A Steady Invisible Force

A Steady Invisible Force

For those who live with depression, this is not just an invisible illness, it is a life only lived by the grace of invisible courage.

I remember staring up at the seagulls printed on my bedroom curtains when I was seven years old.

The gulls were simple black outlines, alight on an invisible breeze. They drifted above the artist’s hint of an ocean, a solid deep blue mass of color below. I stared at this and pondered life, why I was here—on this earth, in this reality. It was an uneasy question and one that would come up repeatedly throughout my childhood, usually leading to anxiety and tears. I’ve since wondered if existential pondering might be one early symptom of a lifetime of depression.

The first unmistakeable depressive episode I had was when I was 20. A friend of mine, 23, had died in his sleep, with no apparent medical cause, and I was faced with the subject of my existence again—and what I determined to be the utter meaninglessness of it. Not long after this, I miscalculated the position of a 20 lb weight in the gym, and it fell on my foot, smashing into half my toes and splitting the bone of my big toe. The pain of this was like the worst toe stubbing I’d ever known–only it did not go away after a few minutes. It lasted weeks. I ended up on heavy pain killers and still could not sleep because of the pain. I was at college, far from home and the friends I thought I had made turned out not to be there when I needed them most.

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Six Years Late

Six Years Late

My executive functioning took a dive with my last depressive episode and it hasn’t quite resurfaced. It seems to take me three to five times longer to complete tasks than the average person. This is my first blog and I predict that, despite my best intentions, it will probably emerge in fits and starts.

Impaired executive functioning complicates one’s day-to-day ability to complete small tasks, not to mention relationships and career.

It’s quite common for those who’ve gone through a major depressive episode to have slower cognitive abilities, whether temporarily or for the long-term. This is true not just during the episode, but also afterward or between episodes. It is what prolongs the disability beyond the treatment of the mood disorder. Impaired executive functioning complicates one’s day-to-day ability to complete small tasks, not to mention relationships and career.

Tracking time is not the same as it once was. I used to be aware of it and unconsciously check in with it at regular intervals, so as to keep on schedule. Now, I set multiple timers on my phone every day, not just to get myself out the door to attend an appointment, but also for the tasks that I need to complete that lead up to going out the door. I might have four alarms go off in the hour that it takes me to get ready—because otherwise, I might not get past the first step. The Ripples jingle of my iPhone has taken up permanent residence in my mind.

This is how someone ends up six years late to their own blog: one day at a time.

I have intended to write this blog for years—six years to be exact. I’ve had thoughts rattling around in my head that demand to be written as I press myself to walk, season after season, along the trail outside my house. Yet, intentions are not actions. Upon arriving home, I become overwhelmed with a mind fog, or anxiety, or both, and I put off my writing until tomorrow. This is how someone ends up six years late to their own blog: one day at a time.

For many people, this is hard to imagine. I still can’t believe it myself. I wasn’t this person before my latest depressive episode, before the meds. Of course, this leaves me to wonder whether it’s not the meds that have caused it, but there’s no way to safely test this, as the meds are working well to alleviate the depression and easing up on them brings the depression back.

… I’ve become a better listener. I certainly have more compassion toward others now than I once did.

So, I must accept that this is the new me. This is me on anti-depressants. This is me without the reliable clarity I once had. I can still put words together to write this and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful that my experience has humbled me and, in slowing down, I’ve become a better listener. I certainly have more compassion toward others now than I once did. I have more compassion for myself too. I cannot force myself to think more clearly or work more quickly, so in order to move forward, I have had to learn to be more gentle with myself and adjust my intentions. All I can be is my best self in this moment. All I can do is share my experience.

Anti-Depressants

Anti-Depressants

Depression makes one wonder if this so-called reality that we find ourselves in is worth all the trouble it takes to live it. We manufacture guilt in obscure places, including our own antidepressants. The fact that we probably function better under the influence of brain meds makes us question whether this fancy, doctored up version of ourselves is uncovering our best self, or whether the medications are a blanket hiding the broken pieces we hold inside.