“Just pray harder.”
“Why don’t you take a walk in the sunshine?”
“Count your blessings!”
“There are so many who are worse off than you.”
And my mantra: “This, too, shall pass.”
All of these are perhaps well-intentioned, but unhelpful pieces of advice for a depressed person.
I can’t think myself out of depression. Though this time I really tried.
Each day, I answer a mood question, “On a scale of 1-9, how’s your mood?” And when I’m in a healthy mental state, my mood runs at 7 or 8. (9 and 10 are reserved for “extremely good” and “exceptional,” which usually happens when my husband and I are on an adventure or my whole family is together.)
Shortly after Christmas, my mood started running at 7 and 6. Then it dropped down to 6 and 5. Then it was solid days of 5.
I felt like I was handling 5. I didn’t see it as concerning. I was still going to my job, my volunteering. I came home and was tired, but that’s not unusual – it’s the middle of winter, so of course my mood is down a bit.
I started having trouble sleeping – waking at 2am or 3am for a couple of hours, night after night. I wrote it off to being in my mid-50s, that time in my life, etc.
I stopped reading my books, including ones I had been excited to devour. I couldn’t concentrate. And some of the Netflix shows we watched didn’t hold my attention for the entire hour. I’d get up and get a snack: “No, don’t pause it; it’s ok; I’ll be right back.”
I told my friends that I was fighting depression. And I thought I was. But in reality, I wasn’t doing anything but letting it take me further down the tunnel.
I thought it would go away. I thought I would bounce back. For six weeks I let it push me deeper and deeper, but I kept denying it. Or at least minimizing it.
The thing about depression is – my brain is broken during an episode. I don’t think clearly. So I couldn’t see that depression wasn’t going to go away by itself. Even though I know better, I somehow thought that I could will myself out of depression.
I told my husband that if my mood dipped to 3, I would see the psych doc for a med adjustment. And my mood dipped to 4, for several days in a row.
At the same time, I caught a bad head cold, so I continued to “write off” my mood – this time because I wasn’t feeling well.
And then, I tanked. My mood hit 3. I left a message for the doc that I needed to see him.
On our way out of church Sunday, my husband encouraged me to not beat myself up for taking so long to see my psych doc. He reminded me that I gave myself parameters, and I abided by those guidelines: mood = 3 means call for a med check.
I admitted that I am beating myself up a bit. I know better! I know depression doesn’t go away by itself. But he’s right – I did what I said I would do.
I met with the psych doc this morning. He doesn’t want me to plummet (too late), so we’re boosting two of my meds. And because I took my fine sweet time getting in to see him, I’m going to be on these adjusted meds for several months. Hopefully, it won’t take that whole time to begin to feel better.
It is true: “This, too, shall pass.” But not without a helpful push from the doctor.