It's been a while since I have written about depression, and my own garden variety of it. I had pretty much your run-of-the-mill mood handling equipment up until 2006 when I got hit by the Mack truck of the blues. The only way I can describe this was that it felt like the Joker had set a big block of Kryptonite under my bed -- rendering this Supergal's powers null and void. Not too long after that, I learned that this was just another door prize at the menopause ball -- a party that I've been having a hell of a time finding a ride home from for about five years. Turns out, recent research shows that menopause has the annoying habit of magnifying whatever grab bag of problems, syndromes, or just plain genetic anomalies you happened to be born with. Why my magnifiable anomaly couldn't have been slim thighs or a killer backhand is beyond me. Really, honestly, I would have been happy to have had to cope with a menopause-problem like the burning need to launch a successful business before I am 50.
But, no such luck, and the blues hit with a vengeance in the fall of 06. If hot flashes, hair loss, and dry skin weren't enough, I found myself feeling so tired by 10AM most days, that even crossing the room required negotiation. (Is there REALLY a good reason to take all those steps? Maybe I should wait for a sign). Of course, I did cross the room -- and take care of the holidays and go to parent-teacher conferences and make windows and trim back the roses -- I just felt like crap the whole time. "Putting one's foot in front of the other" was the main descriptor of my day.
It was a drag. I gave it a name, and that was Agnes. (I envisioned my blues as a chain-smoking harpie with bad hair.) Then, I went to the doctor. And talked to my friends. And learned that I was in a boat with a lot of other nice, normal women, who were good enough to share their oars, strategies for getting better, and plain smart advice with me.
Since then, medication, diet, exercise, and a "keep on keepin' on" mantra have helped me regain much of my equilibrium. It's clear that winter is my problem area, and that I am affected by seasonal effective disorder, also known (quite aptly) as SAD. From mid-November to mid-January, I can feel my energy and mood slipping down a dingy and slushy slope. Even more mystifying is that all this happens for no particular rhyme or reason, but is utterly exhausting nonetheless. This year's winter was not great, but I kept the faith and slogged my way out of it. I worked under one of those sunlight spectrum desk lights that made me feel like I was some kind of greenhouse plant. Then, like the crocus in spring, the increase in daylight hours brought big, relieving improvement. Nay, I must say that it felt as though it was lifting my heart right up out of ground. I would very nearly have called it an unfurling, just like daffodil leaves, probably because as a gardener I will use any reason to bring in a plant metaphor. Whatever you want to call it, it felt wonderful.
Then, bang, despite the glory of spring, I started feeling that dark cloud creeping back, just that dull, aching weariness. Wasn't I supposed to finish that article two weeks ago? Washing the same, darn dishes everyday, just to dirty them again. Jeez, can life be any more dreary? Every daily task felt like such a gargantuan effort and yet meaningless at the same time. Argh. It seems that the work of staying healthy is not achieved just by some extra sunshine or a pill. It seems that it takes a bit more of my own work and focus. Like everything else involved in heading towards the big 5-0, it's all about maintenance.
More on that after I pick up the groceries.