This was originally a Facebook status update. But, I realized I wanted to keep going, so I’m moving it over here. I don’t know what the rest of this site is going to contain, but it depression will definitely be one of the topics.
Alright. Here we go.
I told myself I was going to be open and honest about depression, and that I was going to post updates during my next down episode. I didn’t. And, not out of shame or embarrassment. But simply because the effort required to type a paragraph about it is daunting, and I just didn’t have it in me. Now that I am improved a little, I will try to post about it.
In retrospect, I can see that my decline started in October or so. Now that I have access to a bunch of data about my activity level, calorie intake (including macro-nutrient breakdown), workouts, sleep patterns, etc., it’s much easier to spot the beginning of the cycle. As always, there is no “cause” for the episode. It just happens.
About two weeks ago, my mood dropped off a cliff. I was miserable. I was just so incredibly sad. And, angry. Sad because of whatever chemical soup in my brain. Angry, because I know there is no cause and no control. And, the anger increases the sad, and ’round-and-’round we go. It’s a race to the bottom, and I can’t win, I can’t tie, and I can’t quit.
I spent four days on the sofa. I think it’s important here to highlight what is happening in my brain. There are two main thought chains. I will call them upper and lower. The upper chain is concerned about what I’m going to watch on TV, how long this depression episode is going to last, how much work I’m missing, etc. The lower chain is pretty much all emotion, which is hard to describe in words, but it’s like “sad-mad-sadder-madder-saddest-maddest-what-the-fuck” constantly, along with my own personal drive-in movie of all the stupid things I’ve ever said or done. But the upper chain is still there, so I can use logic and higher-order thinking to force an understanding that this is only temporary and I will get better and cling to any bright spot and why is this taking so long?
Oh, right. Four days on the sofa. It was probably a sight to see. Imagine: A 46 year old male, presented with clinical depression (severe), complaining of lethargy, lack of appetite, loss of energy, uncontrollable bursts of sobbing, and feelings of helplessness, dread, and sadness (no external cause was noted.) Oh, but lack of appetite is no reason not to eat. Everything. I was 11 pounds heavier after those 4 days. And, it was all junk food. Which contributes to the chemical mess in my brain, and makes things worse for longer, but the taste of the cookie can blot out the anger and sadness for just a minute, so I’ll just eat another, another, another, and this pint of ice cream, too. Frozen burritos, ribeye steaks, leftover something from the fridge, chips, popcorn, and doughnuts (and not the good ones.) It doesn’t matter, as the taste buds have the power to drown out the emotional background chant, so anything with flavor is an option, and if it’s bad for me, well, I probably deserve that, because I’m worthless anyway.
It’s been a few years since I’ve heard anyone say, “Just get over it.” But, that’s what goes through my head. “Just get over it. This is stupid. Shake it off.” And that self-beratement is just another constant channel on my head-radio, playing all the classics, including “you’re a fraud” and “work is about to discover you are faking your job” and “don’t even think about getting off the couch.” So, while I’m at my lowest, the only person who can do anything to help (me) is instead kicking me in the head while I’m down. But, I can’t shake the feeling that my feelings are stupid, and I should just get over it, and billions of people have it much worse than me.
I went to the doctor, finally, when I was prodded by the woman who lives with me. I got a second medication to add to the first one. (Zoloft is the new one. Wellbutrin and I are old friends.) It’s been two days, so it hasn’t had time to kick in yet. But, it will. Or, if it doesn’t, I’ll go back to the doctor and we’ll pick another off the list. It’s a balance between what works and the side-effects. It’ll be a few days before I know either.
I haven’t cried since Sunday. So, yay? I don’t know. It’s always easier to see when it improved after it’s over. But, maybe. I have hope. And, hope matters. In a letter to a friend, Abraham Lincoln said that just knowing a depressive episode will end gives one hope, and the hope is a boost which brings the end a little faster. In my experience, Lincoln was right.