“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.”
-Said by President Abraham Lincoln while suffering depression-
I have often wondered how this great man could have gotten this country through a civil war, all those awful years he lead this nation through… and to do it while suffering from a mental illness. And depression at that. A disease that takes away all will, indeed any inertia whatsoever.
I know this feeling he describes. For me, when it is at it’s worst, it is not the miserable moments of hopelessness, or even the days of crying jags that rack my body with sobs. The worst of it is when I feel nothing. Anything that I have found enjoyment in before, does nothing to move me. If I can muster a small spark of energy to go through the motions of something that I absolutely must follow though on, if it is done, at its best, it is with a zombie like presence. And quite often very quick to snap.
These are the days I remove myself from people. Alone upstairs, if my husband is at home. He especially I don’t want to cause any hurt. He is not the most compassionate person, and that is difficult, even painful to experience, I admit. Yet, if he did process emotion to that depth, I don’t believe we would still be together after all these years. I don’t want this to be misunderstood. Mark is a wonderful man, he has been a good husband to me. He isn’t cruel, or uncaring. He is just not one to express emotion for the most part. He is a ‘shake it off,’ ‘suck it up,’ type of man. His father was raised Amish until adulthood, and his mother raised in foster care. From there I will leave the reader to draw their conclusions.
How this has played out in my own life has been to my benefit. It forced me to take responsibility for my own emotions, and the consequences of acting on those emotions. For my own emotional well-being. I had to learn to fight through the foggy haze of depression, and find words to tell Mark what I needed. He would never be able to empathize with me to such a degree, that he would be able to articulate from my disoriented state how to respond to me, or even what to do, sometimes. Because of this, I began to remove myself from people when extremely irritable, or easily wounded mental states had me in their grip. Both of these states can easily be escalated into far more dangerous situations. Learning to do this, allowed me to eventually understand the difference between ‘reacting,’ and ‘responding’ to a situation. Those who have Bipolar disorder typically react to emotionally stimulating events, and if any higher cognitive processing happens of the event, it is an after thought.
Those two changes in how I handle my life now, have changed my life for the better. Removing myself when highly vulnerable to being hurt, or doing the hurting, and not reacting, but pausing, thinking, and then responding. Seems so simple just to read it here. It wasn’t. It isn’t. Some-days, it isn’t even possible. There also was a book I read years ago that was a big help in doing both of these, and more. Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements.” I won’t spoil it, and summarize other than to say- it’s a very small book that packs a punch. It really is about just four agreements, decisions you make about how your going to live from then on. It is a life changer. I reread it yearly.
The biggest life saving tool in my arsenal however, is writing. Journaling, and when I can reach through the fog well enough, writing poetry. For me, poetry brings something beautiful back from the depths of a dark and debilitating depression. My father use to say, “but its so sad…” Well, I was depressed, that was kind of the point??? He still doesn’t totally get it; someone who hasn’t experienced depression to that degree, won’t. He does somewhat understand what it means to me now, to have something to show for it all. After coming back from that place.. And I have come back, time, and time, and time again. I hope that I always will.. And in those moments when sadly, I am hoping the opposite- I have been blessed that lost deep with in those dark, empty and lonely times, earthly, and heavenly angels have been there to pull me through.