Chronic


When she said it, I wanted to pretend she hadn't. I wanted to take that word chronic and stuff it in the cushion of the couch I was sitting on and hope from there it would sink down through the floor, through the foundation of the building we were in and disappear somewhere between there and the earth's core.

Or hope in this case she was wrong about me.

But as I left my therapist's office, that word came with me. And I tossed it around in my head for a few days.

I had been intent for at least the last year, and during every episode of depression before that that I was going to beat this. I was going to dismiss depression from my life, let it know that I would not tolerate its presence, and every time it tried to sneak back in, it would cower, anticipating the force of the door I would slam in its face.

Chronic, though. That changed everything. She told me in most cases, and likely in mine, where it continued popping up through the years, depression was a chronic condition. Like diabetes, I would learn how to properly manage it with treatment and changes in lifestyle, and a happy life would still be available to me.

******

During some downtime at camp, my friend Julie and I were the only ones in our tent and had a conversation that I think was supposed to be had. 

Julie had MS. "You know, it was hard to receive that diagnosis. It essentially was a life sentence. But I've learned a lot over time, you know. I've learned I can still enjoy life if I am consistent with my treatment and I'm smart about the things I learn. I know the sun can drain my energy really quickly, so that's why you most often find me in the shade here at camp. There are good days and there are bad days. I just have learned it's really, really important to take care of myself."

I couldn't believe she was here at camp. I could draw connections between her situation and mine and sensed I had just learned something very important. 

******

It was amazing how in tossing that word around in my head long enough, I had totally flipped it inside out. Initially it had sounded like a life sentence, but the truth was, it was a release from the choke hold depression had on me. 

Because there were weeks and months after an episode with depression that I believed I truly had it beat. I had fought depression and I had won, and if it ever came back I would send it packing with all I had learned about what it is and what it isn't. 

And every time it came back, that meant that I had been wrong about something. There was a chink in my armor, and I was going to have to figure out what that was so that this time when I dismissed it, it would be gone permanently. 

And so when I would feel depression eke back in with its insidious thoughts and heavy feelings, a sense of failure would creep in with it. 

It's back. 

What did I do wrong?

And the one that drains the most life out of me:
I didn't try hard enough.

Chronic, though, chronic gave me permission to have a bad day or a bad week and to know that things could get better. Chronic depression meant that a negative slew of unsettling thoughts or a heavy feeling of sadness that I just couldn't shake was not a sign that I had slipped or was lazy or was not on my guard. It was just a reminder that this was my hard thing, and a lot of my energy this week was going to go towards practicing the tools I had learned in therapy, making sure to take my medicine, and that I needed to be kind to myself. 


Next Chapter: Rigid



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