I can’t tell you how long I’ve “suffered” from depression. I mean I took an intentional overdose at the age of 11 for crying out loud. So, yeah, a long fucking time. But, you’ll be happy to know that I’m no longer battling depression. Oh, don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not that I’ve conquered it, that I beat it or won the battle (the way some people talk about their relationship with cancer). I’m no longer battling it, because I’ve decided to accept it instead. I’ve decided to live successfully with depression.
I have depression like some people have herpes (I don’t by the way, just want to make that clear now). Okay, maybe it’s not the best comparison, but this is what I mean. If you have herpes, the virus is always in the body even when you are symptom free. But when that herpes sore shows up (often triggered by stress or hormones), there is no denying it. It’s a wound that physically hurts.
Well, that’s how depression has been for me for most of my life. I’m not always a crying, withdrawn mess. In fact, in general, I’m a pretty happy, positive person. But, when I have a depressive episode, it’s undeniable. It’s a dark and painful place, and I believe it’s always going to be a part of my life. So I have to learn how to live successfully with depression, instead of trying to eradicate it, because it’s not just going to disappear.
In the 30+ years since I first thought something was a bit off with me and in the 20+ years that I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve fought the label. I mean, let’s face it, as enlightened as we claim to be, there is (still) a stigma attached to mental health issues. I didn’t want anyone to know that there were days when it literally took an act of god to get my crying, lethargic ass out of bed or that there were times when I had to force myself to eat or leave the house when really all I wanted to do was curl up and die. Or that I’ve tried to kill myself. Twice. No one wants to hear that shit.
But, February is Acceptance Month! I interpret acceptance as incorporating three qualities: becoming aware, being compassionate, and not being attached to specific outcome. You have to wake up to what’s going on. You have to treat the difficult reality with compassion. And, you have to let go of your expectations.
I may not have mastered acceptance in any other area of my life this past month, but I mastered it for depression. (Note: I didn’t say I mastered depression. I mastered accepting my depression. Big difference!)
Awareness. I worked really hard to become more aware of my mood, especially when it started to wane. I would literally tell myself, “You’re feeling sad right now” or “This is loneliness.” I labeled the mood and tried not to get swallowed up by it
Compassion. I treated myself with compassion, and by that I mean, I forced myself to do things that I knew intellectually were good for me, even if in the moment I had zero desire to do anything. I texted my bestest friend in Austin. I called my only friend in Munich. I made myself go run.
Non-attachment. In the end, I decided to stop thinking that depression is a battle where there’s going to be a winner (Happy Silke), of course. I can’t continue that charade, where there is only 1 outcome and it’s me never feeling down again. Sorry, it turns out that depression is part of who I am.
Acceptance. I let go of the fantasy and admitted to myself (and to my husband) that there will be hard times and I will have depressive episodes – probably for the rest of my life. And, if that’s the case, then I better get it together enough to do what I can in order to live as successfully as possible when I experience those episodes. I have 3 children and a husband who count on me to be here. I have friends and family who love me and want me around.
So, I better have a big old Rosie the Riveter tool belt full of tools I can use at my disposal – therapy, books, writing, meditation, social engagement, exercise, practices and habits that help me deal with depression – because I am going to need every single one of them and probably a combination of several to live successfully with depression.
I accept my depression and I am learning how to live successfully with it.
May I have the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Amen to that!