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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

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What if you knew that you would live to be 100? Would that change your Here and Now?

Not long ago, I decided that I had reached the half-way point of my life. My parents had both passed away, having barely reached their seventies, and I thought, why should I desire to last any longer? Life at the time seemed much too long already. I had struggled for over thirty years, and in my mind the struggle stretched on beyond me for far longer than I could care to comprehend. In fact, planning to live to 70 was a huge concession: an admission that optimism might actually have a place in my life — I might actually continue to survive the drudgery of life for as long as I had made it thus far. Not that it seemed like such an exciting thing to aspire to, but at least I had a plan that involved having a future to speak of.

Since then, by some mysterious circumstance, my outlook seems to have changed. I find myself happy, most days, and at least capable of avoiding despair on those days that are not so enjoyable. Life begins to have a meaning that I never understood before: simply to live it, perhaps even enjoy it. By whatever miracle my brain has settled into a state of positive vibration, wanting to see and experience and enjoy as much as possible. So this is what chemical balance looks like! So this is what a well-functioning mind can bring to the table. I find myself wanting to create more and more. I want to learn. I want to work more cleverly and come home satisfied in a job well done. I want to spend my leisure time soaking in every sound and every peaceful moment, knowing that they are made of gold and that I can have billions more to glean, if I so choose.

And so I find myself very recently thinking: what if I weren’t at the half-way point? What if I were still somewhere just near the beginning? What if, instead of feeling calloused and jaded, I realized that I have seen so little of what life has to offer? Yes, I would be inviting a greater risk of sorrow and trouble into such a lengthier lifespan, but what if that weren’t a bad thing after all? What if those misfortunes were seen as giving birth to the happy times? I find it difficult to find the words to express what I am coming to realize. And yet: I now feel no urgency to find those explanations, because I could have several more decades to explore this very idea! I could spend a lifetime — a long lifetime — just searching for a way to explain to my young self that a hundred years is not such a bad thing after all.

I could think that I have seen all the good and all the bad that life has to offer, but I would be dreadfully wrong in so many ways. To think of it: I could be just beginning. I could finally decide, at 85 years old, that I am ready to settle down and get married. Or perhaps I will move to France in the year 2045. And perhaps, in just fifteen years, I will decide to return to school and gather more degrees to my name. Maybe I will end up with a career that I had never before dreamed of. Maybe I could read 5,000 books in the course of my lifetime. If I live to 100, I can do just about anything yet. And if I can do anything yet, then I am freed from the burden of trying to control where my life must go in this year, or in this decade. Where do you see yourself in five years? Who is to say? I can try to control that, but it discourages me to worry over it. Now, where do I see myself in 70 years? That is the much more exciting question to ponder! I could be anywhere, and I could be anyone. I could be a different person, one that wouldn’t recognize the self that was so very young but also so very ill in the beginnings of her life. I feel as though I am just being born. I feel young, but without the impatience of the young. I feel fresh, but no longer easily bruised. I feel a hope and a wonder for life that I have never, ever felt before, even in my actual physical childhood. I feel a child again, and yet one just barely precocious enough to know that she has nothing but potential before her. Anything is still possible for me. Happiness, as I have come to find out, is actually possible for me. And who knows: I may find that I have another 100 years of it to enjoy. Because now I know that anything is possible, and now I look forward to it. And now I know that life — even a difficult life — can be an enjoyment. Let’s see where this one takes us.

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It’s been several months since I’ve posted more than a few words or phrases to accompany my photographs. It’s hard to find words to say when you feel like you don’t have any left in you.

Spring is here, and I couldn’t be more relieved to see it. Before this past winter I never gave any serious thought as to whether or not I might have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I mean, winter sucks and all, but it’s not unbearable, right? Well, not for everyone. For some people, winter is unbearable. And this winter, I was one of them.

For me, it is the shortening of the days that sends me into a gentle downward slope. In September, even when the days are still fairly long, I notice the way the light begins to change. By 4pm the sun begins its threatening descent, even though it prolongs the process for another three hours or so. I begin to feel occasional urges to crawl into bed as soon as I get home from work. The transformation within myself is so gradual that I don’t even notice that I’m slipping into a darker place. By the time Christmas rolls around, it’s a chore to stay out of bed, and I’m too far gone to think that spring will be able to bring me back.

The thing about depression is this: when you’re depressed, you feel like you’ve been depressed forever, and nothing will ever cure it. It doesn’t matter how many times the cycles shift and come around a million times over; depression is like the metaphorical bell jar that covers up and distorts your entire past, present, and future. And how does one go about escaping the vacuum it creates?

Fortunately for me and others affected by SAD, spring does bring relief. As days grow longer I find myself coming home from work and thinking, yeah, I’m tired, but I think I’ll save that nap til later. Next thing I know it’s an appropriate time to go to bed, and I don’t have to feel guilty for indulging my tired mind. With spring comes a greater intensity of light and color, and more opportunities to get outside and warm the skin. With spring comes growth, and opportunities for distraction from mental trouble.

Even so, it can be hard to want to come back from a dark place when the world outside is getting brighter. I see and enjoy the signs of spring and new life appearing all around me, but I am still not yet quite myself. It takes an effort to regain interest in former pursuits. It’s easy to think that I have nothing more to say, simply because I have been silent for so many months. It’s easy to stay inside because my body has grown accustomed to the comfort of my own home. It’s easy to stop sharing when you have felt for months that the people who care are few and far between.

Spring has arrived, and has done her fair share. For me and for all who suffer from winter depression, it is up to ourselves now to do our part and pull ourselves out of the melting snowpiles. There are walks to be had, and sunshine to be soaked up in copious quantities. There are flowers to be planted and books to be read outdoors under trees. There is much to be done and enjoyed in life, and preparations to be made to make the next winter more bearable. Spring is here.

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Every once in a while, I just feel the need to completely mentally check out for a while. Today feels like it might be one of those days. I’ve been so busy with enjoying my leisure time that I sometimes forget to just sit back and forget it all. I forget to forget, essentially.

Over the years, I’ve found that computer and video games are a surefire way to immerse myself completely and distract myself to the point where everything pales in comparison—that’s also the reason I tend to avoid video games as much as possible.

There has been some research done with video gamers, trying to determine whether playing video games reduces social skills and causes depression. It seems like a likely correlation, but in my own experience I’d say that’s putting the cart before the horse.

When I was in eighth grade I had my first serious bout of depression. We had left my familiar school system a year before, after which I had been homeschooled for a year, then I was pushed into a new school system which was completely different from any I had experienced. I didn’t fit in at all with the uber-preppy north side kids. On top of that, two of my sisters had moved to Louisville to teach at and attend St. John’s Academy, another sister moved back to college, and things were not going well at home between my mom and my remaining sister. I didn’t consciously realize it, but things were horrible, in fact. By the end of the first quarter of school I was barely scraping by with a D in Science. I don’t remember my other grades but they weren’t pretty either.

The pertinent thing here, though, is the means I found to get away from it all. My brother (who I think had also recently left home to join the Army), had left behind an old Nintendo64 hooked up to a tiny little television, and two games. One of those games was Super Mario Brothers 3. End of story.

Well, not quite. One day I decided to try out the game, though I wasn’t familiar with anything more sophisticated than an Atari joystick at the time. Before long, I was hooked. I’d come home from a torturous day at school, throw my backpack on the floor, and shut myself in the family room for up to six hours every evening, playing Super Mario Bros. 3 obsessively. I’d pause for bathroom breaks and snacks, but I wanted nothing more than to glue my eyes to that yellowed tv screen and drown myself in the most upbeat music ever invented, blasting from those tiny speakers.

I wasn’t depressed because I was addicted to a video game; I got addicted because I was a completely and utterly depressed thirteen year old. And I suspect the same for many, many kids across the country.

Fortunately my story has a happy ending, more or less. Somehow I got to the breaking point, and at that moment I decided to join my two sisters in Louisville. There were no video games at St. John’s Academy. Things weren’t exactly smooth sailing for the rest of my highschool career either, but the experience has shaped my life a lot better than Mario and Luigi ever could have.

Though I still dig their music.

These days I don’t get into video games, and computer games are not too practical on a laptop. Still, there are those days, once in a blue moon, where I get a hankering to get lost for a few hours in a good round of bejeweled deluxe, or tetris (getting back to those Atari roots), or whatever weird and cheesy waste of time is available for free online at the time.

Now, having revealed all that, I’m going to go see if that vintage version of Root Beer Tapper is still available…

see you in a few.

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