When we lived in the Bay Area, I could easily stay inside for as long as our food supply held up. My depression could just lift me up with one arm and throttle me and I’d just hang there, unable to get free.
I think anyone who is familiar with depression or dark sides of bi-polar swings or what it feels to freak out with PTSD and crash knows what I’m talking about. This stuff is just awful and impossible.
Well, after we moved to our round house off the grid on the Lost Coast, I noticed something. I noticed that my depression wasn’t hitting me up and throttling me and I noticed that I wasn’t being smothered by other awful and impossible things either.
It was interesting. I thought about it and I came up with the Outhouse Theory.
See, our “toilet” is an outhouse. It’s a building that has a large pit divided into two, all boxed up. There are toilet seats on top of it. It kind of looks like a very rustic outdoor toilet. We use ash or sawdust instead of water, to “flush”. We use half of the toilet at a time – half decomposes on one side, unseen, while the other half is used. When the half being used fills up, the other half that has been decomposing for years is emptied out and buried and the toilet swaps out.
But all of that is kind of besides the point in my Outhouse Theory.
My Outhouse Theory is that in the space of time that it takes for me to physically leave the house, step outside, walk over to the outhouse, do my business and actually walk back to the house, I am able to be distracted. There is invariably a lovely flower, a bird, a plant, a dead mouse? – something is going to catch my attention each and every time. Just that act of being forced to go outside to actually go to the bathroom, the act of moving outside and breathing fresh air, just being distracted – all of that is enough to not be throttled and smothered by depression and other things of the mind.
See, in the Bay Area, I wasn’t forced to go outside. I had an indoor toilet, a food supply that could last a week or two. There was nothing that was absolutely making me get outside, so nothing was really pushing me to go where I might have a chance of being distracted. And without being distracted, the monsters in my head had full lease.
Now, outhouses aren’t that easy to build in the city, and not everyone is into the idea of trudging outside all the time. But I do raise my eyebrows at the fact that something as simple as an outhouse can profoundly affect depression for me. I wonder if there are equally simple pieces for other people, people who wouldn’t jive with an outhouse but could easily benefit from relief from depression?
Medication is awesome – I do take medication and it’s wonderful – it really helps me keep things even. But medication is only one piece of the puzzle, addressing just the physical actual chemical imbalances that a person might have. There are a lot of other things at place, you know, with these kinds of things.
You have feelings to work out. You have your dreams to work on.
You have to figure out what’s most important to you – to follow what you really want, or follow what everyone always told you should want. You need to feel connected to other people, you need to be distracted enough from the monsters in your head to actually allow the beauty of the world in.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.