Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Bed Won

Someone said depressed people are mentally unstable. I prefer to think it's a cool club. You get to know all kinds of things you didn't think you'd know. And you get to see yourself in a totally different light and then another one and another one....

I prefer not to think of us as mentally unstable (jk... I know we are). I prefer to think of us as .... who am I kidding?

But let me go grab this book that I'm reading, because there's kind of a neat definition in there for depression: hidden knowledge. (Jeffery Smith, Where the Roots Reach for Water quoting psychologist James Hillman).

I'm at a part now where a therapist is asking what he thinks his depression wants from him and what direction it's taking him in. Of course he gets pissed off at the question, since the obvious answer is that it wants his whole life and it's taking him in terrible directions, but he doesn't really have an answer for her just yet. This is all in a conversation with a shrink whom he finally breaks down and sees after two years of trying to go it alone and fight the depression and just get his work done (which of course is in mental health, which makes him feel kinda retarded at work). The doctor wants him to realize that fighting it isn't working (which he sees), and that perhaps he needs to learn to work with depression in his life.

I was thinking about it in terms of my life and I see that depression is a part of my life that I am disappointed to say probably is one of those incurable diseases. While possibly lethal, it is not necessarily lethal; there are tons of people out there who learn to manage their depression and lead prosperous lives. Bonnie Dumanis, the DA of SD is one of them--she went to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intensive Outpatient Program at Sharp Mesa Vista Medical Center, where I went. She obviously has a very high profile and intellectually demanding life, and everyone knows she suffers this disease, that she went to Cog and that she supports their program (She gave a speech there and is open about it, that's why I know.).

I am disappointed with myself today. I got up and went to walk the dogs, intending to run them since they were so hyper yesterday and I could use the exercise. Unfortunately, it was rainy and my sweatshirt wasn't warm enough, so we just took a longish walk. Then I ate a little breakfast and did the dishes and somehow ended up back in my bed. Thank God I got up before 1 so I could go to my modeling gig, but I almost missed it. I really hadn't wanted the bed to win today. I wanted to function in society, I had a list of things to do. It just didn't happen. It couldn't. I lost the battle.

While I was modeling I thought about the advice I had sought about the work before I started it. One person worried that since I was feeling vulnerable, art modeling would make me feel even more vulnerable. The irony is I feel safer doing that than hostessing. It's so much easier for me to be still. The students are not allowed to talk to me. I cannot talk because I cannot move. They can see me, but they have no idea what is inside, whether the melancholy face is depressed or dramatic. It is a relatively safe time at work when I model.

So what does depression want from me? Maybe it is the truer me. Maybe it's right. Maybe it gets that all those awards and accolades and promotions are all just bullshit to me and that what I really want is to stay focused on my creative outlets. Depression has stolen my job as a teacher and a journalism adviser and is holding my job in the restaurant business hostage.

Depression does not allow me to be in places where I do not feel safe.

Depression narrows my world at the very same time that it opens it to the possibilities of a life doing what maybe I was meant to do.

It would be a lot easier if I could just be a happy-go-lucky creative girl, but my happy-go-luckyness comes and goes.

In the book I referred to earlier, the author has a depression that is not responsive to medication--he tries a lot of stuff and sometimes it works but then it stops. (Kinda like me, now, I think.) In his exploration and education about the disease he reviews his childhood perspective on life. Like him, I realize that "clinically depressed/dysthymic/cyclothymic" or whatever you want to call it, is just a newly acquired label and diagnosis. When I was in elementary school, I was "shy." I have been dubbed "introverted," "condescending," "quiet," "sweet," "sad," "bored," "homesick," "judgmental," "critical," "having a high moral standard," "bitchy," "goody-two-shoes...." All kinds of words that just label the impression that other people have had when they've seen me walking around and jumped to conclusions without realizing that I was just trying to hold myself together and make sense of the world and figure out why I was so scared and shaky inside.

Maybe if I had been born into the Prozac nation of the late 80s or 90s I would have been diagnosed or helped or treated in different ways when I was a kid. Maybe it's right just to let kids be shy when they're little and all the way through high school and then homesick in college.

I don't know.

All I know is that now I am part of a community that people still make fun of and that is still stigmatized and that I wish I did not have to embrace.

But no one gets those choices.

I do not get those choices.

All I get to do is live this way and try to put myself in places where "who I am" is safe.

Hopefully more often than not that will mean I can get out of bed, off the couch and out of the house and make it to the art studio or the bookstore or the coffee shop or church.

But I think that my depression wants me to be in those places--places I have always wanted to be; places where I can create art in various forms and if the pain comes with me it can show in some constructive way.

Depression, something that can make me so dangerous, wants to keep me safe?

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