Content warning: In this post, I will be discussing suicidal ideation and attempts in the abstract. However, if these are topics that are triggering to you at this point, feel free to skip this post. If you are in crisis, there are several crisis line options on my resources page, or call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
Last weekend, hubby and I were out for a drive, we started to talk about our past, my past. We’ve been friends pretty much forever, or at least since grade school, so he’s seen a lot of the ups and downs over the years. One topic that came up was the time in my life where depression seemed to be winning the battle, and, to be frank, suicide seemed a plausible and reasonable option, which gives a good idea of how much of my thought process was controlled by depression. This was quite some time ago, about 14 years ago, and a part of my life I’m still, honestly, trying to come to terms with, and this post isn’t really about that band of the storm. This part of my story is just the stage dressing, at least today.
As our conversation evolved, the topic of ideation came up. I told him that, as glad as I am that I haven’t struggled with active ideation in quite some time, probably close to a dozen years, the bigger struggle has been with passive ideation in varying degrees. Whether itʻs fleeting images of death, or vague, unwanted thoughts of ending it, it can be a frustrating experience, especially as I walk the journey towards a healthier self. In all honesty, the frequency of these unwanted, passive thoughts has greatly decreased over the years, and mostly becomes a struggle when insomnia comes into play. For me, these unwanted passive ideation thoughts and insomnia are the worst sort of dance partners, feeding each other, dragging me deeper towards the heart of the storm. Because they have such a undeniable relationship with each other, it has become easier to see when they start that waltz, and that gives me the opportunity to try and stop or change the music before they can fall into a rhythm.
For me, the struggle, the battle with passive ideation is a great example of one of the reasons, in my opinion, that life with depression can feel like a battle, and why, so often, I feel exhausted. There are days, especially when going down or up the spiral of depression, when everything feels like a battle. All day, every day, my brain feels like a battleground: Lynda thoughts vs depression thoughts. My own thoughts strive to maintain “normal” life, productive life, and getting back into a healthier routine where self-care is a habit. Depression thoughts try to fill my head with lies, try to pull me back into the darkness, try to paralyze and ensnare me. My own thoughts encourage living life, living with faith and happiness. Depression thoughts do everything in their power to make living life look unappealing. I fight to win, but, when Iʻm climbing out from the storm, every inch feels like a mile.
Thankfully, each day is starting to get easier. My energy has been getting better, and my depression symptoms are continuing to subside. Not just that, but, as my faith has become a more integral part of my life, pushing away those unwanted thoughts is a little easier. I have decided that I want to keep living, which has fueled my fight against depression. Even more than that, I’ve started to see the “why” that is behind my decision to live: my faith, my family, my son, my own curiosity to know what will happen next, to understand as much as I can. Making this decision and realizing that I have a “why” doesn’t erase the struggle, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to still fight the battle against those unwanted passive thoughts, or other types of distorted thoughts.
Earlier this week, I was out of commission for about 3 days with a stomach bug. Those 3 days, honestly, were some of the tougher days I’ve had in a few weeks. There was some anxiety, some negative self-worth thoughts, some distorted thinking, specifically around my weight. I didn’t wallow, though. As each challenge came up, I tried to either focus on what I needed in the moment (for instance, hydration, rest, crackers), or countering any negative or distorted thoughts by using some of the tools I’ve gained in the past year of therapy.
Has all of this change in my outlook, my approach been easy? Absolutely not. Nor do I think I’m perfect, or even anywhere near my end goal of healthier imperfection. And, while prayer has become another element in my defenses against the lies of depression, I don’t expect any one thing to be the silver bullet in my battle with the storm. Most days, even when my sleep is good, I’m tired in some way or another, be it physically, emotionally, mentally, or some combination of the three. Sometimes, the tired is from fighting depression. Sometimes, it’s just from standing guard against my symptoms.
Someday, I hope that all of the practice, all of the guarding, all of the fight will become habit. In truth, as time goes by, it has gotten easier. The unwanted thoughts come less frequently. Hardly ever, in fact. And, when they do, it’s easier to see that they’re more of the lies that depression is trying to feed me, which makes it that much easier to push away. I don’t want any part of the lies and false promises that depression keeps trying to sell me. That makes it a little easier, too. If nothing else, it makes accepting the tiredness, the battling thoughts, a little easier to stomach.
How do you deal with battling or unwanted thoughts?