Surviving Depression 101

I was alone. I lost most of what I thought was valuable. All that remained seemed to be cheap and falling apart. My bank account was on its way to empty. My credit score was losing to the drain of divorce and the expenses of a life and its cost. I had a small apartment that was at the edge of the town where I grew up.

It was fitting that I moved back to my old hometown. The neighborhood was familiar and comfortable. I knew the streets and the streets knew me as well. I returned to submerge myself in the anonymity of my quiet homecoming without judgment. Those that knew me in my troubled youth did not recognize me in adulthood.

The remnants of my passed were faded and nearly forgotten.My Father passed away. My Mother moved. My brother was proudly living well in another town with a family of his own.
At the time, I had few friends. Instead, I had a valid memory of places in the neighborhood to keep me company. On occasion, I drove passed the old spots and places that are valid to both good and bad parts of my history.  As I drove by them, I passed with smiles, which, I assume contributed to the comfort I felt upon my return.

I had a used car with relatively low mileage. However, as a result of a brokenhearted will, bad credit, and a poorly negotiated purchase, my monthly payment for that car was higher than it should have been. At least I had a car though—that was important.
I had a bed to lie on and couch to sit on while watching an old, outdated television set that still played VHS tapes. I had a silverware set and dishware set that served four people—but I had no table to sit at or anyone to invite to dinner. Fortunately, I had a coffee table. And for the time being, the coffee table is where I ate my meals.

Most of what I ate was cooked somewhere else. Most were packed in cardboard, flip-top boxes, from fast food places.
I never cooked for myself. My apartment was equipped with a brand new stove. There was an electric range on top with a self-cleaning oven below. The appliance was more than able. Nevertheless, I did not used it.
The apartment came with a few pots and pans that were left behind by the previous tenant. I had a spaghetti strainer, a cake mixer, a broiling pan, and a package of frozen peas and carrots in the freezer.
With the exception of leftover Chinese food, pizza, or the remaining burrito, my fridge was usually empty.

Money was tight. Every penny was budgeted to pay rent, insurance, car payments, and child support. I had commuting fees, utility bills, as well as supplies for my two year-old daughter that visited on weekends.
Then of course there were groceries and necessities. I never thought much about the price difference between leading brands and store brands. I never thought about price checks. I never concerned myself with grocery shopping at all, because after all, I had a wife, and she knew about these things. However, my wife was no longer.
I was alone and on my own.

Throughout the years in which I struggled with social anxieties and depression, I learned that many do not understand what it means to be depressed or socially anxious. In my case, I tend to overthink. I over think everything and simple tasks become complicated.

I worry and expect things to worsen. I wait and anticipate the bad news to come. And in my anticipation, I miss out on the opportunity for happiness. I consider it to be a fleeting, temporary moment. When this happens, I get lost in the severity of insecurity and narcissism. I build battles in my head. Often times, I lose to the imaginary battles and strategize a counter attack, when in fact, I was never even attacked in the first place.

I expect the worst from people and miscalculate behavior.  I assume that like me, in the heat of battle or in the throes of an argument, everyone hits below the belt.
I was not scared of being hit, per se. I was scared of being exposed and laughed at. I was afraid of humiliation. I was afraid to be the last to get the punchline, but more, I was petrified that I, myself,  was the punchline. In other words; I was afraid that life was a joke and the joke was always on me.

When I get to this point, I begin to feel very small and shrunken.
I feel claustrophobic in large places. I feel alone in crowds.
The walls close in, or more accurately, the world closes in on me.
I feel constricted. And by constricted, I mean that I feel as if I cannot breathe.
Not so much literally—but in a figurative sense, I feel as if I am drowning and sinking in the quicksand of my own crazy misconceptions.

In my depression, I question everything. I even question those who are close to me. I curiously test them to see how far they can be pushed, or better yet, I test them to see exactly where their loyalty stands. I trust no one (least of all, myself) and I start to believe crooked strategy of my own lies.

The concern and fear triggers panic. In my case, the panic triggers anger, and anger triggers aggression. It gets worse when this happens.
My vision becomes blurred by emotion, which leads to inaccurate facts that create inaccurate assumptions, causing me to isolate, push away—or push back against the invisible enemies that were conjured in my head.

I become overrun and overwhelmed by the uncomfortable lonesome silence that whispers in painful screams.
In my case, depression is a paradox. My depression is a contradiction of terms. I want to be accepted. I want to be needed and desired. Yet, at the same time, I find myself feeling envious of everyone, hatefully standing on the outside looking in, and cursing those who I see as smiling or happy.
I become isolated by either my behavior or choice. I want to be involved. I want to be loved and invited. I want to be included; however, I never trust my inclusion. I second guess the truthfulness of any invitation and ruin my involvement by sabotaging the invite with explosive or insulting behavior.

As the anxiety spins, I funnel out of control. I lose my ability to understand or translate the genuine, wholesomeness of others. I mistake simple sarcasm for painful insults and take lighthearted gestures as hostile threats against me.

In my case, anxiety and depression are forms of energy. Energy creates movement and movement creates pressure. Without the ability to relieve that pressure; the mind becomes overly pressurize. And without relief, the mind explodes. This is when I meltdown. This is when I overact. This is when I explode, or worse, this is when I implode and crash down upon myself.

After years of struggle and damage; after the aftermath of my explosions or implosions, and after countless troubles with irreparable damages, I was exhausted.
Looking off into the melancholy madness with no one in my company except a small gray and white kitten, a pistol-grip 12 gauge Mossberg shotgun, a copy of the movie Pulp Fiction as my only VHS tape to watch because the cable was not connected; I made the decision to save my own life by following one simple suggestion.

“Replace thought with action.”

When it comes to depression, thought is often fuel to a dangerous fire. Thought—especially interactive thought in a time like this can be deadly. I had to learn how to “NOT” interact with my thoughts.  I had to learn how to relieve the energy to keep from exploding.

I went to the supermarket with a small list. I grabbed a shopping cart. I went through the necessary aisles to gather my ingredients. I picked out a few Idaho potatoes. I grabbed butter and sour cream. I bought a half-gallon of milk. I purchased thin-sliced chicken cutlets, eggs, flour, and the same Italian seasoned breadcrumbs my Mother used to buy when I was a kid.

I went home and carried my shopping bags up to my upstairs apartment on the second level of a private house. I took out the ingredients and placed them away neatly. Next, I peeled the potatoes. I sliced them on an old cutting board that also came with the apartment. I filled a pot with water and then set the pot to boil. While waiting to boil the potatoes, I readied the cutlets for an egg bath. I planned to bathe them in egg, followed by a dip in flour, and then I would cover the cutlets in the breadcrumbs.

I waited to mash the potatoes first because they take longest. I mashed them as best as I could, placing in splash of whole milk, a stick of salted butter, and a big scoop of sour creams. Once this was finished, I took out my cake mixer. I whipped the mashed potatoes in to a thick white bowl of fluffiness, adding salt and fresh black pepper as needed. Once finished, I placed the bowl in the microwave to keep the potatoes from getting cold.

I returned to the cutlets. I poured some oil in the pan and fried the cutlets, one by one. I placed them on a dish, just like my Mother did. I used a paper towel to absorb some of the grease (same as my Mother did) and then I took to the couch. I fed the kitten. I put on Pulp Fiction because I had nothing else to watch. I took my place on the couch and set my table. Instead of rotting in my own mind, I replaced thought with action. I fed myself. Or more accurately, I nurtured myself.

Medication does wonderful things with depression. I agree they are helpful. Even more helpful is a system on how to relieve the insurmountable pressure that comes with depression and social anxiety.  It is my experience that when depression strikes, I need to set small accessible goals for myself. I need to improve in tiny successes. I say small successes because they are achievable goals. Also, small successes string into something bigger.

I learned that I need to keep active. Else, the weight picks up and thoughts become too heavy. If that happens, weight becomes energy, which turns into pressure, and pressure can kill us if we’re not careful

I had to learn that thought is not always fact.
Neither are feelings.

I had to learn that by replacing thought with action, whether it be learning how to cook or finding ways to educate myself, to essentially better myself—by doing that I give myself value. And value has weight. Value acts as a counterweight, and if I have value, I can counteract the heavy belief that I am inaccurately worthless.

I have to keep this practice because this practice saved me when I needed to be saved most. I bought myself a fly fishing rod the other day. Next, I will learn how to tie it. Then I will learn the difference between flies and how to fish with a wet fly as opposed to a dry fly. I will take these lessons step by step, earn small success, and feed myself.

The the other day, I mentioned to you that I am a storyteller.
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always dreamed of being a writer.
I never went to school for this and I still have much to learn.
On the other hand, I still manage to keep to my comittment of writing on a daily basis. I see this as one of my small successes adding up to become something bigger.

I cannot say why I have suffered from depression. I cannot say if my depression is situational or chemical. I cannot say what it feels like to live any way other than what I know.
I know what anxiety is. I know what panic attacks feel like. I know about depression.
Fortunately, I know to replace my thoughts with actions.
Otherwise, the world will gain too much weight.
Life will be too heavy and it took years for me to realize this, but I deserve more than a life that weighs me down

Don’t you?


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