It's a good day when your therapist tells you, "you're under some stress but I can tell you're really happy."
*Insert stunned silence here*
I am now in 'maintenance' therapy sessions now instead of 'let's sort through all of your problems' therapy. The reality is that even if my problems are mostly first world problems, depression screws with your mind and anxiety beefs up even the smallest issues and it doesn't take much for everything to spin out of control.
I'm a little stunned to be in this place. Suddenly I've been booted out into the open and depression is no longer a cloak I can hide under. I kind of like it. I remember busting into tears when I first met my therapist and she said, "I've been there and I am here to tell you that you will get through this. It is possible to have a life beyond this. There is hope."
I know there's a saying that goes, "I'm too blessed to be depressed." This saying has always frustrated me because I feel like it should be true. I am blessed beyond measure and I don't deserve any of it. I serve a loving God and with 20/20 hindsight, I can see why every single thing has happened the way it has this year and over the course of my life.
But depression is an animal. It puts blinders on either side of you and a dark cloud above you and a deep canyon in front of you. I remember reading something once to the extent of, "they say exercise is good for depression, but if you're really depressed then you're just walking around the park, depressed." THAT IS SO TRUE. Depression can be a beast and even if I can't see him and I'm not looking for him, I know he'll show up at the slightest sign of weakness. But now I have a toolbox full of knowledge and support to kick him to the curb when he threatens to stay a while.
I will say that for someone in the throes of depression, medication, when appropriately prescribed and followed up, can be a lifesaver. In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert says that once she was on the right meds, "quickly, in less than a week, I could feel an extra inch of daylight opening in my mind. Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch-- there's not a chance. The pills gave me those recuperative night hours back, and also stopped my hands from shaking and released the vise grip around my chest and the panic alert button from inside my heart."
I always had the problem of sleeping too much when depression was at its worst, although sleeping isn't always restful. But the panic button she speaks of? I'm quite familiar with it. What's most important is that she then notes, "those drugs were part of my bridge to the other side." It's probably possible to get to the other side without them if you're willing to use prayer, exercise, diet, lifestyle changes, and counseling right away. But oh my gosh that's a lot of energy to expend when you're depressed.
For me, medications took the edge off and allowed me to function, but I never felt like I was able to thrive. I was so proud of myself for coming off of antidepressants by my 25th birthday. Then thanks to my therapist, I got through last winter without them and I have high hopes for this winter as well. I'm not saying I'll never need them again, but right now I'm in a very good place without them. And after a year of growing closer to God, improving my relationships with others, and visiting my therapist regularly, I finally feel like things are changing... for the better! I was sick of being stuck in the same cycle month after month, year after year. I don't want to speak too soon, but this is the first year since I high school I haven't felt like playing A Long December on full blast and bemoaning:
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
Yet this is the year I feel like truly, maybe this year will be better than the last. In fact, that song came on the radio the other day and I actually switched the station instead of turning it up. That's huge. It's not the winter that makes you laugh a little slower and talk a little lower, it's depression.
I think Elizabeth Gilbert also captures the wonderful answer of a God who will always answer when you cry out to him: "I'm here. I love you. I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it-- I will love you through that, as well. If you don't need the medication, I will love you, too. There is nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you... I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me."
There is hope.
In the spirit of Elizabeth Gilbert, let me say attraversiamo. "Let's cross over." I am ready now. Do what you will.