It’s a feeling that starts as an emptiness in the pit of the stomach. Beginning as a niggling feeling that things are not right, it foretells something ominous approaching, or to steal a phrase, that something wicked this way comes. The hollow spot grows and, as it grows, the emptiness spreads from there to my heart and my mind. When it comes I try to find a way to run from it and get to somewhere that engages my mind or is loud and busy or challenging – anywhere but where I am right then. Over the years it has been a frequent visitor. Sometimes in the past it took up residence for weeks on end, maybe even months. Through a lot of maneuvering and learning and figuring things out, the emptiness has been a less frequent visitor, but still it comes. Unfortunately, February is the month it seems to have a standing reservation.
The emptiness has settled in. But there isn’t anything wrong. Life is the same as yesterday was and tomorrow will be. I am in a safe and warm home filled with food, books, my laptop and tablet, television and movies to entertain myself. I am surrounded by cozy furnishings, pictures of my loved ones, and a fireplace to sit beside while I read. Friends and family are as close as my phone. I am healthy and finally managed to make an appointment to get the COVID vaccine. I spent the week anticipating a bit of in person family time this week. And that anticipation culminated with being blessed to have a wonderful visit and dinner with my son, my daughter-in-law, and my granddaughter…a beautiful evening and a heart satisfying time giggling with my granddaughter and welcoming the Chinese new year two days ago.
So there is no rhyme nor reason to when it creeps in and takes up residence. I met my fantastic friend (and often counselor) for breakfast on Monday and was able to have a conversation about some of the things that I struggle with, and we talked of where we started and how we came to be who we are. Then I logged on to an appointment with my counselor just four days ago and felt really on an even keel. Both of those were followed by that great family evening. And then last night it began sneaking up – that tiny bit of niggling emptiness way down low inside me. In normal times I would have gone out today – somewhere, anywhere. I would have called someone to go shopping, have dinner, lend me their kids… And while I knew I should find something to do, I didn’t. It’s too hard to go anywhere right now even when I’m feeling good. Unless you are lucky enough to have a live-in maid and a handyman on speed-dial, there are always productive things to do in a home, but that would have taken more initiative than I could muster up. So I did one of the worst things I could do (other than watching the news) – I went on social media. By tonight the emptiness was growing. I don’t know if it was filling me up or emptying me out, but it wasn’t invited and it was threatening.
And all of this is exactly what makes dealing with chronic depression a full-time battle. It is unbidden. It is not based in an event or a circumstance. It comes when it wants. And it isn’t as easy to get rid of as just choosing to be happy.
Depression is also a very, very good liar. When it settles in, its voice starts on a loop in your mind telling you that you are alone in the world, you aren’t good enough, no one likes you or cares at all, you make no difference. It particularly finds those nagging insecurities you’ve had forever and puts a magnifying glass to them.
If you are experiencing clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety or other mental challenge to your well being, this all sounds familiar. There are a lot of us. Through sharing on this blog, I have met people who have shared their struggles and we have agreed that knowing we are not alone is helpful. I have been allowed into the hearts of some people I’ve known for years but had never known of their struggles. I am writing for them and for myself tonight.
One of the things that seems to help right now when I can’t use my old standbys to work out of it is to write. But it is important to analyze what you write. For years I would drip metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears onto paper. I wrote the woe-is-me, nobody-loves-me-or-understands-me journal entries. If you read back through this, I hope that isn’t what comes through. Don’t get me wrong. I could easily end up sitting here in a puddle by the end of the evening, but I’m working. I’m working to send my “guest” packing and to keep myself out of the pit. You’ll notice that I called depression a liar. I wrote about what that voice says to me. By writing it down and really calling it what it is, I can at times escape its grasp. (It even seems to be working right now.)
A SIDE NOTE: Singles Awareness Day (aka Valentine’s Day) falls smack in the middle of the month depression takes up residence for me. Some years it’s a blip. Some years it is a full-blown boom. In a year like this where we are forced into less social situations, it doesn’t seem all that different from what lots of people are facing. The bout tonight doesn’t seem to be about the day of the year, but I sure could use a hug and a kiss right now.