Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lifting the Fog of Depression - Week 1

Today I spent 40 minutes at the gym engaged in intense cardiovascular exercise.  I enjoy cardio at the gym.  I like the machines.  I like exercising on the machine.  It makes me feel in control.  I control the intensity of the workout.   I control how long I work out.  Using these options, I can control my own body.  The heart rate read out on the treadmill/bike/stair climber is usually what I look at the most.  I am in charge of my heart.  How fast can I make it beat?  I give my heart rate little breaks today by selecting the  Interval workout.  Pushed it to a max of 170, then gave it a break and it chilled out to a cool 154 beats a minute.   

It feels good to control my heart rate in this way, because I sure as fuck can’t seem to control my brain. 

I also engaged in strength training exercises:  lateral obliques, back, and squats.  Post workout:  I feel slightly better.  I still want to burst into tears.  This isn’t me who wants to cry.   This is the parasite of depression that lives in my brain.  Tomorrow I am meeting with my Psychotherapist to start getting this mess sorted out by a professional. 

This week I’ve had good moods and bad moods.  Happy moments and utterly sad moments of despair.  All moods experienced through the sunglasses of this depression.  What I have noticed that my brain is doing is I will get some sort of stimulus from the outside, such as an unreturned text from Bae, and I will feel heartbreakingly-crushing  feelings of anguish and rejection.  My depression is really good at writing horror stories to explain these feelings.   The old tapes of my dysfunctional subconscious get the gears of my thoughts turning like a horrible player piano.

I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.  I have feelings and emotions but I am not my feelings and emotions. 

My scientific-evidence based methods that I blogged about last week have been slightly successful in lifting the black fog slightly.  It still remains, and it frustrates me.  I know it’s there because I feel it.  It hurts.  I don’t want it there.   

In 2013 I took a spiritual meditation retreat at Sravasti Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastic community in Eastern Washington.  I had the privilege of hanging out and meditating with a bunch of Tibetan Buddhist nuns.  Some of these nuns had spent decades of 12 hour days in meditation. 
It was so refreshing and different to interact and talk to these monastics.  Their eyes sparkled.  They were smiling and I got this genuine vibe that their intention was to be as helpful as possible.   There was no back and forth weirdness energy of “Uhh, what does this person want…” from them.  They were peaceful.  They were present.  They were with it.  They were there.   These women were EFFERVESCENT BEINGS. 

These women are my ultimate role models right now.  Through perseverance, dedication, and joyous effort they are using the meditation practices of Tibetan Buddhism to change the structure of their brains.  Most of these women are Westerners like me.    If they can, I can! 

I am about to sit down for my evening mediation practice.  Going into battle with the depression in my brain.  I controlled my heart for 40 glorious minutes today.   Now it’s time for me to take charge of my brain.  I have power over my life.  I can make choices to change for the better.  

My mind is like a sponge.  The sponge is in a filthy, germy sink.  The nasty sink water is depression.  With meditation I intend to wring out the disgusting liquid of depression that makes my mind-sponge so dark and heavy.  I am going to transform that sponge into the sky.  Limitless.  Expansive.   Light.   Everything changes.   It is always the present moment.  Wish me luck.  Thank you for reading.  And if you have depression yourself, gentle reader, know this:  you are not alone.  And I love you. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Battling this Depression Flare Up

Usually I get a text back and there is a friendly back and forth exchange.  It distracts me.  It makes me smile.  Two days ago that river dried up for about a day and so, without my comforting preoccupation, I was mindful of my thoughts and felt my feelings.  It was a terrifying gaze into the abyss.  I felt an energy field of hurt and pain around my body and through my mind then I realized the pitch blackness of depression had returned to permeate my consciousness.

I'd felt anxiety recently, sure.  I'd felt frustration, but I'd written them off.  I dismissed and minimized the increasingly frequent feelings. 'Just feelings.' I told myself.  'I am not going to be controlled by unpleasant feelings.  They will pass.'  I realize now that the Chuthulu tentacles of depression were slowly wrapping around my mind, waiting to pull me to the pit of pain at the bottom of the sea.  My denial had given it strength and it pulled me underneath the crashing waves of the sea of despair.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  You are safer knowing your enemy better than your friend.  My enemy is depression and it lives inside my head.  I know it well enough to have kept it in remission since 2011.  And Monday, I realize it had returned.  

I have asthma.  Eczema.  A deadly peanut allergy.  My physical body has a whole bunch of massive auto-immune inflammation issues.  Inflammation and depression are closely linked.  People with asthma are more than twice as likely to be depressed than other people.  My asthma the past 3 months has been terrible.  My asthma has given me anxiety, sent me to Urgent Care twice, scared me, and really bummed me out.   For me at least, depression seems deeply correlated with my asthma.  The demon vines of depression seem to feed off the same processes that squeeze my lungs tight, causing me to struggle to breathe.  

Depression crushes my conscious experience through a lens of black horror and sadness.  Hurt feelings all the time about everything and nothing.  I almost burst into tears when a co-worker told me about Lady Gaga's tribute to David Bowie.  Can't even.  Deal.  Excused myself.  The tears came later that evening.  Ridiculous and full of pain.  

Yesterday was a small victory.  Forced myself to go out of the house and went out to dinner with the patient, kind man I am seeing.  Then we went to a group meet up and created art.  All my brain wanted to do was drink wine and sleep. I fought against the forces of depressed inertia and I was victorious.  I forced myself to be social.  I even called my friend who is really good at making me laugh.  I laughed.  I really connected with the guy I am seeing and enjoyed time with him.  I am grateful for these little candles of happiness that resist the forces of darkness. 

Despite a couple of wins, I am deeply ashamed about how I ordered a drink at the bar. (Okay another win, -only one drink) I feel I was really bad and wrong and should have talked more, been more interested in other people, facilitated more introductions, a feeling of appalling failure surrounds and permeates memories of the previous evening.  Of course these self-abusive, judgmental thoughts are liars, and I know this, and I continue to judge and hate myself anyway, and judge and hate the fact that I judge and hate myself.  Practicing mindfulness has been really helpful for me to observe exactly what my thoughts are up to when my brain is in the throes of depression.  

Today at work, I move slowly.  It is hard to focus in training class.  I don’t get a reply or the response I was hoping for and I fear for the worst, my brain writes a horror story and explains that this is the main reason for the hurt feelings that surrounds me.  My supervisor is displeased with how I’ve spent my time and I’m wounded, ashamed, and alarmed.  I thank her for her feedback and I act cheerful.  She’s got no idea how terrible I actually feel.  My smiling face gives no indication of the despair underneath.  I’m composed.  Every negative feeling feels amplified, and excruciating.  I feel shattered.  Deeply hurt.  I force myself to be nonchalant.  I smile.  I pretend.  Fake it till I make it, right?  How am I doing?  I’m fine, I tell people at work.  Today I am the world’s greatest actress.  I appear cool, able to handle anything, successful.  I feel I am doing okay at my job.   I work in mental health. 

At least the denial part of my illness is over.  Depression has set up housekeeping in my head.  It happened.  It is like this right now.  Will I succumb to the horror of inertia and pain?  Oh no.  Oh hell no.  Nope.  I am going to fight it.  

I am actively at war with my depression right now.  The battle started when I got home from work.  I made a super strong cup of St. John’s Wort tea.  Drinking it now.  It helps immensely.  Already feeling better.  Took 3000 milligrams of Niacin and am about to sit down to my evening meditation practice.   I took a lot of probiotics and I consumed over 2.5 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids this morning.  Took magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc supplements.  Writing this blog is helping too.  I reached out for help and am going to start Cognitive Behavioral Therapy soon.  I am planning to exercise.  I plan to go to the spa, take a sauna, sweat profusely, and then dunk my body in ice cold water for as long as I possibly can.  All of these methods are tools and weapons that I use to resist the depression in my head.  I will continue to force myself to go out and be social.  I will continue to create music, to write, and to create art.  I will challenge the lies my thoughts tell me to explain why I am experiencing these miserable feelings of shame and despair.  I have a medical condition.  It's a thing.  I struggle with the mental illness of depression.  I will fight this and I will win.   I have before and I will again.  I am resilient

Dear Depression/Anxiety,
I am going to beat you back into remission.  You are being evicted from my brain.  You are a poisonous plant that I am taking steps to uproot right now.  You are a stupid dumb bitch, and I will destroy you.  Goodbye.

P. S. I am channeling the intense feelings you are tormenting me with into creativity!  I have written lyrics and recorded an entire song, I am connecting with others by writing this blog, and I have been creating art.  Creativity is a light I will use to find my way out of your grasp.  This light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it.