I know a lot of things, most of them ultimately unimportant. What I’m best at is surviving. I’ve been nearly dead four times. Talked with an unknown voice from somewhere. Twice rescued from imminent demise, wherein he (definitely a male whatever-he-was) told me it wasn’t my time, to go back and live. Experiences like this make it difficult for me to proclaim the absence of God … but it doesn’t make me a follower of any religion.
It forces me — reluctantly — to acknowledge there’s something for which I cannot logically account. So I hedge my bets. I’m convinced no deity with which I’m willing to have a relationship cares if I am involved in any organized worship. I’m not sure deities need or want worship. They have reasons for doing what they do, but not human reasons.
It would be hard for me to ignore that I’ve been touched and not just once.
Against all odds, I’m alive. The physical problems are daunting. I have conditions on my conditions, interlocking disabilities and ailments that make normal functioning a joke. Getting older hasn’t made it easier. I had almost every kind of heart surgery available 11 months ago. When people ask me if “it was worth it,” I’m hard put to give them a sensible answer. On a simple “live or die” level, it was obviously worth it. If I hadn’t done the surgery, I would not be alive. I didn’t know how close to shutting down my body had gotten. It had been a gradual process, crept up on me.
Then there is that black well of depression. I have a tendency to get depressed. Very depressed. To the point where it feels as if I cannot breathe and I’m not sure I want to. Part of it is physical. Constant pain, cancer, massive spinal arthritis (and other things), hips that don’t work, asthma — and a failing heart — can sap the will to live.Poverty adds another layer of fear.
I can’t take antidepressants. None of the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRs) are safe for me. The chances that they will cause a stroke are high. Given the other crap I’ve gone through, that’s one experience I’d rather skip. I’ve had to develop other coping mechanisms. Maybe there will be something useful for you in this. Because the one thing I have practiced long and hard is surviving.
1) When you find yourself in a black pit, seek distraction. Anything. Reading (if you can focus), audiobooks (easier for me and the more unreal and fantastic, the better), movies, music, reruns of “The Golden Girls.” Anything to get your mind out of that pit, even briefly.
2) Don’t lay it all on your partner. If you are lucky enough to have a partner, he or she has his/her own issues and taking care of (and worrying about) you is only one of them. Dumping your pain and suffering in his or her lap is unfair. Tell them where you are at and why you aren’t being communicative, but give your mate a break. They really do feel your pain.
3) If you have a shrink, go there and talk, talk, talk. (If you don’t have a shrink, why not?) If you are able to take medication and it helps, do it. If you can’t take meds, talk more. If you’re a writer, write more. If you are an artist, do whatever you do as much as you can. It’s not only art. It’s therapy.
4) Certain physical illnesses — heart surgery and cancer are two biggies — are notorious for causing depression. Bad depression even in people who are not normally prone to it. The assault of surgery and drugs on your body throws everything out of whack. Nothing feels right. For months you’re helpless and that’s terrifying for most of us. Asking for help is humiliating. Getting a mate (and friends and family) to understand why you are having so much trouble expressing your needs is even more difficult. They don’t always understand what you mean, either. Be patient with them. Until we perfect the Vulcan mind meld, words can be hard to find.
5) You can’t do it alone. You need help. Professional and personal. Depending on your age, you may or may not get back to being the person you used to be. Regardless, the impact of major health issues is profound, deep, permanent. Your best choice is to cope with one day at a time. Don’t brace all the issues at the same time. The gremlins, goblins, beasts of darkness will consume you if you try.
6) If you have a hobby — knitting, drawing, photography, writing, whatever — do it. As much as you can. Being able to do something, accomplish something will remind you of who you are, that the darkness will not engulf you forever. Write a book, start a new blog, crochet a sweater. Paint a picture. Take pictures of your backyard and the birds who feed there. Play with your dogs and cats. When you can, take a walk and remember the world still exists.
7) Be patient.
8) Don’t brood on injustice. Don’t look for scapegoats — not a malevolent god, your mother, husband, or ungrateful kids. Shit happens. Maybe more happens to you, but you’re not alone. There are plenty of others who feel the same way or worse.
One day, you will feel better. Maybe not good, but better. You’ll realize you are sort of normal. You can breathe. The pain has backed off. You laugh more than you used to. You want to do stuff again, want to see people. Life beckons.