July 29, 2009

What does depression actually look like?

Lately I've been wondering just what depression really looks like. I understand that suicidal inclinations and an inability to function because life is just too much to handle indicates real, severe depression, but is that all depression looks like? I mainly ask because for I don't know how long I've cycled through up and down moods. My up moods never really become manic phases, and my down times don't actually cripple me. Not really. My mom used to joke I was bipolar because I could cycle between up an down sooo quickly. Allen actually told me when we were dating that if I was flying too high when he picked me that was a signal to try and get me back home before my mood crashed. And still the man married me. Isn't love great. Fortunately my mood swings have gentled somewhat -or at least lengthened. I still can cycle between up and down in a day, but I don't cycle between adrenalin highs and sobbing in the corner lows. Not normally anyway. Nevertheless I still experience a cyclical pattern of highs and lows. About a week and a half ago I entered a downward swing that pretty much continued unabated until Monday. That is not to say that I didn't have good days during that time. It's just that my default mood is lower than usual. Monday though I woke up, and it was literally as though someone had flipped a switch in my brain. Although I didn't get up any earlier that day, when I did get up I had a much more positive outlook on life and the tasks that needed doing that day. Same thing today. In fact, I was actually upright and coherent when Allen left for work. Just that can be quite a feat some days. In the past I've questioned whether what I've experienced has been some form of depression (sometimes I think that would be a definite yes), but waking up Monday morning and feeling that abrupt switch in my personality has made me wondering whether or not my rolling mood swings actually constitute some sort of depression in and of themselves. I don't have an answer, but I'm thinking it might be time to find some. Yes, I've been through a stressful cross-country move, and I'm struggling to fit into a culture and geography that's strange and slightly scary. I also know that before I had my last depressive episode I was doing better than I have since Allen and I got married. Chores where getting done. I was feeling good about myself. I was looking forward getting fully settled in here and pulling out some of my long neglected projects and hobbies. Then....it all fell apart. I did have some muscular distress in my shoulder that was making deep breathing/sneezing/yawning painful, but I don't know how much of that was correlation and how much was causation. For one thing three days after I went to a massage therapist the pain was gone, and the depression lasted maybe 5-6 days longer. Could be related. At any rate I can't think of any one thing that triggers these blue moods of mine. A common frustration/complaint with me is that as soon as I get things on track I get knocked back on my back again. Could this be one of depression's many faces? If so it would explain so much of my discouragement over not being able to keep to a schedule longer than a few weeks because what can start coming naturally when I'm in a good mood can seem like an impossible burden when I'm in one of my blue phases.

One reason why I haven't sought out professional guidance on this issue is that my moods never really get that bad. I certainly become lower functioning, but I never really get dysfunctional. Heck, during this last rough patch I even managed to keep making my smoothies. Considering that when I get depressed it takes a good deal of mental effort to do anything for myself I'd call that forward progress. Peanut butter on rice cakes and frozen fruit smoothies might not be a complete and varied diet, but it sure beats what I've eaten in the past when I get down. So like I said, my down times aren't, on any absolute scale, that bad. They're just bad enough, and they keep coming back. Towards the end of last week I found swing music helping me to get moving and face the day. Maybe it's matter of environment and learning to talk my way through it. Maybe I need to find me a decompression chamber -be it bike riding, pedicures, or taking my hammock off to the park with my last Agatha Christie find. Maybe it means hanging out on the sofa trusting that my bad days will pass. I don't know, and I think it's time I start finding out. So maybe one of my next steps should be finding a Christian counselor in the area who can help me sort through all of this. If anyone knows of such a counselor (preferably reformed) then please holler out. If not I've got a feeler or two I can put out.

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