Living in the Abyss


I describe living with depression as living in an abyss.

I am at the bottom of a very deep hole, its dark, the sides are very hard to climb and in the middle of the bottom of the hole is a horrible black lake.

Because Depression is not a static condition, where I am in the Abyss describes where I am in the mental illness.

Sometimes I am underwater in the middle middle of a black lake at the bottom of by Abyss.  I spent nearly two years in bed without a job and this eventually turned into homelessness.  I was underwater during most of that time.

And sometimes I’m on the shore of the lake unable to muster the energy to try climbing the walls. When I first got a job while homeless, this is how I felt.

And sometimes, most of the time these days, I’m climbing up the walls toward the surface. For the last year, I have been trying to figure out a system to get the fuck out of the hole.  Or at least spend more time near the top, where there is at least some light.

Sometimes I get to the edge of the surface.  I can see grand vistas of normal life before I slip back in.  Sometimes these moments only last for a few hours, recently they have lasted for a few days.

I dream of getting out of the Abyss and walking away from the hole.  Too far away to fall back in.   This is probably a fairytale, but I dream of it anyway.

First Order Retievability

The Depression is very good at putting up phantom barriers to doing things.

So a simple task can be put off because I have to get the things out of a cupboard or out of drawer or its in a box or whatever.

So for the last year, I have been increasing the amount of First Order Retrievability on everyday things.  By this I  mean I shouldn’t have to open a door, a drawer or a box.

I hang the 3 three pots and pans I use on the wall over the stove.  I have a set of open shelves on my worktable and on it are all the common things I use everyday – burrito wraps, bread, butter, sugar, plates, silverware, cat food, spices.

As I’ve been cleaning today, I’ve been trying to add that concept to my bedroom.  If I use it daily, it needs to be where I can grab it quickly – visible.

In my previous life this would be bad.  Its clutter.  I always wanted everything to have a place to be put away, out of sight.  But I realize now that this won’t work for depression management.

So now I’m considering how to make First Order Retrievability at least look nice.

I believe a trip to the dollar store is in my future.

PS – Today is a success!

Sunday is the day of timers

Saturday was good for me.  It was sunny.  I felt good and I got things done.  Compared to other people, it was not a lot, but for me it was like winning a battle with a monster.

Today we will continue the movement of Saturday.  With the help of timers.  I set timers for 45 minutes or an hour and when it goes off, I do one task on my list.  They are small tasks but when you do that all day you get A LOT done.

I know its kind of weird, but it works.  Sometimes.  Anyway, its working this weekend.  So.

The battle is on. I got this.lara-crof-tomb-raider

How to Help Someone Who is Depressed

  1. Remind yourself and us that this is an illness not a character flaw.  We aren’t lazy.  We aren’t antisocial.  We aren’t irresponsible.  We are ill.  Remind both of us, often.
  2. Don’t wait until we hit rock bottom, thinking that is when we will finally try.  We probably are trying but for us a huge success is a tiny everyday matter for you.
  3. Socialize with us.  We won’t want you to, but do it anyway.  This will mean not accepting it when we don’t want to do anything or talk. This works much better if you don’t wait to intervene until we have completely cut ourselves off from the world.
  4. Get us to a doctor.  Take us.  Make sure we take the meds if we seem like we don’t want to.
  5. Take us for walks.  Short walks at first, but walk outside. Exercise is a huge help for us but we can’t change patterns easily and so starting a walk is hard.
  6. Help us with practical things – doing our laundry or cleaning.  If possible we should help but don’t overwhelm us with a huge plan to fix all the things wrong in the household.  Do something reasonable and directly obvious.
  7. Doing productive things helps.  So if we had a hobby like knitting or drawing or whatever, come over and do it with us for a while.
  8. Put us in new situations.  Not overwhelming ones – just things that make our  brain move outside the existing pathways that have us tied into a rut of nothingness.  A concert in the park, a new restaurant, the zoo, anything that is not the usual.
  9. Encourage us to talk or write about our issues and frustrations.
  10. Don’t assume we aren’t trying because we didn’t do something.
  11. Don’t hide what you are doing, pretending you are not trying to help.  Explain why you are doing it and why it’s a good idea for us.       Depressed people aren’t stupid and we want to get better.  Manipulation is condescending.
  12. Don’t wait for us to ask.  We probably won’t.

My Doctor Appointment with Medical Student

Poor student.  The Doc sent him in alone at first.  He looked like he graduated from high school yesterday.

He apologized, repeatedly and in many different ways.for everything he asked, everything he said and for just being there.

I wanted to just stop him and give him some stage direction.  “Listen, Martin.  You need to start projecting confidence.  Act like you have it all covered.  Be the doctor you want to be.  PRETEND.”

At the end it just became farcical because he couldn’t get the blood pressure cuff to work.  It was awkward.  The nurse took my blood pressure in like 10 seconds.  He fumbled with that thing for 5-8 minutes before just surrendering.

He finally left and I figured the debrief would take a good long while.  When that many mistakes are made, it requires some telling.  It wasn’t as long as I expected.

Then my regular doc came in and was his usual cheerful self.  I am glad Martin has my Doc.  He’s kind and generous and has a sense of humor, so I think Martin will probably calm down under his tutelage.

He upped my antidepressant dosage and told me to come back in 3 weeks.  If my insomnia doesn’t get under control he might put me on on Trazadone to help.   I don’t want Ambien or anything like that.  I really feel like that made the depression much worse when I was on it.

Anyway, Martin and I survived the doctor appointment.  Although I think Martin was a bit battered from it.

3 Day Weekend…


Only Lily thinks we used it well.  She thinks cuddling for three days in bed is the epitome of the good life.

Well, it was NOT the plan.  And I still have 1 day to break the cycle.

Actually, as I write this I’m realizing – I did leave the house.  I went grocery shopping on Friday.  Grocery Shopping is a terrible trek  through a dangerous forest of horrors filled with hostile forces.  (your experience of grocery shopping may differ)   ACHIEVEMENT.

I have not begun the PLAN.   Upon consideration – Starting on a weekend was not my optimal planning.  I am terrible with weekends.  They are just voids of stillness for me.  I need to start on a workday and then  use that momentum to carry me into the weekend.  So.  Still hope.


1024px-wikimedia_strategic_planning_09-svgI’ve never been a huge Resolution person.  However, this year, the New Year’s happens to fall when I’m starting to feel a bit of hope about my future, so I figured I would use it as an easy marker to my goals.

I want these goals to work, so I am putting together a plan, not a list of resolutions.

I put down a general goal.  Then I put down how I am going to achieve it.  ON A DAILY BASIS.

That’s why we fail at our resolutions.  We seem to think that they must start immediately and they are rarely planned.

For example –

One of my goals is to exercise daily.  So my first sub goal – to kind of get me started is to walk to the bottom of the hill I live on and back up it on my birthday – Feb 18.  I live at top of highest hill in Cincinnati.  The walk down and back will 6 miles on a fairly steep incline.  My current state of fitness means a 20 minute walk will exhaust me. 

Now I need to figure out how I’m going to make myself do this.  So I will walk every morning when I get up, before I get on the internet.  I will increase my daily walk by 5 minutes every day.  And by my birthday I should be able to accomplish my goal.

When I have that sub goal taken care of, I will set a new sub goal to keep myself motivated for exercising daily.

I increase my odds of winning these goals by not just planning generally – walk daily, but specifically.  Walk as soon as I get out of bed in the morning.  Because will power is a limited resource and we deplete it.  The tank of will power is fullest after a good rest.  So morning.

I can also increase my success by eliminating any small barriers that tend to halt my good intentions.  So by making sure that I have my clothes out and easily grabbable every morning.

Now the other thing – choosing a priority.  I have 4 main goals for 2016.  Exercise is my priority.  The reason it is my priority is because exercise is a pivot habit.  There are habits that help us start to make new and better habits in other areas of our lives. Its sort of a cascade effect.  I’m not making that up.  Studies have been done.  Its fascinating.  And exercise is one of them.  So that its the one that will have the priority even though getting a new job would seem like the one that is more life changing.

All of these things are plannable and must be planned for me to succeed. But they won’t be the only factor.  The battle with the depression is slippery.  But the meds have started to work more noticeably.  And I’m hoping that will work in my favor.

Depression Management: The ongoing struggle.

At some point this year, I gave up on the idea of Recovery.  And I switched to the idea of Management.

This sounds very much like I have given up.  But in fact, I think it is the opposite.  I no longer hope for a long term goal of being free of depression, but I work for a daily goal of improving today.

Depression is so invisible, even to the person who is drowning in its waters.  I have spent my life dogged by varying degrees of depression. Most of that time, I either didn’t recognize it, or didn’t acknowledge it.  But it remained none the less

There have been times when it was clearly predominant and deeply entrenched in every aspect of my life, as it was when I couldn’t leave my bed, eventually ran out of money and became homeless.

There have been times when it ran quietly in the background, while I ran a call center of 70 people, had a very active social life and felt physically great.  In those days, I refused to acknowledge it because my life was wonderful, I couldn’t be depressed.

Depression is there.  Sometimes it is quiet and less dampening, only pestering the quiet corners of my life.  Sometimes it is everywhere.  But its not going away.  My brain has deep ruts in certain pathways that make up depression.

So now I accept it and plan a way out of its problematic aspects.  Now I just want to live a life that is better than the one I have been living for the last 10 years.

I’m working on developing habits and routines, so my brain will have entrenched pathways to go to when I need to do things.  Habits make life run more easily, so when I’m depressed, its easier to start the brain program for an already established habit than to do something I have no set habit for.

But not all of life is a routine.  So, now my life must planned like a battle.  Each day, the depression must be assessed.  How deep is the hole today?   How much of an effort is it going to be?  Each day a plan must be done.  And on days when the hole is deep,  each activity, will be broken into tiny tasks.  Each tiny task must be tackled one at a time.  Each tiny task must have a timer set for its start. T minus 20 minutes to get out of bed.

This doesn’t sound very pleasant.  And some days it isn’t and somedays it just doesn’t happen at all.  But what is pleasant is the feeling of victory I get when I accomplish things that other people just don’t even notice.

And what is most important is that since I started this change of view – my life has improved.  My mindset has improved and the depression doesn’t seem as impossible to conquer anymore.

Because I’m no longer hoping for complete annihilation of the depression.  I’m working for domination over the depression.  wayward_warrior_by_mrbasilisk-d4t6qg1

Image by Mrbasilisk on Deviantart. 

“…when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure.”~Jane Austen

I wonder if there is anything more devastating to the human soul.

Well, perhaps I think that because it seems to describe my life.

I must stop the rekindling of the masochistic pain I inflict on myself by re-living a wound from 3 years ago.

Its so very pointless and harming me more than original wound ever did. And the original wound was big, as pain inflicted by family members so often is. We are fragile where we feel most secure.

I must move beyond this.

In which I get angry at work

I went to work.  We will count that as an achievement.

But then I went off on one of the drivers.  It really wasn’t my place to do it, but on the other hand…

Apparently yesterday he told one of the women who works there about a Frisch’s in N*****ville.  Not only is that just unacceptable with anyone, this particular woman is married to an African American and has 3 children by him.

This woman is so meek it would take a nuclear apocalypse to make her complain or respond in anger directly to the person.  Although apparently she said something after he left.   I wasn’t there and I snapped at him when I heard.  His response – Well, that’s what they used to call it.  Grinning like it was all a good joke.

So I continued to express how inappropriate and unnecessary it was.  He refused to accept that and said he wasn’t politically correct.  I suggested he replace the words politically correct with ‘show respect’.

He walked away saying he wasn’t going to sit and be lectured.

On the one hand, I never sit still and shut up when people raise racial slurs.  But I also don’t take it as far or get as angry as I did tonight.  I am not fond of this driver.  He has on multiple occasions pissed me off.  So that probably played into it.

But I feel like losing my temper is losing the moment.  Its losing control of myself.  And then he kind of wins.  Because I got angry.

I’m getting angry too often these days.  Its not who I want to be.