Over the past year, I have been fortunate enough to find an amazing amount of support from family, friends, hospitalizations, and peer support groups to help me deal with the depression that has plagued me all my life. What you will find here is a work in progress--both in my writing and in my life--and possibly the hope that surprised me and the courage I found to put my energy into living rather than dying (as Shelly would often admonish me). Speaking of Shelly...
It was Shelly who first made the comparison that changed my perspective so completely. She said it in passing during group one day, but it stuck with me in a way that lessons in my hours, months, and years of therapy have never succeeded in. I was at Adult Partial Hospitalization--again--after one of my many suicide attempts. I was ashamed and discouraged. I had been through the program twice before and thought about what a failure I was to end up back there again after attempting suicide when I had sworn off it during my last visit at Partial. The general feeling in the room that day reflected mine...we all felt like giving up, like the staff were wasting their efforts on people who would never recover, never be able to walk the way everyone around us seemed to do with such ease.
I think there was a hint of exasperation in her voice that day when Shelly said, "You guys, it's like learning to walk. You would never blame a toddler for not being able to run right away or tell him he had failed when he fell down. We understand that that baby is learning and is going to fall along the way. You have not had the opportunity to exercise these skills since childhood. Go easy on yourselves. It's like learning to walk...it takes time to change your thoughts and your habits, and of course you are going to fall from time to time in the process. And that's why we're here...to help you get back up and try it again." The group moved on to other topics, but I have considered that metaphor ever since the day Shelly mentioned it.
Perhaps it sticks out for me more than it has for others because walking has been somewhat of a struggle in my life. I was born with cerebral palsy on the left side of my body, which was not diagnosed until I was five years old. At times, it felt like the diagnosis did me more harm than good. At times, it was an excuse to keep from taking risks. At times, it opened doors to experiences that changed my life. You will find those times and more in the entries to follow. My struggles with depression have mirrored my struggles with walking in so many ways that you will see the two intertwine again and again. Welcome to my walk with depression.