. Yes. The one that allows my to see my current psychiatrist, cardiologist, endocronologist, otolanengologist, orthopedist, therapist, therapy group. From that list it might be obvious why I have depression. Don’t get me started. Of course it’s only the beginning. However caring about getting a job and actually taking the steps to get one are two different things. It will be extremely difficult to carry out the steps. This is where my skills come in handy. “I need a resume. I will do one block each morning. I will contact one recruiter and two companies each day.” etc. Concrete baby steps.

And this is one way those of us with depression get through life. And you know what? It sucks. To have to fight every day. To fight to get out of the car. Multiple times per day. It’s hard. Really hard. And it doesn’t stop. Sure. If we’re lucky we get a respite now and again. We get some days where we hop out of the car, run into the store, pick up what we need, drive home, get out of the car again, get the groceries in, put them away. And it is a victory. A huge one. For those who are lucky, days like this will become clumped together. Then maybe they will become the norm, and finally there will be no days where they cannot get out of the car. Of course everyone has bad days. Everyone is sad sometimes. ‘Normal’ people can do most of the time. That is the ultimate goal. To have what you have.

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