bearthinking

About recovering from depression and suicide.

remembering to create: Day Six

DISCLAIMER: The statistics and research quoted here were gleaned from a number of reputable websites dealing with depression and suicide.  These quotes are intended to give an idea, a scientific sense of an emotional dis-ease, not to make concrete assertions about depression and recovery.

A quick survey of websites shows that anywhere from 14 to 19 million people, a range of 6.5 to 9.5% of the adult United States population suffers from major depression, the majority of whom are women.  The 1999 White House Conference on Mental Health found that at least two-thirds of the reported 30000 suicides per year are due to depression, roughly the same ration of sufferers do not seek treatment or help.  It is also reported that for every two homicides, there are three suicides.

When I started writing this, I had some thought of a mainstream success story.  An idea that I could be cured, or would be better.  This, however, is not a story like that.  This is a narrative of dealing with clinical depression.  Clinical depression does not go away, it is not curable, it does not fade into a happy ever after ending.

The basis of clinical depression lies within the serotonin cycle of the brain; it is rooted in the mechanics of neurochemistry.  Cycling serotonin through the system too quickly throws mood regulation, and other brain functions, off balance, triggering a cascade of adverse effects including depression.  The functioning of the cycle is “set” by the interplay of various genes.  We carry these genes, they set our biochemical cycles, and usually, we are more or less fine.

But when the genes interact in certain ways and we are stressed emotionally by our environment, our mood may swing too far into a depressive trend and we do not think about things as optimistically as a situation may warrant.  In most cases, when the environmental stress is relieved, our mood lightens and thinking returns to an optimum.  This is situational depression and may include the holiday blues.

Sometimes, however, our mood does not lighten when the stress is relieved.  We continue to think the worst, and to spiral further and further into depression.  We cannot escape feeling that nothing will get better.  This situation which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and problems mount up.  This is clinical depression, an insidious condition that debilitates millions.  In some, as it did with me, this downward spiral continues until death becomes an attractive option; suicide is attempted and sometimes achieved.

My dreams were a muddle of colors and shapes.  Nothing stayed still, and I could not capture it all.  My roommate had left the day before.  Things were changing, and I had to move with them.  I felt the urge to draw, to paint, to hop on my computer and create a new world.

I was glad to wake up, and was actually looking forward to the day.  Breakfast was good, I talked and ate with a new feeling of life.  In the corner of my mind’s eye, however, I could see the shadow of depression waiting, biding its time; looking for a chance to insidiously insinuate itself into my psyche again.

I had to hold it at bay, to find a way I could experience a day without shadows of depression.

I let myself eat, let myself enjoy my food as much as I could.  I could not hold the conversations to my mind so they drifted about like hyperactive butterflies.  I know I spoke, but of what?  I know I listened, but what did I hear?

All the life, light, and words around me were just so much fuzz.  I was at the helm of the S.S. Minnow, fighting a calm, confusing sea of re-, de-, im-, com-, ex-, and su-  pressions.  A three hour tour and I had no coconuts to make a radio with.  *sigh*

Group sessions were not really more of the same, though an outsider might not have perceived that.  We talked of things we had talked about before, but the players changed, perspectives changed, ideas changed.  Moods swung in different ways as we chased our shadows along less trodden paths.

I don’t know when clarity came.  She came in through the bathroom window and sat next to us as we talked, as we learned about our meds, about safety plans, about what life can be like.  She held my hand as I sat there, the words washing over and through me.

No epiphany, no satori, no ‘aha’.  She just crept in and was there all along like a cat sleeping after the lamp broke.  I was going to be depressive all my life.  I am going to be depressive all my life.  I will never be cured.  I can learn to encompass, to hand, to manage my depression.  There is NO cure.

But, there is life, there is hope, there is a course to hold to, a series of lighthouses to help avoid the rocks and reefs, and there are people.  People who will be a life preserver, people who are a life line, and people who “get it” as no-one else can.  They are everywhere.  Some may be family or friends, some may be but a stranger passed on the street, some we may never meet or ever be aware of.

We may not have any family or friends who “get it”.  But we can have each other.  Many of us have our hands out for each other.  We are the walking wounded who will support you, who know that moment when it all stops.  We know The Pit, the Shadow, the Lord of Despair, the cowering Lord of Self-Loathing, the Lord of Autothanatic Urges, the Lord of Depression.

The meds do not cure us; they allow the chance to live with depression.  It is possible to be sad, angry, even indifferent without it withering our life and drying up beauty.  And when we reach out, we can help each other on our climb out of the pit to breathe fresh air.

And evening and morning were the sixth day.

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December 3, 2009 - Posted by | autobio, depression, recovery, suicide | , , ,

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