The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

Sept 2022: Undertow

Posted on Sep 13, 2022

Sept 2022: Undertow

Where did September sneak in from? Seems like moments ago it was hotter than Hades outside. Now the air feels crisp in anticipation of what’s to come. I personally love the changing seasons—fall being my favourite. I love the changing colours, cooler temps, and autumn scents. And fall fashion has always fascinated me: the rich colours, the texture of the fabrics. It will get monotonous as everything else does; but for now, it’s fresh and new—a sense of readiness is in the air.

Back in June, I wrote about writing akin to breathing. I find I am revisiting that concept as I attempt to write for “my public” once again. What shall I write about? My mind defaults to subjects and musings that would benefit clients. Then I am reminded that this writing exercise is for me. It somehow is a different question to ask myself, What do I want to write about? What part of me needs expression?

I experienced an odd a-ha moment of sorts earlier this week when I realized one of mental illnesses keeps doing its thing even though the symptoms are masked by medication. My dysthymia operates like an undercurrent in a river or ocean: can’t always be seen or felt, but it’s there none-the-less. And my ‘low mood disorder’ did one of its dips end of last week.

I didn’t recognize it at first, thinking it was a Chronic Fatigue crash. But something “twigged” (is that a word?) when I thought of calling my sister and didn’t “feel like it.” Since when do I not want to talk to my sister? And I realized I had lapsed into a depressive episode, not a CFS crash.

Now in the past, these dips were catastrophic in comparison. The Netflix series, MAID, did a fantastic job portraying a major depressive episode using visual imagery. I do not miss the abyss, nor what it took to crawl out. And for the longest time, I blamed myself for these episodes and would over analyze every detail to figure out what I had “done wrong.”

Looking back, major depressive episodes always felt like punishments. Likely influenced by my conservative Christian upbringing. By the way, I highly recommend A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass, if you experience inner conflict about your faith and what it looks like “en masse.” But that’s for another time of writing and reflection.

I will have to sit some more with depression as punishment; but the previous realization is that I have these slumps on a semi-regular basis. These slumps are “just” my illness and in no way a reflection of my personal worth, value, or capabilities. Before being properly medicated, I did learn to ride them out. Like a surfer riding a wave. I think I have lost touch with that coping strategy and have reverted somewhat to over analysis.

This is not situational depression with an attendant sense of powerlessness. Although that can develop if not kept in check. This is an ebb of a tide. I can no more control its existence than I can interrupt the moon’s influence on the ocean. All that being said, there are usually triggers for these episodes.

I suspect it was my participation in the 4P Festival events. I put myself “out there” and conversed with strangers, which is draining at the best of times. Hence my initial assumption I had “over done it” and was crashing. My limited energy (mental or physical) didn’t return. I was concerned about my diminished ability to play my morning word game. My sleep was interrupted. And of course, all signs associated with CFS as well.

It’s tricky having illnesses with overlapping symptoms; but the difference was the overall malaise, with the sister phone call averseness cuing me in. I can talk to my sister during a crash, I just slur the occasional word and have poor word retrieval at times. This was different. And led to realizations and reflections.

I have dysthymia: a chronic low-mood disorder (also referred to as Eeyore Syndrome) with periodic major depressive episodes. While these episodes don’t look or feel like they used to, they are still there. Dips still happen periodically (but not with any predictability). I am grateful for the medications that help manage the symptoms; but I am remiss to think I’m cured or out of the woods, or more aptly, deep water.

The meds are like a life jacket that keep me afloat when my boat capsizes—which it does when the undercurrent pulls too strongly. When simply floating in my boat in calm-looking waters, my meds (aka life jacket) remind/reassure that I will be okay if/when I fall into the water. So the life jacket (meds) serve a purpose during calm as well as turbulent times. Without the meds, my mind is chaotic and my boat is easily capsized. I drown and resurface repeatedly.

Did I know this is what needed expression when I began this entry? Nope. Just had an inkling of where to start. And that is the hope I extend to you—that you find your starting point. Too often we worry about “the end” before we even begin.

Happy Travels! Barb

By the way, I’m still having troubles with images in my blog. If I want it seen via mobile or tablet, I get doubles in desktop view. If I set featured image, it doesn’t show up in mobile or tablet views. If you know code and how to change it, I’d love to hear from you. Or even better, if you know Word Press and how to fix this double image in desktop view, I’d love to hear from you! I’d also love to hear about your adventures in life, so feel free to comment.


  1. Another well-written article! As I suffer with depression as well, I can so relate. Learning to live with it and not feel guilt or responsible for the illness is a challenge.

    • Thanks Wendy!

  2. I really like your analogy of the lifejacket and the boat. It’s one that I’ll be using in future when explaining my condition to others. I get SAD every fall and need to tweak my meds to make it easier to cope, so now I can visualize it as a survival suit (like the lobster fisherman wear) with a life jacket over top. Excellent entry!

    • Thanks for sharing and the feedback!

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