Monday, July 19, 2010

The D-word

[And to those of you wondering, yes,
this is EXACTLY what I look like
when I'm taking care of myself.
Okay, well, maybe I'm a little blonder.]

"Use your words . . . " I've heard Middle Daughter say this to Bella or Boogie, particularly when they were frustrated or excited and having trouble focusing in on how to best express themselves.

"Use your words . . . "

Okay: I'm struggling. I'm not well.

There. I've used my words. Put it out there in black and white. For all of Blog Land to see. (Or, really, probably more just for me.) Words forcing me to be honest. Real. Transparent. Vulnerable. (Not sure which is scarier -- being understood or being misunderstood. Most times I suppose I don't really like either option . . . I'd rather just retreat into my own little world without giving any other live human beings the chance to do either -- know or just think they know but really don't.)

It's the D-word.

No, not D-I-V-O-R-C-E. (Tell me I'm not the only one who can still hear poor Tammy's voice pitifully spelling out that word over the radio waves.)

Not even damn or dammit.

Depression. (Okay, sometimes, "Depression, dammit!")

Ugh. (Now, I'm really using my words.)

D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N. Or to be more specific, chronic clinical depression.

Yup. I got it.

Now, before anyone in traveling distance of this blog origin jumps in the car to come check on me or "hold my hand" or -- and I really hate this one -- ask what's wrong?, let me explain.

Nothing's wrong. In fact, that's one of the most misunderstood aspects of this illness. My life is incredible. Truly. I am married to one of the cutest bald-headed, goatee-d men to ever walk the planet, and he is crazy about me and spoils me rotten. I have brilliant, beautiful healthy children who are not perfect but who, I trust Papa-God, will eventually get there, and adorable grandchildren who ARE perfect. (Okay, you know what I mean, given the right time of day and all.) I have a vocation I love that is also a ministry for which I am annointed and gifted to do. I have incredible brotha- and sista-friends who are truly among the finest people on earth. I have a cute, cute little cottage close enough to the bay to enjoy seeing the water when I head out to run errands and yet not close enough to have flooded during the last hurricane. I'm telling you, life is good!

So what's the problem? Some folks experience what I call situational depression when they experience a legitimate stresser in their lives -- the loss of a job, relationship difficulties, death of a loved one -- and that's a normal reaction to some of life's inevitable struggles. Most people understand that kind of depression and make "allowances" for that in the lives of those who are in the midst of trying circumstances.

Then there are the rest of us D-people.

For those of us who deal with clinical depression, there are no obvious stressers to point to, no convenient hooks to hang reasons for our behavior on. In fact, our day-to-day, looking-through-the-window lives may be wonderful (like mine is). And that's because our depression is not situational, it is physical. We suffer from a physical illness that manifests its symptoms in our mental and emotional well-being (or, more accurately, lack of). Our physical chemistry is askew, and it's not because we decided we would let it run amok, any more than a diabetic decides to have his pancreas malfunction.

For most of us living with chronic clinical depression, drug therapy (and often counseling) is a part of our everyday lives and will be as long as we are this side of Glory. (And you've heard me say it before folks, when I get my new body, I'm expecting it in a size 8 to carry around my new perfect mind.) It doesn't mean we are any less spiritual than the diabetic who needs insulin to regulate his/her blood sugar. We both have a physical illness that requires a physical treatment, and if we are wise, we are grateful for the medical intervention, and we allow this "weakness" to move us that much closer to our Father's strength. (Which is pretty much how He intended for all of us to live, wouldn't you agree.)

Having said that, yes, there are things we as D-people can do to "help" ourselves. Often a lack of physical care can aggravate our condition, just as it would a diabetic's. We need to be diligent in getting adequate rest, taking our medications, eating well and working physical activity into our lives. (I'm sorry, I couldn't bring myself to type in exercise . . . ) More often than not, when we neglect these things, we pay the price, much more so than the average bear. Our illness is more likely to show itself.

Unfortunately, there are also times when we can be doing all the "right stuff," only to have our illness decide to show up, much like the uninvited guest at a special event.

If an uninvited guest shows up to a large party, usually we can make adjustments without too much difficulty. We're aware he's there, but we can shrug and smile, knowing there's probably enough extra food and drink to "cover" the uninvited guest with a minimum of fuss or inconvenience.

And then sometimes the uninvited guest shows up to a small, intimate dinner party. We anticipated the arrival of the perfect mix of people, prepared a menu of everyone's favorite dishes, set out just the right amount of place settings and chairs at the table, so the presence of the uninvited guest is much more painfully obvious to all. All plans as we knew them, go out the window -- everything is thrown off kilter -- and all through no fault of our own. Hey, life happens like that sometimes. It's not comfortable, it's awkward at best, but still, we get through it.

Right now, I'm in interrupted-dinner-party mode. Though, okay, truth be known (and I do seem to be letting it all hang out here, so -- what the heck -- let's go for broke), it's a dinner party I didn't plan well for (so I'm aggravated at myself). I've been out of my routine -- school's out, I've been on vacation, and I'm home now, but St. Michael's gone this week, all of which can lead to not eating right, not keeping regular sleeping hours, forgetting to take meds or taking them at "off times," not pacing myself on projects . . . oh, shoot! Who am I kidding! It's ALL led to ALL of the above!

Now, again, to those of you who are in reach-out-and-touch distance of Casa St. Michael, there's no need to rush all the way over to downtown El Lago to check on me. (Generally, we D-people hate that. We feel awkward and self-conscious already, and, well, it just takes entirely too much energy to talk about ourselves -- or sometimes to talk at all. We need our energy just to be "normal" acting -- okay, kind of normal-acting -- and "gracious" in the midst of our interrupted dinner party.) Just cut me some slack if I need to hibernate for a little bit. I guess, now that I think about it, you can treat me kind of like I have a summer cold -- understand that I'm a little under-the-weather, and so I'm not really good company right now; I'll have an energy burst one minute and be out-and-about for a couple of hours and then feel like crashing -- desperately needing to take a good, long nap.

When the server of a good meal out asks, "Is there anything else you need?", St. Michael often says, "Just a little time and understanding . . . "

Makes me smile 'cause that's a pretty good thing for whatever ails most of us, don'cha think?

Drinking lots of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and planning future parties,


  1. great post, Pamm!! love it and totally understand. If I can run out to a resale shop or estate sale when you get a burst let me know. Us Ds gotta stick together. lol

  2. That, I'm sure, is the best description of clinical depression that I've ever read! Hope your "summer cold" is better soon! Take care of yourself!