So I'd like to challenge this notion that long-term, chronic Depression = Not Coping. I don't believe that the above equation is accurate, that the one necessarily equals the other. Here's the thing. Are you ready for the thing? Here it is. I've had depression for, like, ever. But I'm not a mess. I'm doing just fine - maybe not great - but fine. Let's look at today's example.
I wake up, as usual, around 7.30; I can hear the big kids playing and pray to whatever deity is in charge of morning routines that they will stay happily playing for at least another 2 hours. I close my eyes tight and try to go back to sleep. At 8 am, the big kids come in and bounce on me and declare their starvation to be at an all time high. I force myself out of bed, trying to ignore the howling sadness in my head at having to leave the blankets, and make them breakfast. I know they will want seconds shortly, but I still go back to bed again, bury my face under the duvet, pull the cat close and try not to think about the fact that it is another day. The alarm on the tablet in the lounge goes off at 8.31, as it has every morning this week... I wonder for the millionth time which evil creature set this random alarm, and trudge out to turn it off. M and L are asking for seconds, and when I say 'asking', I mean of course that as soon as I walk into the room they thrust their bowls in my direction and shout "More Weetbix!!" without taking their eyes off Ice Age: Continental Drift. I ask them to ask nicely and they both shout "more weetbix PLEASE!". At this stage FR is crying, and has been for about ten minutes. I make the kids seconds, FR's first bowl of brekkie, pour soy milk over my muesli and turn the coffee machine on. Like a waitress at a diner I speed back holding 4 separate bowls in my hands and arms, dump them down, and go retrieve the angry toddler. With her on my hip I am back in the kitchen making my coffee, thankful once again that we were given this Nespresso machine(yes yes they're the worst, I'm sorry) that enables me to make a decent flat white with only one hand free. When we used a good old-fashioned espresso machine I used to have to hold the steam button with one hand and the milk frothing jug with the other, with the baby clasped in between my body and the bench.
Fast forward to an hour later, and at quarter to 10 everyone is dressed, including myself, and M is crying about something. But we are all dressed and fed, and not only that but I have managed a second cup of coffee, and semi-folded the washing that was hanging on the airers in our lounge. I find it incredibly hard to stay positive when my oldest is upset, because she is basically a small version of me, and her weeping and wailing over completely irrational things is driving me nuts. And yet, somehow, I don't even feel like crying. I repeat the same phrases to her over and over, albeit through gritted teeth, while I help the almost-2 yr old get the peg basket off the airer. I feel gratitude, yet again, that pegs were ever invented. I use my mindfulness skills, and placing my hand on my chest, observe and describe to myself my current feelings. Frustration, sadness, strength, determination. I let the frustration and sadness just be, and remind myself that, like all feelings, they will soon float away.
It is now about 2.30pm. Today I have had a visitor(educational psychologist), navigated two separate tantrums at the same time without losing my temper, successfully ignored a toddlers misbehaviour, taken the kids out to the mall to purchase tea-towels and kids shoes, bought the kids donuts for their lovely behaviour whilst out, come back home, put on a load of washing, fed a toddler her bottle and put her to bed(with her new shoes clasped in her arms, obviously), made myself and the biggies some lunch, hung out the washing, played a game of memory with L while encouraging M to write her little story for our school visit tomorrow, and now I'm writing a freaking blog post.
You guys, this is not what Not Coping looks like. This, to me, is just what every single day looks like. I am guaranteed, today, to feel sadness, grief, anger, despair and frustration - and also to feel joy, happiness, gratitude and love. This is Coping. This has been my life for so long, and while every fiber in my being still longs for a day when I do not face into the darkness as I awake, for a day when the deepest most inner thoughts in my head are a swirl of black that I try to avoid, this is Coping. This is doing pretty damn well awesome. My kids are ALWAYS fed. My kids are ALWAYS dressed. They know that they are loved. My toddler wears clean nappies, has 3 bottles of milk a day and laughs, and makes me laugh a lot.
Yes, some days are really bad. Some days I allow the cloud to overtake me, and I allow myself to grieve for my constant grief. I allow myself those days now, because I know they will pass, and I know that the best way to COPE on those days is to nurture myself as I would a small child, wrapping myself in soft comfortable clothes, pouring myself warm drinks, allowing the children to watch infinite movies, and simply let myself be. This is Coping. I am always glad for my 3 gorgeous children. I always think about wanting more children, that's how much I love them. I always smile when I see the cushions on the couch that I love so much. I always laugh out loud, every day.
It's really really hard, every single day, and I'm doing just fine.
My depression is my constant burden, my ever-present darkness, and I do great.
Thanks for asking.