Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Tender Madness

That old bugaboo snuck up on me again today. I should have known it was coming from the lack of sleep and the feelings of being overwhelmed. In my defense, it was easy to miss, because I actually am overwhelmed with work and have every reason to feel that way. My sinuses were acting up as well, so it was easy to explain away my insomnia to trouble breathing at night.

However, when I was sitting at my desk eating lunch today, I could feel it dripping from my head, into my veins and snake its way throughout my body. I'm enjoying my lunch, reading e-mails and blogs and suddenly have this overwhelming urge to cry. I immediately wonder what I'm upset about as the frustration and sadness rear up and become stronger.

It's then that I recognize the insidious progression, like ice water on a hot day, you can feel it run down your throat and through your chest. Well, I could feel the toxic chemicals creeping through my body, causing me to feel things that were out of place. I wasn't sad. I didn't need to cry, yet I was on the verge of it anyway. Some people, when they think of depression, they think of the outer image of depression, hunched over, sad, crying, etc.

For me, ever since my early 20s, when that outer image starts to form, I pull back, deep inside myself and examine what I'm feeling. I sit still, deep inside myself and examine the progression of the toxic chemicals and wait for their effect.

It starts in the brain. I feel sad, want to cry, feel overwhelmed, forgetful. Then it melts out of the brain and progresses down the spine. My shoulders feel tired, achy, then I take a deep breath and sigh. I feel so tired. It's an effort to breath, to stay awake. Then it progresses to the gut, sometimes I'm hungry, I have to eat, eat to feel better, feel full, feel like I matter. Other times its a feeling of inadequacy, of panic, of not being good enough. I need to hide, to take flight. Then it's down to the legs, sometimes they're heavy, it's an effort just to sit, maybe I should lie down. Maybe I should sleep. Other times, they're antsy, panicked almost. I need to run, hide, something's after me, I'm going toward manic. There's so much to do, not enough time to do it and everyone will be judging me. I need to move.

After sitting inside and feeling the changes in my body as the toxic brain chemicals work their way through, then I go back to my brain and try to re-program the message. I'm not really sad, that's the brain chemicals talking. It's like being on a bad drug, a bad trip. If I just keep breathing and don't do anything stupid, I will get through this.

I tell myself it's okay to take a nap when this happens, if I feel tired and think I might actually sleep. I also tell myself, it's okay to run, to get that manic energy out and do something productive with it, because if I exercise, that changes the brain chemicals too, changes the message I'm receiving and helps put me on the new track emotionally.

So this is what I've been doing for years when the depression hits. My own internal psychotherapy and talking myself past what I feel. I tell myself, none of these feelings are real, and with time, they will pass. I used to be at the mercy of these brain chemicals, I'm not anymore. It's gotten to be so second nature to me to automatically reprogram the message when the depression hits, that sometimes I don't notice when it starts and when I'm reprogramming.

Today I noticed because I was sitting still, my mind was clear and I was able to focus on the feelings as they progressed through my body with the brain chemicals. I think I'm posting this, not because I'm depressed. No, I'm fine and dealing with it has become old hat. I'm posting this to see if anyone else recognizes this when it happens to them and if they deal with it in the same way. I know it's much worse for some people and medication is the only way they can function when it happens, but for me, luckily, I'm managing to control it through willpower and self-examination. How do you deal with it?

What depression feels like

16 comments:

PENolan said...

You know, when I read your comment over at my place, I had a feeling you were having a bad day.

In all the years I've been dealing with depression, the greatest turning point had to do with realizing that there was no need to rush into killing myself. I could always kill myself NEXT week, if I still wanted to. That's the cool thing about it, actually, you can do it whenever you want. The more times I saw that I made it to next week and didn't want to kill myself anymore, the easier it was to believe the depression would pass.

And it does. Every time. Now it just takes a day or two - but I've also learned how to sink into it and come out the other side. That used to be too scary, but now it's not scary at all.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Yeah, luckily the first time I noticed the chemicals going through my system happened in my 20s when I was having a spectacular day. So the sadness and panic didn't make sense. I was able to pull back from the artificially induced emotions and examine them in a detached way that kept me from really feeling their full effect and acting on them. And as you say, each time I made it through another episode, the next time was even easier. Now I almost don't even notice when it happens because I've gotten so good at ignoring it or recognizing it for what it is, just a bad trip on toxic brain chemicals. Knowing that, anything that I'm focused on or upset about when the chemicals are raging, I wait a few days and re-evaluate when I'm somewhat sane again.

Your Faithful Correspondant said...

I feel it as a fog descending upon me. It starts in my brain, usually behind my eyes. It's a twisting, graying feeling, like the very idea of happiness would devour me. The feeling descends from my brain down to my throat. There the inevitable lump forms, choking off all but the most necessary of air. From there to the chest where the tingling tightness tells me that my heart has been surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

The fog can come at any time and be kicked into gear by nearly anything. An old song plays, a picture is seen, a word is written; anything can cause it. But I've learned to recognize what it is and take steps to minimize it's effects. Simply getting up and moving about will sometimes do it. Other times more vigerous exercise is required -- endorphin rush is a wonderous self medication.

But here is the great secret: you have to own it. You have to admit to yourself that you like it, that it is a part of you, that it makes you the unique person you are. I embrace my depression. I live with it as part of me. I am able to control the fog by acknowledging that it is I who created the fog, it is me, it is mine. Remembering that brings back my self control. The synapses fire again, the gears kick in, the twisting tension behind my eyes lessens, the lump disappers, the barbed wire fades.

I'm back to normal. Or at least my facsimile of normal.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

YFC, welcome to my blog. I haven't seen you round before. I went to check out your blog but didn't see any posts. Do I have to subscribe?

Rain said...

Keep in mind astrology for these times when they hit. It has been hard for me the last week too and in my case no real reason for it other than planetary alignments which I am not good enough to interpret but I can think of no other explanation. These times pass.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Rain, thanks for stopping by. How did you find my blog? I went to your blog and read your numerology post. I went to the Life Path site and ran my birthdate and that of my partner. Her life number sounds like me, and mine sounds like her.

tshsmom said...

My depressions are more external than internal, if that makes any sense. Too many stressors can plunge me into hopelessness, with the accompanying lethargy. Tackling a project is my best cure, but it's hard to force myself to get started.

SME has the wacky, mixed-up brain chemicals, "internal" type of depression that you described. Prozac helps, together with willpower and self-examination. In her case, one doesn't work without the other. She's tried going off her meds MANY times, but winds up going off the deep end within a few months.

I'm so happy that you can cope with depression without meds. Life is so much better that way! (((((HUGS)))))

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Tshsmom, _any_ sort of accomplishment helps, whether that's talking yourself down from a ledge, going out to run rather than eat, starting or completing a project. Being proactive rather than a victim is the key. As long as you have some sense that you have some control over all this, its "doable," you can get through it.

Anonymous said...

Depression for me is feeling lost with no freedom of ever being found. I have finally recognized my anger and it's a fear of trying new things...new adventures. I feel trapped by the cost of insurance and the fear of quitting my job and not being able to financially take care of myself. So I stay depressed and take medication to numb my ability to move and act on anything. But the pain...both physical and emotionally of being depressed is too great to bear. I have never wanted to committ suicide. I tell my doctor and therapist that I want to live, but live with a feeling of at least contentment. I, too, have a fabulous partner who loves me unconditionally. I only wish I could learn to love myself that way.
I was reminded of myself when I read your blog about how you feel sometimes. I want to feel like I matter and that I am good enough. I have being saying that most of my life. I can see in other people how they respond to me...like I matter and I AM good enough. But I do not know how it feels. Just as you said...feelings are illusions...then why do we let them control us so much.
I want to run and scream and beat the crap out of a pillow with a big wooden bat. And I have done simalar things in therapy. Unfortunately it is short lived and I am right back on my pitty pot.
Oh and then there is "let's feel gratitude for everything we have in life." Yea, I have a lot in life...but none of it means anything if I am not connected to my truth...that inner truth that you know but we put up walls around it. Why? Why do we do that? Do we need to feel depressed for special reasons? Is there a bigger picture that we cannot see, hear or feel? Of course there is...but my faith does not run that deep.
Okay, I will use the word "God." But any name will do. God is where I need to connect. God is everything that I need. God is that place where peace and joy live. And it is me...I pray that one day I will know God and then I will know that depression is an illusion as well.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Hi P, wow. I think connecting with one another helps relieve that inferior feeling, that, "I don't matter" feeling. The next time a friend smiles as you approach; the next time your hubby's eyes brighten when he sees you coming, know that you matter. You certainly matter to me. I wish I'd known when I was much younger, how much alike we were. I think it would have made growing up in our household a little easier, knowing we weren't alone. As it is now, I feel connected to you, but not to some of my other siblings. I know the place where you are right now is so uncertain and fear can take over. Have you seen the movie, "Up in the Air" with George Clooney? There's a line in there when he's laying off a long-term employee. The guy says, I've worked here "x" number of years, now what do I do? George says, what have you always wanted to do, what did you want to do before this job sucked the dreams right out of you. Turns out the guy always wanted to run his own restaurant. What have you always wanted to do? Let start planning the next step now, so if the worst happens and you get laid off, you'll be ready to jump into the next phase of your life. Call me when you get time and we can discuss options.

Anonymous said...

Good guess, but it's not "P", it's "B." We have always been connected; but time was not on our side and distance and unknowing of each other did not help either.
On my way home, I was so intense about what I wrote, I realized that I think time is running out for me. I need to change that message. I have an ideal job with ideal benefits and we are 7 years from retirement. I do not want to spend my time waiting for it to pass and get to retirement too fast. I want to live today and every moment. I want to FEEL ALIVE! I would love to have more time to correspond with you. We have so much in common and we are so much alike and we have so much of the same desires from life...and we did not get to grow up together. But we have NOW. And isn't that all it is...the present moment.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

B, OMG, do you know how much you sounded like P? Wow. You two are in very similar situations right now. I went back and re-read your post, now knowing it was you, and it makes me think you, P and I need to go on a retreat and examine all these issues. I know about the lack of time. I'm still trying to get time to talk to you about the life before life post. Yeah, you and P are the siblings I "click" with, but not the others. It makes me wonder about brain development, souls, what causes us to develop into who we are, our interests, our view of the world? I also feel that frustration that time is running out, I want to feel like I matter and know that I did something that mattered, that made the world a better place, but I'm stuck and can't figure out how to do that. Sheesh, I'm still trying to figure out how to be a good parent and release my kids on the world as decent, productive human beings. In my mind, their successes and good qualities are all their accomplishments, but the minute they don't succeed, make a mistake, get lazy or negative, it must be something I did as a mother, something I failed to do right. Why do we do that to ourselves? We need to have a long phone call or long visit. I wonder if it is possible for you, P and I to get together again like the last time you came to visit M and I. Oh, and our friends still fondly remember the great food you and Alice prepared while you were here.

Anonymous said...

A retreat sounds so wonderfully comforting with the two of you. I need it so much as well. We will have to develop a way that we can do something together that will help us all. We would love to come visit agian but with the economy the way it is, we have not even been on vacation since Alaska. Now Alaska...that was a retreat and a treat. I do not ever remember feeling so alive as I did when I was there. I miss mountains so much.
We will talk soon. I think your schedule is more crowded than mine, so e-mail me a time that we can call and talk for a while.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Yeah, M and I haven't had a real vacation and we feel it everyday. We've been talking about driving up to the St. Lawrence Seaway (Thousand Islands) this summer, camping and venturing on up into Canada as a cheap way to get away. Still a lot will depend on money. There's never enough. My salary has been cut due to furlough days and now we're going to have 2 kids in college and paying for part of each of their educations. It's always something. I think I'll have time this weekend to chat. I'll have grading to do all weekend, so other than driving out to the beach to grade without distractions, there's nothing else planned.

Anonymous said...

Yep there it is... Gota say V you were correct up to a point. We actually are a lot alike. Who knows why. My thoughts on depression, are a little different. Only in that I can not remember a time when was not depressed to a certain extent, but the reality is never understood the way and what of it. Mostly it's accepted, there is a lot worse out there. B tend to agree with you regarding God, but have a lot of the same strugles you have, being my faith is not deep enough. Again the how and why of a lot of things. MY son for example... Think am still mad a GOD for that one, someday, would really like to sit at his feet, know there is a good reason, could I ever understand? Saint Lawrence, will you be coming my Way. ONe of J's aunts lived on Wellsely Island, and a cousin had a bait shop there not heard anything from them since the aunt passed that is one place had not been as a child, so J and I took kids on boat ride while visiting, never knew how gorges it was.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Hi P, yep, figured we'd stop by and see you on the way up, that is, if the trip even happens. It's still in the pipe dream stage.

And on and on and on

Still busy!  Surprised?  I think this is just the state of my life.  I'm teaching an on-line course, traveling three weeks in a row (MD,...