Well, whadya know? I find myself in a most curious state. As I left my office today and stepped out into the crisp air, a thought ambushed me. I am content, I thought. Then, immediately on the heels of that thought, Huh. I really am content.
After the longest happiness drought in the history of me, not only is my head above water, I have actually climbed onto the shore and am standing upright looking into the sun. Looking into the sun! For the last few weeks, I've been asking myself two questions:
Number 1: How in the world did I get to the place where I went to bed every night thinking, Is it over yet?
And, Number 2: How was I able to find my way out of that wretched place?
If you're expecting profound answers to either of those questions, I don't have that to offer. I can only tell my story in the simplest of terms and hope that, in doing so, I can offer even the slightest hope to anyone reading this who may be going through the same type of darkest hell.
Melancholy has been a familiar companion to me for the better part of my life. Depression is a condition I have wrestled with on more occasions than I care to count. My dark companion had dogged my steps so closely and so often that I began to understimate the power of the disease. I grew weary of the label and the stigma of depression and, maybe, somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to believe the lie that I could wish it away or power my way through it.
I never stopped taking the medications which had been prescribed to me, and when the clouds rolled too close, I would return to my doctor seeking a change of medication. This approach worked well enough, if not ideally, until February of 2005, when life began delivering a series of knock-out punches that just kept coming.
I won't go into detail about all the life-shattering events that took place over the last six years because my experiences are not unique or even all that unusual. Perhaps, had it not been for the convergence of so many traumas in a relatively short time period, I might have come through it, if not unscathed, at least on the friendly side of sanity. Possibly, there could have been a different outcome if I had more fully appreciated the insidiousness of a disease of which I had become too accepting. Finally, maybe it was a combination of all those things - a 'perfect storm,' if you will. I don't know.
What I do know is that I began to feel ever more powerless to fight the clouds of depression that surrounded me more often than not. As I sunk deeper and deeper into that dark pit, I did exactly what I knew I shouldn't do - I began to withdraw, incrementally, from my life until I eventually found myself on the outside looking in. Oh, I would rally somewhat on the odd occasion, but it never lasted long. And it never made much of a difference.
There came a point when I stopped being the "glass half-full" person I had always been. I made that choice. I remember making the decision that I had been wrong all my life; that I had been fooling myself all along with childish optimism. That was the turning point. From that moment forward, I no longer looked at life and saw possibilities or opportunities. I sat down and wallowed in my depression.
Make no mistake, I am not taking the simplistic approach that the control or lack of control of depression is a mind-over-matter situation. On the contrary, I know that the treatment of this disease is multi-faceted and a truly monumental task. But, I also believe that one's mindset is a powerful tool and can either help or hinder the process. I could no more will myself out of depression than I could wish it away; but, my willingness to be overtaken by it or to fight against it was, and still is, a major component in the degree to which it affects me.
For whatever reason, after nearly six years of spiraling downward, something snapped in me and made me reach for a lifeline. That lifeline came in the form of a wonderful therapist and a decision on my part to participate in my own life once again. I don't claim to understand the forces that were at work to push me out of the deepest, darkest pit I've ever experienced, nor can I even begin to identify the impetus for it. But I am grateful for it. Whatever it was.
The path from is it over yet? to I am content was a journey of both agony and joy - a mystery that I may never fully comprehend. One thing I do know, however, is that familiarity does lead to contempt. My familiar and cavalier acceptance of my disease was almost my undoing. I won't make that mistake again. Depression is a formidable foe. Understanding that is key to surviving it.
Someday I may write of the depths to which the darkness took me, but I think not. I choose to remain standing in the sunlight. I like it here.
I am content.