my inadvertent nature to make life awkward…

no. 123:  Depression feels...
no. 123: Depression feels…

I cried at the doctor’s office. It was super embarrassing. I didn’t intend to, but apparently it is my inadvertent nature to make life awkward for myself and those around me. How did I come to cry in front of three different strangers in the medical field you may ask? Allow me to explain–

I have been on anti-depressants for a little over ten years now. With my medication I have to visit the doctor every nine months to check in and get another three refills for my prescription which last three-months each.  Last month my refills became due, and thus I headed to the USAF base Family Practice. Upon arrival, I sat next to the military equivalent of a nurse as she input my data into the computer system. She took my blood pressure and weight, as well as asking me the usual questions– date of birth, do I exercise regularly, do I smoke, date of my last cycle, could I be pregnant, do I consume alcohol, etc.

Defend Yourself with Apathy, 24in x 34in, acrylic on canvas 2014
Defend Yourself with Apathy, 24in x 34in, acrylic on canvas 2014

Then we arrived at a series of questions I assume the military uses to diagnose depressive behavior, prevent suicide and/or learn of unsafe domestic situations. She asked, “In the past two weeks have you–felt depressed or hopeless?  Have you felt a loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy?  Do you find yourself having little appetite?  Are your sleeping too much or too little?  Do you feel lethargic?”

There I was, repeatedly answering yes to these simple questions which require minimal self-reflection.  Yet, I felt floored.  My eyes began to water with the realization that I’m sad.  I’m really sad.  And really lonely.  Why am I more comfortable acknowledging this in the endless expanse of the internet than I was with medical professionals?

I have no idea.  Perhaps lack of eye contact?

This sweet girl, no older than twenty-five had unintentionally forced me to acknowledge the depths my depression had reached. When I later spoke with my doctor (and I started to tear up again), we agreed that moving is understandably emotional.  However, he also informed me that my current anti-depressants did tend to eventually lose their effectiveness. (So that is super awesome, right? And by awesome, I mean not really very awesome at all.)

Finally, I spoke with (and cried in front of) a licensed psychologist working as a behavioral consultant with Family Practice. He mentioned several local activities and events I could take part in—a way to get active, get out of the house and interact socially with other humans.  I appreciated his suggestions, and have since volunteered at a couple of  venues as well as joining a gym (because science says physical activity helps make the brain happier).  However, I still left his office feeling disheartened.  He didn’t seem to understand the correlation between depression and lack of motivation.  He could provide a theoretically endless list of seemingly pleasurable activities—the problem is my lack of motivation to do anything. If I am struggling to do things I usually enjoy (making art) or find the ambition to do things that need to be done (cleaning house), how likely is it, that I will venture out of my comfort zone—alone to tackle social situations when I’m nervous around strangers on a good day?

No way to make the pain play fair.  It doesn't disappear just because you say it isn't there.  -Sara Bareilles
“No way to make the pain play fair. It doesn’t disappear just because you say it isn’t there.” -Sara Bareilles

Currently, I don’t know if my medication is beginning to fail me, or if I’m simply inadequate at adjusting to my new circumstances.  Either way, this is presumably why I seem to have abandoned working through The Artist’s Way (which is a little ironic since I’d taken on the project in an effort to ease my transition from the Azores to North Dakota). However, my morning pages force me to confront my persistent loneliness every single day.  Keeping the sad realization of my utter ineptitude at dealing with life like a normal person, in the forefront of my mind.

I began to write my morning pages less and less. I haven’t done them for months now.  Apparently, I prefer to ignore my emotional and mental issues, hoping they will resolve themselves and magically disappear, if only I can deny their existence. That’s healthy, right?

But the truth is, even if I wasn’t facing this sadness—it remained, incessantly lingering in my mind. To avoid the inevitable confrontation of my depression I attempted to hide away from my emotions in my new job, 3-4 hour naps, or allowing my mind to anxiously create lists of things I needed to do (while also constantly chastising myself for having no motivation, and generally being a pathetic excuse for a human who is crap at being alive). The sadness is a downward spiral.  In retrospect, I suppose the extent of my depression was a fairly obvious.

Between Reasons to Live, acrylic on canvas, 2014
Between Reasons to Live, acrylic on canvas, 2014
page set
“Depression is an ocean, it’s prone to tides and swells” -Craig Finn

Here I am, two months later.  Winter is in full force, days are cold and grey.  My doctor upped my medication, which seems to have helped a little.  However, I fear the time when my medication will finally fail me.  I go to the gym 3-4 times a week, to attend Zumba classes.  I’m lanky with no rhythm, but dancing around like a dork usually helps to improve my mood.  I am still struggling to make new friends (for lack of better phrasing).  I’m not sure how adults make friends?  I force myself into my studio at least twice a week to work on art.  Even though I lack the motivation to create–I always feel better once I am creating.   All and all, I am trying as much as I can.  Depression is like a disorienting fog that distorts life and leaves me feeling weighted down.  It comes in waves and I’m trying to focus on the positive moments between washes of hopelessness.

25 Comments Add yours

  1. I am sooo sorry to hear this ! But I know exactly how you feel as I am feeling exactly the same way, I am on antidepressants for at least 15 years now and still I feel as if I carry the worries of the whole world on my shoulders and I always am amazed to see how happy other people are, as I just don’t understand how they can be so happy in this crap world where justice is just a word. I think I would feel better without radio, tv, cellphone, newspapers,and magazines but then you become completely ignorant of what is happening in the world. How do you make friends as an adult ? Walking with dogs and meeting other dog lovers, following a course, teaching others how to draw and paint or teach children so you’ll meet the parents too….there are many ways. I do hope you’ll soon feel a lot better and that you’ll enjoy the festive season !!! Try to count your blessings, it helps ! You are young and pretty, a talented artist, you have a sweet husband and super cute dogs that is quite something, don’t you think ? Take care ! and a big hug.

    1. Exactly! I like cute videos of kittens to distract me from all the horrible things, but then I realize these silly things are distracting everyone and nothing will change. I don’t know. I get so disheartened. I hate to be negative.

      I am very blessed. I’m healthy, I’m in a loving marriage, with family who love and support me. I think that is why depression is so annoying, in a way. I know I have no reason to feel so distraught about life, but let I do.

      1. I have no reason to be depressed either so I sometimes feel guilty that I am, others have a lot less and more problems but still they feel happy. It has partly to do with your genetic material apparently. Both my parents allways talked negatively, it was allways doom and gloom so how could I possibly turn out to be optimistic ?! My husbands side of the family, well they are always merry and optimistic no matter what happened !!!

        1. It is. When I discovered depression affected some of my other relatives it made me feel less crazy. I wish I were always positive and optimistic–but it feels like a lot of work some days.

        2. Have you ever tried zentangling ? It is very relaxing and fun and as you are an artist it should be easier for you, it is a form of meditation and you can really make some nice artworks with it !

        3. No, I have never heard of that? What is it, like a class, or a book or something?

        4. Oh but it is all over the internet, just enter “zentangle” and a whole new world will open for you, it really is interesting and there are loads of pictures and examples of how to start, if you enter “zentangle instructions” you’ll get loads and there are books about it and then you have ZIA’s they are zentangle inspired artworks. I’m sure you’ll love it ! Have fun !

        5. I will totally look into that. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Lylee Rauch says:

    I so appreciate your honesty and vulnerability- your ease with words and and ability to draw me in. I found my self nodding “I feel that way too!” frequently as I read. Thanks for sharing your realities, yourself and your art. love you.

    1. Thank you so much. That means a lot to me. I always wonder how other people interpret what I say. I’m afraid I am often too wordy, or with topics like this, too much of a downer.

  3. Alice Mizer says:

    I know how this goes, not to the depths that you are struggling with it, but I hit a low earlier this year that forced me to really reflect on the past and what I’ve been doing and how to get to where I want to be emotionally. Seeing the base counselor is a help for me, and it might be a good place for you to start. Someone to talk to and get some feedback from on turning around the emotional aspect. It’s hard to do solo for sure, but it helped me so maybe it could help you too? Let’s skype again soon, the girl’s nutty, crazy antics are sure to cheer you up a bit or at least get you laughing :)

    1. You know, seeing someone might really be worthwhile. My husband is really sweet and supportive, but I just feel like such a downer sometimes. He has a lot going on with work, and I don’t want to be a bother.

  4. Maria David says:

    I am so sorry to hear that you are flailing with depression. It’s a constant flail, isn’t it? Just when you think it’s under control, suddenly it’s not. All you can do is wish you weren’t broken. People insist you’re not but you can’t help but feel that you are. This is how I feel when I’m in the thick of it. I always wonder, is this normal? Thank goodness others have asked these questions on google because they tend to pop up in the search box pretty easily. Thank goodness there is more information and support out there.

    After years of antidepressants, I decided that I would try to stop taking them. I’m not sure if negative was out weighing the positive or they had lost their effectiveness all together. Either way I’m considering going to therapist for talk and behavioral therapy because leaving the comforts of being in Europe where people (on and off base) were friendly and the wonderment of being in a foreign place is gone.

    Sure I have made pleasantries with our neighbors here but the feeling of loneliness is palatable. Going to the store and seeing friends catching up-making plans is super harsh. It really makes me feel like an outsider. I know, we’re the house on the block that rents. We’re not here long enough to see the same classmates’ parents through Elementary School. Bonus: we’re on the East Coast where everyone is in such a freaking hurry and they are pretty rude. And for extra points we picked a community for it’s schools which makes it worse. Property rates are high and air of entitlements seem to be higher.

    My PCM on the island said something that made sense to me. This lifestyle, the military one is not normal. Moving at the rate that we do and being away from family, is not normal. Some cope better than others but for me, I need the support system and those don’t happen overnight. It takes time to meet people and get to the point where you are comfortable enough to pour your heart out to them. Once you have that, it cruelly get’s ripped away from you and scattered around the world. Only a few more PCS’s, thank goodness. What used to be an adventure has turned into a dreadful chore. Yay for us, we get change, taxes, and death as our only constants in life.

    This next statement may be the one to have me committed but part of me takes a bit of comfort in what the late Robin Williams said: “You are only given a little spark of madness, don’t lose it.” He had a true talent as do you and I’m a firm believer that all the great minds of the world are a bit off their rockers. Condolence prize. That’s how I see it.

    Thank you for posting your struggles, it makes a difference to know that there are others out there that struggle with depression.

    1. Exactly! It is always nice to hear from other with depression issues. It doesn’t solve things, but there is such a comfort to know that I am not the only one who feels/felt this way.

      Your insight about school and parents is interesting. And that have organized and expected interactions doesn’t really help. Part of me always sort of assumed, if I were to have kids, it would be a reason and excuse to interact with other adults, when your child play. I know I meet and chat easier with people when our pets are around.

      You may be right. I know it is not unusual for creatives to struggle emotionally, etc. I don’t think that is where the talent comes from, but I think maybe if you are prone to one you are also prone to the other.

  5. Oh sweets, it’s an illness that afflicts so many (and me too) and does affect every bit of life in a very tidal fashion. I’ve been on and off antidepressants for all my adult life, currently 6 years on, still with ups and downs, but not so steep. Hang in there my friend, you aren’t on your own xx

    1. Thanks for your input. It always makes me feel better to know others understand. I worry people will think depression is just a sort-of-made up thing.

  6. memadtwo says:

    We moved a few times when I was a child, and I think my mother suffered from some of what you speak of, although I didn’t realize it of course at the time. For me, some of the moves were good and some not. I think it’s almost always difficult for adults to form new connections in a new place. And if you already tend to depression it can just magnify the feelings. No one ever said to my mother “you are depressed” and she could have gotten some kind of help. I feel bad about that in retrospect.

    Obviously, you have a community online, and I think just expressing what you are feeling is a move forward.

    Hang in there. And keep those photos coming. They are always a bright spot in my day.

    1. I know it will get better. It just seems to take about a year each time we move, and it feels so, so long when I am in the middle of it. I am amazed and feel completely blessed by the kind words of support people have given me. It was so unexpected and so nice.

  7. Okay, after reading these comments, I have a little more to say. I am grateful that I have not suffered from depression, in general, but I do know the heartache that comes with a move (having moved 18 times in 26 years!). One thing that helped me deal with this better is something Maria touched on above. Realizing that moving, losing relationships (not that we really lose them, but physically, of course, we do), waiting on your things after an overseas PCS, fitting in and finding your way in a new place, etc. are all BIG DEALS, somehow helped me. We don’t have to act like that is normal….as Maria said, it totally is not. You have to figure out a way to turn that into some sort of positive in your life (builds character, makes you more interesting, etc.), or it will break you. This life we lead as military folks, this life of service to our country IS NOT NORMAL, Y’ALL! My husband always says to our kids, don’t expect to understand your new culture or fit in perfectly because you as an AF dependent, you are part of sub-culture now, and really, the only folks who totally understand your feelings are others in that sub-culture. I highly recommend reading more about Third Culture Kids. Although most of the information is geared towards kids, it totally relates to all of us that are part of this crazy, gypsy lifestyle. Carly, I think you could even reach our to the sweet lady that visited Lajes to talk to us about this concept. Her name is Janet Blomberg, and I am sure you could just google her to get her information. She does not specifically work with the military, but she has devoted her life to working in this field. It was extremely therapeutic to our family to know we weren’t alone in all these feelings and that it is okay to acknowledge that it is a difficult (but unique for sure) lifestyle. The other thing that comes to mind is something I know you already practice and understand, but my smart son-in-law reminded me of its importance recently. When Jackson asked him (before his freshman year of college….another transition, right?) for advice about how to make his 4 years at college meaningful (since the son-in-law had a wonderful college experience), he said all the things you might expect, but he also mentioned how important it was to him to be in positions of service throughout his 4 years at school. He reminded us that serving others is key to building relationships, feeling a sense of ownership in your new community, etc. I have not thought this out super well, so sorry if this is rambling, but I want you to know that I care, and I understand.

    1. I am blessed that Megan, Dale, Trishell, and me are all still very in contact on facebook, so it is comforting still felling connected to my Lajes girls.

      You are right, our lives aren’t normal. However since I didn’t grow up associated with the military, I still expect that going-to-college-and-look-lets-all-be-friends, which is very much not adulthood. Despite being married for 9 years now, I still don’t feel entirely at home in the military subculture either. It is like a have a foot in both civilian and military worlds and don’t fully fit into either.

      I have been volunteering for several different things as well as attending art openings, etc. I also took part in the local summer Art and Wine Walks for four months. For being generally scared of life, I keep putting myself out there. However, I still haven’t really met anyone socially. It feels like a lot of people here have been here forever. They have their social circles, they are good with that, and aren’t really open to new people. It isn’t malicious, it is just sort of how things are.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your input. I am amazed by the response this post has received.

  8. This was my life for the last year, too. I even cried while answering those same questions. But I really do think it will get easier. And I love you and you can call me or write me ANY time. If nothing else, we can compare awkward moments and talk about how much we love naps. <3

    1. I love you, you are the best. Sometimes, it is just comforting to know I am not alone in being a weirdo.

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