Being diagnosed with depression was the most devastating diagnosis I could have received. I felt broken, despondent and worthless. Embarrassment encased the assortment of emotions in a not so tidy package as I secreted the new finding from friends and family.
A myriad of misconceptions bombarded my seemingly every moment. Isolation – the inability to socialize and be with others. Darkness. Endless hours of binge television watching. Loneliness. No laughter. No smiling. No playfulness. Life would be filled with an eternity of dank oppression. Future seemed dim, uninspiring, bleak. I could not envision anything but dark shades of grey.
Seeking professional help and living with the diagnosis taught the greatest lessons of life for which I am grateful. I came to a deeper understanding of myself, how my body worked and even learned gratitude for my prognosis. My journey continues – sometimes daily -reminding me that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Some days are painfully slow requiring me to focus on each breath, living moment by moment, compared to easier times filled with inspiration, energy and lots of sunshine.
The foundation aha moment was the recognition of a simple reality. Everyone encounters highs and lows. The difference was the frequency of the lows and their depths. Lows are a natural part of life and not every low equated a depressive episode. My judgment of emotions needed to change right and wrong to simply different. Sad, down, anger and frustration were not bad emotions, and in contrast, happy, joyful and laughter did not equate good emotions. Emotions did not possess qualities of good and bad. Emotions are neutral. Simply different.
This recognition opened doors of gratitude. Yes, gratitude for depression! Because of the lows, I saw highs. I became grateful for my lows because I knew highs would come. I learned how to use both lows and highs more efficiently. Lows were great times for reading. I love to read and lows were like permission to hibernate with a book. Of course, lows could also be used for nothing. There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing. Sometimes, doing nothing is simply a needed aspect of life.
Highs were used differently – drastically differently. Errands. Projects. Socializing. Going out. Tasks. Writing and even a house remodel. This became my most significant learning moment being a list maker/keeper/completer. My lists needed altering from daily to accommodate my moods. Recognizing tasks usually had a self-imposed deadline gave me permission to differentiate tasks with concrete deadlines (such as registering kids for school) and variable deadlines (such as painting a wall). Using highs effectively (in my mind’s eye) brought me great enjoyment which in turn increased my appreciation for life and my frustrations with depression.
A journey. A marathon. Both analogies to which I most associate with as I live with depression. Each day brings a new contribution to my journey – a glorious journey which is uniquely mine. All mine.
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.