Friday, March 18, 2016

Here's the truth, because why not?

I struggle with depression.  I've dealt with this in long and short stretches for as long as I can remember.  One of my earliest clear memories of calling it depression was in college, but at the time I remember recognizing it with the knowing assurance of "oh, yes, I know what this is and have been here before."  I can identify a very dark time in late ninth grade and into tenth grade before that.  Age has wiped out much awareness before then.

Maybe this comes as a surprise.  Sorry.  But I see friends and family that are clearly struggling and can't admit it and it's a dangerous lonely thing to wrestle alone.  No one should wrestle this alone, feeling broken in every way and unable to even talk about it. So,  I'm standing up and being clear: I deal with depression--a lot.  I take medication.  I use some crazy self-motivation techniques that work for me.  I occasionally drown myself in church-y feels.  These days I occasionally drown myself in pillows and blankets and growl at anyone that comes near.  I'm working on it.

For me (and this is only me and maybe you but not necessarily so just be cool with that), depression eats my brain, my creativity, my organization, and my perspective.  I can only see the task in front of me.  Thankfully, I can see that task, which is why I've managed to mask depression with my mad skills in academics. Am I depressed?  Sure.  But there's a worksheet to get done. A book to read. A vocabulary quiz. The SAT. No rest, no white flags, just keep moving.  High school's deadlines and small projects were really an endless series of "just stay afloat long enough to get the next thing done" rungs on a ladder.

College knocked me down a little.  Deadlines stretched further out and more ambiguous. There were days at a time without a checkbox to mark off or a task to accomplish.  No one forced me to go to classes and there weren't always attendance checks.  I struggled heavily with depression in the first year of college, only emerging again when I had a tougher course load and more work to do than time to worry. Adding a job or two wiped out any other chance to let myself get sucked down the hole completely.

It still happened, of course.  But by then, I experienced depression like finding myself on a downward escalator.  I felt and saw that I was sinking; I knew where I would end up.  I knew my way around depression by then. I knew that--when I was ready and able--I could find my way back up to the rest of the world.  Until then, I'd be removed from everyone else; able to see and hear them but not quite interact.  For me, depression feels like a 3 second delay; like my brain has detached and lifted about 4" away from the base of my brain. It's a confused fog; a struggle through muddy ground; more work than it seems worth.

Graduate school.  Oh, man. "Choose a topic whenever you are ready, do all the work, and let us know how it goes."  Yep, I hit a few hard spirals of depression again.  I looped around, left for a nice 9-5 job with a routine that immediately bored me, came back, left to have a baby (woah!), came back, and finally finished when the whole thing turned into "do this now or get out."   Task lists were written, schedules and deadlines drawn up, and life kicked back into drive.  And then it was drive drive drive all the way through the job market, starting my first tenure track position, and working my butt off every day. (And adding three kids to the mix!)

And so, now, I find myself spinning at the end of a tenure track.  For three years I've worked nearly every minute of the day.  If I'm not actually writing, then that time must be justified through intense multi-tasking: folding laundry or socializing or reading or knitting while watching a movie with the kids and making dinner; sleeping as little and as efficiently as possible; intentional bonding and teaching to the kids; work work work work work.  Every minute of every day counted and had to be used productively--preferably toward work but if not toward therapy, parenting, housework, and multi-goaled highly intentional time with my family.  "Let's get bonding time while we cook dinner and I explain fractions and share some chemistry and cultural studies."  For real.

And now? Everything is loosey-goosey.  My tenure case is under review and not really open for additions or edits; so every day is just...a day.  Days stretch wide in front of me: "is today the day I want to plan that next project?  It doesn't have to be.  Maybe today I just sleep...again."  I've gone from 120mph to nose down in a ditch.

And so I find myself adrift, cruising around the basement of my brain waiting to find the up escalator, blinking slowly while I process what I just heard for longer than seems reasonable, and wondering what I could convince myself to care about enough to actually do it.

This is my depression.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your bravery in making this post. Exposing yourself in this way creates a fissure in how those on the outside begin to understand depression. And a fissure, is always a first step.