This would be the perfect moment for the curtain to drop, but depressives don't get happy endings. They don't get endings at all, because depression never goes away. It may be forgotten; it may lay quietly for years; but it's still there. Depressives never know when it will strike again, and every new episode increases the likelihood of another.
--Christopher McDougall, The Long Road Back
I'm writing this on Friday morning, and the sun is shining through the window. It seems like a beautiful day outside. I should go outside and get some sunlight, but I need to get something off my chest first.
It would be nice if the events of the last few weeks allowed me to simply throw off all the depression and anxiety like an old blanket and suddenly become healthy, having been confronted with a disaster, having kept my head and got through it without freaking out and running away unnecessarily as many expats (and not a few Japanese) did.
But that would be a happy Hollywood ending. The reality is, the last few weeks have been tough. While I have little right to complain compared to those in Tohoku who have lost homes, businesses, or loved ones in the recent disaster, in the last few weeks I have had a number of factors come together that have brought my depression to the fore.
Firstly, I have been attempting to taper off medication, after a long time on it. I hate being on medication and I mentally equate taking medication with being depressed. I’m aware this is irrational, but can’t seem to help it. I also worry about the long term consequences of being medicated, and have been troubled about things I have read online.
Secondly, after the marathon a month ago I have had some leg problems which have greatly reduced my ability to run. They are getting better with time, and I’ve been to the doctor and had a few massages but am still not back to 100%. I had started going to a yoga class in December but slipped out of the habit after the marathon. Exercise is very important in managing mood, and for the last month I haven’t been doing that.
Thirdly came the earthquake off Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, followed by the radiation scare at the nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture. While what happened in Tokyo was very little compared to what the alarmist media reports said, and nothing at all compared to what those up north are enduring, it was a tense time. There are concerns about radioactive contamination in the water and in produce from near the reactor.
One might hope that this tense time would let me throw away my own petty concerns and depressions, but the three things above in combination were not much fun. I’ve been stressed, anxious, and had trouble concentrating. One of the most annoying things for me is the fact that I can’t seem to get my head around all these things about radiation, nuclear plants, etc. I read newspaper articles and it just does in one ear and out the other. Nothing seems to really stick, I can’t seem to hold on to it. The sober scientific reports indicated there was essentially no risk to Tokyo, but I can’t really grasp the details behind them. I just have to trust that the scientists know what they are talking about.
But I’m enduring as best I can. I’ve stopped tapering and increased the medication slightly. I’ve been starting to exercise again and hoping that helps lift my mood. I can’t do much about the larger disaster situation, but I’ve made small donations and am paying much less attention to the news. This all feels very selfish and self-centered, but you are no good to the world if you’re good to yourself. And I think I need to accept that I'm a depressive. That the depression will always be there. Denying that simple truth seems to be hurting me. And I'm pretty tired of self-inflicted pain at this point.
Depressives don't get happy endings. But food, shelter, another day above ground, and morning sunlight will have to do. I hope I'm turning a corner here - time will tell.