I was going to start this out with, "The problem with depression..."
But of course, there's not one THE problem. There are a variety of problems and inconveniences. I don't actually know that there's any upside.
A friend who has bipolar disorder described a manic episode to me, and I have to say--and in fact did say to her--that it sounded like fun.
She said they can be fun, and you can be super creative and get a lot done, what with the time you spend not sleeping and seeing the world in a very different way. Which is what makes manic episodes so seductive.
But mania has a dangerous component, and of course depression can be crippling.
So there's that.
Whereas I have plain old depression without the mania. It's not like I'm wishing for a manic component.
Of course, if I had a wish, it would be not to have to deal with depression at all.
But my depression is manageable, and so I manage it. With medication. With daily exercise. With nutrition. I have a light box. I'm limiting sugar, and trying to get off it (oh, but I love sugar...). I'm avoiding fast carbs and alcohol.
All of these things help a lot. But they don't completely fix it. There isn't a once and done fix, or not for me, anyway. There's maintenance and vigilance.
When I am overwhelmed, it seems Sisyphean. Other times, it's just like having asthma, which is only limiting when I don't manage it properly. I don't think of it as my defining characteristic, but I have to think about it, so I don't let it slide.
This is just how it is.
It used to be that when I got depressed, I'd cry. I'd cry at work, alone in my cubicle. I'd go home and sit on the floor and cry. I wouldn't be able to leave my apartment because I couldn't stop crying.
I could hold it together for meetings, provided they weren't all-day meetings, because if they were, I'd have to go to the bathroom intermittently to cry.
I'd run regularly because I couldn't run and cry at the same time. It was a good break.
But now, now when I sink, it manifests in anger. I still cry pretty easily, but I do not sit around and cry for hours on end.
Instead, I get impatient. Angry. I snap at everyone. I have so little tolerance for anyone and anything, myself included.
Basically, I'm a lot more functional in my depression, but boy do I suck to be around.
But this also means I don't recognize it so easily. It's much more obvious when you cannot leave your home, or have a whole conversation, because you can't stop crying.
Now I just seem like a harpy. I'm shrill and ill-tempered and screechy. But that might not be depression. It could also be hormones. Or a bad day. It might not be a shift in brain chemistry.
Hard to know.
I mean, I saw my shrink last week and told him I thought my current dose of medication was great. I'm doing really well, I said.
But it turns out I've been horrible to my family. No patience, no tolerance, very sharp tongued.
I could feel myself doing it, but I didn't recognize it. It was just...why why why is my family SO ANNOYING?
And then on Saturday, Betty asked if I'm depressed.
Depressed? Me? Why?
Because I've just been so unpleasant. So short with the kids. With everyone.
So I stopped and looked back and realized that I've been retreating for a while. It's been harder and harder to leave the house. I haven't been enjoying things. Was this depression? I thought my meds were right.
I don't know if it's my brain chemistry or the weather or the alignment of the planets or what-have-you.
Nobody really knows. My shrink admits it's a guessing game. They make their most educated guess, and then it's trial and error. Which is what makes mental illness so hard. There's still so much of the brain that's a mystery.
I have permission to up my dose.
So I did.
And the world is starting to look a whole lot more appealing.