Monday, August 23, 2010

When Life Becomes Too Heavy:
A Patient's Reflections on Depression
[Reprinted with permission.]

I was shocked to find out that I suffered from depression most of my life. I knew that my experience of abuse was unique but the struggle I have with daily thought, I thought were the normal, private wars everyone was challenged with. I was just not as adept at managing them as everyone else was. After all, I grew up to believe that not much of what I am is worth anything, so why should this trait be any different. I was just one person trying to be the best I could be, with what little I was.

When my first psychologist sent me for evaluation to a psychiatrist, I was aghast at his initial diagnosis. Depression was something other people experienced. I suffered from nightmares and disruptive thoughts of what my father did. I struggled with the things he lead me to believe about myself, those life lessons that are supposed to build your child up to face the world, not the ones that tore me down in a tenacious effort to manipulate me back into his abusive desires. I did not see myself as a victim or someone who suffered with depression. What I saw was a child who told her father no and was now being punished for it.

I believed everything that came to me after that point was the life I deserved. Life was my punishment. Any wrong doing from others, or misfortunes that happened upon me, were a direct result of my disobedience.

I did not understand them to be part of the vicious nature of depression.

Silencing thoughts of a picturesque life was paramount to my survival. Dwelling on what I couldn’t have only made my existence that much harder to bear. I knew that AI could not change the Hand of God by committing suicide (as I have learned, those thoughts lived within another Ego State). I knew that I was to live as I was until the day God decided. The only perceived control I had was that of my thoughts and not allowing them to go to “the happy place”, made the incarceration tolerable until death would bring me freedom.

Life was punishment. Death my freedom. Depression a somewhat manageable disease of the mind. The three didn’t add up.

It wasn’t until the psychiatrist started asking specific question about my past, that I began to see the patterns of my life fitting into the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder. Although I still believed I had no control over how the world interacted with me (I’m still not so sure about it). I just now knew and understood that I had been suffering from depression for many years without having put a label on it.

When a diagnosis becomes personal, it changes meaning. It did not change the core belief that I was being punished but it did offer the chance of some relief while I remained alive. It at least gives me something to work with. It game me some dreaded hope that life would be less of a burden. Like the alcoholic seeking relief, if I could get through y days a little easier by taking a pill, I didn’t think God would mind so much.

I’ve come to understand the cycle of depression very well. It doesn’t make it easier (somewhere within, we still believe we are being punished) but I understand it better. Learning the cyclic changes has helped me to mostly better cope with existence. In fact, some of the Ego States even understand depression to be just what it is and not punishment, although I am not one of them.

My days are filled with murky sadness. Energy is sapped from every parcel of my body like water from a desert. They are days of heavy air making it difficult to take a breath. Each activity is a calculated event, colossal in achievement, yet small in size. Getting up from where I breathe to get a drink. Grasping the remote control to change the channel. Finding words to speak. I thought I was a procrastinator but it turns out differently.

Depression is a cruel master.