It's been a crappy day. Hell, it's been a crappy week and a half (and counting) so far. I've been doing everything I can to try and hold myself together and keep up an appearance of zen-like "I have my shit together folks". I've been doing my health practitioner part by eating good, soul nourishing foods; taking myself out for walks / meals / time with friends; talking kindly to myself like a good practitioner would to a patient; and just being patient with myself on my less than stellar morning starts.
And the last minute cancellation that happened a few hours ago was that last shoe to drop this week and I'm finding myself sliding into a pretty %#* headspace and feeling bad that I just can't seem to resist the gravitational pull of sitting in a puddle of tears and tissues while wrestling away the lid of a pint of ice cream (which has to be vegan now that I can't eat eggs or dairy - crap!)
I was supposed to start the week off with a triumphant radiant glow, having written about the importance of slowing down and taking the time and care to nourish spirit by practicing the art of Yang Sheng. It's melted down into a nuclear disaster of radioactive waste proportions as this last cancellation was the latest in a string of last minute scheduling changes in an already bad week of having those self-doubt gremlins revisit. What I fear is the starting backward slide into what I term the RDW - the "recurring depressional waltz".
There, I said it. That "DEE" word.
I've often grappled long and hard with coming out and writing about depression. Not just any old depression in the generic, "this sort of shit happens to other people" sense. MY depression. The diagnosis I was given almost six years ago when I just shut down and didn't want to engage with the world anymore.
I was doing fine in 2013. I loved where I worked in Little Portugal (TAS will always have a special place in my heart!). I was passionate about my work and about my patients. And one day, when I found out that one of them passed away (in October interestingly enough), it all hit me - TOO HARD. I just stopped "doing". And struggled with just being able to "be normal", go to work, go through the motions of daily life and continue just living like I used to. I too was given my Cipralex and advised to talk things through with a therapist. And though it temporarily numbed out the vengeful emotional waves of grief at the time, it never really took away the cyclical heaviness of depression that would come and go (and sometimes stay when life got hard).
Dealing with my depression feels like dealing with a dance partner that asks you out to the dance of life and then at last minute, drops you like a hot potato. This happens cyclically for me. The last year and a half have been a blessing because that sucky dance partner hasn't come by to call on me as often. I admit I have been busy making small changes in my life - both personally and professionally - and that has kept the beast at bay. But this week has been a struggle because this sucky dance partner has suddenly returned and is now flitting back and forth, in and out of my life again.
I often think of my depression as a condition brought on by being bitten by something. Once bitten, you never quite go back to being the person you were before it bit you. Prior to this, I was wrapped in a protective shield of naiveté and an inherent belief in the "unbreakability of the world". After this, I saw with my new eyes, that the world was not this safe, bubble wrapped, pink-unicorn (with sparkles!) place that I thought it would be and my engagement with it turned more cautious.
Now I have said before that this blog was primarily for TCM matters but that, if anything so behooves me, I will write about it; even if it wasn't necessarily about my area and field of work. And I felt it perhaps (in a self-indulgent, pity-party sort of way) to be a therapeutic thing for me to do today.
Yeah, there is a 175% chance that this will just deep-six my career and I'll never see another live patient again. But there too is also a small 25% chance that someone stumbling through google may encounter this post. And I hope that they discover they too are not alone in this everyday struggle with themselves and their less than positive thoughts.
I wrote this primarily because I still, to this day, feel like I have to make an extra effort to remind myself that I am not the only person who feels like they got sat on, spat on and then laughed at by the gods. It's miserable to go it alone in life when dealing with hardship. And its even harder when you are in the "helping / healing profession" because admitting that you feel sad or "off" or unhappy where you are in life is oftentimes seen as a weakness that you should not have a problem with "because you're a healer and healers who do the work don't have those problems hun!" I call bullshit on that one. That pressure you get for being perfect and for "manning up" and going it alone Just.Doesn't.Serve.
I just didn't want to feel alone in this struggle to just keep my head above water when I feel my RDW dance partner calling. And I don't want anyone else who hears the call of the RDW to feel like they are alone in this fight either.
That was the main thing I struggled with and wouldn't wish upon anyone else dealing with their depression. That feeling of alone; and that feeling of being the only one with that "disenchanted grayness feeling" and sense of disengagement with the world and all its offerings. I always thought that I was the only one afflicted with it and that no one would ever truly understand this feeling.
I still do struggle with it. And for awhile I was actually doing better with this - this uncomfortable in my own skin feeling of "I am the only person doomed to go through life alone" feeling. That is until last week started and for some insidious reason, the RDW music started and the everyday self kindnesses started to feel less comforting and more like band aid solutions for the cracks in the dam.
I am trying to remind myself that I am never alone. And that sometimes the spirit does break down in order to make you see what needs to be fixed in your own life before the next phase of whatever you set out to do can be started on. Putting my practitioner hat on I am also reminded that summer days are pretty much behind us now and that as our daylight hours get shorter, Seasonal Affective Disorders (SAD) are likely to start happening now and a lot of my own downshifts in mood and even perception can be attributed to getting less sunlight.
For those of you who have been keeping up with my previous rantings and ramblings, you'll know I run. Now that the days are getting shorter and colder, my reasons for running outdoors are dwindling (mainly because of time constraints and getting up for a sunny 6am run before leaving for work at 8am isn't as likely to happen at this time of year) and I know that the sunshine shortage is not helping.
As an Acupuncturist I do know too that Autumn is a time of endings. And in the TCM calendar it is the time of year that corresponds with the Zang organ, the Lungs and that the Lungs are associated with sadness, letting go, grief, the season of the fall / autumn, and dryness. Depression symptoms are often seen around this time of year when the leaves start to shed from the trees and the sun spends less time warming up the surface of the earth.
And it's funny that no matter how scientifically and medically I apply these theories to try and figure out why I am feeling like the butt end of a giant cosmic joke, there are moments that I still catch myself feeling like the person playing the world's smallest pitiful violin music for myself. And there are days that I still scratch my own head and wonder why, despite all the frickin' effort I put into taking good care of myself and doing the things that reasonable law-abiding upright citizen things that grown-ups do to look after themselves, I still trip and fall and end up wondering how I still always end up sitting down here with my broken "happy face" mask on the floor.
Well I am here today and my "keeping it together" happy face has fallen off and I have to figure out a way to assess where things are and get myself back up again. If you have somehow found yourself here today too and are tempted into thinking you are the only person who is going through this, you are definitely not alone. And you are definitely not supposed to just hunker down and accept that this is your lot in life. Alone in your depression is not permanent and does not define who you are in life.
I am fighting the good fight with you too and always figuring out ways to see things from a different perspecctive every time life hands me nothing but a lot of lemons (and a terrible dance partner). Though the only advice that I can offer right now is: 1. don't just make lemonade; make spiked lemonade and 2. don't share them with that dance partner; I also hope I can impart a sense of (though somewhat one-way) camaraderie and shared human experience just by sharing my thoughts here in my blog.
I know I have veered away a bit from my normal work and health related topics but I felt that with the shorter days and the colder October nights that are about to hit us in the Great Lakes region of my part of the world, a candid rant about my own dealings with depression would be appropriate and serve as a reminder that we are human and we all still inherently feel with a human heart when we react to things in the world. We break down and we show emotions sometimes. And it's all ok to do that. Just don't try to go it alone and don't ever be suckered into thinking that you are the only person who feels this way.
As I think of my own self-care routine and coping techniques, I know that maybe one day I may have to make some changes and get help if the RDW dance partner hangs around too long. I've been taken off my Cipralex for many years now and have been managing so far with very regular exercise, healthier and personalized dietary changes and mindful modifications to the language of my own inner self-talk. If you happen to pass by this post and find that you have been lingering in this disengaged headspace for longer than you'd like, know first that you are never alone in this. Also know that there are resources out there that can help and that it is ok to seek help from trustworthy people in your circle whether they be your own primary healthcare practitioner, your favourite cousin, your spiritual counsellor, best friend, your neighbour (or hey, even your own friendly neighbourhood acupunk!).
A final note and possible web pages of interest:
I can't think of too many places that you can look into on the internet right off the bat that I found helpful. There are some webpages out there but they don't go beyond the usual standard definition of depression and the usual standard summary of what the treatments are and how they work. **Aside note: I personally needed to do things the hard way myself and explore a variety of things to find the ultimate personal mix of traditional and non-traditional things that seemed to work for me. Right now, eating a cleaner diet (since finding out that I am gluten, egg and dairy sensitive in February this year) and making regular, challenging exercise a normal part of my weekly routine have been the biggest game-changers for me in managing my moods. I'm still trying to find out what else works for me (especially now that we are about to head into the fall and winter months in Toronto) but its always a continuous work in progress for me. It may be different for you but we all have to start somewhere and usually starting off with speaking to a trusted healthcare practitioner and going through your medical options is always a good first place to start (I did it this way too!).
However this list of sites is a good starting point to begin getting some basic information about depression and about the medication, Cipralex, that I was taking. Armed with this information, you can now take this to the next level and start talking with that trusted person in your own social circle and asking for some help. It may take time to find what works best for you (it certainly did for me and it's still a process that I am trying to figure out) but its a good first step worth taking. I read a quote somewhere that said "It is far better to light a candle than curse the darkness" (see: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/its-better-to-light-a-candle-than-to-curse-the-darkness.html.) Though depression may feel like the temptation to curse the darkness, knowing that you have a candle you can use to signal for help is already a huge help in finding your way out of it and back into life again.