I thought I knew the tides and habits of my own depression. Normally I can see it coming and take evasive action, or just slog through, knowing it will run its course. A few weeks ago I found myself like a cartoon character, running madly in mid air having overshot the cliff edge, and then plummeting to the inevitable crash. There had been no real warning. Sure, I knew I was low and struggling, but no more than usual. Apparently these things can be cumulative, too.
Knowing I was short of options, I pulled back from everything that was being too difficult, rested more, slept a lot, moved gently, got in extra time outside and walking. It’s taken me several weeks of really working at it to even stabilise. I usually pull away from social contact when I’m down, but I’ve not even wanted to spend time with people I am usually very comfortable with and fond of. Going in to town – I had an eye test – was a real challenge, and strangely exhausting. Through those weeks of struggle, I knew that I had to be well and together enough by the evening of the 26th October to get up on a stage and read an emotionally difficult story to about 80 people.
No pressure, then!
I managed that, and to honour a firework meet-up that enabled my son to hang out with some old school friends. The fireworks were amusing. My body does not handle loud explosions well at the best of times, but getting those reactions without the usual side-order of adrenaline is just plain weird. Poking about online, I have all the symptoms and then some of adrenal burnout, a condition that mainstream medicine is clear doesn’t exist. Fun and games! Fortunately, the ‘alternative’ cure for this ‘fictional’ problem is primarily rest, and stress reduction, so all things considered, I have nothing to lose.
I know I have to surface. I know I have to invest care and attention in fixing my burned out mind and compromised immune system. Stress is not good for your ability to fend off minor ailments, and I just roll from one bug to the next with a few days respite in between. That has to change.
There are questions to ask about why I get into these cycles in the first place. They are not comfortable questions. At some point I need to deal with the answers. There are questions (not unrelated) to ask about the sort of person I am, and the sort of role I might have. This recent round of crash and burn is just one in a long line. It was more physically dramatic than usual, with anxiety induced chest pains and heart palpitations – things I’ve had before, but not on that scale. It was a bit of a reality check.
It’s left me thinking something that, for me, has largely been unthinkable. I am thinking that being this ill is not an acceptable price to pay. I’m thinking that perhaps I do not deserve to be pushed to breaking point at every available opportunity. I’m looking at the kindness and support that has come from some of the people around me, and although I’m resisting it because I don’t really want to go there, I know I need to sit down with that, and how it compares to some of the historical stuff, and see if I can imagine myself on different terms.
I don’t want to be here again. I don’t want to live in this burnout cycle anymore. It is no longer enough to be increasing the time between collapses. I want out. It’s not going to be an easy path to walk, but I need to start believing that it is walkable, rather than assuming it would be futile to seek after anything different.