A long lapse from blogging. I just didn’t have it in me these last weeks, but the clouds seem to be lifting a bit the last few days.
Depression drains color and liveliness from the world. For some, it is incapacitating; for others like me, the normal activities of life become overwhelming or pointless. Some days, brushing my teeth is as forbidding as ending nuclear war. Calling a friend, cooking a good meal, reading the newspaper, posting–all are too much trouble. So I watch TV reruns on Netflix, eat sugary food, put on weight, weep for no reason, resist all help, indulge weakness and disability. A zombie life, stumbling across the earth without purpose or direction.
The trigger this time seems to have been the long months of increasing pain and disability, a slide into hopelessness. Pain restricts activity, inactivity increases pain, and so the downward cycle continues, until distraction and impulse gratification are all that remain.
I don’t want to be that person. I think at last I’m ready to fight for something better, to live life while I still have it. But it’s shaken me, this episode, I didn’t expect it, I must do what I can to prevent future drifts into bleakness. There must be daily disciplines I can learn that help keep depression at bay, as I’ve learned them to protect sobriety. Though I have not been suicidal, a passage from the chapter on suicide in Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon echoes a recovery mantra, that sometimes, telling yourself you can drink tomorrow–knowing you have that choice–is all that gets you through today:
Knowing that if I get through this minute I could always kill myself in the next one makes it possible to get through this minute without being truly overwhelmed. Suicidality may be a symptom of depression; it is also a mitigating factor. The thought of suicide makes it possible to get through depression. I expect that I’ll go on living as long as I can give or receive anything better than pain, but I do not promise that I will never kill myself. Nothing horrifies me more than the thought that I might at some stage lose the capacity for suicide.
When I was young, I used to have prolonged periods of low mood, but I didn’t have a name for them, they just arrived, as arbitrary as the weather. “A storm of murk,” William Styron calls them. “Soon evident are the slowed-down responses, near paralysis, psychic energy throttled back close to zero. Ultimately, the body is affected, and feels sapped, drained.”
It helps to name it, just as it helped to name my alcoholism, that recognition that I’m not alone, others have found their way through this, help is out there. Naming, learning the language, finding the words…healing.
Writing is a fine therapy for people who are perpetually scared of nameless threats… –-William Styron