Saturday, March 30, 2013

Depression, life narratives, walking one's own path

This is an excerpt from a comment thread on my Facebook page. I'd posted an article about writers and depression -- specifically about writers using depression meds. My friend, Anli, posted a comment that she was on meds, but eventually went off of them after therapy when she realized that we like to tell ourselves stories which can result in distortions that affect our thinking. We then carry them around like a book instead of dropping them and getting on with our lives.

That's a summary...but you get the idea. I love when people share their perspectives (in a respectful way, of course), because it gives me a chance to sit with my own and either remain with those stances or reconsider and change them. Discourse is the best when it provokes deeper thought and examination.

Here was my response (and a bit more besides):

Anli -- I understand and appreciate you sharing your story. All sharing is helpful in this regard.

My stories aren't stories I made up, though. I didn't make up that my first husband accidentally killed himself one day and I ended up a widow with two young kids in May 2001. I didn't make up stories that my ex-stepfather abused me and was violent with my family, threatening to burn down our house with us in it and stepping in front of our car with a gun pointed at us to keep us from leaving in the car. I didn't make up stories that I was nearly sexually assaulted in front of an entire college baseball team at Phillips University in Oklahoma back in 1984. I didn't make up stories that a good friend of my parents -- and a neighbor -- used to grab me inappropriately in the stairwell of our apartment building when I was 12 years old. These are not stories I made up; they were very real and don't even cover all the stuff I endured throughout my life. However, the past does not equal the future, and I choose to cope in whatever way I can.

My psychiatrist told me he was amazed I wasn't an alcoholic or a drug addict, considering all the messed-up shit that's happened in my life. However, it's all been a strange blessing in that it's made me stronger, more tenacious, more determined to succeed. If it hadn't been for those horrible circumstances, I may not have been such a good student; I may not have been published before the age of 18; I may not have published six books with more on the way; I may not have had the gumption to be a full-time freelancer (scary!) the past 16 years; I may not have had the strength or will to raise my kids by myself after Gary's death; I may not have had what it took to do countless things in my life. And yet, I have.

My past doesn't define me, but it does affect who I am today. I did go without meds for a very long time -- for six years, in fact. However, in 2012 my life became so difficult and stressful that I ended up in the emergency room and was told either I get things under control or risk a brain aneurysm from all of it. Well, needless to say, I chose not to die.

I can't say how long I'll stay on Celexa, but I will stay on it as long as I feel it's beneficial. We all walk our own paths. It's important to remember that your own path is unique and you can't compare it to anyone else's. It's the whole "walking in their shoes" thing. Each day, I continue on with life and get the fuck on with it; however, if we do not learn from the past and those experiences, we are often destined to repeat them in the future. I won't forget where I came from or how I got here. I won't let it hold me back, but I also won't forget the lessons I learned, either. They were often brutal and cruel, but they made me who I am.

I'm going to repost this as my status, since it's really something I've been meaning to say for a while just to get it off my chest. People think they know other people...but in truth, they usually don't know the half of it -- which is certainly the case for me.

I will also not hide or feel ashamed for what happened to me. Other people with twisted agendas and/or mental issues facilitated these messed-up events, not me. I will not take on the mantle of victim shame; sexual assault and abuse is NOT the victim's fault in any way, shape or form.

Anyway -- there you go. A rambling response that just sort of came out as a result of the comment thread. I'm glad it did, and if it makes anyone uncomfortable, that's too bad. It's my narrative and what happened can't be changed. It can only be used as fodder for addressing and assessing the present and the future.

So, remember this: when I react a certain way on Facebook or respond in a particular way about a subject, chances are my past has colored how I react.

One thing I do know is this: I am a survivor. I will find a way to survive, no matter what. Once you've been through hell, you get used to the flames. I am woman, I am warrior. I will do whatever is necessary to survive, with or without anyone's approval.

In the end, you come into this world with yourself and you leave with only yourself. Enjoy the ride, and if Celexa (or Paxil, Prozac, etc.) helps you hold onto the straps for a while longer, so be it! Do what works for you, and you alone. Our path is inevitably our own, and nobody else's.