I just had an eye-opening conversation with a friend where several things came together for me regarding struggles with, and thinking about depression.
First of all, I’ve gone a few rounds with depression and so have a number of people I know. It’s like the big dark secret where people don’t want to admit they have struggled with it, or continue to struggle with it, but I think it’s easier to fall into depression than some people who’ve never had to deal with it think it is.
Next, what just came to me… I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and he has this whole discussion on why planes crash. Unlike the movies, it’s not one big thing that makes a plane crash, it’s a series of little things, like 5-7 incidents that alone would be relatively minor glitches, but together bring down the plane.
I feel like that’s exactly what happened with me and depression. I had a stressful job, had just moved to a new state, gotten married (which was and is fantastic, but I have a terrific husband 😉 ) all of which is stressful, albeit some of it was “good stress,” but still change=stress. Then not long after we got married, I started having health problems. Some combination of the stress messing with my adrenals, and two back-to-back viral infections with some serious antibiotics wacked out my thyroid. I was not sleeping, gaining weight, and feeling tired and miserable all the time. This combined with the fact that it took me 5-6 doctors to get a diagnosis on the health issues, and you can see how I sort of spiraled into the dark place we call depression. (there’s more too, but not that needs to be gone into, just take my word for it 😉 )
Aside from staring too closely at the specifics that led to my depression, while talking to my friend this morning about our experiences with it, I suddenly thought both of Gladwell’s plane crash example, and my friend Mark’s assertion in a recent blog post that it’s the little things that will kill you. Now to be fair, he also said it’s the little things that make life worth living, and he’s right on both counts, though it took me until today to see that.
I’m not sure I’m getting at anything here, except that perhaps when something starts to trigger the depression (it’s like the cold sore virus, once you get it, it’s always there, waiting to jump on you when you’re stressed), I can see the little triggers for what they are and respond to them before they add up to another round with the shadow that haunts me.
I described the feeling I get when the anger takes me by surprise, or when I get really tired, run down and discouraged to my friend this morning and she said it was an accurate description. It’s the feeling that there’s a shadow stalking you, and in moments like I just mentioned, when I’m feeling vulnerable, it’s like I can almost see it in my peripheral vision, hanging out just over my left shoulder, waiting to drag me back down.
And then I feel panicky. “I can’t go back there,” I tell myself, all the while knowing that the panic itself if I let it take hold can be a trigger.
But knowing it’s the little things, means I need to take the little things seriously and handle them as they come so that they can’t turn into an unstoppable chain reaction.
And you handle little things with little things. My backyard farm gives me joy, as does working with my hands. Building garden beds has relieved stress, and gives me a tangible sense of accomplishment. And finding eggs in the morning is just too cool, as are chickens that let me pet them (I’ll post individual pics soon when they get more used to me and tell you their names).
Conclusions? not really… I’m still figuring all this out. For those of you who have dealt with depression, is it the little things for you? And how do you handle the little things as they start to pile up?