Friday, November 4, 2016

On Depression and Packaged Goods

I generally abhor the confessional-style of writing, so please bear with me.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with dysthymia.  It is perhaps better known by the less-snappy moniker, “persistent depressive disorder” which the Mayo Clinic defines as a “continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression.”  It is not adjacent to awesome.

Having possessed a ruthless penchant for melancholy for many years, I wasn’t surprised when the verdict was handed down.

Unlike the popular depiction of depression as being a dark cloud that hovers above one’s noggin, I have a slightly different take on it.   It comes across as more insidious.  Fans of Tolkien know of Grima Wormtongue, the character who provided ill counsel to King Theoden of Rohan. Depression, as least as I know it, operates in a somewhat similar manner.  It whispers.  It prods.  It suggests.  The messaging is rarely, if ever, life-affirming…even though it sometimes passes under the guise of “well meaning.”  It plays on resentments and fears, and it does so flawlessly.

“You can’t do this project. Why would they even ask you? You should focus on what you do best.”

“You’ve been working hard.  You deserve some quiet time, why not stay in your home office all weekend?”

“Vacation?  You have too much going on.  Who wants to spend time traveling? Between client projects and class assignments, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it anyway.”

I know I shouldn’t indulge the disquiet, but I do.  A check of my Pandora account will show artists like Elliott Smith on heavy rotation. 

Oh the list goes on as this grim counselor is ever-present and always ready to offer its perspective.

In terms of behavior, I am generally able to push past the siren song and accomplish what needs to be done, more so at the job than in my personal life.   That said, it is exhausting, which feeds into the inclination to disengage in a (typically futile) effort to recover.  Of course the fatigue endures, which makes me less likely to run, write, meditate, or do anything else that might conceivably improve my state of mind.  Coupled with anxiety issues, well, double the lack of pleasure, double the dearth of fun.

Medications?  On and off them for years. Some worked for a while.  Others gave me disquietingly vivid dreams (see: sleep, lack thereof). I am taking something now, and it seems to be helping me stave off the lower lows.

Counseling helps.  Having someone to talk through the issues and challenges helps take off some of the edge.  It can offer a positive anticipatory effect (“today is tough, but at least I can talk with Dr. X tomorrow”) and real world advice on how to handle the rougher patches.

So why this topic? Why now?  I don’t know. Perhaps the recent loss of my Dad triggered something.  Perhaps I am square in the midst of a mid-life existential crisis.  Perhaps I am scarfing too many Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. 

It would be easier to say I am writing for some high-minded, altruistic reason, to help others who suffer similarly.  But honestly, at this point, I am just trying to stay above the waves and this blog is a piece of driftwood that I grabbed.

That seems sufficient for today.  Anyway, for the good of our Republic, don’t forget to vote.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.