I was living in San Francisco, had a thriving personal training business and I was four years sober. I thought everything should be all shih-tzu puppies frolicking and frozen custard rivers from here on out. My zombies had other ideas though. I had brain eating, life sucking, undead, old stories waiting just outside the periphery of my new life in sobriety that I didn’t know about. In all the four years I had spent getting and staying sober, my life had gotten so good that I stopped looking, I stopped growing and I stopped fighting. I had gotten to “enough”.
I found myself battling an old, and all too familiar dragon. The depression had come out of it’s cave on the mountain top and was back. I failed to even recognize it because it wasn’t attached to a 5-year long bender fueled by rum and cocaine, like my last battle with this dragon was.
I was 4 years sober and I thought everything was just peachy with my life; why do I feel like this? Again!
I blamed it on the weather in San Francisco; always cloudy, cold and wet. I blamed it on the fact that my girlfriend lived all of 35 miles south of the city. I blamed it on everything except the real problem. I was depressed.
Depression is a real thing.
Depression is not a joke.
Depression is not a “You know what to do so just go do it then…” thing.
Depression is not a “pull yourself together, man!” thing.
Depression is not a “You know you’ll feel better when you get up so just get out of bed!” thing.
Depression is a “the outside world is the scariest place imaginable” thing.
Depression is an “I feel so dumb but i’m paralyzed with fear and darkness” thing.
Depression is a “I know I should open my blinds, but the darkness is safer” thing.
Depression is an “I’m smiling to your face but i’m thinking about killing myself” thing.
Depression is an “I’m calling to talk to you but it’s really a cry for help” thing.
Depression is a “please hear me, please see me” thing.
Depression is not imaginary, it is not a weakness, it is real and it is brutal.
When you’re depressed, all that is the constant tornado of thoughts swirling around in your head; complete with, houses, cars and cows flying around, and the Wicked Witch of the West; “I’m going to get you my pretty; and your little dog too.”
Does it sound confusing? It should. It is.
For the person that’s depressed it’s confusing, it’s frustrating, it’s painful, and it’s dark, and it’s scary. It’s a constant barrage of thoughts about “shoulda… coulda… woulda”.
It never quiets down. Ever.
It, both, keeps you awake and it makes you want to sleep all the time.
It makes you eat way too much or eat nothing at all.
There’s nothing like it.
Nothing like the misery and the mental oppression.
There is such an internal conflict that when you’re deep in it, there are no choices.
There is only an inability to see, and an inability to act.
You’re paralyzed by fear and overwhelm.
And there-in lies the kicker; the hard truth.
The way out of this particular woods is action.
When I found myself in the hell-hole that is depression again I decided this was the last time I was ever going to be here.
I thought getting sober meant I was clear. I thought that if I removed all the behaviors around my addiction the depression would magically be gone. I thought wrong. Depression doesn’t care if you have a beautiful girlfriend, a job that you love, are four years sober and you have money in the bank.
In fact this is exactly what depression wants; it wants you comfortable, it wants you to let your guard down. That’s when it strikes. Just when you think you’re off the hook, that hook reaches in grabs on to every fiber of your being and pulls you down below the surface.
The reason why depression keeps pulling people back in, even after 5 or 10 years, is because most never treated the real cause; in my case it was stories about not being enough that I had imprinted on my life from being a kid with severe asthma and food allergies. People tend to only treat the symptoms. When you treat the symptoms they go away and you’ll feel better, but that dragon is still lurking in the caves. Waiting until you’re just comfortable enough that you stop treating the symptoms. Until you actually slay that dragon, you will never really be out of the woods.
Here’s the mostly-good, encouraging news: it doesn’t have to be massive action.
You don’t have to conquer everything at once. It could be something as simple as keeping up with your laundry, not letting the dishes pile up in the sink, or opening the blinds for a couple hours.
All it takes is one action everyday. Pick something that feels like the easiest thing to do and do that and then repeat every day.
After you get a handle on the little things, you can move up to bigger things, like going to the gym, or a night out with friends.
You must keep in mind this is the first step. That dragon is still waiting for you. If you start with the little things you will progress to the big things and then to slaying that dragon and riding off into the sunset like John Wayne. A depression free John Wayne.
So I want you to challenge yourself; pick 1 thing, just 1 thing to actually do this week- laundry, dishes, calling your best friend, going for a walk.
What will happen in return is that you will actually be putting on your suit of armor, one piece at a time, and then drawing your sword. You’re training yourself to slay the dragon that is depressed, once and for all.
No one said slaying dragons was easy. You’re not still reading this because you signed up for easy. You’re still reading this because you signed up to slay dragons.