Working my way from fundamentalism to freedom (without losing my mind)


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Listen up, Zoloft…

This past Thursday was the happiest I’ve been in months.

That’s a little weird to say because I didn’t have any big adventures or go to any cool concerts. I just got up at 9:00 am and walked to French class in the rain, and it was cold and my socks got wet. Then, I went to the doctor’s office and filled out papers and got needles shoved into my veins and stuff.

But, as I mentioned in my last blog post, after my appointment, my doctor gave me a prescription for hope.

…oh, and also Zoloft.

My doctor was clear that my starting dosage would not have much of an effect on me (I just have to get used to the medicine slowly), and that even the full dosage would take a week or two to make a difference.

But that first half of a pill that I took must have had some kind of crazy placebo effect. Or maybe  my excitement about the fact that someone had actually offered me a realistic solution to my depression sent me into a state of euphoria.

Whatever the cause, for the first time in months, I was truly happy.

Skipping-and-clicking-my-heels-together-instead-of-walking-like-a-normal-person happy.

Pretending-my-life-is-a-musical-and-dancing-on-my-coffee-table happy.

Being-able-to-talk-about-politics-without-getting-angry happy.

Needless to say, despite French class and the rain and having to tear off a band-aid, I enjoyed my Thursday.

But, my happiness had baggage: fear.

As the sun set on my fantastic Thursday, I cuddled on the sofa with Abe and we had this conversation:

*Me: I love how I feel today, but I keep thinking of that play…with the rat, and the big word.

*Abe: Flowers for Algernon? 

*Me: Yeah, that’s the one. This happiness isn’t going to last, and what if the medicine doesn’t work and I just go back to being just as depressed forever? Only, it will be worse because I’ll be able to remember how happy I was today and it will seem like hell in comparison.

*Abe: If this doesn’t work, you’ll try something else.

*Me: I guess my doctor did say there were plenty of options. She did say that if this didn’t work, there were other things I could try….yeah. Yeah. There are other things I can try. Yeah.

At this point, something clicked in my brain and I abruptly ended my conversation with Abe. I ran into the other room to grab my bottle of Zoloft. I swept it into my fingers, stared it right in the face that it didn’t have, and had a little chat with it:

Listen up, buddy...

“Listen, Zoloft, I don’t need you. I like you. Sure. And I hope we work out. But there are other fish in the sea. That’s right. You’re not my last chance. My hope for healing doesn’t have to begin and end with you. You had better damn well treat me right, or I will dump your ass and find someone new.”

I heard Abe chuckling behind me, and I realized that I was talking out-loud to an inanimate object. But I didn’t care. I had said what I needed to say.

I have high hopes for Zoloft.

 

But I don’t have to sit and worry about whether or not it will work. Zoloft is not my last chance, because I’m never going to give up. I’m not going to quit pursuing healing.

If it doesn’t work, I’ll be heart-broken and disappointed, sure. I may get knocked down…

…but I’ll get up again….

…You’re never gonna bring me down (I couldn’t resist).


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Sarah vs. Evil Overlord Depression

I don’t remember exactly when I first started suffering from depression. It was probably around junior high.

Back then, depression would waltz in and out of my life. It would stick around for a few days or weeks, then it would leave, and it would forget to call, and good riddance!

When I started dating my abusive ex-boyfriend at age 16, depression decided to crash on the futon for a few weeks. Those weeks turned into months…

…and years.

The first two years involved many a prayer to “vending machine Jesus.” You know–insert prayer, receive blessings. But it seemed like either my prayers were too wrinkled to be accepted, or my blessings were getting stuck in the dispenser.

Eventually, my Baptist school girl logic came to the conclusion that, “God must freaking hate me.” That type of thinking drove me straight into the open arms of self-injury. 

In college, I stopped believing in”vending machine Jesus” when I met real Jesus. When I prayed to real Jesus, he answered my prayers by sticking Bible passages like 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 in my head. That really annoyed me. Sometimes real Jesus seemed like a real jerk to me.

But he loved me more than any vending machine ever could, and so I followed him.

Still, depression lingered, playing World of Warcraft in the basement of my mind.

So I switched my focus. My philosophy became, “Since Jesus isn’t a vending machine, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to fix this problem, I just need to get over it.”

Image via counter-force.com

At this point, I imagine depression letting out one of those super-villain laughs and saying (in an Invader ZiM voice for some reason), “Puny human! You really think you can defeat ME?”

But I had a case of good ol’ under-dog syndrome, and was certain that I was some kind of unlikely hero that, armed only with courage and maybe some wise advice from a friendly Muppet, could beat the evil over-lord, Depression

I did better than one might expect. I put up a good fight. I even got the upper hand now and then. But about a year ago, depression dealt dealt me a pretty tough blow and left me for dead.

Broken and utterly defeated.

The past eight years of my life, since depression first showed up on my doorstep, have been a struggle. But I can’t say the past year has been a struggle because I barely have the energy to get out of bed, let alone fight off an evil overlord.

But yesterday, I finally admitted that I wasn’t an unlikely hero in a sci-fi movie. I finally admitted that I am a human. A human with an illness that needs treatment. A human that cannot defeat depression through will-power anymore than a cancer patient can remove tumors using positive thinking.

I finally realized, as Allie Brosh said in a fantastic post that she wrote yesterday, “Trying to use will-power to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back…”

So, I went to the doctor.  I asked for help, and I didn’t get pity or judgment in return.

I got solutions.

I’m sure my fight with depression is far from over. But for the first time in years, I remember what hope feels like.

It feels good.


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You’re “Not Alone.” No, really! (a book review)

click here to order on Amazon.com!

Those might be the most comforting words in the English language.

But when you suffer from depression, they are sometimes very hard to believe. The book Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression, edited by Alise Write, takes those words and brings them to life–makes them real and powerful.

Not Alone is a collection of 37 true stories submitted by 37 different contributors. The contributors share their personal stories of their struggles with depression, and they don’t hold back.

They don’t give depression the advantage of taboo and secrecy. They realize that depression is a vampire (no, not the sparkly kind. Read Dracula or Salem’s Lot after you read Not Alone. Promoting two book within a book review of a different book? That’s skill). It is powerful and even deadly in the dark, slowing sucking away life of its victims.

But when you drag depression into the light, its power diminishes.

I was able to see bits and pieces of Me in each story. I was able to recognize my own vampires and I found the courage in this book to start stocking up on metaphorical holy water squirt guns (a.k.a. I finally was able to share my own struggles and I am finally making a doctor’s appointment for next week to talk about my depression).

Not only does this book drag a taboo issue into the light, it also explores depression from multiple angles. I’ve read books on depression where one author tells the world what depression is like, based on his/her experiences.

This is not that book.

Not Alone recognizes that depression manifests itself differently for everyone and so this book shares the platform. Each story is unique. Different types and causes of depression are discussed. Each contributor reacted and recovered in different ways. So, while I was constantly reminded that I was not alone, I was also reminded that I was not the same. 

That was freeing.

If you, like me, are currently living with depression and feel like no one would understand, I highly recommend this book. It gave me hope. It gave me a sense of community. It gave me the freedom and courage to seek help.

If you are not like me, and you have never had to deal with depression, I still highly recommend this book. As 10%-25% of women and 5%-12% of men will suffer from depression in their lifetimes, chances are you’re going to meet someone who has it. That someone might be a loved one. The stories in this book debunk some of the common misconceptions surrounding depression. They will help you understand what those who have it are actually going through and how you can help.

In short, the world needs this book.

Don’t let depression lurk around in the dark.

Drag it out into the light.

Read Not Alone. 

Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression has been a great source of comfort and courage for me this week. I hope you’ll take the time to read it yourself. You can order it on Amazon.com


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Thought zombies

I started writing a blog post yesterday and I didn’t actually finish it.

I published it anyway for some reason, and the result can be found here. I think I managed to put some semi-decent finishing touches on it and at least come to some sort of conclusion.

I think.

I didn’t actually proof-read it. I just hit the shiny, blue “publish” button and tried to forget. But I had really had a lot more to say.

Somewhere in the middle of writing, a tsunami of memories crashed over my brain and I just couldn’t write anymore. Couldn’t…function anymore. My brain had warped back to 2006 and wasn’t coming back. Maybe its DeLorean ran out of plutonium. I don’t know.

All I know is that, for the rest of the day, the “here and now” ceased to matter. My brain didn’t seem to care that Sarah Moon was an aspiring writer trying to establish a solid reputation. It didn’t seem to care that Sarah Moon was a senior in an intense college program. It just had her hit publish, put away the books, and curl up into a fetal position for several hours.

This actually happens often, even when I don’t write (in fact, usually writing about these difficult things helps me process these thoughts in more productive and positive ways. I’m not sure why yesterday was so different). Sometimes it lasts a few hours (I seem to be operating on a  functioning level now). Sometimes it can last for weeks. And I hate it.

I go to counseling. But it doesn’t seem to be working. It seems that every time I go I get a new stress management chart. And I feel that I’ve done a good job of following every chart. It helps a bit, only…well…

I feel like I’m in a zombie movie. And with stress management, I have the tools to kill off the individual thought zombies as they stagger into my brain. Possibly even in time to epic Queen music!

(Warning: language, zombie violence, and possibly unhealthy amounts of awesomeness)

 

But everyone knows that eventually the zombies break the windows and climb in by the hoards. That’s where stress management always falls short.

No, when the memories come flooding in, I don’t need stress management. I need a miracle. A deus ex machina. But my brain isn’t really a zombie movie. It exists in reality and no cheap Hollywood tricks can fix this.

The memories are so vivid.

So vivid.

And, as illogical as it may be, these memories inspire a very real and very present fear.

And fear is paralyzing.

I have more to say, but those pesky thought zombies are starting to creep in again. I think I need to put on some Queen and grab some pool sticks. So, if you’ll excuse me…. I’ll probably write more on this topic later. Thanks, readers, for all your support. Hope I haven’t been too negative lately! So, how do you folks deal with thought zombies? And more importantly, how do you folks deal with real zombies? 

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