Wednesday, July 22, 2015
A Deadly Duo
I lay on the cool, hard floor; resting my head upon my dog's shoulders, tears stream down my cheeks, and wrap my arms tightly around his neck. I cling to him for dear life as I contemplate my own life. I'm home alone and no one is due to come around for hours. Thoughts race through my mind consumed by depression.
I enter the kitchen and there he stands facing the window, his back to me. We stand in utter silence, not even able to hear the usual sounds a house tends to create. He makes no acknowledgement of my presence, perhaps he doesn't realize I'm standing behind him. My mind races in the mix of my depression and my anger.
We all have fleeting thoughts inspired by death, whether it's a mere moment of thinking "I'm done, just end it all" or brief anger inspired thoughts for harm to another as simple as "I'd like to hit your car with mine". These thoughts dissipate as quickly as they appear and in the flash of a moment they're forgotten as our mind shuffles around our thoughts, storing some, discarding others, entertaining a few. However, when our mind begins to fixate on such thoughts we know there is more going on within us. I recently shared my own battles - past and present - with depression and anger and the struggles of living with these friends.
Depression and anger are the perfect deadly duo. Depression isolates us from others and activity, burying us in pain and apathy, draining us of life. This is why there are precautionary statements for risk of suicide with antidepressants and as a warning sign for suicide...as our depression lessens, our energy increases and we suddenly have the energy to carry out that suicidal intent and plan we've been mentally preparing but previously didn't have the energy to complete. Anger on the other hand tends to be a mask for deeper anguish, it behaves as a coping mechanism...creating barriers between ourselves and others and within ourselves. With anger we always have an excuse to push others away and to not tackle our underlying issues. Anger gives us the peace of displacing attention from what is really bothering us onto other issues, typically minuscule and fleeting.
Depression and anger, that blissful pair, remind me of a quote from the character Dr. Sidney Freedman from the TV series M*A*S*H when he states "Anger turned inwards is depression. Anger turned sideways is Hawkeye." Interestingly, Hawkeye combats the Korean War in his own rebellious, authority defying, snarky style and at the end it becomes too much for him to bear and he is institutionalized. No matter how hard we fight, how much we rebel against the atrocities of life we witness and experience, at some point we will find our breaking point if we don't take the necessary self care precautions to protect ourselves from harm - physical or mental.
There are moments in our lives that serve as an alarm, a distress signal. If we ignore this alarm, we may face detrimental long lasting effects. Our alarms will vary from person to person, some need very loud alarms and others require little prompting.
I have endured bouts of depression over the last 20 years and it is triggered periodically, particularly after traumatizing experiences. As college classes resumed after spring break vacation, I returned to school and although my body was present, my mind wasn't. Being around others, away from the safety of my home, and the stimulation of a busy environment overwhelmed my psyche as it attempted to recover itself from a traumatic experience the week before. I was unable to function at work or school until my mind could recoup from my recent trauma and address the issues at play affecting me. Had my professors and myself ignored the distress signals of depression, crying episodes, hyper vigilance, and severe anxiety my acute stress disorder could easily have progressed into post traumatic stress disorder with long lasting negative effects. Instead, we heeded those alarms and with assistance I obtained the professional care and help I needed to resume a functioning daily life.
My family and friends joke about my temper and the subsequent venting meltdowns that occur until my anger becomes smoldering rather than fiery. I have experienced extreme anger beginning after my first round of surgeries and complications. I was angry about my health, ostomy, and life changes. I developed post traumatic stress disorder and depression, I coped with these diagnoses through anger. I was surprised when a co-worker chased me down a hallway shaking a small bag of tortilla chips offering them to me as consolation and to calm my fiery temper down after a meltdown. Being chased with chips served as an alarm to me and I realized that I needed to work on my temper again.
When depression and anger combine forces, we are left fighting against ourselves and the world. Depression and anger work together in magnificent synchrony to isolate us through withdrawal and creation of barriers in an effort to destroy us from the inside out, feeding off of each other and our experiences of trauma, pain, and heartache. We begin to lose ourselves amidst the battlefield of depression and anger, we begin to say and act in ways that are not like us as we are pulled harder and fought over between this duo. This is a wake up call to pull back harder and break the grasp of depression and anger so that you may escape and return to yourself. If we don't, we are pulled closer and closer to death whether by our own hands, worsened health complicated by the depression, anger and stress that is evoked, or through risky situations we may place ourselves within due to reckless behavior. Breaking free is not easy but it is doable.
Your psyche wants to protect you, pay attention to the alarms. Take it a moment at a time, seek out counseling and reach out to friends and family. Also check out these other free support resources.
This is my life with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Short Bowel Syndrome. I was diagnosed with FAP as a child, underwent total colectomy at age 9. I experienced life threatening complications resulting in 4 more surgeries that year and developing medical PTSD. I had an ileostomy for 6 years before having it reversed into a straight pull-thru that also resulted in life threatening complications requiring an additional surgery the following year. In 2021, I required my 8th surgery to remove my gall bladder due to gall stones and FAP. This surgery exacerbated my, at the time undiagnosed, Abdominal Migraine which is now being treated.