Brains are fickle. Yesterday I woke at seven o’clock, which unfortunately meant that I was on schedule for a panic attack by ten. I’ve been going to an intensive day treatment program at one of the local hospitals last week, extending into this one, to help get a handle on the recurrence of depression symptoms that have flooded back into my life again. It seems to be helping but something about having a strict structure to follow throughout the day always has. Structure is something I need to find a way to implement when I am no longer in this program and back at home full time. My program therapist says I’ve been doing to much that is focused on my disease and not enough that focuses on me and what I want out of life. He might have a point.
Lately the program has shifted me back onto an early morning schedule where I am waking by six or seven o’clock every morning and thoroughly exhausted by the time nine PM rolls around. I like being up early though, my head feels clearer for a few hours in the early morning. I tend to feel a little more hopeful about the day earlier on than I do as time progresses. As long as I don’t lie around in bed for too long after I wake up, that is. Staying in bed makes me not want to get up, makes the weight of my blankets feel too comforting and safely warm. I just want to curl up in my nest of pillows and stuffed animals and never put my feet over the edge. But I like the early mornings, with the window open just a sliver so I can feel the cool air and hear the birds now that it is really spring even if my allergies might prefer it be closed.
I’m gradually starting to claw my way out of this pit that I’ve fallen into. I feel like I’m stuck there less permanently now, at least. Everything I drew the past weeks was a figure dangling over a cliff with a monster or flames licking up from beneath, which I guess goes a long way to showing my lack of optimism with my situation. Things feel less dire at the moment, which is a start. I ate a salad for lunch. It’s always a good sign when I start asking for green things again. The challenge now is not getting ahead of myself and not falling behind: not getting so caught up in feeling better that I forget that this is a process and not getting so caught up in feeling better that I through structure out the window because I think I don’t need it anymore. It’s about balance, this game. It’s slow and steady and there isn’t any finish line. It’s just a balance.
When I die, I want my ashes put in one of those biodegradable cups that grow into a tree and planted someplace off the beaten path but where people might still find respite in the cooling shade of my branches. Maybe someone would bring a notebook and pen on a warm day and sit with their back leaning against my trunk to write while the wind blows through my leaves with enough ambient noise to filter the static of the quiet that might otherwise prove to be too much. I want to be someplace where my roots can take hold, where I’ll have water and sun and nourishment. I want to be strong.
I don’t mean this to sound morbid, but I’ve been coming across as seemingly morbid lately even as the days grow longer and the skies brighten. What I had hoped a week ago was not the beginnings of an inevitable downslide into depression and just plain old boredom was just that and sometimes it’s hard to not come across as a little morbid when you feel defeated. Today has been a good day though, all things considered. I left my apartment willingly, I ate relatively well, I was creative. All things considered, today was a success story. Still, I can feel it lurking below the surface, waiting for an excuse to bubble up and take over and I know it can at the flip of some invisible switch.
For me, depression feels like a darkness inside of me that I can’t escape. It starts somewhere deep and grows from there, infecting everything like a virus running rampant through my mind and body. It feels tight until my emotions are either running full tilt all at once and alarmingly overwhelming or until I am shrunken and shut down and numb, unable to feel anything except all consuming defeat. It sounds melodramatic, even to me, until it hits me again and I am living it and then I’m just riding it out until something gives. Sometimes I just want to sleep, curl up in bed and pull the covers up forever with my stuffed animals until I start to worry I might rot there. Other times, I can’t eat, can’t sleep and I alternate between needing to be in constant motion and feeling like my limbs will falter from exhaustion. I feel like when I was a kid, being “crazy” could be brushed aside almost as a phase that I was going through but now that I’m in my thirties, it’s not cute anymore and if it’s a phase, it’s one that keeps repeating.
An art therapist a couple years ago challenged me to draw something that encompassed hope in my recovery and this is what came out of the project. I’m not sure what she thought of it, but to me, it’s a little representative of this fight, something trying to pull me under, me standing at a precipice with a huge weight on my shoulders having to make all of the decisions again and not knowing how things will wind up.
(The above image is a color drawing of a person standing at the edge of a drop-off with a river raging in one direction, fire in another and a ladder leading to the unknown.)