The following is (yet another) cross-post from my newsletter about dealing with tragedy, without the bullshit psycho-babble feel-good sell-a-book crap that you usually find out there in the world. I’m sharing it because, being in the middle of a depressive episode, this is the exact right time to capture and share this kind of information. I hope it helps. I also pledge to stop cross-posting from other places I write once I start writing about something else.
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“An ounce of prevention… (you know the rest)”
— Just about everyone’s mother
#147: That Tricky Place Between Depressed And Not Depressed (Or, Let’s Talk About Depression Part 7)
First, thank you so much to those of you who wrote and shared your stories about depression, and to those who lent a kind word and helping hand. It means the world.
The good news: I’m feeling better. I’m not naive enough to believe that I’m “all better now.” That’s a falsehood of the highest order. But when it comes to a direct comparison of how I felt a few weeks ago to now, I definitely feel much better. Which is to say, I have climbed out of the deep dark pit of depression, but I’m still not far enough away from the danger zone to be negligent with my thoughts. I have to hold tight and keep doing the work.
And that’s what this is about. Once again, I turn to this newsletter and you to work through some of what’s going on with me. I’m delighted to say, it’s a far brighter day today than in prior newsletters, but as anyone who lives in Georgia right now knows all too well, bright days don’t mean that there’s no risk of rain.
It’s on the bright days that you have to do the work to protect against the rain.
I still have a dent in my truck from where the drunk lady hit me in January of 2014. I never got it fixed. There’s a bunch of reasons why, and one of the big ones is laziness. So, I have trash bags taped up over the gap at the top of the door to keep the rain out.
Every summer, the sun beats down on that tape and heats it up, day after day, week after week. After a while, it becomes brittle and starts to peel off. When enough of it flies off the truck from the wind shear of driving it on the highway, gaps form in the trash bag covering the hole. And if I’m not diligent, when those famous afternoon Summer showers hit, my truck leaks and gets damp. And if I’m not diligent when THAT happens, mold forms and the damn thing stinks to high heaven.
Now, I really should get my truck fixed. But it’s about a $4000 repair and I’ve just not found the time or spare budget to fix something that’s just as easily fixed with a trash bag and tape. But that also means a LOT more work and perseverance, lest I get hit with a suprise thunderstorm and my truck leaks and stinks for a week.
The similarities to my mind are, quite frankly, hilarious.
If I don’t do the work of making sure that I do everything I can to prevent slips, I increase the likelihood simply by pure laziness. That’s a real concern. When weeks or months or even years pass without any real incident, it’s all too easy to forget that there’s maintianence that needs to be done — just like my leaky truck. And if you need a metaphor a little more close to your own life, replace leaky truck doors with something as routine as an oil change or rotating your tires.
You go long enough on an assumption that everything’s fine and doesn’t need maintainence, eventually you’ll realize the hard way that nothing works that way. Nothing. Not leaky truck doors, or the roof of your house, or the tires on your car, or oil changes, or relationships. And certainly not Depression.
So, now that I’m out of the gloomiest part, I’ve taken an assessment to find out where exactly I have become negligent and not done the work I need to be doing. It’s no surprise: the two biggest culprits are diet and exercise. I’ve let those things slide too far for too long. So I’m rebuilding a regimen that allows me to not starve myself and have to spend 4 hours a day in the gym, but still gives me a solid meal plan and a good workout each day. Will it result in my wanting to compete in Crossfit or play Pro Football again or any of that? Who knows. But regardless of the ends, the means are important. They are a part of what keeps me balanced and okay.
The other parts — writing and doing good work — are coming along, and haven’t really suffered too much. But they’re not enough. There are four pillars to my mental health — writing, work, working out and eating right. Any three can do the job for a decent while, but not as good as all four. Just two… Well, they can hold me up in the short term, but over time, the stress created by the weight of life WILL bring the whole thing down.
That’s where I’ve arrived on this. I will be seeing a therapist to work through the new discoveries that came from the latest onset, and I will be re-establishing the regimen that keeps me healthy and straight.
Because right now, the days are brighter, and the time is perfect to shore up the leaks and prevent another flood.
Thanks so much for writing this, Joe. It resonates so much with what’s going on in my life at the moment.