Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Depression Wellness and Illness (Part 1)

Usually, my depressive episodes abruptly end...the same way they begin. Although nothing changes in my life, all of a sudden, I awaken one morning and I feel fine without taking Adderall. But, this time, the depression is receding in a slower fashion. I've been feeling progressively better--although there have been days of feeling worse, but they were usually caused by situational incidents.

So, how do I know a depression is ending? There are some obvious changes in the way I feel.

1. I enjoy gardening and home improvement tasks. If I'm feeling blue, I make myself go outdoors and garden or work on home improvement projects. I don't necessarily enjoy myself, but I know that being outdoors and focusing on clearly defined projects works for me.

Often, it takes hours for a bad mood to lift. While doing these tasks, my thoughts may not be uplifting, but I know that action outside is better than inaction inside. And the more mindless the task, the better. I prefer weeding to planting. I prefer sanding a wall to painting, which requires more precision and a higher level of skill.

When I'm well, I love doing these activities, and they made me feel happy!

2. I enjoy talking on the telephone. When I'm depressed I have to force myself to talk on the telephone, and rarely do it. I prefer communicating with my friends by email. It's actually easier for me to talk with people in person than it is on the phone. Perhaps the reason is because there were years when my voice sounded so off...so sad...when I was depressed that I could barely recognize it myself.

3. I enjoy being with people. Again, the difference is that when a depressive episode lessens, I can force myself to be with people (during certain times of the day). Actually, when I'm depressed and lonely, I prefer being in public places (like libraries) with people, but I'd rather not have to engage them. And when I do interact, oddly enough, it's often easier to be with strangers than with friends.

When I'm well, I genuinely enjoy interacting with others. It's as if my personality switches from introversion to extroversion. Perhaps my gardening and photography classes are good examples. As I've already mentioned, the first day of my gardening class, I felt the other students weren't very friendly.

The second week, I realized that most people talk with others they know. And they weren't unfriendly, just reserved. That week I began identifying the people I thought I'd like. Five of the top qualities I look for are a sense of humor, intelligence, a generosity of spirit, a certainly level of openness, and people who can readily smile and laugh.

The third week, we gardened together so it wasn't an issue. Somehow, communal work brings out the best in people. And so it goes.

My photography class was quite different. The first night I was stunned by how rude six of my classmates were. They talked when our teacher was lecturing, and the tone of some of their questions was rude. I immediately found a friend, a guy who was sitting behind me, because he had a lovely smile, and a ready laugh. But I thought that might be it for this class.

During the second week, I realized that the rude people continued to be rude, but I wasn't the only person who was offended by their behavior. I identified more people I like--some who were shy, and took awhile to open up, and a few who were insecure, but came across as arrogant.

What I realized, and I know this about myself and sometimes forget it, is that the way I respond to people has a great deal to do with my mood. When I'm marginally depressed, everything affects me, and I take everything personally. When I'm well, I don't.

(to be continued)


marja said...

I too feel it's difficult to interact in an outgoing, friendly way when I'm depressed. What I've found as well is that I become very self-centered. After awhile I realize this is happening and hate myself for it. I pray for othercenteredness, but it's hard to come by at times.

I think one of the things I most appreciate about not being depressed is the difference in my ability to relate to people, showing an interest in "them" and forgetting about myself more.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
As always, thanks for your insight on this issue. I think it's a really important topic.


preciousrock said...

Reading this, I felt as if it could be my own written description of when a depression lifts and how I interact during depression. You describe things so well.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear preciousrock,
Thank you! I really appreciate knowing when my experience echos someone else's. I plan to spend the entire week on this topic.


dipsydoodlingarounddepression said...

Thank you for sharing that wonderful list. I felt happy just thinking about you enjoying those activities. I know that feeling, kind of like the difference between a dull day with a thick heavy fog, and a bright sunny day. I find a blue sky is bluer when I am not depressed. For me the big change is how I enjoy just being with the people I love, when I am not depressed. It is depressing in itself not wanting to spend time with people you love....
Wendy Love

Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Wendy. Yes, it is depressing when we don't want to spend time with the people we love!


Coyote Ugly said...

When I was reading this post it dawned on me that I feel like this. I find telephone conversations a real trial and interacting with others these days is a total nightmare for me. So I will be reading all of your post with great interest. Thank you Susan for being so open about this subject.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Coyote Ugly,
Welcome to my blog. I share my feelings about all this because I think it's really important for us to know if others feel similarly.

I believe that one of the worst aspects of feeling depressed is the isolation. And perhaps one of the reasons we isolate ourselves is because we feel our behavior is unique to us.

What I've learned from writing this blog is that there are more similarities than differences.