Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Depression Toolkit

Looks like I'm going to be depressed for the holidays. Time to pull out the old depression toolkit.

After 30+ years of living with my own depression, I know many of it's quirks. My depression is deliberately misplaced frustration. When I was a child there was no safe outlet for my frustration and anger, so I turned it inward and began beating up on myself. This tactic stemmed for a belief that if I tried to beat other people up instead, they would do more damage to me than I would do beating up myself. Like, they might kill me.

When something scares you that much, PTSD is the logical next step. It's where you deliberately misplace your fear, you anger, every emotion that interferes with your self-control until later. Then, when you are in a safe place, all the misplaced terrors can come bubbling up in an environment where losing control won't mean losing your life. At least that's the theory your subconscious is counting on when you first begin operating that way. In real life it's not that neat and tidy. In real life, soon nothing can match the terror of true peace and quiet.

Anyway, beating myself up became a habit, and one that my parents went out of their way to encourage. It's a hard habit to break. Shoot, it took me most of my life to even recognize it was a habit, and that I could do something about it. PTSD is even harder to break because it's sneakier.


My husband tells me that whenever I get depressed, if you dig deep enough you always find my mother at the bottom. I've always dismissed that theory as too simplistic, but he's known me for almost 20 years now and he still holds to it. He might have something there.

My oldest technique is to curl up into a ball of self-pity and ignore the rest of the world for about six weeks. But I'm a mother now, I can't afford the luxury of that much time to myself. More to the point, I don't have the stomach for it anymore. I'm incredibly tired of sinking into my depths and then dragging myself back out again. Most of the "shadows" are old scripts that have long outlived their usefulness; and I'm too old to play games with the tattered phantoms that still haunt my head. In recent years I've developed a few other methods that allow me more self-respect.

I was doing most of these until this summer, when between illness and homeschooling I convinced myself I didn't have the time. Six months later I'm paying the price. Sheesh. And they call me a genius. I despise all the maintenance that goes with having a chronic illness.

The trick is to keep the energy flowing through my body. As long as it's flowing, it can't clog up and turn into frustration which turns into depression. To that end we have:

#1: Meditation. Nothing fancy, just trying to clear my mind for 10 - 30 minutes a day. Hard to do around children, but good to do on long sleepless nights. And if it puts me to sleep, that's a bonus.

#2: Exercise and Yoga. This has recently gone from being a source of fun to a source of frustration. I used to exercise for 30 minutes every morning. After two straight years I had improved my muscle tone, relaxed my mind, increased my stamina -- and not lost an ounce of weight. Deep calming breath. Okay. I learned to live with the fact that my body is going to be the same size no matter what I do. But I still have all the coordination of a beached whale. After all my years of practice, I still can't move as gracefully as any other woman who is starting cold. I haven't figured out how to handle that one yet.

#3: Creating stuff. I haven't sewed this much in years. The problem comes when something stops me. My latest bender started when I couldn't find the tool I needed to finish a job.

#4: Writing. Gotta keep writing. Can't afford to stop.

1 comment:

Linda Cox said...

My sincere sympathies. I've been reading your blog for a while and really like it (found the link from the Girl Genius forum.) I can especially empathize with the need to create; I lost my cat of almost 18 years this week and suddenly I'm making great progress with the quilt I've been working on for the past couple years.

For what it's worth (oh boy! unsolicited advice from a total stranger!) I found that Tai Chi practice helped me immensely on the grace portion of yoga practice when I was actively doing both. The balance work and the concepts of Tai Chi translate very well to all the one-footed yoga postures. And it's very meditative as well.

All the best to you and yours!

Linda Cox