Check the Doors for You are Not Alone

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So you suffer from anxiety and depression.

Know this. Write this down. Say it to yourself over and over again:

I am not alone.

I know that is hard to believe.

Trust me. It is very hard to believe.

But it is true.

True like rain. Like Carrots. Like smooth stones.

You are not alone.

You do weird shit like put seven ice cubes in your spouse’s water glass. Because seven is a good number. A lucky number. The right number. The only number. And if God forbid you should ever put six ice cubes in her glass all sorts of unlucky bad bad stuff could happen for which you would never forgive yourself. And a small part of your brain knows how silly this is. How crazy. And it wants you to put six ice cubes in her glass to show the crippling forces of anxiety that they have no power over you. But then you just can’t. And you add one more ice cube and move on. You move on because dwelling with the absurdity of what you just did would only take you another step or two down the spiral, the light and life-sucking spiral where you feel powerless and alone.

But you are not alone.

You do weird shit like order the glasses in the cabinet by size and type and purpose. Well, that’s not too bad is it? You find yourself re-arranging the glasses when someone else moves them around because it isn’t right. Isn’t helpful for those who quickly need to find the correct glass. That’s not that abnormal is it? And you re-arrange the glasses on the rack in the dishwasher because there really is only one best way for them to be arranged on that rack and if someone else isn’t going to arrange them that one best way then maybe that’s your life’s calling. And so you re-arrange. And you feel powerless to leave the glasses in some random way because doing so makes you anxious and not just bothered-anxious, but your life can’t move on to the next thing without fixing this problem-anxious. And you know that you are anxious and you can’t do anything about it. Not one damn thing.

You are not alone.

You do normal shit like checking to make sure the doors are locked at night. I mean there was an armed robbery at the 7-11 around the corner in which shots were fired and woke everyone up and the getaway car raced right past your house and you called 9-1-1 and made a report so you better believe that you are going to check the doors. And check them again. And again. And now did you really check that door. Now you’re not sure. Better check it again. And again. And again. Maybe as many as seven times.

And this is just the tip of the OCD-ish anxiety-depression iceberg that ruled my life until some therapy and the correct psychotropic pharmaceuticals taken at the correct dose kicked in. How did I know they were working?

I stopped counting ice cubes. (And other stuff and in other ways, too.)

Some folks hate the idea of being on medication. They think it will make them a zombie. That it is a sign of weakness. That they will be judged for it. That they will never get off of it. That there will be side effects. That they won’t work.

And, yes, at least one (possibly more) of those things will be true for you.

There is always a cost.

But whatever is true for you know this: you are not alone. Others have wrestled with those concerns. Others have counted the cost. Others have been afraid. Others have had to make difficult choices. There is someone out there right now putting six ice cubes in a glass who is willing to suffer a small weight gain for that ability. Or nightmares. Or is up late even now writing for a BLOG. Or stuff that they still aren’t comfortable putting in print. There is always a cost.

Every “Why me?” is in reality a “Why us?” because not only are you not alone, but there is an awful lot of people, to varying degrees, right where you are: Holding those round pills and oval pills and tear-dropped shaped pills, mostly of very boring colors, and in the case of generics, really lousy aftertaste, and telling themselves “Will this one make things right?” or “Will any of these ever start working or what if they stop working?” or “Should I cue up some more Pink Floyd?”

Anxiety and depression suck specifically because of the great lie that they try to sell us: That you are alone in an indifferent world where the best you can hope for, well, is nothing. Because no one will ever understand and you will never get better.

Well, we do. And you can. Hang in there, please.

 

The Sequel Syndrome (Or Depression Medication Failure and Its Consequences)

I stopped writing here for awhile. Well, fourteen months actually.

The psychiatrist who suggested that I share my reflections on my journey through anxiety, depression, and the auto-immune disorder called lupus, retired, and I started feeling uncomfortable “laying it  all out there.” I no longer wanted to stress out family and friends with every bump in the road, every negative thought, and every fear and struggle. This gave me the choice of being less honest in my writing or not posting at all. So I just stopped.

Maybe I was just suffering with the personal mental health blogger version of “The Sequel Syndrome” as Blogger Miriam Neal writes in her blog “writing/art/etcetera” in tackling the subject for novelists. https://mirriamneal.com/2017/06/07/sequel-syndrome-and-how-to-avoid-it. How do you get back writing again? She suggests first taking a break. Checked that block.

After 14 month  I have come to the tentative conclusion that reflection and posting and interacting with others here is helpful.  Worth the risks to all involved.  Is “good for me.” So here are words collected together in another blogpost.  For me. For you.

Like a great prologue to a sequel,  let me summarize these past 14 months in shorthand: The medication for my depression stopped working and it really sucked.

There is no test that will warn you that the efficacy of your depression meds is waning.  No dipstick you can use (“Looks like I am a quart low on happiness today.”)   No light that starts flashing or turns from green to yellow then to red. No siren that goes off.  No futuristic robot that cries out “DANGER! (inset your own name here).” I concluded the failure of my medication because one part of my mind was still functioning enough to connect the dots of not feeling emotionally mellow as I had for nearly four years; of  not wanting to do anything, particularly anything new; of being defensive, being anxious, snapping back; ED (some day I will be able to write those two letters and crack an actual  joke. Some day); and then finally, a biochemical-induced despair so sudden and severe that another moment of living could not even be imagined: One starts to contemplate sharp objects on an on-going basis. Except. Except for that small corner of cognition that says: “Yea but what about your family; all of the people you are blessed with, the activities that give you such joy.” Somehow that lone spark had not been extinguished.  I headed off with honesty to the psychiatrist and asked for an alternative. We agreed on one and built up its dose and weaned of the first medication and stood back to check on side effects. Side effects are those things that announcers read at the end of drug commercials at a rate of speech approaching the speed of light. My unscientific review of said commercials has led me to conclude that the more likely that death is involved, the faster they read. HOWEVER, the side effects for my new medication could have been spoken slowly by any fifth grader (who we must assume is smarter than most of us), but still I harbor doubts that they would have understood what they were saying. I hope so, any way. In the game of life that includes depression medication, I will be waiting another month to see if I adjust to it to the point where side effects diminish or disappear. Or not. Rinse. Wash. Repeat (as needed). 

I confess that I am broken and wonder if I will ever be whole. I am wounded and wonder if I will ever be healed. Faith declares the answer to be Jesus, the great “yes.” However, in the test of life, I’m beginning to think that this particular question is more essay than short answer; and a multi-parter to boot. Maybe struggles and doubt and pain make me a better pastor, maybe a worse one. I really don’t know. And I’m ok with that.  I “pastor on” because it was what I know how to do, believe that I am called to do, and I can’t imagine another vocation, which is comforting. I pastor on because every time self-doubt creeps in and occasionally brings self-loathing along as a date, God (and I believe with all of my heart that it is God) tosses them out with signs and wonders that open my eyes; eyes that I didn’t even know I had shut to what is taking place around me: the beauty, the spirit, the joy, the love.

And that is more than enough. me