I’ve been out of sorts this past week—felt myself tunneling into a dark cave. Though I struggle with anxiety, I’m not prone to depression. And no matter how much I searched for the cause, I came up empty. Admittedly, there’s not much I should be this down in the dumps about. Externally, my life is sailing along quite smoothly at the moment.
That fact alone makes me feel worse!
This morning, I realized what it is. It took looking back 4 years to the only period in my life when depression surged in and towed me under. That time, however, there was cause: I had been crippled by a six-month string of intense loss and major life change–culminating in the death of my father from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Because of the journey he and I had been on together, my relationship with my dad had become one of the most treasured gifts in my life. Losing him was agonizing. But more than just that loss, his passing was when all the trauma I’d gone through in the previous months broke open and poured out.
Situational depression like I walked through four years ago makes complete sense to me. But what I realized today was that many people experience a very pronounced darkness on the anniversary of a distressing event. It even has a name: The Anniversary Reaction. Apparently my brain is seared with an emotional datebook that packs a major wallop in September.
Rather than wallow around aimlessly next year wondering what’s wrong, this is what I plan to do when September rolls around again:
- Mark my calendar so I don’t beat myself up over unexpected or ‘unwarranted’ depression. This may be something that happens every year, so rather than fight it, I can prepare to accept it for what it is.
- Talk about my emotions (or confusion) with a good friend or counselor, paying attention that I not play the role of ‘victim’ or try to force people to feel sorry for me.
- Take better care of myself. I may not be able to be Miss Congenialty, but rather than isolate, I’m going to make that hair appointment, go out with my husband on a date, or maybe schedule a get-away in order to make new memories that will balance out the sadness of loss.
- Journal—or write a blog! Writing, for me, is a great way to process and heal.