“I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity.”
– Igor Stravinsky (1936)
Igor Stravinsky’s quote above expresses a major component of what I aim for this blog to be: a kind of snapshot of how I’m doing on a particular day, what I’m thinking about or struggling with … or how I’m succeeding. If depression has taught me anything, it is to live one day at a time. The joy I feel today might be replaced by anguish tomorrow. A day it takes all my strength to get through (probably because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before) might be followed by one of the best days of my life.
My emotions are intense, but they are also temporary. In the worst moments of my life, survival can take the form of remembering, “This too shall pass.”
In the moment I might feel like ripping off my skin, but knowing it is (probably? … hopefully!) temporary allows me to be in it. I can breathe. I can keep myself from doing something impulsive and stupid and … irreversible. I might even be able to learn from the experience.
There is great power in feeling the full force of one’s emotions, including the compulsion to act on them, and knowing that – as unpleasant as it may be, and that’s a terrible understatement – it’s okay to feel this way. I don’t have do whatever it takes to make the bad feeling go away. I might hate it – that’s okay too – but I can be in it. And if I can be in it, then I can get through it … whether through my own strength, or by calling out for help, or by going to sleep and hoping things are better in the morning.
But on Wednesday I read something, and now the “What if …” bug is buzzing around in my head. I asked for feedback on the look and feel of my blog on The Daily Post‘s post, Branding Your Blog: Let’s Get Visual. In one day I had 86 visitors to and 154 views of my blog, blowing my previous records out of the solar system!
I want to thank everyone who dropped by, particularly international visitors, and especially those who signed up to follow my blog, commented, or liked a post. Your engagement means the world to me!
I would especially like to thank two fellow bloggers who helped me out with a day with depression. Wander One Day suggested that I change the background color to the lovely bluish-grey it is now. She also put into words an aspect of my experience that I wanted to convey through my title, but hadn’t quite put into these terms:
I think the fact that it is a “day” with depression, rather than “life” with depression or something more permanent, shows that you are not content to live with it forever – it is something that is transient.
Somehow I doubt it’s realistic to expect to walk away from depression completely, but I can come to a point where it no longer has a significant impact on my daily life. I need to develop and will need to maintain better habits, such as my efforts to overcome codependency and getting 8 hours of sleep every night. I might have to be on medication for the rest of my life. But yes, my hope and my goal is for my current experience of depression (as an illness that limits my engagement in society and sense of self-actualization) to be transient. This is what I mean by my (current, as of writing this post) tagline, “… and hope for recovery.”
In a somewhat similar but more provocative vein, Sandra Conner really got me thinking about what I’m striving for – and succeeding in. Her reply to my request for feedback is a bit long to quote in its entirety here, so I’ll share the parts that inspired the “What if …” bug:
[…] As I read over some of your posts, I feel [that] your sense of taking hold of life bravely and moving forward at every opportunity are two very strong elements in your personality and character. They seem to identify you much more than the depression. I keep feeling you should focus on your success in moving forward toward recovery.
[…] what I read on your site indicates that you are well on your way to not being imprisoned by depression at all. I would let the title celebrate that fact.
[In a follow-up comment:] I definitely do see in your writing and your lifestyle a great deal that is positive and indicative of having overcome depression.
I don’t always see myself in such a positive light, so it’s very helpful, inspiring, and motivating to receive this kind of feedback. It’s easy to get trapped in seeing the aspects of my lifestyle that are unhealthy, to the exclusion of the ways in which I’m doing the things Sandra describes.
What if instead of seeing myself as a person who struggles with depression, I see myself as a person who successfully lives with depression – one day at a time?
(This is a component of narrative therapy.)
Somehow, suddenly, “the road to recovery” seems a lot shorter! I’m already doing what I just said I want to be able to do … perhaps just not quite as consistently as I would like. That is to say, some days I live with depression more successfully than others; I’d like to – and can! – increase the percentage and frequency of “good” & “okay” days.
Which brings about another question; this one is a bit more hypothetical. But we’re in the land of “What if …” – where anything is possible!
What if I have recovered from depression?
(This is kind of like the “miracle question” in solution-focused therapy.)
… … …
My shoulders relax; it is as though a weight has been lifted from them. The corners of my lips creep upward – a hesitant, but growing, even glowing smile. I feel a sense of peace come over me as I breathe in more deeply. I am tired, but not sad.
I know I will be able to handle whatever tomorrow brings … especially since I’ll be practicing my maintenance habits and getting 8 hours of sleep tonight!
… … …
Now that’s a good feeling …
Ziya, you have the power to help other people on your journey. Beautifully written piece from the heart. We need more writers like you. Loved it. Writing can be the best way to shake things down and see the real you. I see you, I admire your courage, thank you for sharing, one step up and then another.
A day with severe depression is me trying to find a large rock to hide under. Bed is no use, sleep will not come to black me out. I fear strangers like this, I’m ready to lash out at them to relieve my pain.
It is a curse, worse than dying slowly. At least death would give me rest.
Thank you so much for having the courage to share your experience of severe depression. I haven’t felt that way in a while, but your words help me remember what it’s like.
I don’t know how helpful these words will be, but I’ll offer them to you to consider or ignore; you know what will help you at any given point in time and what’s just words.
It can get better. Always hold on to that possibility, even when it seems completely untrue.
You are not alone. There are people more than willing and able to help. One of the worst cruelties of the world is that we need to reach out to them when we want to isolate ourselves the most. But they are there, and they will help if called.
I hope you can find some solace in my writing; I am honored that you have decided to follow my blog. If you haven’t already, I would also like to recommend visiting blogs by members of A Canvas of the Minds and The Mental Health Writers’ Guild. Those communities are great sources of information, different perspectives, solidarity, comfort, and strength.
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