Sunday, July 08, 2012

The first week

Sunday was really bad. That was the fourth day. A lot of things combined. I thought the worst was over and let my guard down. I spent Saturday running errands – which worked very well for Saturday – I stayed busy and didn’t think about cigarettes much, not even in the car where I have been totally in the habit of lighting up every time I get in it. But then I really had no reason to leave the house on Sunday, which made it hard to stay busy and distracted from smoking.

The main reason it was hard, though, was that Depression came knocking.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Depression is like The Bad Boyfriend that just shows up on your doorstep with all his stuff, moving in with you whether you like it or not. Does nothing useful around the house but sucks up all your attention and time, so it’s impossible to do anything else other than whatever it is he’s demanding of you at the moment. He’s exhausting. Relentless. He never leaves and he never stops with his endless, “Pay attention to M-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E!!!!!” And of course, he knocks you around pretty much constantly, but especially when you get distracted for a moment and least expect it. So there’s pain, always pain.

But unlike the simple pain of a migraine, I never learned how to concentrate on it so completely that it simply vanished – like that faint star that you try to focus on but find that you can’t see it when you look right at it. (No rods in the fovea.)

The best I’ve been able to do with Depression is to try to leave it out on the porch, piling up boxes and suitcases, ringing the bell, knocking and yelling, “Let me in, bitch!” If I can do that, sooner of later, it will give up and go away.

I have to shove furniture against the door and put on more deadbolts and walk around with my fingers in my ears humming la-la-la-la.

For a while now, it’s worked pretty well. I’m nervous about saying I’ve conquered it, or even that I know how to deal with it. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. Maybe I haven’t really been tested lately. But anyway, I’ve been feeling pretty good about not really being completely incapacitated by it for the past year or so, some sense of accomplishment. Feeling like - depression was starting to creep up on me and I made it go away. There’s nothing humans like better than the feeling of having some control over their lives.

How do I do it? Well, some things work when it’s not too bad. That’s the thing. None of this works when it is really bad. So what works – lately – is doing everything I can manage as soon as I feel it coming on (and “coming on” is apt, because it feels very like a psychedelic drug coming on). Exercise helps. Being around people. Being outdoors. Doing something. Anything. Accomplishing something. Emptying a trash can. Loading the dishwasher. Checking the mail. Taking the dog for a walk. (Exercise! Outdoors! Good deed for dog accomplished!) If I can manage to do enough of those things, somehow, then it doesn’t seem to get to that point where I can’t do those things. (Who knows, actually, if they would help. The point is, you can’t do them.)

But doing those things is like trying to climb up a very steep hill. Through molasses. On a hot day.

Each little thing requires summoning huge reserves of determination. Must . . . take . . . out . . .trash . . . . . . . . . OK. I did that . . . . . . . . .

And the thing is, smoking a cigarette is a Thing To Do. And it’s a reward for having done something. It marks time. This I remember from the last time I quit and actually stayed quit – for three years. (Jeez. That was over thirty years ago.)

Until Sunday I hadn’t realized how much a part of dealing with oncoming depression involved smoking. It’s all about getting through a day or two without giving in to depression. Just don’t think. Don’t go there. Do things. Get outside. Talk to someone, about anything. OK, summon reserve of energy and motivation. Do Something. Smoke cigarette. Some time has passed. I’m that much closer to that annoying person out on the porch deciding to put their suitcases back in their car and leaving. Repeat until annoying person is, in fact, actually gone.

Without the time marker, time consumer, reward, of being able to smoke a cigarette fifteen or twenty times in a day that I’m just trying to get through (and yes, I’d generally smoke a lot more cigarettes than usual on those days), it was harder.

By the evening, I must have thought twenty times – probably more – “It’s a damn good thing I threw those last four cigarettes away, because if there was one in the house I would smoke it. I definitely would smoke it.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I got through Sunday. Monday was the 4th of July and there was a Social Event with lots of people and things to do and so that day was pretty easy. Today was hard again. No depression, thankfully, but just hard to stay busy and distracted from nicotine cravings. This was the sixth day. Not quite through the first week of the “two weeks” part.

I really really hope that that part is true – that it will be a lot better after the two weeks have passed. This is really tiresome.
[published 7/5/11]

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