It Does Get Better
(LaGrange Park IL)
I wrote earlier in the year about the depression and anxiety I was suffering as a result of retiring on 04/30/13. It was awful. I woke up every morning with a sense of dread about how I was going to fill up the hours. I was full of despair and felt hopeless about the future. I couldn't imagine living ten or twenty more years feeling the way I felt.
Because I understand the nature of depression, I continued to force myself to get out of my apartment and interact with people. It was a battle every single time because it was always the last thing I felt like doing.
I went to an Arthritis Foundation water exercise class twice a week. I took a class at the local community college. I made dates for lunch and dinner every week. I called people up. I went on vacation with friends. I had a friend come visit me. I went to lunch with a new friend from water class.
All the while I felt hollow and empty inside. As soon as I would return home from any of these activities, the dread and hopelessness would return with a vengeance. I cried all the time. I felt like I couldn't keep going. I couldn't sleep. I was a wreck. But I just kept forcing myself to do things.
This past Monday, it started to snow here in Chicagoland. I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Driving through a residential area, I noticed that the snow was starting to stick and it looked like Christmas.
All of a sudden, I felt this surge of excitement, looking at the snow and thinking about the upcoming holidays. I felt a little joyful. I felt a little hope. I felt like a heavy burden had been lifted from me.
It surprised me greatly, and I didn't trust the feelings. However, I slept straight through Monday night...first time in decades! Tuesday morning, I woke up without that dread feeling. It just felt normal. I didn't agonize about how I was going to fill up the time. I just started doing things. Not working felt normal. Slept straight through Tuesday night. Woke up yesterday feeling good.
During my long career, December was our busiest and most stressful month. I worked long hours. I worked every Saturday. I worked late every New Year's Eve.
This is the first time in over 35 years that I can actually enjoy the holiday season. My calendar is already full with parties and concerts and activities.
The dread feeling might come back, but if it does I know now that I still have access to good feelings....they're in there somewhere.
I am writing this to encourage others who are in despair. It can and does get better, but you have to FORCE yourself to get out and connect with people. It's extremely, extremely difficult because it's the last thing you feel like doing when just getting dressed feels like climbing a mountain.
If you're all alone and don't have anyone to connect with, just practice saying hello to someone you pass. Exchange simple pleasantries with a sales clerk. Comment on the weather to someone standing or sitting near you. It all helps because the efforts are cumulative.
Was I perfect at this? NO WAY!!! For every time I successfully forced myself outside there were double the times I talked myself into staying inside.
I felt instant relief the minute I decided not to go somewhere, but then later on looking back I always regretted the decision. I still often battle with myself....should I stay or go. GO always gets you somewhere. Stay is a dead end.
I hope this helps someone.