Sometimes a thought runs through my head like an errant squirrel which tumbles me back through a couple of decades or more of memories which, quite frankly, are too painful to spend too much time thinking about. It’s not that I’m denying my past; it’s more that I’m preserving my present.
For example, yesterday a friend Tweeted something about the dog down the street from her who howls every time it hears a siren. That small comment catapulted me back to childhood and our Shetland Sheepdog, Trevor, who would howl for the same reason. He also "sang" along to Happy Birthday whenever it was sung. He loved to be brushed. He did tricks. He was as sweet as he could be. And just thinking about him brought back all kinds of other stuff, too, so my brain said, "ENOUGH!" and shut the door soundly in the face of those memories.
When memories hit me in such a way I start feeling kind of hollow inside, like something very large is missing from me. My heart beats faster and I can feel the cadence of it in my throat. Thump, thump! Thump, thump! Thump, thump! The pit of my stomach turns to acid. My throat gets tight. I feel like I’m having trouble breathing. I become hypersensitive not just emotionally, but all over; I can sometimes feel my elbows. (That sounds silly, but it’s true.) Once these reactions start, if I let them go on I’m going to (without fail) have a little bit of a breakdown. Said breakdown could be as small as a few stray tears squeezing themselves from the corners of my eyes to as large as a full-scale anxiety attack including walls closing in and running to the nearest open, outdoor space so I can breathe. Therefore, if I tamp down on some of the most painful memories of the past, I have a better present.
I guess you could call it self-preservation.
And really, most days I get along just fine. But when I feel the emotions ratcheting up again, and I find that things (memories, feelings, those errant squirrel thoughts) are cropping up more and more often, I typically find it better for not only myself, but for those around me, to go back on an antidepressant. It’s been a while now since I the last time I took such medication on any kind of regular basis, but I’m thinking it’s probably a good idea to start down that road again. Of researching someone to talk to and possibly getting myself headed back toward emotional well-being. I know I’m stronger, and really, I think I’m mostly doing OK, but the signs are there. I know if I let things go it will just get worse and it will be harder to find my center again.
I must say here that I know there are people out there who are completely and totally against any kind of help in this regard. They are against the therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists; against the mood-boosting medications which guard against depression (mild to severe). In my opinion these tend to be the same folks who are against medications in general, really. I am not one of them. I believe in getting the help you need, however that may look. I believe that you can live a happy and productive life, but I also believe that sometimes you may need a little extra help to get you there. And that’s OK.