depression for dummies

I recently recovered from a bad bout of depression. I am in general not an overly bubbly or happy person, but this was ridiculous. It had been this bad once before and had lasted much longer. The result of a certain muscle relaxant that is known to cause the blues. A simple google search revealed this fact. However it went right over four doctor’s and one pharmacologist’s head. When the depression hit me this time it felt very familiar. I knew it had to be something I was taking and with a little detective work I found the culprit, Valerian (used as a sleep aid, completely natural and in my case very depressing). In the meantime and out of desperation, I started on two different anti-depressants. Once I stopped the Valerian my depression got a lot better but I had an interesting thought. Why not continue on the anti-depressants and see if I might actually feel good rather than my usual goal of not feeling absolutely horrible? It seemed as good a time as any to start raising my standards.

Before my descent into despair and in reaction to feeling like my world was becoming smaller and smaller, I decided that it might be helpful to find an activity, some act of helping, some thing to get me out of my head and back into life. This is a perfectly sound theory. Unlike other brilliant ideas I have had this did not come from a place of desperation. Even my therapist thought it was a good idea.

I had spent some time learning about Buddhist philosophy from my Buddhist therapist. He had introduced me to a Buddhist center. At the center is a wonderful place that houses terminally ill people who need Hospice care. I decided to attend the volunteer training so that I could be of service. Again, a reasonable idea. It was only after my first four and a half hour shift sitting with a dying person that I saw the flaw in my plan. It was only then that I considered that this was an interesting choice of work for someone who finds herself on melancholy side of the spectrum most of the time. Why hadn’t I chosen to work with children, I wondered. Even more curious was my choice of location. Three years ago I had a painful experience with a Buddhist person. And it was likely that at some point I would run into him at the center. All of this makes perfect sense when you consider that my philosophy has always been, if there’s an open wound, grab some salt. Sometimes my lack of foresight, good judgment and common sense is predictable, other times it takes me by surprise. There are some areas in which I shine but I am generally speaking, a slow learner. The kind of person who picks at scab day after day and wonders why the wound heals so slowly. Eventually though, I do learn. And when I learn something I like to share it with others in the hopes that they can save themselves the pain of learning it themselves, the hard way. So here are the morals to my story. I hope you find them helpful.

Moral #1: If you find yourself even mildly depressed don’t fall into the trap of thinking that spending time with a terminally ill person will cheer you up. More importantly, don’t fool yourself into thinking a person who only has a few precious days left on this earth wants to spend that time with you, a sad person.

Moral #2: If you have recently been betrayed, traumatized or wounded by a person and you never want to see that person again, don’t hang around places they are likely to be.

Moral # 3: MOST IMPORTANT: Remember, it’s not enough to not feel absolutely horrible. With the right combination of drugs you can feel down right okay!

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