Photo Credit – stewart charles – Fotolia.com
I’ve fallen back into a prolonged dark period after a few weeks of energy, buzz and a bright outlook. That’s the way it goes, riding one wave after another through it highs and crashing lows. I need (and I mean need) to write what I’m doing to counteract this latest drop as the full weight of a huge surf comes pounding down on me.
So what can I do when it’s closing in?
First – Recognize what’s going on. I feel a roiling in my gut, and my anger rising. Every detail that catches my eye is wrong, and I’m starting to want to blame my wife, my dogs and cats, my neighbors, the world, anyone for each ugly fact. I’ve been here before – I’ll be raging inside and tearing myself up as my mind takes in an ugly mess in my house and gardens where yesterday I saw their beauty. It’s like the negative of a positive photograph. My eye turns each scene around me inside out and picks up only the disorder, the scattered papers here and there, shoes kicked off and lying on the floor – it’s usually what’s on the floor or over the lawn and gardens, everything that’s fallen off the organized and tended flow of each scene. I feel it like dirt in my soul. I know I’m projecting my own self-hatred out there, and I struggle to keep that awareness in my mind. Otherwise, I’ll tear off in rage at the drop of another crumb from the kitchen counter and want to scream either at my wife or myself.
When I’m like this, I’m constantly tense and trying to anticipate each detail of any action I take. If I miss something, I tighten immediately. I want to be sure as I carry things to feed the dogs, I’m putting something else away because I’m walking in that direction, and then I have to find two more tasks to do as I walk back to where I started. It kills me to miss these chances for efficiency. I’m always under this pressure to get it right, whatever it is, and perform each action smoothly knowing what’s coming next, no surprises. Those will make me explode. You’d think it would be hard to miss what I’m going through, but I have to keep telling myself: This is not reality, this is depression.
Second – I have to tell my wife that I’m in the midst of this again. She’s already sensed how tense and jumpy and withdrawn I’m getting. My face turns worried and frowning before anything else starts happening, and the danger is that she will interpret this as aimed at her, at something she’s done. I have to keep telling her what I’m going through and ask her to try to remember that when I’m becoming intolerable to be near.
Third – I am struggling to remember what I’ve learned. This recurrence has no cause in anything I’ve done or experienced. Believe me I’ve been through many years of therapy looking for causes, finding them, feeling relief and wonderful self-knowledge, but still falling into one depressive spell after another, some of them months-long. I have to keep telling myself that this is a condition I have, it’s not just the sum total of worthless me. That kind of thing is depression talking, and this will pass. There is another me here somewhere.
Fourth – I can work with CBT, meditation, whatever I can still remember when I’m in this state. But when depression turns angry and aggressive, it’s hard to keep those calming thoughts straight. They tend to blow apart like everything else.
Fifth – I have to physically work off the anger that’s storming inside me. Depression doesn’t always strike with this powerful mix of aggression, rage, blaming, but when it does I have got to go out and work my body into a state of near-exhaustion.
Today, there’s no problem with that because the weather has been matching the rage inside me. A powerful wind and rainstorm pounded this region, and we had serious damage at our place for the first time. Everything that could be blown over and smashed or knocked flat was. And two big trees came crashing down next to the house. One ripped out the phone-internet line, and a huge ancient mountain ash in our courtyard was uprooted and fell against the porch roof of the old house just behind ours. That was the original home of the family that settled here a hundred years ago. We store things in it now, and it forms one side of a courtyard. Had it tipped the other way, that mass of fallen timber would have smashed our roof.
Today, then, there’s plenty to do, and I’m out trying to vent what I’m feeling in physical labor. The chain saw is my perfect mate, grinding its nasty teeth through all this fallen timber. I can cut things up, smash all the debris, toss things into piles, and feel all the satisfaction and release of hard work. Believe me, men need to do that.
Sixth – I have to write this down. If I just think all these things – they won’t stick – I’ll forget them in my next burst of rage, and I’ll be fighting and miserable with my wife all day and burning up inside with the anger that grows from self-hatred. And I can feel right now that writing it down is really helping me to get the distance I need from depression.