Sick

I’ve always found it a rewarding challenge to attempt to write from the perspective of someone who has experienced something I never have. When I nail it, I feel as if this brings me closer to a group of people I might not have identified with before. Conversely, if I screw it up, I open myself up to all kinds of criticism and vitriol, mainly consisting of comments like “You have no idea what you’re talking about” and “You don’t understand me at all.”

Nevertheless, I stubbornly press on, hoping to at least get a better understanding of people dealing with things I might not have. For instance, I have never been stricken with chronic pain or a chronic illness, but I believe I may have received a tiny, minuscule glimpse over the course of the past week into what it would be like to deal with one of these conditions.

As I wrote last week, I have been struggling for the past several days with some mystery ailment. I’ve had two strep tests and a flu test, and all three have come back negative. My throat, however, is still killing me today, despite two trips to the doctor and currently being on my third different medication. After lounging around the house and watching movies all day Saturday, I decided to rouse myself enough yesterday to help set up our new television. Everything was fine until about midday, when the pain in my throat and the weariness in my limbs began to return. I found myself in bed before 8 p.m., cold, sore, and perturbed.

It’s been a week of this now – feeling a little better, attempting to resume normal life, overdoing it, returning to sore throat, tiredness, and achiness. By the time I woke up this morning, I was in a fine foul mood, effectively embodying the old saying “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I am never sick for this long, and I am not accustomed to having to rest this much. Not only has my body suffered, but my mood has as well.

Just from this extremely small sampling, I was offered a glimpse into why so many people who are stricken with mental_illnesslong-term illnesses or difficult-to-rehabilitate injury. I have also had the unfortunate experience of knowing several people in these situations, although I did not always understand the psychological depth of what they were going through. I did not perceive the dark cloud their conditions were placing over them.

I think of all the people who wake up one morning feeling great and unable to move the next. I think of all the people ridiculed for being on disability who would much rather be working. I think of the people whose maladies have not even been diagnosed. Is it any wonder major depression is often linked to instances of illness or debilitation? One day you’re fine, the next you can’t even get out of bed. However, you remember all the things you could do. Your mind is telling you that you can still do them. Your body, though, is telling you a different story.

I don’t know if there really is any way to overcome this type of situation. There may always be that sense of loss. Maybe new realities can be forged, though, that will get this particular person back on their feet mentally, at least. I don’t know. I will (hopefully) be healed up by the end of the week, so I can’t speak accurately for someone who won’t be better not only by the end of the week, but possibly never again. I hope I at least came close here to depicting what they might be feeling. I suppose there will come a day in my life when I will find out for sure.

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One Day I Was

One week ago today, I was in the process of working an 11-hour day. The next day, I played basketball in my driveway. The day after that, I went to church that morning and attended a Super Bowl party that evening.

Since that time, I have worked a day-and-a-half. I found out I have the beginnings of arthritis and bone spurs in my lower back and been to the chiropractor twice. I’ve also visited my family doctor twice, had two strep tests and one flu test (none of which came back positive), and received a new prescription today, bringing my total for the week to three.

I have no plans for this weekend, save for lying around the house, resting, sleeping, and, hopefully, healing up enough that I can return to work Monday.

What happened?

I mean, last week, I was a picture of health. I was running around everywhere, picking up portable tables (which sort of got me into some of the back trouble I mentioned earlier), playing guitar, blogging every day, eating whatever I wanted (to an extent), going wherever I wanted to go. I worked a full day yesterday, came home, and spent an hour in the bathroom sitting in front of a space heater to get warm.

What a difference a week makes.

I’m going to get over whatever this sickness is, and my back is going to improve. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant; I just know that sicknesses go away, and my back has been messed up like this before and gotten better. What all this has reminded me, though, is how quickly life can change. In this case, the changes have been purely physical. In other instances, though, they can be mental. And heartbreaking.

One of the stories that broke while I’ve been laid up this week was the one concerning Randy Quaid. As I watched 635586404474725712-Randy-Quaidhim bizarrely rant against Rupert Murdoch and Warner Bros., sporting that long white beard but still speaking like the Cousin Eddie I remember, I thought of all the people I’ve known who have done things I never expected them to. I don’t just mean they were mean when I didn’t expect them to be or they had some type of moral failure; I mean they went freaking nuts.

They changed. One day they were normal; the next thing I knew, they weren’t.

What happened?

Life and health are precious things. They have to be guarded and protected. Mental health is no different, though. Just as whatever sickness I had developed in my body and my back trouble accumulated over time, falling from healthy thought into mental illness or struggle is not something that just happens in an instant, no matter how sudden it may seem to us. Just as I couldn’t see any of the physical problems I’ve experienced this week coming, however, we rarely see mental difficulties setting upon us. One day, we’re just there, and then we have to figure out how to get back.

I’ve never become ill and not believed I would get better, but the day will eventually come when that happens. It’s not today, though. I have lived under the impression I would be depressed forever, and that is faulty thinking I have to battle every day. One day I was healthy; next day I wasn’t. I will be again, though. Whether you have suddenly awakened to the fact you are depressed or anxious or addicted, you can be okay again.

One day you were well. I want you to be well again.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

If you’re a follower of this blog, you probably noticed there wasn’t any “Tuneful Tuesdays” post here yesterday. In fact, there wasn’t any post at all here yesterday. The explanation for this is pretty simple.

Yesterday sucked.

External factors were certainly involved. My mom is in the hospital right now with the symptoms of what is likely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). My youngest daughter had a case of strep throat this week. My two oldest daughters are still playing basketball for a local Christian private school, practicing three days a week, and my oldest son has started Upward Basketball now as well. And, of course, as with any job, there has been no shortage of workplace drama to occupy my time.

Certainly a list such as this could cause a day to not go so well. The real problems, though, were internal, with me. I threw the day away. I stayed on the internet too much. I didn’t get enough work done. I was irritable with those around me. I did morally disappointing things I won’t discuss here. All of this put me in a state of agitation, guilt, shame, and depression. In short, I found some mud, and I wallowed in it.

Identity-ChrisYM-Blog-4-In the midst of all this, I began taking a new antidepressant yesterday. Most antidepressants don’t really start showing any effects until after a few weeks of use, so there is obviously going to be an adjustment period. I was discussing this with someone yesterday when they gave me a somewhat unexpected admonition: Be very careful to not to start identifying yourself too closely with what you’re dealing with. In other words, just because you struggle with depression, don’t let your whole life be about that.

So yesterday was a train wreck, today was me coping with the fallout of everything that happened the day before, and tomorrow will be … what? Well, I know what it could be. It could be another day of me filtering everything through the lens of a person who is struggling with depression. Someone who is going to do the best he can to cope with the struggles he faces. Someone who has to fight back the various temptations that have dogged him for years, temptations that will never go away.

Or…

Instead of focusing on the symptoms of my depression, maybe I could focus on ways to alleviate those symptoms. Better yet, I could start living as someone who has figured out what was going on with himself mentally and has taken strides to improve himself. I could put safeguards in place to avoid those temptations and realize I am someone who can overcome them. I could stop dwelling on all the things I’ve done wrong in the past and start living in the present instead. I could take one step at a time instead of attempting to review the past 20 years and map out a strategy for the next 20.

I started this blog to offer encouragement for those struggling with depression or mental issues. I wanted to let people know they weren’t alone, that someone else out there knew how they were feeling. Somewhere along the way, though, I became more focused on problems than solutions. I never want to pretend I have all the answers. In fact, I generally don’t like bloggers who claim to. If I don’t begin to think like an overcomer again, though, I am doomed to just keep repeating the same miserable days over and over again. When I went in for counseling over a year ago and began taking medication, I didn’t do it so I could remain the same. I did it so my days would get better.

So, to summarize… Yesterday, bad. Today, rebuilding. Tomorrow, hopeful. All I can do is move on. I haven’t been doing very much of that lately. Tomorrow would be a good day to start again.

We Are

My day started off normally enough today. I got up and got ready for work without incident. I got garthinto my truck and set my iPod to the latest podcast from NBA TV’s “The Starters.” This particular podcast was what they call “The Drop,” which is a bit more informal and longer than the show’s usual podcast. The guys were riffing on Garth Brooks’ Facebook introduction video (which is simultaneously sincere, funny, and a little creepy). Life was good.

Then, in a spot I least expected it, three lovely deer bounded across the road in front of me. I tried to brake, but I clipped the last one’s hindquarters. I was still able to drive the vehicle, but I hit it just enough to do some damage to the front bumper and dislodge the driver’s side turn signal. Just to be safe, since I was only a little over a mile from my house, I drove back home and swapped vehicles with my wife.

Not the best start to the day, but as it turns out, the fun was just beginning. I got a call from my wife later in the day that our washing machine had stopped working, followed later by another call from her informing me our oldest daughter had white spots on the back of her throat, a tell-tale sign of strep throat. A trip to the doctor confirmed the diagnosis. In the meantime, I was thinking about a fairly important staff meeting I’m going to be a part of at work tomorrow.

Then the other external factors weighed in. I’m still not registered for school in the spring. It’s the end of the year, so money is a little tighter, especially with Christmas around the corner. Thoughts began to swirl at that point. Maybe I was doing something wrong. My depression is kicking up again. I always fail at everything. Nothing is going to ever get any better.

To put it bluntly, I lost control. I forgot to focus on the positives. I jumped to the worst-case scenarios. I played out everything in black-and-white. Most importantly, though, I was ready to give up on hoping things would improve. The day was not a disaster; was a disaster.

poohA verse in the book of Proverbs states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” I had an opportunity this evening to take one of my daughters (the one without strep throat) to her basketball practice. Since there isn’t much for a dad to do at a girls’ basketball practice, I used the time to work on some notes for the work meeting tomorrow. At some point in the middle of jotting down points I wanted to cover, I scribbled down the following words: We … can … succeed.

I have had monumental problems in my life believing those three words. What always amazes me is how easily I can be swayed from them. One bad day, one rejected proposition, one stalled opportunity, one harsh word, and I am gone, spiraling down a path far too many of us who have dealt with depression know. What was in my head made its way into my heart, and it became who I was.

Life is not necessarily going to get any easier. Tomorrow may be even worse than today. I may screw up a thousand more times than I ever dreamed I would. Does that mean I have to quit, though? Does that mean I will never get it right? Does that mean nothing will ever change? Well, I guess that part is up to me.

I am someone who has to remember certain exercises and techniques to deal with depression. Who I am not, though, is someone who has to accept that as a limitation. That feels incredibly strange, almost alien, for me to say. Unless I want to have more days like today, though, it’s a reality I’m going to have to grasp.

Depression may be what we have, but it doesn’t have to be who we are.