by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W.
I don't know how this article is finding many of you. For those of you
who are struggling with depression, mania, anxiety, rages, etc. , as I
always tell people, you are not alone in your struggles. It is hard to
fathom that while you are in the midst of a great deal of psychic
I remember once having a really bad flu bug. It kept me down for two
weeks. During that time, my body physically hurt with aches and pains,
sore throats, weakness, etc. Most of us have been there. Do you
remember how you felt during that time? We were hurting so bad that
most ALL of our attention was inward, on our pain and ourselves. It
was almost as if the outside world didn't exist because I was so
focused on feeling miserable.
Finally after that two weeks and a good antibiotic, I was in the car
driving somewhere and I remember how strange it was to actually see
outdoors. It felt so good to see the trees and the green and see
people. All this I had taken for granted before.
This is much the way I felt when I was undergoing severe clinical
depressions. What was the difference? I know this will not be hard for
anyone to answer. The depression felt a thousand times worse
than the flu and though the flu I had was not fatal, my depression
could be deadly. I fought suicide all the time. I have never attempted
suicide seriously but I have taken pills while in the hospital waiting
room (a very safe place) in efforts to manipulate mental health to
allow me into the hospital. I think sometimes my generalized anxiety
disorder has kept me alive sometimes. I was too afraid of taking all
those pills! Does that make sense? Probably not but that is how our
disorders manifest themselves into our lives sometimes. There is no
sense to it, no rhyme or reason.
I went a long time before taking my first antidepressant, as I didn't
want to be "weak" and have to take pills. When I finally did
get desperate enough to try it, it was almost 6 weeks to the mark (it
was a tricyclic) that I remember opening the drapes and looked
outside. It was like seeing the world for the first time. It was
beautiful outside and I felt alive! In fact, I didn't realize
how dead I felt for so long until I finally became alive.
I wish I could say that was the end of the story - that I was
"hunky dory" after that. A few years later that wonderful
lifesaver antidepressant no longer worked. It quit!
It was at this point in my life that I began my search for the correct
"drug cocktail" that would take me out of the hell I lived
in. In fact, it took many years to find this "drug
Those years were not all hell. There were wonderful hypomanic times
where I couldn't quit working and life was doubly wonderful, only to
be followed by a quick drop to depression - my very dark living hell.
In fact I wrote a poem about my depression during that time. It is
posted on the website as well.
"It is there for me, waiting, waiting like a black widow...so
patiently to inject it's black poisonous vile into me, to put it's
arms around me and envelope my inner core and once it has me, it's
weightless shape turns so heavy, weighing me down as if I am anchored
and cannot move.
I write, my fingers tap away on the keyboard, my mind moving
quickly, always busy. I know it is waiting but...it cannot find me
now...I am turned away. My shield is up.
But I know its patience. It will out wait me, out last me. When I
have grown heavy and tired of fighting, it will come and it will come
hard, like a bolt of lightening...as if I had been struck, being
thrown several feet away. I am down and in it's web and I cannot pull
free. I twist and turn and cry out in pain and still, it has me.
Then it gently lies to me as if it were a demon from Hell. It tells
me I am worthless and hated. It tells me to end this pain and take the
very life God gave me...and I feel God has been struck down from the
heavens because I don't feel His presence.
This deep black hole has no stairs in which to climb...alone in the
darkness, alone in pain, crying out to the universe that has no ears.
This black thing is my constant companion. It has walked with me
for many years. When I am free from it, I know it is still there,
waiting patiently, so very still."
To those of you who are feeling this way right now, I want to tell
you first of all that what you are experiencing is temporary. I firmly
believe that everyone can get better with the correct medications. We are all
different and what works for one does not work for another. Plus, new
drugs are coming out all the time.
I want to remind you that you are seeing the world through
distorted lenses right now. What you are feeling and seeing is only a
result of the disorder in your brain. Yes, your physical brain. You
aren't feeling the way you are because you are weak or are not trying
hard enough. Know that you are trying to come out of this the best you
can. I believe you are and in fact my depression seemed to worsen when
people hounded me to try harder, to do this or that. Then I felt worse
and more guilty because I wasn't able to do "this or that."
In fact I got angry. The mere fact that people were telling me this
made me realize that they didn't have a clue as to what I was
Folks, I couldn't take a shower for WEEKS on end! I would stare at
the shower and it simply felt impossible to get in there and take a
shower. So much energy that I didn't have. Slept in and wore the same
clothes for days on end without much of an awareness of this.
In fact, I wasn't able to see to house being a mess, the dirt on
the floors. I was constantly focused internally on my severe psychic
pain - constantly working hard to keep myself alive.
This is my message to you who are suffering today. It's ok not to
deal with many things right now. If your house is a mess, so what?
Keep your energy focused on things that are of priority. #1 priority
is staying alive! What do you need to do to say alive and not hurt
yourself? What will it take? Who do you need to call? Do you need
hospitalization? Do you need to dump those extra pills that you keep
eyeballing? Do you need to call 911 right now? Whatever you do, DON'T
keep suicidal thoughts a secret! Don't worry about people judging you
right now. Judgment does not apply here.
If you are experiencing a seizure, is there a reason for people to
judge you?? No! In both cases you are suffering from a physical
disorder. It is NOT your fault but it IS your responsibility to get
Ok, what is the #2 priority? Are your bills paid? Are you actively
seeking help from BOTH a Dr., preferably a psychiatrist and a
therapist? If you aren't, DO IT. That's how I began to take showers. I
would say to myself "No sense in thinking about it. There is
nothing physically preventing me from the shower. No thinking - just
You are capable of doing more things than you thought but do not
confuse me with people that I mentioned above. I don't care about your
house or whether you take a walk or not UNLESS these activities are
keeping you alive and helping your depression.
This is the time in your life that you need to work harder than you
ever have before. It is also the time when you are least likely to be
able to work hard. This is where cognitive therapy comes in. What you tell yourself is
who you are and what you do.
Become a warrior. Change your thinking
from, "I want to die. The world is rotten and so am I. I am
worthless and I hate myself," to, "I am suffering from a
physical disorder that is not my fault. I am not guilty. I am a
wonderful person even though I don't feel like it now. My thoughts are
distorted and are not based on reality. Today I am going to STAND! I
am going to do it from moment to moment, one step at a time. I am
worthy of feeling better and inside I still possess skills to
get through anything that life throws my way." Do your best with
this and remember that with severe depression, outside help is always
Just as a diabetic needs insulin, you need medication and therapy
and your agreement to STAND will get you to the Dr., to your
therapist, to making appointments, etc.
It did help when my nurse practitioner spoke with me about showers.
She said that it was indeed possible to take that shower, that I could
do it. This may sound silly to anyone who hasn't been depressed but if
you have or are, I am sure you understand.
Doing any activity during a deep depression takes a great deal of
thought. I used to feel that if I just kept thinking about how to take
that shower I could do it. Nope! It's like laying in bed reading a
book on how to get out of bed.
What worked for me was completely eliminating all thought to taking
that shower. I knew I could do it and I just went in and did it and I
was always glad I did as I felt so much better.
If this is making you feel guilty, you're on the wrong path.
Remember, guilt is a symptom of depression, so get rid of it. Who
cares if you haven't showered for months? You are living in the now -
today. Start here - now. Forget about the past!
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