by Lillian Csernica on June 16th, 2015
1) Putting up with other people’s unmet needs, perception gaps, etc.
I’ve had enough therapy and psychiatric help with my depression to have some understanding of psychodynamics. This means that now and then I can make a somewhat educated guess about why certain people are doing certain things. This does not mean I have any right to grab such people by the collar and give them a lecture on how they could stop being so aggravating. Such understanding of their suffering compels me to show compassion. Yes, that’s the high road, and it’s the best road. I will admit that there are days when I’m stuck in emotional traffic and the Low Road is the only one I can travel. There are other days when I am sick and tired of putting up with some people and whatever it is they do that makes my life that much harder. When I’m having a bad day, I do try to warn the people who have to live with me. I’ve been told more than once that Person X is sick of living with my problems. Guess what? SO AM I! I don’t want to be the way I get on my bad days. Which brings me back to putting up with other people. I think a few of them really do enjoy the emotional drama. There are others who are trapped inside their problems just like I am. For their sake, I have to take a deep breath and show them the understanding I hope for when that’s happening to me.
2) Knowing you really can build a ladder out of the Pit, even on the days when you don’t want to try.
Accountability is a pain in the ass. One of the annoying but necessary functions of a therapist is the way he or she keeps me honest. I used to say things like, “I hate life.” The therapist I had then would say, “Really? All of life? Everywhere in the cosmos?” Of course not. There are kittens and ice cream and sexy movie stars and good books. So we’d narrow it down to what I was actually hating on that particular day. Get the sense of being overwhelmed under control. Check. Discuss why I’m hating that particular person or thing on that particular day. Check. Hate? Really? What are the feelings underneath? Check. Achieving a more balanced perspective on the situation. Check. Yes, all that is helpful. Yes, all that is what I’m paying the therapist for. Still, there are days when what I really need is a damn good hissy fit.
3) Enduring the armchair psychoanalysis of idiots without smacking them upside the head.
God save me from the fans of Oprah and Dr. Phil. Thanks to the boys and to working at home, I don’t go out and mingle with the public as much as I used to do. When Michael was little, if we took him out in his wheelchair people were constantly bugging Chris and me with all kinds of nosy questions and “helpful” suggestions. Michael’s problems are largely physical, so they’re more obvious. I don’t wear any kind of lapel pin or Medic-Alert bracelet that says “Major Depressive Disorder,” so people can’t see what’s “wrong” with me. There are those people who have whatever empathetic abilities who seem to pick up on my gloomy vibes. This is why I stay home if at all possible on bad days. If there’s one thing I do not need when I’m in the Pit, it’s attracting the psychic vampires like a bug zapper at a Kentucky truck stop. This is just Stage One. We move on to Stage Two when people start making all kinds of helpful suggestions. Uh huh. If I could just thank them for their concern and then run for it, I wouldn’t mind so much. What really gets me are the stories. This person’s sister. This person’s aunt. This person’s cousin. After about ten minutes of listening to these people tell me all about what they know is really the problem, I am bitterly tempted to point out the probable cause and effect behind the behavior patterns I’ve witnessed just in the time they’ve been talking. That never ends well, but now and then I feel justified in claiming self-defense.
4) When you do have a bad day, the people you live with think that just because you have a lot of good days, you should be able to snap out of it. It does not work like that, but there’s no getting some people to grasp that fact.
What more can I say? I’ve been married for twenty-seven years come next month. I’ve been under treatment for my depression for a bit more than half that time. (The depression had existed long before I got married, so please don’t assume it’s all my husband’s fault.) There have been days when my mother, my sister, and/or my husband has asked me why I’m not better now. There is no “better” in the sense of being cured. Clinical depression cannot be cured, it can only be treated. This lack of understanding makes good days difficult and bad days even worse. Please see #1 and #3 for further details.
5) Hating myself for being so needy on my bad days.
It’s really grim knowing that I’m behaving like the very people I’m complaining about right here. My own personal hell is lined with photographs of what I look like in the mirror when I see my face all blotchy and tear-streaked again. A long time ago I learned when to tell my husband, “Stop trying to reason with me! I am not rational right now!” You know how men are wired. Problem? Solution! Another problem? More solutions! I don’t want solutions. I just want to scream and cry and do whatever it takes to lance the emotional boil inside me and drain that poison. I realize this is not pleasant for the people who live with me. This is why I lock myself in my room and I lock my pain up inside my head and I don’t let anybody know how much I need help. This is not healthy, but it’s what makes sense at the time. It’s what keeps me from being the kind of person I can’t stand, the kind of person I never want to be, the kind of person that I fight to understand and support on the days when I have enough strength to do so.
There’s that saying, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” It’s not true. For people who suffer from serious depression, life’s a bitch and then you wake up in the morning knowing you have to live through another day.