Monday, December 14, 2015

Drowning and Depression: How I Learned to Swim

 I never learned to swim.
When I was younger no one taught me how to swim and as I grew older the water was like an enemy to me.  The fear of drowning was real and I put that fear on the top of my list. It consumed my life.  I was afraid to let my children get near the water. There were stories of so many children drowning and if they were to fall into the water…who would save them?
Not me.
I never learned to swim.
I read somewhere that when you are drowning underwater a lack of oxygen to the brain can cause a sensation of darkness closing in from all sides. A person drowning is unable to shout, call for help or seek attention.
That was enough to leave me terrified.
Then I realized…I had been drowning for years.
I had been drowning in my own self pity, sorrow, dejection and fear. For years I suffered from depression in silence unable to shout, call for help or seek attention.
Do you want to know what it’s like to be depressed?
It’s just like drowning.
No, it does not mean you are sad sometimes or have the “blues”.
When you are depressed it consumes you. It interferes with everyday life and brings with it feelings of doom and hopelessness.
Everyone has ups and downs and may feel lost on some occasions but when you are stuck in that downswing and can’t get out of it for days, weeks months and, in my case, years then you are probably suffering from clinical depression.
Depression is as dangerous as drowning and keeping your head above water is the hardest thing when you feel like no one around you can save you.  When no one ever taught how to survive the madness.
For most of my life I suffered from depression. I felt like I was drowning every day as I walked, ate, went to school, talked to friends and interacted with my family.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder.  After living with the disorder I realized that for me, depression was much worse than hypomania. Yes, I can make some bad decisions when I’m hypo-manic or when I let myself reach manic stage.
My triggers?
With me, depression can be triggered by anything that made me stand out or seem different. It was mainly when keeping up the fa├žade that I was a normal, happy healthy human being when I felt like any other than that.
My depression increased when I started to question my sexuality. I knew that I liked boys but on some level I knew that I like girls as well. It frightened me because I prided myself on being the model child. How could I be the model child when I was clearly going to hell? I kept my secret from everyone. When you are keeping a secret it like that life begins to feel lonely.
Those were the times in my life when I felt like I didn’t want to be on this earth any longer. Sometimes the pain would get so bad that in order to get rid to it I would take a razor blade and make small slices on my legs. There was so much hopelessness and pain that I constantly thought that my family would be better off without me.
My boyfriend (now my husband) didn’t understand what it meant to be depressed. He’s an ambitious man and seeing someone laying around all day or not accomplishing anything is tantamount to blasphemy.
“Why are you in pajamas all day? When I leave you’re in pajamas and when I come home you’re in pajamas,” he would complain.
How do you explain to someone that the thought of looking for an outfit and then putting on that outfit seems like torture? Everything seems like it is a life or death situation and those simple task like combing your hair, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, putting on regular clothes( and not pajamas) seemed like running three marathons in a row.
Through therapy I learned that just like no one taught me how to swim, no one taught me how to cope with bipolar disorder and my depression. There were things going on inside of me and I lacked the tools to work with them.
The only way to deal with something is to learn what it is about, what triggers it and the best ways to cope. For me, I try hard to focus on the positive. I take medications prescribed to me and I do yoga whenever I get a chance. I learned new ways to deal and interact with people and I learned to how to explain some of the issues that consume me.  It can be so lonely sometimes down there in the way bottom. The hole of depression can go very deep and the only way to climb out is with love and support from family and in some cases the proper medications.
Last summer, I did something I thought I would never do.
I learned how to swim.
It wasn’t pretty and I was learning at the same rate as my three year old but I went to the deep end and I swam. I lifted my face up to the sky with my body floating on top and I did the backstroke all the way from one end of the pool to the other.
I learned that nothing is impossible for me and I do not let depression run my life anymore. When depression comes around (as it always will) I don’t try to keep my head above water. I swim like my life depends on it.
Sometimes…it does.