For those of you who didn’t realize it, over the last several months I both realized and started dealing with clinical depression. I have had very dramatic episodes of depression in my life, ones where I was entirely intolerable and an irritable bastard. As I climb into adulthood it’s more a feeling like a tide in a part of the coast where the weather changes how high it’s going to reach daily.
Today is a bad day…
I had ambitions of going to the gym for the last two days, and a combination of work, schedule interruptions, cold, and my self-defeating mood drown the ambitions. I woke up and thought I would head into the gym, but I never got out of bed. Once I did get out of bed, on the seemingly endless walk through the cold to work, I kept telling myself to “just keep going.” It’s been a mantra that has certainly help keep what little willpower I have left to bear on my day to day operations.
See, the thing is that as I stand in front of the elevator, I know what is going on isn’t due to my actions, it’s not because I was a bad person, it’s not because I’m really dumb, it’s not because I’m a failure, or anything that I might obsess over or feel is accurate. Of course we don’t know what causes depression, but we do know it’s a manifestation of the brain. I also know, and have vague memories of my non-depressed self. I know that this tide will break at somepoint.
I know that I have to cope as best I can with this. Break things down in to small parts and get what I can get done. Don’t think broadly, think here and now… and don’t panic. Talk to people, as much as I don’t want to be with people, I look forward to talking to people and hanging out with them. The only time I feel at all normal is when I’m in a social conversation, and that’s good. Even being at the gym, alive with pheromones and sweat is good, both for the fact that it brings the competitive spirit out in me and pushes my brain to push my body harder and for the fact that it’s a positive distraction away from helpless, tired, self-destructive (i.e. sleeping, isolation, fantasy building) thoughts and emotions.
Stand in front of the elevator, thinking about the 8 hours of work you are trying to accomplish and all the things you are falling behind on, or should do, and how exhausted you are wanting only to take a nap, all the while realizing that this is irrational, “not really you,” and just a manifestation of the depression makes you all of a sudden just want the tide to break… Even if it’s just for a few hours. Even if you can just cheat a bit with caffeine (which doesn’t help depression by the way) or candy (which might temporarily help because of the serotonin production) or something…
There seems to be some irony in the fact that although I know I am depressed, the reason I’m relatively sane, is because I’ve been here before. I know it doesn’t last forever. I’m tired of it in a life cycle way, as it limits my capability and life options, but I know more about how to deal with this now then I have ever before. I’ll get through it eventually, assuming I don’t make a stupid decision now (depression makes this extremely easy if no good auditing or coping mechanisms are in place) and my declining job performance is accepted for the moment.
At these moments, I’m selfishly very glad large amounts of money is being spent on researching depression. I’m unsure if it’s positive that drug research is the best focus for much of it, as I think quite a bit of this is environmental, social, or cultural (as one might say, “learned helplessness”), so chemical changes to our biology might be an non-holistic way to think about the situation. (Although the current “holistic” approach is lacking too, given it’s lack of understanding of anthropology, psychology, developmental physiology etc.) I am however glad to live in an epoch where we understand enough to deal with people like me and my tiring tide.