Sunday Salon: June 3, 2012

Sundaysalon

Made it through another week but it was a squeaker. So much going on Chez Guidarini. Too much going on Chez Guidarini.

I had my consultation with my new physical therapist on Friday, in yet another effort to work on getting me to the point I'm able to walk like a normal person my age, instead of an ailing 90-year old.

Chronic pain is depressing, you know? That's like saying people breathe an awful lot of oxygen – duh. But if you've never experienced it you don't realize to what extent it makes you feel awful or in how many ways. It has an impact on everything you do, from the inability to walk more than a half hour before you need to lean on something, to walking around hunched over for five minutes to warm up your legs enough just to straighten  them – in terrible pain, holding onto things for support - after sitting for any length of time. It's wicked nasty and it's gotten me way, way down. I have to plan around being unable to walk, so shopping trips or even leisure activities are a serious concern.  So I'll do what my doctor advises, exercise in the way the PT has approved and follow all the necessary steps until I get better.

As to the toll it's taking on me, I didn't have as far to fall as a lot of people, seeing as I battle chronic depression already. So in a way I'm used to it but it's easy to fall into a self-pity trap, thinking no one has so much to deal with as I do. Granted, there's a lot on my shoulders but then I hear about other people who have it potentially worse than I do and it adds a feeling of shame to my already overwhelming sadness.

I haven't talked about depression for a really long time here, partly because I was trying to turn into this New Person, so much more serious about blogging, trying to impress potential editors, etc., to keep the work coming in. Now that I've reached that tipping point, having taken on more than I should, I still want them to consider me professional. But I also want others suffering the same malady to know they're not alone, that a lot of people can relate; a lot of people have been there, or are there. If that's unprofessional I frankly don't care.

Clinical, chronic depression isn't a sanity issue. It's a chemical imbalance that occurs in the brain. A lot of my issues are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder related, due in part to heredity and partly because I grew up in an abusive situation, raised by parents so far from normal I still don't always know what normal is. I lost a brother who was only 36. He had controllable diabetes but also a compulsion to eat what he shouldn't. In essence, he committed a very slow act of suicide out of what I now believe was chronic depression.

Depression is facing self-hatred every day, blaming yourself for things logic tells you are not your fault, feeling inadequate, afraid and alone. It can manifest itself in so many ways. You may not realize what you're feeling is clinical depression. Some people lash out; it's common to find yourself unbearably irritated by the people closest to you. Others are shopaholics, alcoholics or battle addictions to gambling, drugs or any number of other things. Then there are the sad ones who find themselves crying all the time, having no energy, taking pleasure in nothing. In a way I'm lucky, never having become addicted. Mine manifests inwardly, mostly, though you can ask my family how irritated I get, how much alone time I need. Those depression commercials are so right: depression affects everyone around you.

There is help out there, in the form of therapy and, in some cases, medication. But you have to do your own work in digging out from under depression. It requires so much work and it's so exhausting. I'm not in a position to give anyone the key to a magic cure. I still fight it every day. But it's so important not to feel ashamed, to tell your doctor, to ask for help from friends and family. It took me about 40 years until I started asking and I've been battling with help for six years. I still don't know when or if I'll think of myself as normal. Maybe I never will. Sometimes it's a matter of promising yourself – and others – to stay alive, day by day. Then you may have a reprieve lasting anywhere from a few days to – if you're lucky – weeks or months. But it comes back eventually and you have to use all the skills you've learned about battling the disease to get through to your next period of "remission."

Remember, when you're depressed concentrate on life's basics: try to eat well, get moderate exercise, take your meds (if prescribed) according to the doctor's directions and get enough rest. Concentrate on accomplishing these tasks, even if everything else feels beyond you. When you take care of yourself it will eventually convince you you're a person worthy of being cared about. The process is slow. You really have to work hard but it will happen.

If you know someone who is or may be battling depression keep judgment to yourself but help them, please, if they want help or not. And if you are fighting the battle you can always email me: lisaguidarini AT yahoo DOT com to chat. I will answer you.

Take good care – of yourself and others

 

4 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: June 3, 2012

  1. Very moving post, Lisa. I have lived with occasional deep depression, and always with what I might call a lower level of depression. And I know that knowing you’re not the only one does not help at all. But just want you to know that I understand. The poet Jane Kenyon said some so true lines about depression … look her up online. Not that knowing her poems help, but it is just that you can see someone turning things we feel into marvelous poems. Be strong. I know … you have to be.

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  2. George, thanks for the Jane Kenyon recommendation. My doctor recommended Mary Oliver as well. With my form of depression I very rarely reach the happy or normal or whatever you call it line. It’s lousy, actually, to be honest. That’s probably why I read so compulsively, as a way of escaping. It’s very nearly my only pleasure,, the one thing that buoys me. At least I have that.
    Thanks for your note and you hang in there, too.
    xo

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  3. I was so sorry to hear how much you’re struggling, but you’ve turned your suffering into a wonderful blog which will help so many people when they read it. As you know I’ve been there & I’m still there very often as someone who suffers from mild bipolar. Now I have breast cancer too 😦 but that has actually helped me live “in the moment” and that in turn has helped with some of my depression. (I just need to learn how to process abject terror now!)
    I identify so much with what you say – the consolation of reading and perhaps the need to promise to stay alive. I made that promise and it helped. I promised my anxious teenage daughter that I would stay alive and I regarded that promise as sacred & totally binding. When things got critical, that promise kept me going. I imagine it kept her going too.
    Depression is a war against the enemy within. We sometimes lose a battle but we can still win the war. Keep fighting back, one day at a time.

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  4. Linda,
    Such a kind post. I’m so sorry to hear about your breast cancer diagnosis. Hope all is going well and that you’ll soon be in remission if you aren’t already. Cancer is such an evil, nasty thing, which puts it very mildly, I know. Hugs to you.
    As for depression, I think of Churchill and his ever-present Big Black Dog. It’s an apt comparison, the menacing dark presence in the room, looming.
    But all we can do is keep soldiering on, ultimately, keeping that Black Dog at bay.
    So glad to “chat” with you again, though the circumstances are certainly not ideal. It helps, though, to chat with friends. If you ever need to e-chat I’ll be here. πŸ™‚
    Lisa

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