Depression

Most of you who know me know that I’m pretty optimistic…in fact, I’m kind of annoyingly optimistic. I haven’t been given to deep, glamorous plunges of moodiness since, like, mid-college. (The last time Ash and I broke up eight years ago, I ate Haagen Daaz Vanilla Swiss Almond and listened to Bonnie Raitt’s “I Ain’t Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again” for a month straight. And then I was fine.) But over the last year or so, I’ve been a little low. And then in the last month, I’ve plunged into a freaky depression that is both foreign to my nature and more annoying than my innate sunny outlook on life. I’m depressed. Clinically, even.

I just started counseling with a Scott Peck-ish 70-year-old guy named Jay, and I’ve also started on an anti-depressant for the first time in my life. I’m officially a wreck. I don’t sleep well, I’m not interested in anything, I cry at the drop of a hat and eating is a waste of time. (This last is not so bad, as I need to take off a few pounds. Which I guess is a good sign, since I’m still optimistic about something.) I also have weird anxiety, which is especially bizarre because I’m not generally a worrier. I wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning to stare at the ceiling and completely freak out about all the things that might possibly go horribly wrong, try to plan contingencies for all scenarios, and slowly drive myself insane. This is a good system, because everyone knows how easy it is to be proactive about your life at 3 in the morning, and it works out nicely paired with the depression: since I don’t have the energy to get out of bed, I have plenty of time to pick over every mistake I’ve ever made in my entire life and wallow in regret, shallow breathing and heart palpitations.

The worst part is feeling like “Where did I go?” I emailed Cerise a couple days ago and told her I feel like an angry banshee has taken over my body. I was nice before this, you know? At least I cared about trying to be nice. Now I want to tell all nice people to shove their kindness where the sun don’t shine and shut their freakin’ pie holes. And then I feel guilty about it, which wakes me at 4 in the morning to skyrocketing blood pressure and pangs of remorse and shame.

Blech.

This whole post probably falls within the realm of Too Much Information…but the truth is, Addison Road is part of my church, and I truly believe that church should be the place where you can let all your funk hang out and you don’t get booed off the stage. If you can’t be honest with the other members of the Body, who the hell can you be honest with?

35 thoughts on “Depression

  1. Sharolyn

    I’m sorry, Honey. Sympathy and love flow from me to you. There will be brighter days. I promise.

  2. Paul

    July 17, 2006

    This is a tough process to walk through, but not at all uncommon among believers and nonbelievers alike. The former, however, tend to be less forthcoming about it because of concerns that acknowledging anxiety and depression represents some sort of spiritual failure. (If that’s true, by the way, then appendicitis would have to be considered the result of colonic lack of faith.)

    You are indeed wise to bring others alongside to address all of its dimensions, and I hope you will keep posting your thoughts through the process. By the way, this is going to improve.

  3. Bill

    Thanks for letting your “funk hang out,” as you put it. I think more Christians need to be real about their struggles. I had a serious problem with depression years ago and sometimes I worry it might come back (or did it ever fully go away?).

    Anyway, I’m sorry for your difficulty and I will pray for you after I hit the submit button.

  4. corey

    Aly, there must be something in the SoCal water, because I feel it too. It scares me that death doesn’t scare me at all anymore (as of the last 2 months or so). I don’t say this to hijack your post, but to tell you that there is also community in this darkness. Sometimes we get to hang out in the sun and make little Bon Jovi music video memories with our shiny, summer fun. Other times we get to gather under heavy clouds in lifeless bodies and just sit together in silence, hoping the storm will move on.

  5. Karen

    Thanks for sharing this Aly! I will be praying for you. It is interesting becasue I have had several discussions about this with girls from my Sunday School class. About 85% of them are on an anti depressant but have just felt free to talk about it. Same as Paul was saying they just don’t feel right talking to other Christians because their faith might not be as strong as other peoples. It has been really helpful for them to “let their funk hang out” as well! I hope the counseling and the anti depressant help and you get to feeling like yourself again soon.

  6. Gloria

    A wise man told me that medicine for depression is a good thing. It can helps you get balanced enought to work on the underlying problems. Then one day you might not need the medication.
    I think you are brave and strong to get help and work toward healing.
    Good for you!

  7. aly hawkins

    Thanks for the encouragement, everybody. I hoped when I wrote this last night that it wouldn’t be received as “Oh, poor me” but instead “We’re all in this together” and I think you guys latched onto that.

    Corey, I love the image you painted of people just being together in both darkness and light. That’s what Addison Road and our housechurch are for me. Thanks for letting your funk hang out, too…we can be in this darkness together, and look for glimmers of light.

  8. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    I am going through a depression too (and am looking for a Peck-ish person). I posted on it a while back, thinking it was “too much info”. I was surprised how many people identified with my experiences.

    All this to say, thanks for sharing. Know that there are people praying. And above all, know that this doesn’t make you flawed. You are in good company.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  9. Chad

    Depression sucks.

    I have some mood tendencies as well. I think one of the most important things when trying to cope with the swings is to identify them and realize you’re in one…. which you clearly have.

    Before I offer a suggestion and be all male… allow me to simply commisserate and tell you how much it sucks. I mean it really sucks. You feel like there’s no out. You don’t know why you feel the way you do. You feel guilty like there’s something wrong with you and yet you can’t seem to bring yourself to get out of it.

    Sucks. I’m really sorry friend.

    So… here’s my suggestion. Kick something’s ass. Choose a project or idea and FORCE yourself to own it. I have soul searched myself to death about this whole weight loss thing. What happened? What made me want to change this after 29 years? I think the answer is that it was a subconcious reaction to the trauma that I experienced at the end of last year. I wanted to put SOMEthing in order. I couldn’t fix that situation, so I fixed something else.

    Can you throw yourself into editing the book? Can you rescue a stranded kitten? How about pole dancing? (That’s for you, Ashmopez. Homie’s got your back.)

    I have been astounded… ASTOUNDED as to how bringing only one area of your life into submission and dicipline brings about a domino effect in other parts.

  10. michael lee

    Maybe you could throw yourself into the task of picking out a good white wine, and having dinner with two good friends and their always-overjoyed-to-see-you daughter?

    I get frustrated with how self-defeating (self-reinforcing? I’m not sure what the syntax is here) depression is. It’s not like there’s any shortage of things you could do to help in those times: call a friend, attack some chores, take a walk, get some help, get some meds, etc, etc, et al, eg. The killer about depression is that it also prevents you from doing any of those things. You literally can’t conceive of picking up the phone to call a friend. The idea of getting in a car to drive to a counselling appointment seems overwhelming to the point of despair, which then makes you angry at yourself for despairing, when all you would have to do is just get in the car, and then you get frustrated with yourself for pointing that out, because you know that’s what you should be doing, but you just can’t. Not won’t. Can’t. The only thing that you can do is sleep through the afternoon, then you wake up angry with yourself for wasting your life, then you stay awake all night, but, like you said, it’s not like 3 AM is really optimal time to be proactive about anything. ARRRRRRGHHHHHH!!!

    All that to say, I’m am encouraged, my friend, that you are putting feet in front of each other, and heading in a good direction. Our love goes with with, and with Ash, who I’m sure is walking every bit of this with you.

  11. aly hawkins Post author

    Yes, it’s the stasis and immobility that are the hardest to conquer…and berating myself for the stasis and immobility only serves to paralyze me further. (Michael, you either have an incredibly empathetic imagination, or this situation is familiar to you.) I’m trying to find that happy medium of not letting myself off the hook (when I know I need to be up and doing something proactive) and not flagellating myself when I can’t do whatever it is that needs to be done. It’s a hard line to walk…but I have hope that it can be done, which is a vast improvement on the last month or so. Three cheers for serotonin!

  12. aly hawkins Post author

    No, you give great advice, Chad. I actually think you’re right on the money, only I have to be able to get up off the couch before I can throw myself into anything. Gladly, I believe that time is right around the corner.

  13. Cerise

    Hold on, love. Rest and wait for time to pass. That’s your job right now, I think. I’m thinking about you hourly (on average. Yesterday I spent a few hours sorting out drama with my mother, my brother’s wife and my brother’s mother-in-law – a diplomatic job for which I’m stunningly underqualified – and didn’t think of you at all), and so is Ramon. Actually, with the book he’s working on with you he’s probably thinking about you all the bloody time. I wonder if should worry – you’re very attractive…

    Chadlies, darling, don’t be silly. Even IF you didn’t help Aly (arguable) you are helping me with your stories of this particular journey you’re on. Not that I’m doing anything about it. Ugh – don’t wanna talk about it.

    Love to you all,
    Cerise

  14. Cerise

    Naw. I’m just a bitchy-assed old grump who let politics piss me off.

    Forgive me for the drama and time away. You crazy kids – I can’t stay away, no matter how many times I flounce away with my nose in the air. I wish I were better…

    Cerise

  15. Morphea

    Morphea, sweetie, not MorPHINE.

    Sorry to sort of steal your depression thunder, Aly-pants. Someday I’ll grow out of this dramatic tell-off and disappear followed by an equally dramatic James-Brown-like resurrection thing. Complete with purple velvet cape…we all learn humility in different ways, I guess. I think the world puts most of us down often enough. For me, though, humiliation must occur by my own hand or it doesn’t stick. Such a cute problem to have, really.

    I wish I were with you with a cold washcloth – or booze, or whatever – and a slew of romantic comedies that possess intrinsic worth (yes, they do exist – just rare) that we could sit and watch and forget our sorrows for a while.

    Cerise

  16. june

    Morphine, ah sweet and blessed and self-administered morphine. I know thee well.

    But to the point…Aly, I’m truly sorry about this sucky chapter of life that you’re presently in. Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry. (That seems more appropriate than anything else. I shall not board the triteness train.)

    I’m an honor student in the class of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka, SAD. You’d think they could’ve come up with something clever vs. merely literal, eh?!) and if you google SAD, here’s the kind of description you’ll find:

    Sufferers have to endure most of the following:
    Sleep problems – oversleeping but not refreshed, cannot get out of bed, needing a nap in the afternoon…Overeating – carbohydrate craving leading to weight gain
    Depression, despair, misery, guilt, anxiety – normal tasks become frustratingly difficult…Family / social problems – avoiding company, irritability, loss of libido, loss of feeling…Lethargy – too tired to cope, everything an effort…Physical symptoms – often joint pain or stomach problems, lowered resistance to infection…Behavioural problems – especially in young people.

    So being that I excel in all of the above when the spring/summer light is gone, (two consecutive days of rain and/or clouds has me hiding under a pillow, wondering what I’m doing with my life and why the world exists anyway) I once took to heart some advice from a man who suffered quite severely from depression. He said that after he’d tried many other “cures” that didn’t help, he started doing the opposite of what he felt like doing. Like, if he felt like staying in bed, he got up. (I don’t know that he did anything after he got up—I got the impression that the significance was in the act of swinging his legs over the side of the bed and being upright.) When he couldn’t conceive of speaking to anyone, he (somehow!!??) forced himself to pick up the phone and have words come out of his mouth. Etc. etc.

    Ok, this is sounding like I did indeed buy a first-class ticket on the trite train. Hmmm. Again, sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry. Well……..I guess now that I’m on it, I’ll just barrel on ahead. So, yeah, I’ve tried to act on that advice when I can (sometimes the grey clouds stomp me utterly into the ground and I actually have no idea how I get through the day/night/day/night/day/night.) When I have, it has helped.

    If this is the most trite, inappropriate, annoying, unhelpful thing ever, I’m sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry! You may want to make a little June doll for poking. (I have brown hair if you’re going for accuracy.)

    (Oh, and my love affair with morphine was not SAD induced but a part of my torn artery/strokes thingy. Of course that had to happen during the SUMMER. Geez God, next time ya wanna brain damage me, how about doing it during January when I’m already feeling like crap and could use the medication!)

    Loves to you Aly!

  17. june

    No awesomeness here, before or after. But, I can give testimony to that whole ‘we don’t use but a spec of our brains’ theory. You really can have dead parts in the ol’ grey matter and still find your mouth with a fork, read a book, cook a dinner and (hopefully) make Aly smile!

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  19. june

    Aly, I thought of you last night as I was reading “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” to my kids. How are you???

  20. aly hawkins Post author

    Wow, thanks for asking June. I’m…meh. (I know that’s not an official word, but the sound of it is exactly how I am.)

    I’m reading Secrets in the Dark, a collection of Frederick Buechner’s sermons. One that has really meant a lot to me is “The Stewardship of Pain.” (If you have 10 minutes to spare, it will rock you.)

    I think I’ll wait on giving a full update because I love the enthusiasm and celebration that’s going on right now with The Dailies album, and I don’t want to be a downer. But I promise to write about it soon!

  21. june

    Oh my gosh. I’ve started reading Buechner’s piece like three times since the 17th…I got a paragraph or two further today…and now there’s my two-year-old crying as he wakes up from his nap.

    *%$#@!

    MEH!!

  22. june

    With only one whining interruption, I was finally able to finish “The Stewardship of Pain” this morning. Indeed, it did/does rock me. Thanks for sharing about it.

    Looking forward to hearing how you are and hoping that the mehness will soon give way to something a bit more bright…or at least less mehy.

  23. corey

    I read TSOP today as well. Good stuff. I’m still processing through some of my own Hide-The-Keys moments and am trying to figure out who to blame. I went to my therapist a few months back (yes, I have a therapists… what’d you expect? I’m an artist, a guitar player, and I live in Orange County. They don’t let you have an OC mailing addres until you show proof of ongoing therapy) and I told him that I’d moved on from blaming myself, through blaming my older brother, and settled on blaming my mom. I told him that I didn’t have much family left to blame and I was gona have to start at the top of the list. Asked him what I did then. His answer was to eventually learn to stop blaming.

    Maybe this relates to you in some ditant way, maybe not. But it was an epiphany and it stopped me in my smug little tracks. It was also liberating. I’m still in the stages of placing blame on the people that screwed me up :) …but the realization that the Season of Blame will pass was comforting like a blanket.

    Again, the may totally hijack what you started this thread to say, but just know that you’re still in my thoughts. I hope you’re coming back around to the Bon Jovi music video state of mind.

  24. Morphea

    “Season of Blame”. That’s like a…movie/song/album title in the making. And I dibs it. Unless Corey the Creator trumps me, that is.

    Buechner is my home boy. “Godric” and “On the Road with the Archangel” have saved my life a coupla times. Each.

    Love to you (and by you I mean “y’all”),
    Cerise

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  26. Faith Kathleen

    I know this post is almost a year old, but i read it for the first time tonight and i just wanted to thank you, Aly, for being so honest. I’ve been going through the same thing this year and spring semester was especially rough. I’ve always been a straight A student, optimistic, happy, focused but this semester I found myself missing classes and deadlines because I simply could not make myself get out of bed in the morning. I was crying 24 hours a day, waking up at obscene hours of the night/morning, and constantly beating myself up for being undisciplined, stupid, and basically a failure at life. I couldn’t make myself eat or sleep or study or practice…and was convinced I was losing my mind. Reading your post makes me so relieved that someone else knows how i’ve been feeling and that maybe i’m not crazy after all.

    All that rambling to say…thanks for being honest…and i’m callling a counselor tomorrow…

    Hope things are better for you,

    Faith Kathleen
    (blog lurker/APU music nerd)

  27. aly hawkins Post author

    Faith K — You are crazy after all. You’re just not alone.

    I’m convinced we’re all pretty tweaked. But that’s okay. The few people I’ve met who I could label “sane” aren’t very interesting.

    That said, excessive craziness is a drag, especially when sleeping well is a distant memory. It’s amazing what 8 hours of uninterrupted rest does for one’s ability to deal with life’s funk. Once you’ve reached The No Sleep Zone, it’s definitely time to call in the cavalry — it’s nearly impossible to dredge up enough energy to work through what’s going on until you know you can safely call it a night.

    I’ll be praying for you as you take a few tentative steps forward. Be tender with yourself.

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