Reactive Depression

A few years ago, I called in on a mental health nurse that I knew. I had long admired his work, and his holistic approach to his clients. He even had a gymnasium installed in the rooms, and kept a watchful eye on people’s diets. “Right, that does it. I am not able to cope without medication. My depression is getting worse, despite my best efforts!” I proclaimed. “Can you please prescribe me something?” He did something unexpected in turn. He laughed. “Are you kidding me?! You have had X, Y and Z happen in the past few months, and these events have pummelled you. I would be concerned if you were behaving as though everything was as it should be. You don’t need medicating; it wont help you. You have reactive depression, caused by the events unfolding about you. The feelings you are experiencing are normal and a sign that things need to change. Your depression is normal, as are you. You are coping tremendously well.” It was on this day that I discovered the difference between reactive depression and endogenous depression (no obvious cause). I have had both alternately throughout my life, and there is a marked difference between what responds to medication and what doesn’t (when someone points it out to you)!

I was hoping a pill would make the discomfort disappear. Instead, I was urged to sit with it, journal it, and hear what it had to say. It has been dark, windy and rainy the past week; a perfect time for reflection. Here is a screen shot I took of my constantly humming phone this morning.


40 text messages and 1,056 emails. Sometimes, there are¬†many more of both, not to mention¬† Facebook messages. Last year, I endeavoured to answer them all. My schedule was to get up at dawn, answer messages, and write content, for myself and others. By 8am I would organize my daughter for the day and ferry her to workshops. If we were at home, I would work with my daughter for six hours, then get her to classes in the afternoon. In the meantime, there would be more work for me. On top of this, there were social activities. There was the forever buzzing phone too. At Christmas, I stopped going onto Facebook. I found I just couldn’t cope. I felt like Mickey in Fantasia, when he conjures up the buckets, only to have them flood the room. That is very much how I have felt with all the messages. During December, I heard the most horrific stories of abuse and of deep sadness. I carried it on my shoulders, and the weight slipped down and smashed the already broken column of my spine. There was little lightness, and much darkness. My child needed me, and so I had to stop. I am forever grateful to this little girl for what she teaches me. My energy has been replenished by our walks and games. You can be in the same room to those who mean the world to you, and yet still be a world apart when distracted.

As with a few years ago, I don’t need medication for this particular brand of disquiet. I just need to organize a more manageable way of being. To put my contact list into categories, and un-subscribe from everything that chews up precious time. There have been days when I haven’t had time to eat, nor do what is necessary to maintain my health. Trying to be everything for everyone and feeling like I am failing. Putting myself last on the list of priorities. I have had time this week to put together a plan of action for this spine. I am going to undertake the discogram and chemonucleosis that was offered me years ago. I had it once before, and it provided relief for quite some time. If successful, it will do the same and bide me time. This decision feels right, and so now I start saving for it!

I know many of you can identify with the overwhelm. If I hear my phone ringing, I have an anxiety attack. I am slowly making my way out of my cocoon, but never want to go back to the unsustainable, 24/7 demands I made of myself. How terrifying and liberating it is, to finally have time. Returning to the world whole, rather than chipped and hollow, is what I desire.





It’s okay to stuff up!

This term has seen us hit the ground running. I thought I was on top of things, planning the weeks in advance in my diary and calendar. Attempting to sort through email. However, when more assignments come in, and appointments are running late, it all goes to hell. I noticed I had a heap of unanswered messages in my ‘Others’ folder on Facebook. Some were important, and not just from yucky old men who thought I was “lovely.” I no sooner had handled these unexpected messages, than the email box filled up, then Twitter, then Pinterest, then Facebook… I felt like Lucille Ball at her chocolate factory gig.

Getting through one task, then something else demands your time and energy. I still held onto the fantasy that I had it all under control. My endocrinologist advised that I need to slow down, and spend an hour each day exercising. I need to take preventative measures for my health. It all sounded great, and heck, my doctor said I could stop once in a while. It was prescribed.

That was until I discovered I had lost a whole day! I thought it was the 2nd Feb, when it was actually the 3rd! “You are only a day late,” a snooty receptionist snarled when I ventured into my appointment. Crap! I had missed a whole bunch of things. I glanced at my phone. On top of the 500 emails waiting to be read was one notifying me that an old friend had passed away. I teared up, and my daughter hugged me. “Just because you lost a day this time, doesn’t mean you will do it again,” she consoled. “You just need to prioritize and think about what is important in your day.” Such wise words. How did she get so mature and clever? She is right. I feel like I can’t stay on top of everything, no matter how much I try. I want to be a terrific friend, a fabulous mother, a consistent writer and respond to all messages swiftly. It is entirely unrealistic though. I can only do my best. We can only do our best. I believe intention is most powerful. My friends know that they are loved and will wait for me. My daughter adores her eccentric mother…

My friend Russell was a curmudgeonly former newspaper editor. We had some great times throughout the years. He was of an older age when he passed, but gee those years of life still zoomed by. My daughter is right (as is my endocrinologist). Slow down, breathe, walk and prioritize. Even it means losing a whole day now and again. The appointments were rescheduled. I was forgiven, and it wasn’t the end of the world.