Compassionate Kossacks, my current state of mind is a good one so please do not interpret the following as a cry for help. I write this now from the other side of the veil, newly emerging into spring.
Thoughts: While acknowledging I may be wrong, I think that one who has never experienced depression cannot know the full extent of what it is to have this companion on life’s journey. In truth, I do not know what another’s experience of depression is, for though we may have some similarities in our makeup, still the range for depression allows myriad forms. Even so, I have greatly appreciated those who have shared their experiences, many times finding their insights useful.
I do not speak of disappointment, sorrow or even grief, or of some feeling caused by something someone else said or did, or even by whatever state I believe the world to be in. I speak here only from my own perspective, casting a light upon only a sliver of my experience.
Accused of depression from the age of 14 (I truly didn’t know what they meant when they demanded, "Why are you so depressed! What do you have to be depressed about!"), receiving valuable insights from some extremely competent conventional therapists and counselors -- and wise friends --, sifting through and finding helpful, useful tips from ancient practices and alternative therapies, and once officially diagnosed as bipolar, I now view myself as living within cycles of depression and anxiety with a touch of mania that is more like giddiness...though mostly able to appear (and behave myself) in public without causing too much undesirable attention.
And it’s all relative, and it all varies and I’m often -- but not always -- aware of where on the personal mental health scale I am residing at the moment. The one predictable thing is the depression always worsens in winter and, although my long history and experience are helpful to remind me that it always does get better and I truly need not resort to actively desperate measures, it’s still a major impediment to movement on all levels of being.
I am blessed in my life with the close friendship of a woman I have known since 1969 and that of her British-born husband whom I’ve known a few years less. In the 70’s I once cared for their home for a year whilst they were working in Borneo. When she advised me a couple of years ago that they planned a (possibly year-long) trip to UK and asked if I would again consider managing some of their affairs which would include living in their home and arranging to rent out a portion of it, I gently refused, reminding her that I choose to live alone and I do not own a house because I do not want to take care of one.
Time passed, circumstances changed and it happened that I was returning to the Santa Cruz mountains where they now live in House Beautiful set above a small creek and overshadowed by the redwoods ever dear to my heart. On an exploratory trip, I stumbled upon a tiny but well placed and well maintained 5th wheel renting for what appeared to be not too much more than I had estimated I could afford while still allowing myself the two years I’d hoped to have "off" from income-producing labor.
I was enthusiastic with the landlady but, aware of my tendency toward impulsivity, told her I would take a day or two for further consideration before actually taking it. (Small town, other friends in common with whom she could verify my integrity so she was already pleased to have me.)
The following morning, my friend approached me with a different scenario -- no other renters required and everything possible they could do to simplify my tasks. Still, I again allowed myself 24 hours before giving her my answer, though it was basically the same one I’d reached when we’d finished chatting. I’d give it a go.
When they departed last November, I was in a fairly balanced (for me) frame of mind although somewhat fearful I might do something terrible, make some horrible, unforgivable error that would result in damage to their things or (worse in my point of view) to our friendship.
The Example: Winter in My Soul 2009-10
As this winter approached and stayed, I (mostly unconsciously) began to enact a favored coping strategy of simplifying, as much as possible, my life. Bear-like, I hibernate in shelter, paring down the claims upon my time and energy. My awareness of surroundings lessens and memory fades. Confusion reigns and the ability to make timely and thoughtful decisions decreases.
I recall that, after turning on the power to the first computer-like equipment I used long ago, a screen appeared which said "Menu" and had a vertical dividing line between two columns of about six options each from which to select. Can you imagine turning it on one day and having only one column of options appear? Can you further imagine that you have no inkling that a second column ever existed? Imagine those remaining options continue to fade...
Nearly unnoticed by mySelf, I stop doing things that might minimize the difficulties, i.e. walking in nature and practicing nutrition that is healthy for my particular body, limiting use of alcohol, etc. I pay little attention to taking care of myself. My physical energy disappears and I am exhausted. Pain levels are high and tolerance low. I feel uncertain and unfocused -- unreliable within mySelf. I basically hunker down and try to get through it, forcing myself to take one step after another as and when I can manage. Futility and despair most often accompany me.
But now the sun begins to warm and I awaken to what has been left behind, neglected.
With their full knowledge, I use the house differently from my friends, having set up my desk in their upstairs Great Room with the cathedral windows looking directly upon the redwoods and having moved the tv/dvd equipment from the guestroom there as well. This room has been very gently used and well cared for by my friends. I spend most of my waking hours at home there.
With my newly opened eyes and relatively heightened awareness, I now see the wear upon my friends’ furnishings, but do not remember how it was before they left, thus worry I am at fault. Were there scratches upon that lovely glass table before? Am I keeping everything as they would desire, or has my neglect been abusive? And, OMG, I need to invite my indoor plant-knowledgable friend to come over and advise me whether the ones here are suffering...for I seem to hear them whimper just a bit. These worry-filled thoughts apply to all the areas within my care.
I’m pretty sure all is reasonably well but that scary feeling of impending doom persists so I guess I’m not through the worst of my old stuff after all. However, my recent approach of accomplishing at least one cleanup/repair/remedy task per day is an improvement that most likely will result in decreasing my anxiety. And simply recognizing and acknowledging where I’ve been and where I am helps me see where I may be able to go...
This will continue to change moment to moment and day to day as I begin to "see more options on the screen" and remember how to behave in more healthy ways for mySelf.
Fortunately, the banana slug and newt population are thriving; the deer are emerging from the woods to taste the newest blossoms on the outdoor native plants and I remind mySelf I’m not responsible for everything!
Plus I'm able to put some sentences together which satisfy me -- whether this is a good thing you may debate amongst yourselves. :0)
Thanks for listening. I really value this site and you folks and will appreciate any comments or anecdotes you may have to share, especially about your own coping strategies. Peace.