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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Can You Turn Around Depression?

I believe that one of the symptoms of the disease of Alcoholism is being prone to bouts of depression.  They come out of nowhere.  I go to bed feeling pretty darn happy only to wake up 6 hours later dreading the day and wishing everything in my life was radically different because the very life I had 6 hours ago is now horrible.

In the past I have tried various ways to combat this symptom.  Denied medication because "it is not chronic" or "it is not that bad", I have had to face this in ways other people do not.  As a result I have acquired some level of self-knowledge and awareness.  It has come in handy.  I only wish I had figured out a lot of this stuff earlier - it would have saved me and my loved ones a lot of heartache.

In the not-so-distant past my depression would manifest as aggression and anger.  I would look at the actions of others, in particular the actions of my family, and take great offense at  perceived  slights and then chastise them for it - usually in public, on social media.  Because I did not understand my what was going on with me I could not see why they would be as angry.   After all, I was right and they need to be told how bad they are and how bad they are treating me - right?   By the time I did understand my emotional problems it was too late.  I have irrevocably lost people.  I have only myself to blame and can hope someday they forgive me.

 I know that the depression is just another part of the disease I battle.  It is not linked to anything in particular, though when I am overly tired or fighting a cold or really stressed out over something at work or home it can hit harder.  Recognizing that no one, including myself, is to blame makes my ability to recognize the negative thoughts and feelings for what they are - manifestations of the disease.  That knowledge helps me to combat the darkness, to walk through it until it is over with minimal to no damage to others.

It requires me to make deliberate and intentional decisions and take specific actions.  I very, very deliberately interrupt my thought pattern and start talking honestly with myself:  "Leslie, this is not like you.  You do not feel this way normally and you know that the actions of (insert name here) are not really bothering you.  It is just one of those days.  You have an amazing life, a gift from your Creator.  You have job, you have a car, you have a nice house, you have a fantastic dog and two silly cats and when you walk into a room people smile.  There is nothing really wrong.  It is okay".

Please notice I do not demand of myself to "get over it".  I used to do that and then, when I kept feeling bad would also begin to feel guilty for not 'getting over it".  That may work for some - I call it deploying your inner drill sergeant - but it makes things worse for me.  Neither do I scold myself or give myself advice.  I don't take advice during this time from anyone other than my sponsor or my spiritual director either - most people say the wrong thing (or write the wrong thing on social media) but that's not their fault.  See, what they don't get is NOTHING they say to me during this time will be 'right' (unless they are someone who also successfully battles the disease of alcoholism...for some reason the principle of 'One Alcoholic Talking to Another' does work when one CATHOLIC talking to another will not - sorry, Catholic Friends...but it is a truth of my disorder.).

I also make it a point to really drill down on my prayer life during this time - maybe even up the ante on my Sacramental Life.  Get in an extra trip to the Confessional, slip into Daily Mass instead of going to the gym so I can receive Him in the Eucharist, make a clandestine and quiet trip to the Adoration Chapel.  Being honest with my Lord and telling Him I need help is essential for me to combat this symptom.

The most important thing I have to remember is to not dwell on what might have been - something that is really tough for me.  I am a real Monday Morning Quarterback when it comes to my own life and while I do not wish to shut the door on my past I can jump into regretting it with both feet if I am not careful.  Drowning in Self Pity and Despair is a real thing and can lead to jails, institutions or death for someone like me.

In conclusion (and yes there is a conclusion) I can answer my original question with a resounding "YES".  I can turn around my depression without medication or a doctor's help (for now) only because I no longer fear it, no longer deny I have it and no longer expect YOU to fix it.  It is another symptom, a manifestation of my primary disease and if I am not going to treat the whole person I might as well get drunk today.

And I do not want to get drunk today....bottom line.....

Thank you for letting me share.

1 comment:

chimakuni said...

Many times depression is situational. It is taking one's self out of the situation, even though by doing so, one is walking into unfamiliar and at times, a scary landscape.

Battling depression - whew! It tends to be a day to day thing with me - who is allergic to anti-depressant medication - understanding that this is HOW I am feeling this minute. It may be sorrow or sadness that I am feeling and not necessarily depression, although it sure feels like it. It may be fear...and trying to sort out which feeling I am dealing with at a certain time is not always easy.

Living in the present - focusing on the things around me that I can control - and knowing that there WILL BE consolation is that gift that I promise myself whenever I feel overwhelmed.

Love you, Lady!