I’m not okay. These three small words may make some of you uncomfortable. Perhaps they’re scary enough to make you reconsider reading this blog. If so, I understand.
I’m not okay. That does not mean that I’m on the brink of losing it, or falling into a dark hole. What I’m telling you, at this moment, is I’m afraid of those things happening. There’s a profound sadness making its way throughout my brain, traveling south in the fast lane towards my heart. I can only compare it to the aura I get before a migraine – tiny sparks flying before my eyes, forewarning of the pain and misery of what’s in store for the following 24 hours.
I’m not okay. The melancholy with which I awoke this morning is a telling sign that an episode of depression is about to strike. Or, maybe not. I can just as easily get up tomorrow and feel fine. That’s the frightening part of living with a chronic illness. Any sign, (or omen as I call it), of an impending strike, evokes a primal fear – what if this is it? All rationality dissipates when I’m in this place. The years of bouncing back from hitting bottom don’t mean much when I feel the magnetic pull of the dark side. Will this be the time when I reach the point of no return? But maybe it’s only a fleeting bout of the winter blues. After all, the past months in the Northeast have been filled with icy polar-vortex gunk, turning the roads and streets into dangerous sheets of slippery, pot-holed frosty pavement. My instinct to hibernate is at an all time high.
Writing about it helps. Especially when my sweet dog Anya is sleeping soundly next to me. I’m not up for talking it through – analyzing and speculating why I feel so off and so terrified. As a seasoned therapy patient, I’m well versed in the Q&A of treatment and don’t feel the need or desire to make a call. The big red panic button seems off in the distance, yet I still worry that maybe by tonight or tomorrow I’ll be in my crawl space, hiding from the world.
I wonder if it’s possible to have Major Depression and ever live completely without the fear of it paralyzing me into oblivion. Then again, trying to surmise about my future is robbing me of my present. If I had a dime for every time I’ve been told to live for today, I’d have a boatload of coins stuck behind my sofa cushions.
Live in the moment. Breathe. Make a mental inventory of the objects in the room and welcome the sunshine pouring through the windows. Take another sip of freshly brewed coffee from the I Don’t Do Perky mug and relish in the early morning’s silence.
As if on cue, Anya shuffles over to the sunbeams hitting the wood floors and stretches out, making sure every inch of her long body fits perfectly in the rays. She’s closing her eyes and drifting back into a carefree nap. I doubt she’s wondering if she’ll be able to do the same thing tomorrow. I bet all my virtual dimes that she isn’t scared of having her water bowl stolen or losing her favorite blanket. For all of that lack of concern, she’s able to soak up the warmth and live in the present.
My sadness has not gone away, however the fear of spending my life in an eternal state of despair begins to lift a tad. Some days I’m convinced that I have a tight grasp on my depression – I walk with pride, and stand tall while bursting with enthusiasm. I tell myself “I’ve got this,” and lap up every minute. I’ve learned to never take a good day, or even a good hour, a good minute, for granted. None of us should. So when I wake up full of dread and impending doom, I must shift my thoughts to the here and now, just to survive. It’s times like this that simply not getting any worse is something I consider to be a success.
In many ways, chronic depression is similar to the weather. This week’s forecast is calling for more bone-chilling temperatures with no end in sight. But winter is only one of four seasons and as time passes, spring will gradually arrive.
I’m not okay. But I will be.
Adrienne Gurman has over 20 years of experience in advertising, marketing and magazine publishing. She is currently the Vice President of 1212-Studio, a product design company in NYC. A native New Yorker, Adrienne lives with her husband and their vivacious chocolate lab, Anya. Adrienne began volunteering for Bring Change 2 Mind not long after the organization was founded, and has since been a leading advocate for fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness. She has lived with Major Depression since the age of 12. Adrienne writes a weekly blog for esperanza magazine and continues to be a growing voice in the anti-stigma community.