Warning:  This post is a minefield of mixed metaphors and foul language.  Continue at your own risk.

I’m always surprised when I finally figure out that I’m depressed.  Again.  Looking back, I can identify my first bout occurred when I was a junior in high school.  Of course I didn’t know then what it was.  Since then, on a paradoxically irregular-but-certain schedule, every 2-5 years or so, life seems to get overwhelming to the point of unbearable.  I say seems to get, because I’m beginning to see that life is what it is, and depression just skews your perception of it.

When I finally recognize what’s really going on, it seems as if it has come on suddenly — that I was fine, and then the abrupt encounter with the brick wall.  But even that perception is faulty.  In fact, it creeps up gradually, so that I don’t realize what’s happening till I’m mired too deeply to extract myself.  I see now my last post tells the tale with perfect clarity.  That chick was already buried deep and she didn’t even know it.  She didn’t have a clue that the groundwork for a terrorist plot had already been laid and that she had been played into hitting the trip wire.  That was 8 months ago — 8 months ago!

You see, depression does its best work in tandem with its stealthy partner-in-crime, anxiety.  Anxiety is a sort of advance team — depression’s combat engineer battalion.  Anxiety lays the foundation, making sure that depression can get the best possible foothold on its subsequent arrival.  Despite all the internal alarms it triggers, anxiety has mastered the art of coming in low key, no sirens.  It deploys under cover of darkness to place and arm its arsenal of IEDs and then retreats before daybreak to higher ground where it waits patiently for its expertly hidden-in-plain-view trip wires to be detonated. Then depression marches in openly and sets up camp, with nary an obstacle to slow its progress.  It entrenches itself and uses anxiety as a front line defense to maintain its position.

Here’s my paradoxical conundrum:  I am, fundamentally, one of the happiest people I know.  Seriously.  Seriously fucking happy.  So when depression comes calling, my first reaction is, “How did this happen?  I’m depression-proof, aren’t I?”

But I’m not.  Until now, this was always a surprise to me.  (Sometimes I’m a little slow to notice the obvious.) The newest revelation, as I look back on a pattern that I couldn’t see till now, is that it IS a pattern; a cycle; something that comes and goes.  It comes . . . and it goes. For the first time I’m willing and not so fearful to concede the likelihood that it will come again and that the key to getting through it with the least amount of collateral damage is holding on to the thread of truth that it will go away again.  It is not me.  I am here to stay, but it is not.

But when it’s here, I lose me.  I miss me.  I miss the little things that usually make me laugh at myself.  Like my guilty love of emojis.  I think this might be my third visit from the bastard depression since emojis became a thing.  And one of the things I noticed a couple of weeks ago is that I just don’t feel like inserting the appropriate emoji at the end of a wish-I-felt-more-clever quip, be it text or Facebook post.

You wanna know what a dick depression is?  It actually pats me on the back for not using emojis.  It “reassures” me that 50 year old women shouldn’t be using those things anyway, and how will anyone ever take me seriously if I don’t just cut that shit out.  I want to insert one now — the middle finger, a welcome addition from iOS 9 — to tell depression what I think of it, but WordPress hasn’t seen fit to supply me with the same tools.  Score another for depression.

But depression is losing its foothold.  I feel it.  It has been really dark and thick lately, and it still is. But the fact that I am sitting here at the keyboard writing this is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.  Writing makes me happy, and more importantly, it keeps me sane.  Be it with a pen in my favorite journal, a card or a letter, or at this keyboard, the act of getting words out of my head onto paper, virtual or otherwise, is an act of self-care for me.  And for most of the last 8 months, barely a word has been written.  I didn’t have time for such frivolous luxuries, anxiety lied to me.  I needed to get down to business.

It’s obvious now, looking in the rearview mirror, that the declaration that I would write was anxiety’s detonator.  It triggered my conditioned defenses so that depression could come in and reinforce its strongholds. Well played.

I see that once again I believed their lies, and that belief is the source of my suffering.  Yeah, anxiety is an asshole, and depression is a dick.  But I have an advantage.  I am an excellent student of history.  History need not be repeated if we make the effort to learn from it.  I’m not saying there won’t be future battles.  But I’m learning to be less reactive and more responsive.  I’m learning to discern lies from truth and set my compass in the direction of the latter.

Here’s how I know I’m getting better.  Today I’m writing.  My sense of humor is returning, albeit grudgingly.  Huge, huge thank you to Jenny Lawson, thebloggess.com, for her most recent book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.  She made me laugh out loud during a time when that has been a struggle.

I’m hoping to try to start writing more consistently, both here and in my journal.  I’m not stupid enough to make another detonating declaration.  But if I can start up again, I’m thinking I’m going to write about the dark for a while.  I have some trepidation about that because Trixie, my inner approval whore, is afraid for us to be a Debbie Downer.  What will people think if  I’m not spewing sunshine and cleverness all the time?  One of the paradoxical gifts of depression is, I don’t care.  Here’s the strangest thing of all.  I am still a fundamentally happy person.  The sunny side of the moon is just facing the other direction right now.  It feels like by acknowledging the shadow side, it will make the duration of its waxing less of a struggle.  Maybe it’s a turning point.

Right after after I finished Furiously Happy (I recommend the audio version),  the universe sent me another sign that things are on the mend.  Yesterday as I drove down a busy street, I had to slow down because, in front of me progressing across three lanes of traffic, a chicken crossed the road.  I can’t make this stuff up.  Take that, depression, you dick.