The Happy Depressed Place

Perhaps I’ve learned to cope too well with depression, that it has become this natural place within which I can comfortably reside. I felt the descent last week and knew where I was going without a navigation system. The Bird Box of emotions. Unlike the idiot children who have attempted to drive blindfolded as a challenge, I have learned to feel my way through without, potentially, doing damage to others. I know what I need. Solitude, some good books, sleep, and a to-do list that can wait. I need to roll in some bubble wrap, stick myself in a dark corner, and commune with the latent voices of words on a page.

canstockphoto0322864It is likely no coincidence that as the temperatures fall below zero in the middle of a Minnesota winter, the gray skies serve as a tipping point. The furnace runs nonstop like the recitation of personal failures that tugs me into a downward spiral. Being older and marginally wiser has helped me read the signposts, rally the troops, and downshift to self-care. This is, I suppose, the luxury of my life – it is now slow enough to sense the slightest change in mental breeze and to respond accordingly. I no longer have to hit bottom to take action, which is rather surprising to this procrastinator.

Admittedly there are still lessons to learn. One must not be on Twitter if one is depressed. I need to embroider that on a pillow somewhere. It should be said I spend most of my time on Twitter blocking people or reporting them…and then blocking them. They’re not even remotely near my timeline. I just see their comments on other people’s posts and do it, in the hopes that someday, the comments will be filled with erudite, complex thinkers with impulse control. Who’s the idiot now?

36679056I finished reading a book and started another over the last few days. I read R.O. Kwon’s debut novel The Incendiaries. It was an odd read in some ways. So many of the newer writers have a staccato style of writing and I wonder if that isn’t a reflection of our Tweeting/texting culture. Still, the story was compellingly told and like most good novels, I finished it feeling rather unsettled – it will stick with me for a long time. This morning, I spent several hours reading Don DeLillo’s White Noise. I’d never read any of his work (it was on the should list), but found myself silently grinning at his wry observations.

That’s a sign that the slump is ending – the ability to find pleasure has come back. I will have to crawl out of my hole, reconnect with others, get myself back on track. Part of me wishes to stay a little longer, out of sight, unconcerned with social expectations, but I have work to do. Work that does, in the end, contribute to my sense of well-being. Back to editing novels, back to volunteering, back to my writing group, back to striving and struggling to be better at the things that matter to me.

watercycleIn my earlier years, I would likely have benefited from medication. Perhaps I would have been less self-destructive and less difficult to deal with in relationships. I just didn’t have the knowledge or understanding and life from 20-40 goes at a much faster clip. I never knew I was depressed until I’d blown up a relationship, had a confrontation at work, or drank/eaten/smoked myself senseless. Even then, I had to focus on picking up the pieces – mending or grieving the relationship, working twice as hard at my job, berating myself for binging. The cycle I could never see because I was drowning in it.

The thing that often strikes me about a well-written novel is the eventuality of the characters. The novelist builds, word-by-word, to the outcomes of the characters’ lives. If they’ve done it well, you nod your head knowingly when the character abandons their life, killstreecloudsgrasshill someone, joins a cult – does something extreme or awful. You see the choices they made or how they reacted to the events in their lives, bit by bit, one word after the other.

If I think of my life like a novel, there are so many points where I turned one way instead of the other. My story does not build to a dramatic climax and then ebb back out to sea. I’ve learned to build up to a plateau. It’s neither exciting nor riveting, but it is a safe place – a plateau where I hang about, memorizing the landscape, so I can find my way back the next time.

27 Comments on “The Happy Depressed Place

  1. Beautifully expressed. It all resonates deeply with me. I, too, have learned to deal with it sooner and more effectively. It has lessened, both in frequency and severity, with age, and for that I’m very grateful. Welcome back. Take it slow. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. My depressions are definitely not as severe as in the past, but I wonder about the chicken-and-egg theory of it all, since without all the extra pressure and anxiety of a faster life, I am better able to cope. Thanks, too, for sharing your own experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. loved this post! Suffering with depression and anxiety myself, this really spoke to me. You’re such a good writer and your way with words is fantastic. I always look forward to your stories. Wish I could write as affective as you can. Take care of yourself and keep smiling

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    • Thanks so much for your generous comment! Although, I’m sorry for the reasons it spoke to you. It’s good that I’m in a place where I can write about it, because there are so many people who are struggling. We need to have a lot more of these conversations along the whole spectrum of mental health. Still, I hope you are finding a path (or a plateau) that gives you safe space to be wherever you’re at.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are an excellent writer. Wish I had your talent. Depression I’ve had off and on especially since becoming a widow. And aging and seeing friends become ill doesn’t help. Nature, the sun warm on my old body and a nice cup of coffee or dark chocolate seem to help most.

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    • I’ve spent a lot of time with older people and have paid attention, since depression is a common factor. The happiest people always seem to be the ones who stay connected in their community, especially those who volunteer with younger people. I think it must be so hard as one’s peers fall ill or pass away, so connection becomes necessary. Even as an introvert, I see this necessity. Still, at any point in life, the ability to recognize and enjoy the smallest pleasures in life is a gift. Nothing makes me happier than a good pair of socks, a book, and a hot drink.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michelle, your post reveals highly developed self awareness, ability to ‘prescribe’ self care – and an incredible gift of writing! I trust you’ll be chuckling more soon.

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  5. I find in my life that it’s a process. A big part of working through *depression, anxiety, and sadness for me is being aware of the spiral I’m in and having some tools on board to support me. And then, sometimes I have to just sit with my shit, as Pema Chodron advises. I’ve learned to discern which avenue to take. But that only came with age. (*I’m not talking about deep or clinical depression here.) Interesting exercise to think of your life as a novel. Hmmm…

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    • Once I got beyond thinking about what I “should” be doing or feeling when I was depressed, I learned to ride the wave. And even found some value in being in that place. Progress for me has been allowing myself to not sit in my shit. I never seemed to let myself off the hook and would just spin in it. Now I know it’s okay to let it go when I need to.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very well written. We have this false idea that emotions are black or white. They are viewed as good or bad. People don’t understand that there is not only gray area, but that there is a rainbow between. Existence and its perception varies between souls and when we label emotions, it makes it harder for people to learn to navigate the landscape.
    People need to learn that being depressed is not whats dangerous it’s not learning to be depressed or being scared to speak about it that can be painful and scary. I’ve been depressed for a good portion of my life but I’m not sad about it, it makes me appreciate smaller thing that I never did when I was always happy like conversations with strangers, or nice days. I didn’t mean to make this about me. This was a well written article find your signs, learn your landscapes, and never fear speaking up. There are a lot of people who are willing lo listen.

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    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. Whenever I write a post about depression, I’m very aware that it is an individual experience. I am fortunate in that my self-awareness has allowed me the time and space to stay tuned into when I need self-care, etc. However, I know that for some people, depression is unrelenting and severe, so I can only speak to my own experience and recognize not everyone can afford to “ride it out”. I’m just very grateful to be where I’m at.

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  7. Don DeLillo’s White Noise is one of my all time favorite books. I would also recommend his second novel, End Zone. I lost him with Ratner’s Star and The Names

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  8. This is spot on. This is the kind of peace of mind I hope to find as I grow. I agree with newer writers having a staccato style of writing. I feel like that is something I struggle with myself, because I grew up learning to text before learning how to write. Thank you for your honesty about depression and finding comfort in yourself and reminding me to keep working hard for the things that I love.

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    • I hope that your learning curve towards some peace of mind is shorter than mine! I know everyone has to get where they’re going at their own pace, but I sure seem to take the long way round. A couple of years ago I changed how I read, because I was concerned that my literary skills weren’t going to improve and that has made a huge difference. So in terms of the staccato style of writing – it’s a legitimate style if the story is told well, but if you want to do something different, reading really lights the way. Best wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is definitely a draining away of energy and the ability to feel any sort of pleasure in life (I think the official term is “anhedonia”), but as I mentioned to someone above, depression comes in different degrees and nuances to people, so when I write about my own, I never assume that it is the same for others.

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