I’m back. I have climbed back out of my hole for a visit (hopefully, a long one) to the land above the hole. It took me a few days this time to get out, but I’ve made it. I think part of the reason for having returned to the hole was the fact that I was absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, long-lost friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers who have contacted me after reading my blog. Not that this was a bad thing – no way – I’ve just had a hard time comprehending the feelings that went along with these contacts. For those of you who don’t personally know me, I don’t do compliments well. And I don’t do niceness well. I’ve spent most of my life guarding myself from those who are nice to me; I’m always looking for the bomb to drop. I’ve always been suspicious of compliments because following them seems to be a period of time filled with criticism and expectations. If not from others, my brain kicks in and I criticize myself. I am so good at criticizing myself. Of course I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be guarded and that I must learn to accept the kindness for what it is — kindness — but I’ve not mastered that skill. I’m getting better though; sometimes I can stop, take a deep breath and actually say (and mean) “Thank you” when given some type of compliment. But there are still far too many times when I feel that I’m really not worthy of true kindness or compliments. Because of this flaw (see, using the word “flaw” shows that I still don’t believe I am worthy), all the private messages, texts, and calls sent me spinning into that downward spiral to the bottom of the hole. Reading each one brought so many mixed emotions. The old thoughts of “You don’t deserve these compliments” were mixed with the “See, Betty, you are doing good” and they filled my brain. As I struggled with these thoughts I kept thinking that I wished my sweet friend LuAnn was still here — she was so good at telling me to get my thought closet cleaned out and throw out all those self-defeating thoughts. With each thought, I slipped a little further into my deep, dark hole. Before I knew it, I was sitting at the bottom of the hole, totally overcome with emotion. And then, I saw the light at the top of the hole and began my climb to the top. You know, it’s a real bummer to think that someone being nice to you can cause you to be depressed, isn’t it?
Looking back on the last couple of weeks, I can honestly say this – you people are absolutely amazing. After spending a few days in my dark hole contemplating the many messages received, I can now look at them as they should be looked at — through my heart. When doing so, I am truly touched. Your messages of support have shown me that while being this open with my life is scary, it is also necessary. Necessary for me because I think that through this blog, I may finally be able to rid myself of my feelings of inadequacy and self-contempt. Necessary for others because they can see that they are not alone. And knowing that you are not alone is vital to one’s recovery. I am grateful for the support, honored by the kindness, humbled by the love shown, and amazed at some of the stories that have been shared with me. My heart goes out to each of you who have shared your stories with me. God Bless each of you who have corresponded. Please continue to do so. If you know someone who battles depression, please share my blog with them. I’d love the opportunity to share with them.
While I have always known that there are frillions of others who suffer from depression, I had no idea that I already knew many of these people. I have found that some of my friends have been wearing those much-needed masks in order to hide their sadness and sometimes their true depression from the world. It’s kind of amazing when you find this out because depressed people live in a world in which we think that everyone else we know is “normal”. Sure, there are those that we realize are just a sandwich shy of a picnic, but we don’t think that they have the same demons living with them that we do; we think they are just a bit “off”. But, everyone has demons. Some are prissy little demons who just drop by to aggravate us and some are big, bad demons who have packed their bags and moved in with us. And no matter what we do, we can’t evict them. Someone with true depression has a way of letting those demons rule their lives – every thought, every feeling, every action takes place because of those demons. If we tell no one about these demons, they have free reign over our lives. There is nobody there to tell them to get the hell out of our lives. We certainly aren’t strong enough to do so. That’s why it is imperative to find someone with whom we can share the existence of these demons.
I am proud that I have had someone — my magical therapist — with whom I have shared my thoughts for the last six years. For the first six months or so of seeing her, I was going 3 days a week. Since then, I have had periods of time when I could go a month without seeing her, but always knew that if necessary I could go more frequently. We finally settled into sessions about every 3 weeks and then about a year ago, I had the brilliant idea that I didn’t need to see her anymore and actually quit going for a number of months. Of course there were times during those months when I should have gone, but I was trying to be brave and be “strong” and pushed through the bad thoughts. (By the way, I hate, hate, hate the word “strong” and if you ever tell me that you think I’m strong, you will most likely get some type of smart-ass response from me). This past New Year’s Eve, my big sister died and I went crashing at a hundred miles per hour into a deep period of depression. I isolated myself for a month, barely talking to anyone and going nowhere. Two of those weeks I did not get dressed, never left the house except to take my dog out, didn’t answer my phone unless I saw it was one of my children, and just sat here — wishing the entire time that I could just NOT BE HERE. Thankfully, I had a period of sanity when I knew that I was in deep trouble and that I could not continue as I was, buried in my thoughts. Scared, I picked up the phone, called my therapist and said, “I have to see you. Now.” It probably took me a good six months to get my thoughts going in the right direction again, and thank God my sweet, brilliant, loving, competent therapist was there for me every step of the way. I’m now back to a bi-weekly schedule but am always aware that at some point, I may need to see her more often.
Therapy is hard. Sharing my thoughts and feelings is torture. I have to drive an hour to get to my appointment and many times, I spend the entire hour trying to think of something to talk about. I’m not always successful. But then, sometimes, my brain is swirling with thoughts. I’m like a bull before the bullfight begins, pawing at the dirt. And the hour’s drive home can be absolute torture. My brain is always going back over everything that has been said and there have been times when I have had to pull my car over to throw up or to regain my composure so that I can safely drive. By the time I get home, I am normally shot for the rest of the day. Talking, thinking, making decisions, and remembering can be pure hell. Even though I know that these feelings will always be here after a session, it’s almost addicting. My body can actually go into withdrawals, needing to see her, needing to talk, and needing that hug at the end of each session and hearing her say, “I love you, Betty.”
Bless my therapist’s heart; some days she truly earns every single penny she’s paid (and ought to get a lot more). I’m sure that after some sessions, she is wishing she could see a therapist herself. Occasionally, she will go back into her notes and read them to me with the intention of showing me how far I have come. When she does that I always feel sorry that she had to listen to me. However, sometimes I dig out a mask, strap that sucker on and we spend the hour with me talking about ANYTHING except myself. We’ll talk about books, Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother, recipes, how everything in the world is good – anything I can spend that hour talking about without actually talking about myself. And you know what’s funny? After those days, I’ve always thought, “Hahaha, I had her fooled today. She believes that I’m doing well. She has no idea.” A couple of months ago, she brought those sessions up. I was telling her that I had felt that our last session had been a “kick ass” session and that I’d finally had a break-though and was really understanding a concept that I had struggled with during the six years I’d been seeing her. (The word “strong” came up in this realization and we’ll talk about that at a later date.) She kind of laughed and said, “Yeah, it beats those sessions when you come in and shoot the bull for the entire hour. There’ve been many sessions when you’d do anything rather than tell me how you were feeling.” Dang. I’d spent all that time thinking I had her fooled and she had known all along what I was doing. What a waste of a good mask! But, I guess that’s why she’s my magical therapist, huh?
There are many days when that hour spent with my therapist is better than a pedicure or a massage. Although I don’t come away with smooth, soft feet and I don’t have drool running down my chin, I have a respite from my fears and demons and the feeling is like I’ve tasted a little bit of peace. That feeling is pure heaven.
If you are depressed and don’t have someone to share those demons with – find someone. If you can’t or won’t go to a therapist, find a trusted friend you can share with. (My personal thought is that EVERYONE needs to see a therapist and that even all you “normal” people would find a benefit in seeing a therapist, but that’s another story.) Therapy is hard at first because we are so very conditioned to keep our feelings in, to never tell anyone about our fears, but it is so worth it. It gets easier with time and you will reach a point when the sharing that we had so reluctantly done in the beginning will be like breathing — it’s just what we do. Talk to your medical doctor or your local mental health agency to get a list of names and make an appointment. I promise, that’s a phone call you want to make. Share your demons. It may just change your life.
THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS: I’m still very hesitant to share my life with others. Even though I’ve received nothing but support, I’m still nervous about doing so. It seems as though right now, my biggest fear is that I will somehow embarrass my children with this blog.
TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER: It’s nice to be out of the hole again. I hate being in that hole.