Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Down...

Walked yesterday, walked today. Sounds small, but we got about two feet of snow (some say) over the weekend, so I'm keeping my promise despite some unpleasant circumstances. That should be worth bonus points. So, things are still looking up.

It's a bit odd that, this time last year, I was cranking out the miles running, biking, hiking, whatever, and now I find victory in measly half-hour walks. Whatever, victory is victory.

This might be as good a time as any to talk about what depression looks like for me. I don't know why, but it seems important to get this out there... Maybe some others are suffering like I have for most of my life, not knowing what to call it.

You see, though I've seen therapists off and on over my life, I never accepted the diagnosis of depression. Why? Because I wasn't really "depressed" according to my working definition. I think this is what most people would consider the general description of depression: sad all the time. I mean, that's what the word means, right? I knew about many other symptoms, but they never fit me: suicidal thoughts, can't sleep, no/reduced self-care (such as eating), sense of hopelessness.

When I'm suffering, I'm not sad all the time. I get happy when good things happen, get sad when sad things happen, and kind of don't feel much most of the time. I take care of myself (in a way) too much by eating all I want and otherwise basically being selfish. Never had a truly suicidal thought in my head. Hopelessness? You have to care to feel hopeless, and I don't really care. With all these differences, I've always thought I don't suffer from depression because I'm not "depressed".

To sum up the basic emotional state, which I've previously described as "meh", it's a general feeling of "why bother?" Apathy. Disinterest. General laziness, it always seemed.

It's not that I thought there was a stigma to the term depression, I didn't avoid the diagnosis because I didn't want to be labeled - it just never fit. And then I learned about "atypical depression". The heavens opened, the light clicked on, and I said, "Oh, this is it." The label didn't matter, it was just that I could (finally) see that my symptoms do, indeed, fit the pattern of depression. It's just not what many people (or I) ever envision when we define depression.

Thirty-eight years, suffering on and off for about twenty-two of those years, and I never felt like I had a diagnosis that fit.

I know the diagnosis/label doesn't matter, but somehow it's validating. It's like passing out every time you eat certain foods and then, one day, finding out that you have diabetes. (OK, maybe that's a bad analogy, but you get the idea. Play along.) You have something that makes sense, something specific to treat, and you know how to manage it, or at least you know you'll be able to manage it eventually. It's something to hold on to, something to attack.

In this case, it's somehow easier to fight an enemy with a name.

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