Thursday, October 11, 2012

how to tame the dragon

Two years ago I ran in my first {and likely last} 10k race and this year I ran the 5k at the same event. It was for a cause very near and dear to my heart ~ mental health ~ and was very emotional for me both times, regardless of the distance.

This year at the opening ceremonies before the race began, there was a woman who shared her personal story with her struggle with depression for the past 25 years. And there was a sentence she used to describe her depression that was so fitting.

"Depression is my demon," were her words {I'm quoting Karen Detillieux}. "A great horrible stinking dragon who, in my darkest days will sit on my chest in the morning and breathe on me with his hot stinking breath, telling me there's no point in getting out of bed."

I know that dragon. He has visited me more times than I can count...and he is ruthless.

He was certainly a regular  ~ albeit unwelcome ~ visitor in my home last winter when I went through some of the most extreme anxiety/depression that I can remember, he made the occasional return here and there all throughout spring and summer...and now his presence is once again much more regular.

In February I wrote a post about some findings I came across about SAD ~ Seasonal Affective Disorder ~ and that while I wasn't actually self-diagnosing myself with that condition {mine definitely gets worse in winter, but isn't limited to that season}, it shed light on how I was feeling. I always understood for myself how things that seem small to others can actually feel insurmountable to those struggling with any form of anxiety and depression, but it felt good to read about someone else's experience with it. It was confirmation that I am valid in my feelings when I get in these dark places; that there are others out there who understand how it feels when one seemingly small thing can really just suck the life right out of you.

And that is my desire when I write any of these types of posts. That someone out there who is going through something similar will understand that their emotions are legitimate. That they are not just over-reacting to a tough time but that depression is indeed like a dragon who can completely overpower you.

These last couple of weeks for me have once again proved to be challenging, exhausting and overwhelming. My emotional state has, at times, been hanging on by a thread. That dragon is once again taking up residence on my chest, its hot stinking breath giving me terrible messages of despair, loneliness and helplessness.

Whether it's first thing in the morning while I am lying in bed, mid-way through the day or well into the evening ~ he will randomly make his presence known out of nowhere. And the difference in my mood, demeanor and outlook is astonishing. One minute I can feel on-top-of-the-world-I-can-conquer-anything strength...and then without warning it's as if I have been tossed into a pit with no hope of ever climbing my way back out.

There will be times when I will suddenly just zone out. My expression goes blank and I am oblivious to things going on around me. I can see and hear what is happening, but I have no reaction. Almost like I am watching from outside of my body. Sometimes all I can do is leave the room and find a quiet place all to myself for a few minutes. And sometimes all I can do is pace the floor, demanding myself to calm the panic that is raging inside of me.

And all too often I lay awake at night, terrified of another winter ahead. Completely and whole-heartedly dreading the cold, dark months that I am doomed to have to endure yet again. Absolutely frightened at what lies ahead and already grieving the loss of my sanity. The fear of what is yet to come can at times become all-consuming.

Aside from the actual anxiety, the back-and-forth emotions between both ends of the spectrum can be very exhausting as well. Going from one emotional extreme to the next is a long journey to have happen so quickly that it really takes its toll. There are times when I can't bring myself to leave my house to pick the kids up from the bus stop after school because I am terrified to run into a neighbor that I'll have to make small talk with. And then there are times {like last night} where I hosted a neighborhood ladies night and I was visiting up a storm with the dozen or so ladies who filled my living room...and having fun doing it. But I didn't know ahead of time that that's the way I would take on the evening. For all I knew, it could've gone the complete opposite way ~ especially based on my anxiety levels all day leading up to the evening ~ and then I would've felt like a prisoner in my own home for those 3 hours.

I can go from mingling and laughing at an extended family gathering to not being able to make eye contact with a friend in church. 

Yes, this dragon is running my life and somehow I have to figure out a way to keep that from continuing to happen. It is very likely that he will always take up residence in my life in some form or I just need to learn how to tame him.


pam said...

I will be praying for you, my friend. I too know the struggles of dealing with depression and anxiety. Have you considered going to a counselor or therapist to talk about some of this stuff? Sometimes it really helps to have an outside opinion.

Kathy and Carl said...

It's quite the journey that you are on and I will keep you in my prayers. What struck me was that yes, the emotions are valid and real. I would echo Pam's suggestion if you haven't done so already. Can I tell you how freeing it was to talk with someone and get their advice? It helps to have a team to tame the dragon.

Kendra said...

Thanks for your openness and honesty! It seems we have some things in common:) I thought it was interesting that we both wrote about SAD at the same time! I hope you can find wonderful ways to get through this winter. And if you ever need someone to vent to who understands, give me a call!:)