How to keep going

Cover of "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of M...
Cover of Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

This is a wonderful post from Therese Borchard of Beyond Blue:

A woman who lives with chronic pain said to my mom the other day, “You can’t sit around and wait for the storm to be over. You’ve got to learn how to dance in the rain.”

That’s a perfect description of living with depression, or any chronic illness. But what do you do on the days you don’t think you can take the pain anymore? When you want so badly to be done with your life … or at least be done with the suffering? What do you do when anxiety and depression have spun a web around you so thick that you’re convinced you’ll be trapped forever in those feelings? When you want to switch places with the 85-year-old man in front of you at church because you’re thinking he’ll be out of here before you, and you wonder if you do the opposite of all the advice out there on adding years to your life, if you could possibly shave off a few from yours?

We’ve talked about this on various threads of Group Beyond Blue. From the discussions there and on the comboxes of Beyond Blue, I’ve compiled a few tools for moving past that harrowing darkness, suggestions on how to emerge from a place of panic, and techniques on how to dance in the rain.

1. Escape from the pain.

Lately, when my thoughts turn to death, I’ve been telling myself that I don’t want my life to be over … I want a reprieve from the pain. I’m usually at a loss on how to get there. I’m tired, frustrated, desperate, so my thoughts follow the path that has already been blazed throughout the years … and I fantasize about death, intoxication, or some other destructive behavior that doesn’t require a lot of imagination.

How else can I escape … in a positive way? Instead of romanticizing about death or inebriation from booze, I can research new kayaking routes, bike baths, hiking trails, and camping sites. I can invest the time I lose in unproductive and dangerous thoughts into planning creative outings for myself and for the family that will give me/us the reprieve that I’m craving. I can be proactive about finding sitters for the kids so that my thoughts won’t revert back to “stinking thinking.”

It’s so bloody hard to take that first step … to Google the state parks in Maryland that rent canoes, and to tune up my bike for a nice ride. But those are life savers. Because they afford me the positive escape that I need.

2. Track your mood.

An essential piece of my recovery is keeping a mood journal. This helps me to identify certain patterns that emerge. As I said in my “Me on the Bad Days” post, bipolar disorder and depression can flare up seemingly out of the blue, like a thunderstorm. But often there are telltale signs that can clue me in as to why I’m feeling so fragile. You can catch these if you’ve been recording your mood over time.

3. Solve the problem.

I noticed, after analyzing my mood journal for the last two months, that my sleep pattern went from eight hours of consistent sleep to ten. Katherine has been climbing into bed with us, and I’m afraid of waking her in the morning. So I’ve been sleeping in with her and skipping my 15 minutes of meditation. But that time in the morning is a critical piece to my recovery, and if I go over nine hours of sleep too many mornings, I begin to feel depressed. I also noticed that I am most depressed on Sunday evenings and Monday mornings.

I put on my detective hat and ask myself why that is. Ah! Because I don’t get a break from the kids all weekend. My reserves are used up by Sunday night or Monday morning. Also, there is inevitably more stress on the weekends, trying getting all the week’s household jobs done, and less structure..

Once I could identify some possible triggers, I worked at finding a solution. I asked Eric get me up earlier in the morning, even if Katherine woke up with me. I decided we needed to hire a sitter, if only for a few hours on the weekend, to give us a small relief from the noise and chaos. And I got up early and went to church by myself on Sunday in order to squeeze a little structure and personal time into the weekend for me. Arriving at some small solutions–even if they don’t solve the entire problem–made me feel like I had a little power to shift my mood from panic to peace.

4. Talk about it.

I can’t get a therapy appointment round the clock, so I had better invest in some friends that won’t tire of me telling them that my thoughts are turning to mush again. Actually, more dangerous than mush. They are turning to death again.

Over the weekend I called two friends and my mom. “I’m going there again,” I explained. They know what THERE means … without my having to explain or justify. I don’t fully understand how gabbing heals, the scientific explanation of why venting does so much good, but I can surely attest to it, and confirm the connection between talking about something and feeling better. It’s like you’re a scared little kid in a lightning storm, and a neighbor, seeing that you’re locked out of your house, invites you inside and makes a cup of hot chocolate for you. Well, maybe it’s not that good, but it’s close, which is why our phone bill is way up this month.

5. Repeat: “I WILL Get Better”!

As I said in my video, “I WILL Get Better,” I think about my Aunt Gigi every time I wind up in the depression tunnel, and remember her repeating to me over the phone a few years back: “You will get better. Repeat that. You WILL get better.” Peter J. Steincrohn, M.D., author of “How to Stop Killing Yourself” wrote: “Faith is a powerful antidote against illness. Keep repeating – and believing: I WILL get well. If you believe, you help your doctor and yourself.” And this paragraph from William Styron’s “Darkness Visible” always reassures me:

If depression had no termination, then suicide would, indeed, be the only remedy. But one need not sound the false or inspirational note to stress the truth that depression is not the soul’s annihilation; men and women who have recovered from the disease–and they are countless–bear witness to what is probably its only saving grace: it is conquerable.

For the other seven tools and techniques…click here.

What are some things that you do to keep on going?



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