During this twenty-year journey with clinical depression weather has never been a factor. The onset of my episodes has been in the spring, in the fall, and the latest one during the summer. Although I entered this winter already clinically depressed, I thought things were looking up. I started 2018 with a clean bill of health and my mood was lifting and I was feeling stronger emotionally. At the end of a group session on or about January 4, I told the group therapist that I thought I was in remission.
How wrong I was. My sleep pattern was already messed up and it grew worse during January. Sometimes I was sleepy in the mornings, sometimes I was sleepy in the evenings. My sleep was erratic with one exception – I wasn’t sleeping at night. (I am writing this at 2:27 AM during yet another sleepless night.)
Another sign of continued depression was the feeling of failure. During 2017 I had managed to lose 23 pounds and in two months’ time I gained it all back. My mood had improved, but my eating was still out of control. (I discussed this in my blog post, Depression: Feed It or Starve It.) I also had to stop home schooling our granddaughter. What with my depressed mood it became too much. I felt like I was failing her and my wife, but I had come to the conclusion that it was beyond my emotional ability to cope. Accepting one’s limitations doesn’t come without a price. (Thankfully, she appears to be doing quite well in public school.)
I don’t like talking about having PTSD because I feel like a fraud. Soldiers, first responders, law enforcement, and the like have real reasons to have PTSD. People who have been abducted, physically and sexually abused, stared down the barrel of a gun, or had a knife to their throat have a legitimate reason to have PTSD. I, on the other hand, have experienced none of these. And yet I suffer from violent nightmares, hyper vigilance, exaggerated startle reflex, among other symptoms. For several weeks the nightmares had subsided but came roaring back the other night in quite dramatic fashion. They have continued almost nightly since. How I’ve prayed for my sub-conscious to be at rest from conflict and pain.
January ended with the flu invading our home. First, it was our granddaughter. Then it was our grandson. Our granddaughter had another round. Finally, it was me. I missed five weeks of church taking care of the sick and afflicted, including myself. My mood suffered. My hygiene became haphazard. I isolated and did not talk to anyone for days. My spiritual life was neglected. Feelings of uselessness crept in.
It didn’t help that February was a dark, cloudy, foggy, damp month. According to the National Weather Service we had one clear day during the month here in south-central Texas. Count ‘em . . . one! My mood reflected the weather. Severe depression. No energy. No drive. No life. Guilt for being a burden to my wife. The trees appeared more barren, the clouds grayer, and the grass browner. Everything looked like an old movie – black and white. Totally devoid of color.
This was something new. The weather had never affected my mood before. Seasonal affective disorder was not in my wheel-house of experiences. It was a revelation to me that my mood was so affected by the winter months. I thought I was in remission from my months-long depressive episode, but alas it was merely a string of good days. Darkness crashed upon my parade.
Depression can be so subtle – slowly choking the life out of you. At other times it is like the proverbial Mack truck or GE locomotive that mows you down. I sat in my chair and pulled back the curtains from off the window with hope of seeing something different, but day after day it was dark. And with each murky day I became more and more enveloped in my own kind of darkness. There were days I thought of death although I was not actively suicidal.
I started to feel sorry for myself. Five Sundays and five Wednesdays had passed since I was able to go to church. Did anyone miss me? For six weeks I missed my support group and writers group. Perhaps I overestimated how much I was liked or how well others thought of me. I had to pray, “Save me from feelings of self-importance and do not let my pride cause me to stumble in my spiritual, mental, and physical recovery.”
I am thankful that winter is mostly over, but I must admit it was not totally devoid of light. I managed to turn an old entertainment center into a computer desk and a TV stand. Both pieces look really nice. Over the weekend I worked in the yard and installed a replacement garbage disposal. Insomnia persists, but otherwise the forecast calls for sunny skies with a side of improving moods. All is well.
The LORD be with you.