Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Strange Face of Depression

To be clear . . . I didn't want to write this post.

I have several other posts in draft, mostly to do with fiction writing or the writing process in general, that I would rather think about.  But, honestly, I don't want to write those either.  Since they've been in draft for some time now and I haven't been writing anything else here in their place . . . clearly I needed to write this one.

Because that's how this works.

I don't suddenly wake up one morning and feel sad.  There's not some recognizable descent into sadness.  In fact, sadness is rarely a recognizable emotion for me, and by the time it does show it's face, it's far too late.  I'm a puddle of despair and should probably be medicated.  Heavily.  But, like I said, that's the end result.  I've learned to recognize the signs much earlier, mostly anxiety and anger clouded by a generalized fog of "I don't give a crap."  Items drop off from my daily rhythms - morning pages,  creative endeavors, exercise, yoga - and my diet takes a nasty turn.  Obviously these only make me feel worse.  Depression sort of sidles up, walking beside me, waiting until I'm overwhelmed before it takes over, giving me something dark and warm to cling to.  And there I hide.  Under that blanket.

There are a lot of things I can't change.  I can't change people or random events or my hormonal imbalances (not directly, not without making myself sick or causing other problems).  But there are things I can do once I recognize those early signs, the anxiety and changes in behavior patterns.  None of these will "fix" anything, but they can definitely ease some of the symptoms and make my life a little easier to bear until I work through whatever's going on or until my body chemistry or hormone levels shift in a more tolerable direction.  Some of these are quite obvious choices, but some are things  I forget about or simply put off.

  • Eat cleaner.  More veg and whole grains.  Less everything else.
  • Drink lighter.  More water and green/herbal tea.  Less coffee and wine.
  • Write.  Morning pages.  Character sketches.  Vignettes.
  • Create.  Paint, draw, sew, play.
  • Read.  How-to's for inspiration (if they don't make me feel itchy or more overwhelmed).  Fiction for fun.
  • Tackle a small but annoying project.  Clean off my desktop.  Clear out the kids' clothes.  Bake a gigantic batch of granola for the month.
  • Exercise.  Yoga.  Push-ups.  Sit-ups.  Walk the dog.
  • Take supplements.  B-complex.  Omega-3.  Multi.  Natural progesterone cream.  If things get out of hand, consider some St. John's Wort.
  • Go outside.  Play with the dog.  Read. Work in the garden.  Put on a raincoat and boots and splash in puddles.
  • Have fun.  Especially if I don't want to.  Play a board game.  Visit friends.  Try a new restaurant.  Take a day trip somewhere.

So, I'm doing the work.  I'm writing this post.  I'm taking the dog for walks and playing outside with him and the girls.  I'm cleaning out the office and all of our school stuff so I don't feel like puking every time I step foot in that room.  I'll get better.  Slowly.  I just have to be more aware of when things begin to get off track.

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