10.23.2009

Taking My Demons for a Walk in Traffic

I. Exercising My Demons:

Recently, a few people—some I know quite well, some I’ve never met—commented (here or via email or in person) on the honesty of this blog. Hearing that gave me pause, because while I think I know what they mean, I also know that nothing on the page before you is entirely straight up.

It’s edited—thoroughly read and reviewed—even after it’s posted. I think about how the words sound, not so much to impress you, but to make sure I’m happy with their rhythm and weight. That kind of thing.

I guess what I’m saying is, this isn’t me talking—this is me looking at what I have to say, observing it from the other side of the dashboard, just like you.

And while it’s not always honest, it’s at least always cathartic. Even if I don’t say exactly what I’m feeling (to protect the final wisps of anonymity I tell myself I have), I at least tap on the keyboard until I feel a shift, feel cleaner, like I’ve exorcised the demons.

Of course, writing doesn’t always work. As calming as can be, it can also rile me up more from time to time, lock me into a spiral of negative descent. And when that happens, I think of M and the dinner party.

Well, the quiet moments after the dinner party, to be more accurate. Our guests long gone, we were sitting at the table savoring the last of our wine while Brad started on the dishes and Arnie and Red hoovered smashed brownie crumbs, snuffling around like truffle pigs.

I don’t remember how it came up, but M proffered that nothing, in his opinion, beats exercise at quelling feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.

Normally I’d counter with lines from Lexapro and Effexor ads (“mental illness is still an illness,” that sort of thing), but this fellow, M, is human honey—healthy and sweet and golden and good—so when he shared his theory on exercise as a panacea for angst, I listened.

And I thought about it.

And years later, when I’m all jacked up on self-inflicted pain and writing isn’t helping, I think of M and the dinner party, and I take Arnie and Red for a walk or a run, or I go to the gym or skiing or swimming or to a yoga class or to Crossfit.

I move. And just moving—shaking and stretching and jumping and getting fatigued—snaps everything back into place, restores my perspective.

It works—exercising my demons.


II. Here’s Your F%*cking Honesty:
So, is exercise enough? If I make a conscious effort to track my mental wellness (checking in with myself, keeping an emotions journal, being honest about what I’m feeling and why I might be feeling that way), can I stop spending hundreds of dollars on my anti-depressant? Lord knows I loathe those wine-colored pills—they taste awful, and I don’t like being dependent on them, especially when I’m not sure they’re completely effective.

So readers, in the name of unveiled honesty, that’s where I am today. I’d like to be drug free. I’d like to be less numb and more engaged. I’d like to be as social as I used to, to gather my friends around me frequently instead of being so withdrawn.

But I’m afraid to go it alone, because I’ve been medicating for over a decade. I don’t know what to expect, whether I’ll even be able to get out of bed, let alone out the door for a self-improvement run. It’s scary to step into the street when you can’t see what’s coming.

4 comments:

Tara said...

I go to a natural doctor who helps balance my chemical levels through supplements. He does muscle testing, and while it sometimes seems crazy, I feel better than I have in a long time (including when I was on antidepressants). If what you doing isn't working, who cares if a new method seems a little goofy.

Kate said...

I totally agree on the exercise....running beats any combination of drugs/therapy ever in terms of making me feel happy to be alive.

As far as the antidepressants go - I have mixed feelings about them. I was on some briefly and felt very numb and sought out a more natural option (5Htp) and lifestyle changes to deal w/ my depression...for me when I am not dealing w/ my fibromyalgia appropriately - depression kicks up. If you decide to go off them/try something different - you might consider waiting until spring when you are getting more sunlight (which naturally boosts serotonin) rather than making a change in the fall/winter. Just my 2 cents...I know when I moved from sunny Colorado to Vermont in the winter it was horrifically depressing (as gorgeous as VT is...)

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Really lovely writing here, filled with integrity (and btw, all of us writers censor. You -- writing girl -- are not alone.) And from reading through these posts, I must say that I'm a fan of your sweet pumpkin-carving man, too.

As for being drug free, I can so understand your wanting that. I am very close to someone who has been medicated for the last 20 years. Every year after the summer, (when he is feeling his best from all that light, and those long days and the many hours of golf)he stops taking his drugs. He always feels great at first. And then the depression creeps up on him bit by bit until he is shrouded by it and in a dark and lonely place. And then he goes back to his medication and feels better. Not fantastic. But better. And for him, that's enough. But for you, with your own story, and your own symptoms, and your own path....it might be quite different.

nicpics said...

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check it katie