A few weeks ago, I finally said aloud in church what I had been resisting admitting to others and myself. I have entered another cycle of depression. In April, I was feeling a lot of stress about finishing some CPT-related projects and kept focusing on some indeterminate future time when they would be over, and I would catch up. But the calendar kept filling up, and my stress level did not drop. I continued to feel as though I were constantly on the verge of tears.
I began missing writing deadlines and meetings. Still, when I went to see my doctor about having a mouth so full of canker sores that I could not speak clearly (yes, also a symptom of stress) and he asked about my depression, I told him that my mood was fine.
I don’t remember now what triggered the, “Duh, of course you’re depressed,” epiphany. I only know that when I shared it in church, I felt a lot better; it took some of the power from this nebulous stress-creating force away. Knowing that people are praying for you always helps. And then, well, it’s like living with any kind of chronic pain. My husband can call and ask how I am and I can say, casually, “Oh you know, consumed by dread and anxiety,” and he can say, “Oh, the usual,” and I can say, “Yeah.”
Unlike chronic pain, this depression will go away eventually. Knowing it’s temporary is also helpful. When I am working in the garden, for some reason, the internal pain is less and I feel closer to God. This week, when I was with friends at my spiritual formation group, they pointed out that my depression generally coincides with periods when I am not writing, so I am trying to institute a discipline of writing one page a day on my new novel—working title, “Don’t Call Me Buffy”—before I run e-mail. I’m finding the results are a little disjointed. It’s a two volume novel and I know exactly how I want both books to end and I have a strong general story arc, but I’ve been unclear on the very beginning, so stopping abruptly after I have finished 250 words isn’t doing much for flow or a generally zippy opening. I’m hoping that once things start clicking I can go back and a better beginning will suggest itself.
Unfortunately, a symptom of depression is that it makes focus and concentration difficult, which affects my writing and editing, my work for Christian Peacemaker Teams and my general life skills here at home. (Yesterday my husband asked me to follow up with my doctor about a wellness screening form I was supposed to have mailed in more than a week ago, and I hadn’t mailed it in yet. Guess I’ll do that today.)
Most days, I triumph over inertia. Most days, I triumph over blind panic. If you met me for the first time, you would not know I am struggling. But just maintaining a safe distance from the magnetic pull of the abyss takes all my energy.
Yesterday was a bad day. We learned our friend Jalil Muntaqim had been denied parole for the eighth time, and we knew that for the first time he had had one sympathetic person on the parole board, so she evidently had failed to convince one other person to vote with her. All day, I couldn’t stop imagining what it must have felt like for him to have his hopes raised after more than four decades in prison and then…
Everything else seemed so pointless, you know?