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Beating Depression and Other Demons

mental health

I have these lines, these boundaries that I don't or won't cross.  They keep me in check.  They keep me from turning into my grandfather, my grandmother, and my father.  These boundaries that I guard so carefully keep me from living the lonely life of an alcoholic.  There are demons that I know are out there waiting to snatch me up if I cross too far into their territory.  The Depression demon whispers that everything is so hard, relationships, putting one foot in front of the other, all of it.  Why can't anyone else clean up around here?  Why are people such assholes?  Why, why, why?  That depression demon triggers anger.  I don't want to be angry, so I isolate myself from those situations that make me angry, you know, the ones with people in them.

My Dad wasn't always an alcoholic, but he has always been depressed and angry.  When he drinks, he isn't angry.  Angry or drunk though, he never had a great relationship with anyone for more than a year.  No friends, no real relationship with either of his wives.  We had a strained relationship.  Angry Dad was mean, and since I inherited that "fuck 'em" gene from him, I didn't keep coming back for verbal abuse and disappointment.  Then drunk Dad is just drunk, and it really isn't much fun talking to a drunk.

Drunk, angry dad rants and raves about how his Dad was a terrible Dad because he left him, and they never had a relationship.  His mother and father got divorced when my Dad was 7, and he went on to be married 4 more times (it's hard being married to an alcoholic).  He left my alcoholic grandmother to raise 3 children on her own coming in and out of their lives, raising their hopes of having a real father, then dashing it when he left again to spend time with his new shiny family.  As a result my Dad's chip on his shoulder was so big that it blinded him from the fact that he did the same thing to his family, just without all the wives and step children.

So, I keep these boundaries, this divide between the dark and the light so I don't become my father and my grandfather.  I can see this darkness swirling outside my boundaries waiting to come in.  That's how I know I have it too.  I know I have the capability of turning into them.  Sometimes it gets so exhausting putting one foot in front of the other, pretending to care about stuff, staying in the light, in the world of other "normal" human beings.  What helps me stay there is admitting that I do have this darkness inside me.  I don't ignore it or pretend that it isn't there.  That's how the darkness sneaks up on you and pulls you in, by you pretending that it isn't there.  I acknowledge it for what it is for you cannot battle that which you do not admit is there.

Secondly, I find a tether to the light.  My tether is my family and my relationships with those I love.  I cannot be a good mother (and I am a good mother), if I give into the darkness.  I cannot help my children learn to deal with the darkness that they will find in their lives if I can't learn to deal with my own darkness.  I cannot be a good and loyal friend if I am lost in the dark.  In short, I cannot help the ones I love stay in the light, if I am lost.  So, I give myself these boundaries, these rules.  Rules like, I will be depressed for three days only, then I have to snap out of it. Whether I feel like it or not, I will pretend to feel like it because those I am tethered to those that need me, and I need to be needed.  Rules, like, when I find myself struggling to not snap at my children or husband because I am angry all the time or avoiding my friends because it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and the bottle of chardonnay is really calling my name, and the 3 day rule isn't working, then I will get help from someone else to keep me tethered to the light and not get lost in the dark, not isolated from those I love.  

This did happen to me.  I found myself angry all the time, and not enjoying my relationships.  For a while I blamed it on my husband.  It had to be him.  I chose the wrong man.  But, I was becoming indifferent not just with him, but with everything.  I had about a week a month when I felt on top of the world and everything clicked into place.  A blessed week when it wasn't so hard to pretend to the world that all was well with me.  That's when I realized that my boundaries were weak and darkness was seeping in, and I was losing the battle.  I didn't wait to hit rock bottom.  I started with my primary care physician and asked for help.  I will tell you that the first doctor and the second doctor were not much help, but finally the third heard me, and believed me about the darkness.  I probably waited too long to get help if I am honest.  Part of me believed that nothing was stronger than my ability to control my own mind.  It sounds really conceited when I write it out loud like that, but I know I am not the only one who thinks this, that you should be able to control your own mind.

So here is the thing.  If you have cancer, you get help.  You are not ashamed that you have cancer.  You don't think, "I should have better control over my body than this."  It's the same thing if you are struggling mentally.  Your brain has so many chemicals firing in there it is bound to get screwed up from time to time, add on top of that genes, and life experiences, and there is no telling what can happen.

What I can tell you is that you do not want to die lonely.  You do not want your family sitting in an empty funeral hall because you made zero impact on anyone.  If you are walking around angry at people, putting others down to make yourself feel better, being jealous and angry because of what other people have, if you are walking around in darkness or numbing yourself to it so you can better ignore it, then you need to look it in the face, punch it in the nose, and run to get help.  It's tough, but you are tougher.  Find a tether whether it's your family, a dog, a cat, or volunteer work somewhere.  Find someone who needs you, and allow yourself to be needed.  Whether your only mission is to beat it so that you show your children that it can be done so that their fate is different, then do it.  Be a fighter, and build a team to help you do it.  Fighters don't fight alone.  They don't win every fight.  I don't win every day, but fighters keep getting back up, and there is no shame in that game.


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