They say that when you stop trying, good things will come to you. Oddly enough, it’s true.
Ever heard of couples who quit trying to conceive, maybe even adopt, and then suddenly have a baby of their own? That’s an example of what I’m talking about. For me the principle was proven when I quit trying to meet Mr. Right, only for him to appear out of the wilds of the World Wide Web and marry me after one date.
When it came to my depression, the same principle held true. When I quit trying, when I quit fighting it, suddenly it magically went away. It was if my depression was feeding on the attention I gave it by struggling with it. Like a Pink Elephant, as soon as I stopped focusing on it and absolved myself of guilt for it, it evaporated into thin air. It was a bully rendered powerless when I no longer feared it.
Here’s how it happened.
It was a gray November day. My husband had run to the gas station, so I had a few moments to sneak in a quick vacuum. He hates the whine of the vacuum, so I try not to vacuum. I see it as a kind of torturous cognitive behavioral therapy for my over-the-top OCD compulsion to clean. I only vacuum when either 1) he’s not at home or 2) out in the garage. (Lately, I’ve discovered the joys of the old-fashioned, silent carpet sweeper which is a perfect example of marital compromise. He gets quiet. I get to clean, glory hallelujah!)
But I digress. Frequently.
Anyways, as I struggled to unplug my perpetually plugged-up vacuum hose by ramming it up a smooth apple tree limb, my mood couldn’t have been worse. Depression had me in a choke-hold, making me feel like I didn’t even deserve to be alive. Raised as I was in the Hell of Perpetual Happiness, I was riddled with False Guilt for being sad.
Hiding behind the apple tree, I put my head in my hands, allowing myself to hit rock bottom. Since my teen years, I’ve learned that the only way to get out of that black place is bounce out. No, I mean it.
Once I hit the absolute bottom of self-loathing, my sense of humor and sense of proportion bounce me out of it again. It’s weird, but it works. It’s like “rock bottom” is rubberized, a psychological trampoline.
But today was different. Today I’d had enough. Enough!
Psychological Family Tree
As my regular readers know, I’m a big fan of making Psychological Family Trees. Dredge up every memory, every family tale of the mental challenges your ancestors struggled with and note them in Family Tree format. After all, a lot of our struggles are genetic.
The women on one side of my family all suffer from OCD. Generations of men in my family have suffered from depression and extreme rages, even blackout rages. Anger’s been my companion since childhood, and OCD and depression since my teens.
Usually, I blame myself. Berate myself. Loath myself for all-of-the-above. In fact, some people define depression as anger turned against yourself. Maybe I’d simply decided not to be angry at myself anymore.
But on that gloomy November day, I wasn’t buyin’ it anymore. I was done taking responsibility, done blaming myself.
Not My Fault
When my husband returned, Dove milk chocolate bar in hand to cheer me, I sat him down for a talk. Now usually, I’m the quiet one and Michael’s the chatty one. But this was one of those rare days when I had something to say. Like comedian Jeff Foxworthy says, a good husband knows that the key to a good “talk” is to not to talk. Michael gave me the chocolate and shut up like a clam. Very good husband.
“Michael,” I said, “I’m done feeling guilty for having depression. It doesn’t run in my family. It romps! I’m no longer taking responsibility for it. Some of it may be nurture, some of it may be nature. It’s just how I am.”
He nodded, sagely.
“Oh,” I continued around a mouthful of chocolate. “I’ll take my Vitamin D and my Vitamin B, but it-is-what-it-is. Obsessing over it is over. Blaming myself is over. I’m done fighting it. Done trying to ‘think my way out of it.’ No more mental gymnastics. It’s not my fault. ”
Oddly enough, he not only understood, but approved.
A Funny Thing Happened
A few days after that conversation, I noticed somethin’ funny.
I wasn’t depressed anymore.
I’m not shitting you. The depression simply wasn’t there anymore…not even that loathsome Afternoon Depression that always send me cringing to bed around 3 p.m., only to re-emerge when the soft, comforting nighttime fell.
I hadn’t change a thing and I’ve never taken anti-depressants.
The depression was just…gone! It’s been five months now and it’s never returned.
I’m not saying this will work for everyone. In fact, I’ve come to believe that depression is half nature, half nurture.
Nature (genetics) can set us up for depression. Physical ailments like hypothyroidism can result in depression. Fluoride in the water has been linked to season depression (SAD). Hell! They even say that chemtrails could be causing it.
Meanwhile, nurture (abuse) can really make that ol’ depression monster rear its ugly head.
But I think depression is a monster that feeds on attention. It feeds on the attention we give it when we blame ourselves. It’s fed when we think about it too much as we try to think ourselves out of it.
That’s why I call it a Pink Elephant. I know something about Pink Elephants. When I was a teen, I got curious about how ouija boards worked. Maybe, I got a little hung up. I dunno because my parents questioned me, interrogated me, shamed me, yelled at me, preached at me every day…all to break my supposed “fascination” with demons.
You guessed it. Trying not to think about evil only made me think about it more…and so I got yelled at more. It was a vicious, vicious circle. As soon as my folks got too distracted to play Thought Police, the supposed “fascination” just went away. The Pink Elephant evaporated.
And as soon as I kicked depression in the cojones, it deflated like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float. It thrived on the attention I was giving it. One swift kick to the balls, and it was kaput.
Give It A Whirl
Not saying it’ll work for you, but give it a whirl. Stop trying to think your way out of depression. Focus on something else for a bit. Binge-watch your favorite show. Check out the entire series of your favorite books from the library. Give your tired mind a break from constantly fighting, fighting, fighting. Flip depression the bird. Kick it in its bollocks. Prick depression’s pompous bubble, then stand back and watch it deflate.
It worked for me. I’m praying it works for you too!
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