Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Stuff

Did you know that October is National Depression Awareness Month?

Well, it was.

And somehow it seems a lot of people I know - both in "real life" and the Bloggosphere - have been struggling with it mightily lately. And writing about it. Which is a good thing (the writing, not the suffering).

Allie Brosh who blogs at Hyperbole and a Half had been silent since May.

Now I know why.

I don't know if anyone has ever before given voice (and image) quite as clearly as to what debilitating depression feels like (while remaining entertaining and funny, she is amazing). Read THIS:

Click to read: Adventures in Depression

Jenny, the Bloggess: I’m out of the hole.

My friend Stacy (the BlogHer Moms editor): Whither Wisdom

Eva: Taking Leave 

Last winter it was my dear Adrienne: The Sound of the Darkness

And Alice, writing very bravely and honestly about it all: Chasing rabbits

I, myself, come from a family with a long history of melancholy, a tendency towards depression.

My mother has been sad and depressed since my father died.

Many days when I go visit her I find her in asleep in her nightgown, asking "Why bother?" when I attempt to rouse her out of bed.

The fact that she is simultaneously, at core, a cheerful and outgoing as well as a depressed person (not as uncommon as you might think) means that once I shove her out into the world - in her case the group dining room - she perks up and becomes animated, thanks me for making her go to lunch /dinner, lights up and chats with her friends and the staff.

This is clearly a depression with an instigating event - the loss of her mate of 51 years and truly her best friend - but still it's hard to see her ever pulling out of it completely.

Lonely is lonely.

Shake my family tree and all kinds of shit falls out.

My Grandmother - my mother's mother - had a complete breakdown once, when she felt she'd made a very bad business decision; lay on the living room floor unable to function. My then twelve year-old mother had to take up the reins of mothering her younger siblings until Grandma snapped out of it, months later.

My Grandfather - my mother's father - spent the last ten years of his life (and the entirety of mine) in a state mental institution for... you guessed it - severe depression.

My Aunt Marilyn, my mother's baby sister, is nearly catatonic, refusing to eat all but liquid nourishment (too much effort to chew). She has had a smorgasbord of diagnoses thrown at her over the years, but is certainly Bipolar (I) with a walloping dose of paranoia thrown in to boot.

And me?

I was afraid you'd ask that.

I talk about being "up and down" here, but have rarely used the word "depressed." That's in some ways because I'm always still functioning, still rising to the occasion, and many days full clear of the fog.

But in truth I have spent time in my life keeping company with the black dog. Nowhere near the level of some folks I've known, and much more in my younger days; tending toward the weepies when I was in my 20s, but no stranger to depression, nonetheless.

Truth? I'm a writer, have a temperament that tends towards reflection and rumination more than action - in other words, a familiarity with melancholy and low level depression seem to go hand in hand with the job description. 

Lately, it's been creeping up on me, beginning with my surgery last winter, the first in my ridiculously healthy life. I don't talk about it much because I know so many others who have it so much worse, who are deep in the hole, dancing with the demons.

Mine has been the kind that usually doesn't paralyze, but still manages to suck most of the colors out of the day. When I'm dipping in? I call it my "looking at the world through shit-colored glasses" state of mind.

And I can, usually, eventually, rustle up a little perspective. And the internal voices that tell me I suck? I've gotten pretty good at yelling "fuck you, liars!" at them until they shut up. I'm lucky that way, I know. 

So what I think I'm mostly dealing with now is the cumulative stress of raising special needs kids, which is just terribly wearing upon the spirit; which is just a fact of my life.

And since that isn't something that's going to change anytime soon, I expect to be bobbing up and down for a while, too. Maybe even the rest of my life. (Isn't that a cheerful thought now.)

And, like my mother, I am simultaneously an upbeat, outgoing, sociable person at heart, so that drives me to push on and push through. Which, of course, is some days much easier than others.

The nature of the beast.

What is that they say? What does not kill me makes me stronger... or crave chocolate.

Send Chocolate.

Also? Vote for me. M'kay?

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