It sounds weird, but it was hard to figure out exactly what was heard and where it came from.
What's even weirder to me now, and likely to the other officers who also responded, is four or five of us got out of our cruisers to walk around and see if we could find the source of the complainants' calls.
It was late night and with a partner behind me, the two of us started down a partially lit, gravel driveway when I kicked something. The sound of the plastic and metal bouncing on the gravel gave me an instant shiver that I can still feel today. I knew immediately what it was... it was the spent shotgun shell in the photo. And a voice called down to us from the second storey window over our heads.
“Oh Lord help us,” I begged to myself. Out loud I said, “Please don't hurt us.” We were in the cross-hairs of a 12-gauge shotgun and we were standing in the wide open.
I ended up with the arrest of this man. And despite my swirling emotions, in my cruiser and on the way to the station I thanked him for not killing me when he easily could have.
And while it all ended well, it certainly doesn't relieve me or my partner from having feared for our lives, if even only for a short time.
I keep that shotgun shell on the self of my locker to remind me every shift to be extra-vigilant and not make a similar mistake again.
It might be arguable whether rumination, which is the retracing of past mistakes, in this case and in this way is psychologically healthy. I suppose it might depend who you ask. But honestly, I don't see myself giving up the shell anytime soon and I think for good reasons.
However, aside from my work, I have been stuck in re-living personal events a lot lately both from my childhood and in current day, because frankly it is part of the depressive state.
The oddity about therapy is that while in pain, you go back to the things that have hurt you to try and figure out where your triggers lie that cause you pain. All the while, depression by nature leaves it hard to see your way past pain.
But rumination is more than just trying to figure out your pain, it leans more toward obsessively going over and over something without actually working it out and research has shown that it can lead to a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking and binge-eating.
Psychologist and author, Guy Winch, Ph.D, writes for Psychology Today that reflecting on painful experiences is natural and that we do this to try and find a different perspective or a new understanding. The trouble is sometimes, if we get stuck there, all we really accomplish might be deepening our anger, sadness or agitation every time we revisit the experience. We can, in a sense, victimize and re-victimize ourselves with the exercise of ruminating.
“Because of the ‘addictive’ nature of ruminations, the best way to break the compelling allure of our brooding is to go ‘cold turkey’,” Winch writes in The Seven Dangers of Brooding and Ruminating. He suggests that when we catch ourselves doing it, we need to move our mind to something else as soon as we realize it.
“And to be clear—anything else will do” Winch adds. “Whether it’s watching a movie, working out, doing a crossword puzzle, or playing Angry Birds, anything that requires us to concentrate will force us to stop ruminating. Over time, by preventing the rumination from playing out and by not reinforcing its allure, the urge to revisit it will diminish.”
For me there have been times when depression meant I seemed to only have enough energy to brood. I just plain couldn't do more, as weird as that sounds. All I could do was sit and stare at the floor for hours while being stuck in a loop of questions asking how I got to where I don't recognize myself anymore? How is it that at my core I know depression is just not who I am but I can't shake it as hard as I try? And then depression, with all it's negativity, began to answer me and tell me all my crippling stories, over and over and over again.
But then, somehow, just as certainly as daylight always follows the night, depression started to change and open up. Just a little at first. And there's a whole child-like wonderment that starts to bloom as the small victories begin to show up.
There is incredible strength that comes from learning and knowing that perfect self is not nearly as important as I used to think it was. Being able to give up a lot of the facade I once carried gives way to feelings of weightlessness. Do you know that appear perfect, work perfect, play perfect, keep up with the Jones' thing we get all wrapped in? Well feeling that fall away is like breathing in a touch of sweetness. It feels nice and I want more.
It's very humbling to go from keeping too many plates in the air to a place where I've patted myself on the back for making the bed everyday for several months now. And it's not just that I made the bed, it's that I'm appreciating making the bed in that “stop and smell the roses” kind of way because not so very long ago I just plain could not get out of bed!
Even though I've been doing it for awhile now, it's taking a long time to be completely comfortable looking other people in the eyes and talking about depression as being my challenge in life. I never wanted this on my life resume and I spent a long time resenting that I had to put it there. I had to practice and learn to speak honestly and openly while owning depression.
However, looking into my own eyes now, I'm beginning to appreciate that who I thought I lost might be worth letting go of as I catch glimpses of who I'm finding.
There is immense power resulting from bringing light into all my dark places in order to recover (and I think that's what it takes). Knowing the kinds of grueling self-examinations that come with recovery has me crediting myself with strength I didn't know I had. I am still standing and it's this new-found strength that is moving me toward a self-love I haven't known before. Recovery requires becoming more vulnerable with myself than with others. And I think that is where true courage lies.
So depression, I hate you. But thank you.