Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Living with depression is like driving on ice

I finally found a successful anti-suspense-novel-dreams method; read a suspense novel during the day. Well, it seems to be working. I read one Sunday and one Monday, but not one yesterday, yet, I have had three mornings of acceptable dreams. :) This actually doesn't mean they aren't at all disturbing, it just means I've broken my run of suspense novel dreams, for which I am very grateful. So here is one piece of subjective evidence for justifying reading cheap suspense novels!

Today, I felt like I might have wasted time with my counselor. Yay; undesired Exposure. So, I don't know if complaining about it counts as a form of sitting with anxiety? But I hope it does, because that's what I'm doing. Maybe I wasted counseling time. I wonder why I think that is so terrible? I mean, maybe if I was in desperate straights, and really needed to talk about subject A and instead talked about a very non-pressing issue B, maybe that would be a problem? But then again, sometimes talking about issue B might help subject A. So we are back to suspecting that the "terrible problem" of "wasting counseling time" is not so terrible. Maybe if I was... oh, still not coming up with a good way to waste it that wouldn't potentially help a counselor realize issues to address or ways to help me. So there is cognitive therapy in action; look at a problem logically; see if it can be reasonably reframed in a non-catastrophic way. What is the fancy counselor/book words for that? Identifying cognitive distortions? Yes. There we go. And here, doing cognitive therapy saved me from having as hard a time with Exposure therapy. Almost took away the need for exposure therapy. I like that. Because I don't like Exposure Response Prevention therapy very well. It is like cleaning my house or washing my dishes when I don't want to (oh, wait; those actions can be Exposures sometimes). It is like doing something I don't want to do. (Oh, wait, how often do I not want to do something because it would be an exposure?)

Anyway, I did come up with an analogy that my counselor liked. So here it is, and it is about me working with depression. Background information; I added hours to working at my childcare job, and my depression started acting up. I struggled. I got rid of the added hours (thank you SOOO much, boss!), and my depression settled back down. So then I started thinking. Here is the analogy part. Living with depression is like driving on ice. If I drive on ice at 20 mph, I might do just fine. In fact, I might not slide at all. But am I driving as fast as I can without sliding/spinning my wheels? I don't know. I won't know that information until I over-do it. When I drive too fast and start slipping, then I will know that the fastest I can safely drive without sliding is slower than that. Similarly, trying to work (at least at my current beloved yet stressful job) with depression, I don't know if I am working as much as I can until I over-do it. And now I have over-done it. And backed off. So now I am tempted to go back to wondering how much I can work without suffering for it in my mental health. Maybe I could work a little more. Maybe I could, but six hours more is too much, so I think I'll just stick with where I'm at instead of trying for a finer line.

There is one more piece to my analogy that I didn't share with my counselor; When you are driving on ice, you can go along just fine for a while, and then suddenly, without changing speed, you might spin out of control. Same with depression. I never know if I will spin out and crash, or at least scare myself thoroughly. But I do know something. How I drive will lessen the risk of an accident, both on ice and with depression. I also know that being tense could be a bad thing (though being awake is very important on the driving side). I haven't actually tested this out, but I've heard that if you get in an accident, you are less likely to get hurt if you are relaxed. Harder to pull muscles and such. And if there isn't an accident, well, being tense could be a part of some weight loss program, but other than that, it will probably just make you sore and stressed. Same with depression.

And that is the end of my entertaining-to-myself exposition on my depression and anxiety. No, wait; one more thing.

Church. You sick of the subject yet? Because I'm getting sick of the subject in relation to my mental health (not sick of church, sick of struggling with it). I told my counselor that the last two weeks, I was anxious during the sermon. She suggested that it might get better, since I'm in a better place now. But she also agreed that it could last the rest of my life, and I just need to sit it out. (In this case, I wanted her to agree with that possibility, because I didn't want any Pollyanna-ish declarations that anxiety that has dogged me for years in relation to church experiences will be going away any time soon.) She did accurately describe how I sit alert to any indication of trouble and then any slight reminder of my negative church situations sets me off. That, unfortunately, is accurate. I just don't know how to turn it off, and get annoyed when people suggest I can just turn off something that I've unsuccessfully tried to get rid of already. Just in case you have a suggestion, though, I'd still be interested in hearing one. It just has to be more detailed than "get over it," and I'd prefer more detail than "trust God more." While that might help, it is another thing that you can't just push a button and acheive.

So now, I plan to keep sitting through the anxiety during sermons as long as it keeps up. That was actually my plan before talking to her, but it was still nice to talk about it.


  1. Abigail, I like the analogy of driving on ice, both what you reviewed with your counselor and what you didn't. We can spin out of control really fast, but how we drive (how we take care of our depression) can have a big effect on whether or not we do spin out of control and how bad the outcome is.

    I wish I had an answer for you re: getting anxious at church.

  2. I also wish I had an answer for you about church.

    I sometimes feel like I waste valuable therapy time too. I think that on those rare weeks when I don't have a huge list of things I need to discuss.

  3. Oh and I also like the analogy of driving on ice!