Chatterbrain

While yesterday I had a good night’s sleep, the last one turned out almost as disturbed as the first. My brain just wouldn’t shut up, going into a frenzy of activity that only subsided in the morning hours. I tossed and turned, but it is like having a blaring radio in your head that won’t let you rest. Naturally, I am very tired once again.
And yet, I also had what after yesterday’s session I recognize as a depression-free phase: it lasted about 90 minutes today and occurred in the early evening, coupled with an increased desire to walk. The urge to move had been back this morning already, but without the elevated mood then.
This morning it proved somewhat difficult to live it out since I was grocery shopping with my mother and maternal grandmother (not the one suffering from Alzheimer’s) and my grandmother uses a walking aid, making her rather slow, but in the evening I just got my sports shoes on and walked out of the house, even running for a short distance. It felt so incredibly good – hard to believe that less than a week ago I still had to push myself, that I had no surplus energy whatsoever.
I walked as fast as I could, making long strides, lifting up my head and taking in the beautiful evening sun, feeling the wind in my hair. I was just at complete peace with myself and the world – no worries, no negative thoughts. About an hour and a half later, I started to “come down” again, but since I’m not in such a terrible place anymore as I used to be, that is alright as well – the decline was smooth, no sudden crash. I had a taste of the things to come now, and am more motivated than ever to fight the depression down completely.

***

My therapist explained that the brain works with thresholds, and that I must have reached a certain threshold which triggered a non-depressed reaction, but because my brain is still re-building the cerebral structure, there is a delay in its reaction. Over time, the gap between stimulus and reaction will become smaller, and eventually there won’t be any delay anymore.

This development proved a bit of a surprise to both of us; my BDI-II score was back to 10 in only 6 days, so we compared last week’s assessment to this week’s: I lost a point in the categories “sadness”, “irritability”, “loss of energy” and “tiredness or fatigue” each, everything else had remained unchanged. Irritability was down because I had my privacy back after the trip south and because I could command better over my own time again, which in turn affected all the other categories: being irritated costs energy and makes you tired and sad, the latter also being the case if you cannot do what you want to do.
We also took a look at “things I did right” over that time, specifically over the weekend and on Monday, since that is the time when the threshold was reached. We had started to formulate rules a while ago which, if I abide them, make my depression go away. Those rules are different for every person, so you first have to find them out; mine are rather basic: “Keep in touch with people, so you don’t fall back into social isolation” – “Get active to make things happen, take control over your life” – “Express your wishes openly” and, new since yesterday, “Spend time alone to unwind” as a direct result of the trip to my grandmother. The latter is the only rule I have regularly followed before starting therapy, but as a result usually violated the first rule by not keeping in touch with people…

In addition to following my own rules during the days we were looking at, there also was a new behaviour that had never come up nor been discussed in our therapy sessions before: avoiding to let my own mood get dragged down by those of others. It actually took me by surprise since I had handled the corresponding situation with gut feeling rather than careful thought, but apparently my intuition had led me on the right path here.
In the past, I would often succumb to the “vibes” sent off by other people around me – just had to spend some time in the same room, and my mood would drop inevitably, even if they had not been directed at me. This time around, I managed to stay focused on my well-being without avoiding the social situation or acting inappropriately; a huge step forward for me.

In retrospect, yesterday’s session felt a little like taking inventory: I brought up how I couldn’t possibly imagine making this kind of progress when I first showed up on the hospital’s doorstep back in October, and we spent some time talking about the differences between now and then as well as tracing the steps that led so far. My therapist also confirmed what I had already suspected after last week’s therapy session: that there’s a lot more liveliness to my body language. Rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the range displayed by the average healthy person, I would have scored 2-3 in October and 8-9 now. Not quite there yet, but considering my many inhibitions, it is a tremendous change.

For the first time ever, I also spoke about some memories I had only recently unearthed again, after being “lost” in my brain for years – but I prefer keeping that for another time, since the thought process on this story is not finished yet; I remembered more since talking about it in therapy, and believe I also discovered some parallel to an event which took place years later that strongly hints at some underlying pattern for some of my earlier episodes of major depression – I want to talk about it to the therapist first, though.

It was very apparent that my therapist was happy for me, and he even walked me outside the hospital and continued talking to me outside for a few minutes. I rather enjoyed that, and took it as a compliment and encouragement for the path still before me.

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