Sunday, March 7, 2021

DRAGGING ALONG WITH DEPRESSION

Decades ago when I had a new baby and my parents had moved in with us and my husband and I had a very busy marriage ministry, I gradually found myself slipping down into a dark depression. It came on gradually because I was so busy with carpools for the older children, trying to hold on to my role as an adult when my mother seemed to be criticizing me as a wife and mother, writing and giving talks in our marriage ministry and all the other myriad of things involved in keeping the home running, the meals cooked, and the calendars coordinated.

We had a group of couples who met every few weeks, and one night I remember bursting into tears and saying that I was sure I needed to see a counselor, but I didn't have anyone to watch the baby so I could go--I didn't want to ask my parents and let them know how I was feeling.  One of the wives immediately said she would, and my beloved husband found a psychologist whom he knew through a church group and offered to make an appointment for me.  He even drove me to the first appointment because it was downtown and I was nervous about driving there.  

After that, on Fridays, I would meet with the psychologist at 11 and then my dear husband would come home for lunch, and I'd tell him all about what I had discussed with the psychologist. He was an excellent listener, so I was getting two sessions for the price of one!  Slowly, over the course of the next year, things improved, but so gradually that I didn't think I was getting any better. I can remember going in one day and thinking that things were so bad that I was going to ask why he wouldn't prescribe any medication that would help. Instead, he showed me a graph he had made of the numbers I'd indicated in a journal he had me keep indicating the severity of my depression each day.  He pointed out that I never had more than one really bad day in a row. And the very next week, I felt as if I had turned the corner. The number of my sessions was reduced until I didn't need to go back, and even after my beloved husband died, although I was grieving and sad and often felt depressed, I have never felt as if I were slipping into that black hole that I thought I would never escape.

Today was one of those depressing days where I can start to worry that I'm sliding downhill.  It was a gloomy day, and I'm convinced that I have at least some tendency toward Seasonal Affective Disorder, so the fitful appearance and disappearance of a watery sunshine left me feeling less than cheery. I had two Zoom calls, one of which was frustrating, I was still feeling the negative effects of a phone call with a friend yesterday who seems to be heading toward a very bad decision.  I argued with her and tried to convince her that she is heading toward a cliff, but I felt like Cassandra, the figure in Greek mythology who predicted the fall of Troy. No one believed any of her predictions and they all came true.

I tried various remedies for depression. I had cut some freesias, and delighted in their fragrance. I discovered that the first of the orange blossoms had opened--and can look forward to a tree filled with my favorite perfume.  I planted my sugar snap peas, which I had been putting off, so I had something tangible that I had done in the garden.  I put my tomato seedlings outside for a couple of hours to catch whatever of the sun they could soak up. I even made bread, although I'm not sure if the yeast is still good, so I suppose I'll find out after I give it some time to rise if I'm going to have unleavened bread.  None of these things really hauled me out of my depression, so I decided I'd better write this blog post, which I had also been procrastinating about all week.  

As I sat down to write, I became aware of a headache threatening somewhere in the back of my head. I received a nice text from a friend and was able to reflect that yesterday I gave a talk that was helpful to a group of widowed and divorced people. I realized that one of the things depressing me was that Sunday is the only day my oldest daughter doesn't call me because we talk on our family Zoom in the afternoon, but I reminded myself that I can always call her if I'm feeling depressed.  As I kept rolling out my thoughts I felt a slight lift in my spirits, and reminded myself, as Scarlett O'Hara would say, that tomorrow is another day!

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