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Loss of Hindsight – depression and memory

I’m writing this on the tail end of an anxiety attack. Just FYI. I know it’s skewed; it’s absolutely skewed. But it’s no less true.

It’s funny how memory works. Doubly so if you live with a mood disorder.

When the depression starts to ebb, it’s subtle, but one day you realize, “I’m breathing air again. I came up from the darkness.” You don’t forget the darkness, especially at first; I don’t know about others, but I usually get a little giddy, just a touch of mania. Then I usually steady myself, and – miraculously it seems – get on with life.

From the “normal” side, each day that passes, it gets hard to remember why that day or that week or that month was lost to me. It’s gone, but thinking about it hurts less, doesn’t trigger spirals of guilt and self-loathing over all that “wasted” time. I was sick, now I’m better, and I can believe it again. I have hypomanic days – and they’re mostly a nice change – and some mildly sad days, but it’s all … well, I imagine it feels like others feel most of the time. Most of their lives. And the depression seems far away, and I breathe the clean air and go do things, make things, see people, and reconnect, if cautiously.

I think it’s like physical pain – the body makes you forget. How much it hurt. Why you spent that entire week on the couch, curled up and staring at nothing, berating yourself for being so stupid, lazy, weak, yadda, yadda, yadda. They’re no longer quite real.

Then, one day, you start to slip back under. And it all comes surging back, as if the depression never left. And with it the dysfunction, the guilt, the inner screaming. The heavy silence and sorrow. The inability to think. The looming sense of disaster. The panic squeezing my chest.

I ask myself, shriek at myself: Why am I writing this instead of painting like I should be doing? Because it’s all I can do. Why do I curl in bed or on the couch, letting chores pile up, mail pile up? Because it’s all I can do. Why am I hiding out in the house with the drapes down instead of going for a walk in the sunshine? Because it’s all I can do. And if it’s all I can do (sez the depression), than I really must be stupid, lazy and weak.

That’s where I am today. And right now those good days, weeks, or months of feeling “normal” – or at least not feeling desperate all the time – their memory is like smoke. Instead, the depression is all, and the depression is always.

I need to re-read journal entries and posts to remind me the lows aren’t forever. It feels like a lie, like fiction, like some other person wrote those words.

But right now, it’s all I can do.

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