Conjuring fantastical worlds and grand adventures was how my brother and I spent many summer afternoons. To escape the droughts of the 1980s and a rather isolated existence on the prairies, our imaginations took us to a different place each day. The Caragana hedge became a dense jungle where we fought off a patrol of Viet Cong (Derek and I were obsessed with Vietnam War vet, Magnum PI). The yellow bean pods that hung from the branches became hand grenades, easily plucked and thrown at the enemy. Another day we crawled through a ditch, or ran over crunching dried, golden clumps of prairie grass, kicking up fine dirt as we escaped lions who stalked us on make-believe safaris. Some summer afternoons we fished with our great uncle and great grandmother at the pond, a lone body of water near our farmyard. Of course, the small pond became an ocean and we, deep sea fishers. Though far from a Norman Rockwell painting, a typical childhood in the 1980s country life was idyllic in some ways. Slowly this painting of imagination and family gatherings and youthful adventure became sullied, darkened by the unknown. Long-living, German, Protestant hardiness coursed through our veins. What was also coursing through our veins was something “new” and unseen and much more dangerous than the lions, human enemies, and sharks of our imaginations. This unseen guest was slowly attacking our bodies and minds, stripping us of our hardy genetics and ability to survive.
Depression, anxiety, and suicide rates are high among the chronically ill. Many people are never cured, but they also do not pass away. This means years of day in and day out fatigue, medication routines, and watching life pass from the bedroom window.
If you are ill and entering your second or third decade of aloneness and medical crisis, you are not an anomaly. There are thousands of people lying in beds or on couches in basements feeling isolated and scared. They stare at the ceiling questioning why they should continue treatment for another decade if all that results is staying alive. Too weak and fatigued to pursue hobbies, a person can become so bored that it creates a feeling of anxious suffocation.
Some, like me, recover a little bit, to the point we can work part time and take care of our homes. Loneliness sets in though because we are not well enough to pursue hobbies, travel much, and stay up late to socialize. We are still on treatments and certainly are not symptom-free.
The following points are a few ways I prevented depression during the darkest years, and how I manage to stay afloat now. I am certainly not an expert. These are simply things that work for me, and it is my hope one or two will resonate with you. Continue Reading…