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My new post at Health Central talks about picking up on the early warning signs of depression. Since I tend to need a big picture to figure out what to do, I found it when forced by desperation to look closely at my own self-defeating behavior. That was a key recognition that helped me spot the emergence of depression.
It may seem hard to miss, but it took a long time to wake up to what I was doing. Undermining myself at work could happen at either extreme of depression – when I was filled with shame and wanting to disappear or when I was angry and clumsily aggressive. At home, I’d jeopardize the closeness of family life by dropping out emotionally or by angrily blaming my wife and children for causing the misery.
I felt trapped in a cycle of building up a good life and then tearing it down. As I wrote recently in this post about trying to save my marriage, my wife and I couldn’t wait until depression ended to restore our relationship. The same was true at work. I had to find the early steps that would at least help me recognize when I was spinning downward. That recognition was vital to get any perspective at all on the way depression was distorting my behavior and my perception of what I was doing.
The Health Central post looks at these struggles and the first few steps in getting past them. I hope you’ll take a look at it and have a go at answering the question I pose at the end. How have you been able to pick up on the early signs? Have you found good ways to head off the main event before getting lost in a downward spiral?
Hi John 🙂
… Yes, the elemental images have become central to my good thinking … and the I Ching is the wisdom tradition that I draw from … This way of understanding things keeps me both grounded and thinking well. “Everything is changing all the time,” the oracle reminds me …
Holly Brown ~ prudencebrown121 says
thanks for the use of the photo and photo credit; I found the article inspirational
Thanks, Holly –
Let me thank you for making your beautiful work available under a Creative Commons license. I hope to use more of your images soon.
When those dark clouds gather …
… I tell myself that a storm is brewing; that it will eventually burst open … the rain will fall, the skies will roil and explode with thunder and lightning … and then the storm will pass, clearing the air of heaviness … (Elemental images and metaphors help me to veer my perspective away from harshness and blame and to recognize that emotions, as the “weather” inside us, inevitably move on and change …)
I notice myself constricting in many ways when one of those storms is building up; I “lone” myself away from beloved people … I think small and bitter thoughts, always noticing what is wrong / at fault … my basic self-care breaks down … I sleep too long and during the day.
Best bet for me to arise from a potential plunge into the old abyss is simply to GET UP and GET MOVING … to do one small thing that is useful, functional and has definite results. Some days, brushing my teeth is that act. Other days, getting a whole whack of housework done, or leaving my home to visit a friend or the library, is the key. Sometimes it’s a hot bath or some yoga — whatever it takes to get me out of a depressive, dissociative state and back to my senses and body … back to presence and awareness. Reading and writing can “twig” me into another, more imaginative and inquisitive state of mind … and when I get curious, reverence and understanding inevitably follow … and my mind can rest.
Music … art … dance … They all move me when I am willing to be moved … Sometimes, too, I need to speak to myself firmly — with some real cheek, as a beloved friend might do. I knew someone who would chide herself and end up laughing, ’cause she’d speak to herself in zany accents or in the words of some brilliant comedian. She’d look down at herself and say, “Girl, get your *ass* off this *couch*! — She came up with her own brilliant about-face to the abasing voices in her head: She started to mimic them, mock them, give them accents and names — so “Get your ass off this couch!” became a poke at an old habit of sinking even further into the pillows … and she said it like Kathy Bates said “TAWANDA!” in the film *Fried Green Tomatoes*. Laughter guaranteed! 😀
… I’ve found it very helpful to enquire deeply into what concepts like “presence” and “awareness” mean to me — Through doing this, I can begin to imagine specific, functional things I can do to bring me into those places, and to keep myself there …
Reality checks are always helpful too. “What is really going on here?” I will ask myself, knowing that I’ve got blind spots (we all do) … and sometimes I will sit quietly and ask myself “What is really happening?” several times, in a contemplative tone, awaiting the response and then asking the question again until I’ve (hopefully) arrived at a depth of understanding and a more clear sense of what’s at the root of the stormy weather …
Hi, Jaliya –
Thank you for this wonderful list. I especially like the elemental images – I’ve never used those, even though I’m always linking images to my emotional/mental states as I write. Making up characters and talking back to them has been a huge tactic to help me little down the big puffing depression guys. Trying to see myself when I’m down and out – as others see me – is another turning over that helps shake me.
Having a lot of alternatives is good – if you can keep them in mind (often I can remember any when I deeply depressed). Hopefully, at least one will help clear things out.
I found your post interesting and it has really made me look at how serious depression can get. Thank You!
Hi, Lynden –
Thank you – I hope you’ll come by again.