anecdotes and reflections on life with depression and anxiety
A few months ago, when it was still summer and the days were still warm, I sat in a grassy nook just above a sandy beach, staring at the waves and the moored boats bobbing in place over the dark blue ocean. No one had settled in near me, so I was quietly reading and often looking up at the waves, feeling simple gratitude for living in such a beautiful place.
This local spot is one of my happiest, most peaceful places, and yet -- in the midst of being in a favorite place with a favorite companion (a book, obviously) -- my bed called out for me. I had worked a full eight hours indoors on this perfect June day, itching for three o'clock to arrive so I could fly out the door and down the road to be here, in the sunshine and gentle breeze. And yet -- the tousled covers of my unmade bed, the scrunched up pillows and twisted top sheet were calling to me. Even from here.
Why? Why does my old, sagging mattress reach out for me, even on a good mental health day, a gorgeous summer afternoon, after a productive work day and with the whole evening at my disposal? Why can't I get the idea out of my mind that I would rather be in bed?
It's not that I'm sleepy and just want to close my eyes -- I have no qualms about doing that here in the park, where the sun warms my skin and the waves lapping nearby make a perfect naptime soundtrack. I want to be here, at the beach, in the summertime, just like everyone else.
I've even intentionally set myself up with an early work schedule so that I can have the afternoons and evenings free. I like to read, to have time for a walk or the gym, to do summery recreational things, you know, like going to the beach. As I wake up in the mornings I anticipate all the things I can accomplish after work -- the farmer's market!! Coffee with a friend! The book waiting on my Kindle! -- and yet, as soon as the three o'clock hour rolls around (and sometimes even sooner than that), I can't help but feel drawn to the comfort and safety of my bed.
Not my couch. Not my dining room table. Not the warmth and familiarity of just being home. I long entirely, and specifically, for my bed.
The answer, I think, is simple: it's depression. It makes me tired, and unmotivated, and sometimes, it teams up with its ugly friend anxiety to make me hesitant to leave the house. It doesn't have to be a bad day or even a so-so day. It can be a good day, a productive day, and yet still I will be tired, still I will be tempted to crawl into my bed and read, or cuddle my cat, or just lay there until I fall asleep. Even while I'm doing things I love, there is often -- if not always -- a sense that it would be better just to be home in bed.
Is bed my happy place? Do I just like naps? Should I accept laziness and complacency as foundations of who I am, and embrace all the time I like to spend horizontal, particularly in this one very specific (and isolating) place?
Or is this the force of mental illness, even on the decent days making me believe I need to stick to what's safe and known, rather than venture out to even the most ordinary activities? Making me feel that nothing in the outside world is as fulfilling, or as worthy of my time and energy, than sinking into a pile of blankets and shutting out everything else? Making me feel that I might not deserve to be out in the world doing normal human things, because in my bed, alone, is where I belong?
I choose to believe the latter. Because depression lies, and daily it tells me that I don't deserve to do the fun stuff of life. It tells me I'd rather be in bed, and I have to challenge that distorted thinking every day, so that I don't miss out on life.
Depression will always tell me lies, but some days the sunshine and sea breeze can carry them away, just for a little while. Some days, can be enough.
I've been thinking about Thanksgiving because -- gasp -- it's less than two weeks away. I'm gearing up for the big grocery shop, dreaming of which kinds of wine to buy to go with dinner and already working on some of the goodies I can freeze ahead (make these. Just... do it.)
But it's important to note that amidst all of the festive preparations I'm making to get ready for this holiday and the others soon to follow, I'm still doing the basic things I need to do to take care of myself. I'm still sitting in front of my sun lamp for 30 minutes every morning. I'm still taking my meds. I'm still making time for naps when I need them and walks when I need those, too. Because one thing I'm starting to learn (over years of slow progress), it's that letting those seemingly small things fall to the wayside is a.) the perfect invitation for daily, all-consuming depression to charge back into my life and b.) a way for all of my planning and excitement and preparations to fall apart.
It's mid-October as I walk through the sliding doors at Michael's, a chain craft store near the mall. I'm surprised to see everything I'm looking for -- the fall-themed decorations, adorned with pumpkins and turkeys, and all the rest -- right in front of me. I find Thanksgiving place cards almost immediately and peruse the rest of the seasonal items before walking the aisles, just browsing. (I'm out! On my own! Doing happy seasonal things! This is a victory all by itself.)
Already the Halloween things are relegated to a lonely corner of the store, marked at a steep discount. A huge table sits in the center of the widest aisle, covered with nothing but white, cottony, glittery "snow," as an employee rolls up with a cart overflowing with ornaments, greenery, wreath-making supplies and more.
The holiday season is officially upon us.
So -- where were we? Ativan. Lorazepam. Pills. Right.
An “as-needed,” or PRN, anxiety medication is the newest addition to my pharmaceutical arsenal, and at this point, it isn’t really new at all. I was prescribed the Lorazepam after some intense physical anxiety had cropped up -- unexpectedly -- for the duration of a tortuous, squirmy plane ride, throughout which the only therapeutic advantages I had at my disposal were Dramamine, squeezing my husband’s hand really hard, and stealthily sipping from a nip bottle of flavored vodka I had in my carry-on (I was desperate). I also tried cell phone games and counting backwards from 100.
If you've been following along, you know that I wrote last week about the anxiety I sometimes experience at night. I focused in that post on how the anxiety feels for me physically, but there's still so much more to say. Because when it feels like ants are crawling through my veins or I can't catch my breath no many how many deep breathing techniques I try -- then what?
When the night time anxiety monster rears its ugly, dumb old head, my response can vary. Several months ago I was dealing with it every night, flipping through my coping mechanisms like a deck of cards, hoping to draw the right one. Lately it's less frequent, thank goodness, but there are still nights that go something like this.
oh, hey --
My name is Lauren. I'm thirty-something, and I like to take naps and read good books and watch bad television. I love my husband and I love my cat, and I live with depression and anxiety, which is mostly what you'll read about here.