Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Forgotten poems

I completely forgot about that poem that posted itself (thanks to my scheduling it two years earlier) in December. In case you couldn't tell, it was written from a very dark place. In other words, I was severely depressed. A series of painful events involving the loss of a close friend and a huge financial disaster hit me all at once - and in the winter, which is grey enough already. I sank.

The National Institute of Mental Health says that major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, but I suspect most of us who have experienced one of those too-common episodes of major depression - whether short or long - don't want to admit how bad it really was. I also suspect that most of my friends, family, and coworkers didn't even know I was depressed because I tried really hard to pretend that I wasn't.

Strange, is it not? I was completely buried in the darkness of depression, convinced that the only purpose my life could possibly serve is as an example of how to do everything wrong, and only hanging on because I didn't want to prove myself right. It makes no sense, but that's how depression works. It's truly "senseless."

For me, senseless first meant doing everything I could to hide from feeling - from sensing. I cried a lot, but then I put on the I-am-not-depressed mask and tried to hide it from everyone - including myself. My internal conviction that I was a complete failure hurt so much that I could not bear feeling. I slept a lot, and didn't sleep enough. I also did a lot of things that felt temporarily good because I didn't know how else to find that feeling. Video games. Books. Food! Even poetry. Anything that would give me a moment of pleasure so that I could pretend the painful parts weren't there.

Senseless also meant that I didn't do the things I probably should have done to get out of that bad place. I should have reached out to people. I should have talked about it. I should have sought some professional help, even. Of course, when part of the thing that puts you there is financial ruin, it's nearly impossible to tell your sense-deprived brain that spending money on therapy is a good idea.

So no one knew. Maybe some of them suspected. My mom probably knew that I was unhappy and angry (mostly with myself.) My kids certainly did - although I'm sure they had no idea what it meant, what to do about it, or how bad it really was.

Why do we people who are experiencing major depression do that? My answer is that I didn't want anyone to reach out and try to help me. I didn't think anyone should be helping me (that's part of what my brain tells me in the middle of depression). I didn't think I deserved any help. Depression feels like weakness, and like most people I don't want anyone to know that I'm weak. It's shameful to admit that things are bad. It's shameful to admit that I can't fix it all myself. It's shameful to show the darkness - even though that's quite possibly one of the best ways to get out of it. It's sad that there is so much shame in depression because it only makes things worse.

So I didn't let anyone help me. I eventually dragged myself out of that awful pit, one financial improvement and one small recognition of my own value at a time. It took many months. I had actually set the poem to publish one year later but later decided that I still wasn't 100%, so I rescheduled it for another year. That's how bad major depression can be.

The concerning part now is that I don't know if I could or would do it differently if it were to happen again. I found myself "down" a little toward the end of last semester because I was just overwhelmed by my schedule and responsibilities, but I was able to recognize it for what it was and look for ways to bring myself back up. I wasn't really depressed, though, and my brain on major depression is probably not capable of doing that.

Because of this, I believe that it's important for each of us to learn the signs of depression and reach out to people we care about when we see it. Major depression isn't just "feeling depressed." That's what I would call sadness. Instead, it's a profound sadness, despair, or even a feeling of "nothing" that lasts more than a week or two and which affects your ability to function or experience joy.

There's a lot of good information about depression online, and this article from NIMH is a decent starting point. I recommend reading and learning about it from several sources because chances are someone you care about is experiencing this now, or will be. I also think it's long past time for all of us to help each other realize that depression is not the shameful thing it tells us it is, and reaching out to those who can't see that for themselves is the first step.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A villanelle

December 2012

I just finished re-reading Ally Condie's book Matched so that I can read the rest of the series and understand what is going on. It's been too long! I forgot the details and was lost after starting the second book. The series makes frequent reference to Dylan Thomas' poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, and I was curious about the poetic form of it, then intrigued at the idea of trying it myself - even though I haven't written poetry of any kind since some rather poor attempts in a college poetry course. This poem is the result.

I scheduled this to post exactly two years after I wrote it. I think it describes how I'm feeling most of the time these days, but I don't want my mom or the two or three friends who read my blog to freak out because I wrote a poem and it isn't about rainbows and lollipops. The thing is, it is exactly what it says it is, so no freaking out should be necessary, right? (I'm not Sylvia Plath, people. Not by a long shot, darnit.) But they'd still freak out, so I'm scheduling it for later. I wonder what sort of villanelle I would actually write if I wrote it later.

Something Not Hopeless

I do not yet choose to give up all hope
Still grasping for its invisible strength
My own demons bind me tight without rope

Doubting thoughts rip my dreams, interloped
In silent explosions they claw and fang
Broken but crawling, I can't give up hope

Bright words splash through my kaleidoscope
Wishes and hopes, twirling faith down its length
My dark demons bind me tight without rope

Recurring winds loosen this thin tightrope
Unbalanced, eyes veiled and miserable hang
I must not let go and give up all hope

Bitter thoughts licked off an old envelope
Inside the letter, sweet memories up sang
My demons yet bind me down without rope

Remembered words lift, but age as I grope
Listening, I bury my dream where it sprang
I do not yet choose to give up all hope
My own demons bind me tight without rope

© 2012 Lillian Horne Angelovic

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Latest

This blog is on hiatus while I do some living in some other places right now. I'm sure I'll be back to it later, but for now I'm back in school (who knew that could happen?!?) studying social media marketing, working on an online game streaming project with my younger son, building my long-stagnant LDS Scripture-of-the Day project, running every chance I get, supporting my older kids in their college and service mission efforts, and trying to carve out both reading and writing time between homework - usually at 3:00 a.m. Sadly, I'm not doing a lot of reading, writing, or housework. Feel free to drop by and fold some laundry.