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Depression: When Depression Visits and Stays

This is Part 2 in a 3 part series on Depression

If you’re like me, you may have met someone on vacation and said, “If you are ever in my town, you must stay with me.” Then, this person shows up on your doorstep and you regret it. You’re stuck with them. At breakfast. At dinner. Hanging out in your space. You have an intruder sucking your energy, occupying your time, and making you listen to their unending disapproval.

That was how I experienced depression. Mr. D entered my life and, like an unwelcomed guest, wouldn’t leave. I lived with him in misery for three months until the day his sorry ass left. My energy returned and I’m no longer exhausting my resources dealing with an alien who’d taken over my life.

I became aware that he had left when I woke up in the middle of the night, and the voice that would tell me various ways of killing myself was silenced. I didn’t have to hear about whether hanging or jumping was a better way to go. It was quiet. The change was profound. It was as if the angriest family member had just packed up and taken off.

With depression gone, I was able to feel. Whether sad, angry or happy, I’m grateful to be feeling again. I can read in the newspaper about people being murdered and feel sad, but that’s different from depressed. I feel happy about the small stuff, even just finding my keys. I have extreme joy hearing birds sing, walking the Venice Canals with my dogs, and I don’t fall apart if I say “Hi” to someone and get no response. That doesn’t go into the column of “Reasons not to Live.” My thrust is to live and to make a difference. Mr. D had been heckling me for three months and I’m glad he’s gone.

When depressed, it was exhausting to try to appear normal. I had to outshout the voice telling me that everything I was doing was wrong. Adding to the mess was my sense that everyone I encountered knew I was depressed and was judging me. The maid I passed in a hotel hallway knew. Audience members listing to my jokes knew. The DMV clerk knew.

When I forced myself to go out with friends, like a battered woman not wanting others to see my internal bruises, I was acting. I pretended that I wasn’t suffering from Mr. D, my own abusive man. I would try to follow their jokes and laugh when it was appropriate even though it was a chore. Laughing and smiling had become strenuous, aerobic exercises. Faking joy – when I didn’t have a molecule of it - was grueling.

One of the hard aspects of being depressed is having people ask, “What happened?” I caught on that it was better not to admit it, but before that I’d make up a fake reason.

“Well, you know I got divorced… last year.” That satisfied them. But the answer could also have been, “It’s March, it’s sunny, it’s rainy.” Depression sometimes just arrives without a reason.

In addition to being exhausting, Mr. D provoked guilt. I believed I was responsible for inviting him in. And I felt shame that I was not strong enough to evict him.

One month into rooming with Mr. D, my therapist suggested sending me to a psychiatrist to put me on meds. I know they help a lot of people, but they felt wrong for me. I don’t like meds. I worried how they might affect the one gift God has given me - creativity – and I didn’t want to take any chances. So, I asked my therapist for time for me to try to get Mr. D. to leave, promising to try harder to make it happen.

Reading that exercise and music help, I jogged while listening to upbeat music. Jogging when depressed is like running as the TinMan, with lead as feet carrying a boulder on your back. I ran 5Ks, got home and waited for that so-called runner’s high with an inner voice congratulating me, “You did it!” But, no Nike ad ending. Mr. D was still in my head, saying that I hadn’t run far enough.

Next step was my idea to hang with people who were more depressed than I was. This was a different take on the assumption that hanging out with people who were fatter than I was would make me look thinner. I’m here to tell you that none of these works.

Things got worse before they got better.

Final Part of this series next week.

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Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.