Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Letting go

I'm wondering if it's just me. When something disconcerting, difficult, or downright traumatic happens to me, I seem to have difficulty getting it out of my brain. It's troubling because I end up rehashing and re-living the experience, whether it's just hurtful words or scary situations, I have difficulty letting it go. I'll give you a couple of recent examples.

While I was in the midst of my trip in the Himalayas a good friend lashed out at me via text message. She blasted me with almost delusional falsehoods and damning words, at one point calling me pathetic. I was stunned, angry, sad, and hurt. Now I knew, intellectually, her words were a symptom of something going on with her and not really about me, but that didn't erase the shock or pain.

After exchanging just a couple of replies in my defense, it became clear I was not going to change her perspective, so I blocked her and tried to move on. But I couldn't. I couldn't get her words or the unfairness of her attack out of my mind. Even though I didn't want to think about it, even though I wasn't trying to think about it, even while moving forward and enjoying my adventure, I couldn't let it go. Her words rattled in my brain and the hurt she effected weighed heavy in my heart. For days...

Another example occurred a couple of days ago. While we were out enjoying a beautiful, snowy walk, Jet was attacked by a much larger, aggressive dog. Jet was healing at my left side on a 4 foot leash. We were on a public path in a local park. The other dog was unleashed, playing with his owner in the front yard of their home. As soon as the dog saw Jet, it took off. It ran at least 50 yards, full throttle, and was on top of Jet within seconds.

I yelled and frantically began pulling at the aggressive dog. Joined by the dog's owner, we struggled for what felt like an eternity to get her dog off of Jet. At one point I pulled him off by his collar, but he wriggled out of the collar and was instantly back on top of Jet. He had Jet's neck in his mouth and was pushing him to the ground. I thought he was going to kill my dog. Finally, his owner got her dog around the chest and pulled him off while I pulled Jet up the path. It was incredibly scary and awful!

What occurred next only made it more awful. I screamed at the owner something about the local leash law, at which point she said, "Your dog was being just as aggressive." More cussing and screaming in defense of Jet occurred. At some point she ridiculously asserted that her dog was just coming over to "say hi." There was no apology, no hint of taking any responsibility for not controlling her dog, which is against the law in this city. Instead, she seemed to blame Jet for being attacked.

If she had at least taken some responsibility, perhaps I wouldn't have called the police. But she didn't, so I called the police as soon as we got home. (Jet was, thankfully, physically unharmed as far as I could tell.) The officer took my report and stated he would issue a citation to the owner. I don't know if that will do anything to change her behavior in the future, but I felt like I needed to do something.

Unfortunately, the visit with the officer did not end my anger, fear, and anguish. I am still re-living the attack and all of those feelings. I envy my dog, as I'm sure he's long forgotten what happened. I, on the other hand, can't seem to get it out of my head. It's been almost two days, but it's still foremost in my brain, and that's very disconcerting. I can't seem to let it go.

I know about acceptance and letting go. I've put time and effort into acceptance and letting go as part of my recovery from alcoholism. I know the importance of each skill for maintaining my mental health and stability. Unfortunately, it seems I've lost whatever skills I'd previously gained. Traumatic events seem to haunt me, whether they are hurtful words or frightening events.

I'd like to be able to let things go more easily. I don't expect I won't be hurt or scared by these emotionally charged events, but I wish the feelings didn't hang around so long. I'd like to discontinue re-living the circumstances which create the feelings. I expend precious energy and fuel stress and  consternation when I continually rehash and replay. I'd love to hear how you deal with emotionally charged situations. Are you able to let go? Or do you also struggle? I'm looking for answers and relief.


Paul said...

I sublimate on all eight cylinders! I rarely outwardly express any extreme emotion (good or bad). But I do seethe over slights or hurts or offenses. Many I guess I eventually forget, but some have bothered me for decades. One, which I haven't been able to shake for thirty years, became the subject of one of my stories, and I'm hoping that this will exorcise that demon inside me. (Don't think it will.)

I'm sure my pent nature is not healthy, but then I've always known I'm a mess. I think not letting go of our grievances is symptomatic of our tribe.

Rachael said...

Unfortunately, no words of advice. I struggle to let things go, and constantly rehash and replay even though there is nothing I can do to change what has already happened. I know it would be better for me to ket things go, I just don't know how to. Hoping it helps to know ypu ate not the only one xx

Wendy Love said...

I concur and I sympathize, or empathize? I do the same thing and I believe it is part of mental illness - the re-hashing, re-living everything awful that happens.

If I am able to do anything right I may do some deep breathing and try to shake it off, but honestly some days I would be doing that all day!

And yet it is probably helpful, each time those thoughts invade to say to ourselves "these are feelings, not facts" or "they are just thoughts" etc. Shake them off with a walk, or some nice music or anything else that we do that helps cope with the deluge of negative thoughts that go with depression.

Your friend who texted negative stuff to you while you were on a mountain on the other side of the world was not being a good friend at that moment. The lady with the unleashed dog was in the wrong for sure. But getting any of those people to admit their wrong is probably never going to happen.

Maybe we are imagining that getting 'the other guy' to admit that they were wrong would help us stop thinking about it over and over? But that's not going to happen and so we must find other ways.

In some ways it is a form of PTSD but certainly exhausting when it happens for the little stuff as well as the big stuff.

Prayer works for me. I am praying for you...right now....

etta said...

@ Wendy: My friend did apologize a few weeks after I got home.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. It does help to know I'm not the only one.

Katy said...

I struggle with this, also. I think it is human nature in general, and I think it gets magnified when I am struggling. I definitely take things very personally, and I replay things over and over in my head. I am going to try to get a therapist to work with me about my out of control thoughts. I get something stuck in my head, and it won't go away. I have been taking all of my medication as prescribed, exercising at least 3 days a week, but I find as I get older, it gets harder. It would be better for me to exercise at least every other day. On my third day without exercise, I began to feel terrible. I kept repeating a mantra in my head, over and over, to try to exist during the day. Fortunately, I was able to run after work that day. It helped me so much. I didn't know if I would be able to get to the point where I could run. It is so hard to start when you feel so bad. I think it is helpful to remind yourself that depression lies to you all the time. When life gets difficult (like when a friend is completely inappropriate- as it sounds like your friend was- in her texts), it magnifies the illness. I try to tell myself that the depression is making me focus on negative things for too long. It helps a little bit. Running is the BEST solution for me!