I’m going to start here by listing some things.
– I enjoy what I do for a living (normal work-related stress and frustrations notwithstanding)
– I have a wife who’s perfect for me in every way I can think of, and super-supportive family
– As far as I know, no one has ever tried to murder me
– I’ve got a group of close friends just big enough for me, considering I generally hate people
– We’ve got a steady stream of money coming in and have no problems paying bills on time or eating
– I can watch any Futurama episode any time I want with the power of Netflix. Remember the one where Fry spent his entire $300 kickback on coffee?
Now, how do I know I’m depressed? Despite all of that, I still have moments where I am completely, totally unhappy.
I chose the title of this post very carefully after the 20 seconds spent thinking about it. It’s the most accurate depiction I can think of to explain what depression actually feels like. It also feels like waking down the street on a sunny day with a spring in your step and a song in your pocket, and then except instead of a blue bird landing on your shoulder a big guy comes out of nowhere and punches you in the face without explanation. That’s a pretty bad title though.
As you may remember if you read about my Modest Mouse experience, I’ve been on Lexapro for a year now. It’s helped a ton, and people who knew me before and after have, I think, noticed a big difference. Still, you’ll also recall that it’s no miracle drug. I can be a nervous wreck in the right circumstances. For instance, I had to chug three beers to not feel sick about seeing Yoni Wolf in concert. It was worth it though because while I was waiting for the bathroom he poked his head out from backstage and asked if it was occupied.
Look for the full story in my next post, “Star-Struck Urinal Adventures.”
This really is the biggest takeaway I’d like people unfamiliar with true depression to understand. It’s not always feeling sad, suicidal or hopeless. Most of my worse episodes have been when everything is going well. I think that makes it worse. For me, it’s the frustration that stems from not being able to do anything about it. It’s one thing to go through the sorrow of losing a loved one, or a job, or a relationship. It’s another to have all of those things in their right place and still not be good enough for your dumb head.
In those moments, I tend to negatively feed off my stubbornness until I’m stuck in an ugly circle. “Why can’t I just be happy with all the good in my life? Now I’m mad at myself. That’s making me more depressed!” It’s a case of your brain, your stomach, every fiber of your mind and body judo-chopping logic right in the throat. At least for me, that’s the worst part: knowing you have no reason to be upset other than a chemical imbalance in your brain. It makes me feel selfish.
Hey, you should listen to “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” by Of Montreal. Not just because it’s a great song, but because its lyrics are relevant to this topic!
“I’m in a crisis, I need help
Come on mood shift, shift back to good again
Come on mood shift, shift back to good again
Come on be a friend”
“Come on chemicals!
Come on chemicals!
Come on chemicals!”
That’s essentially it. Stop being a dick, angry-upset-sad-blah chemicals cruising through my head. I don’t have time for your nonsense.
I’m lucky in that my depression is manageable. There are countless people who don’t have that luxury. I wish there was an answer for them, but there isn’t. Watching a TV show or writing or spending a few hours alone with some headphones might be enough to get me through rougher patches. For others, nothing helps. If you have depression and you can find one lone thing that helps you cope, even an hour at a time, you should cling to that like a g-d lifesaver.
I think that any little moment of happiness is the biggest tool you have in the battle against depression. Last week, my wife and I spent an impromptu night drinking wine and booing loudly at old episodes of Maury. Totally unplanned, totally enjoyable. Any attempt to actively manufacture a “good time” usually ends in disappointment, at least in personal experiences. So I try to ride out my depressive bouts the best I can. If that means spending hours of my life getting a buzz and loudly speculating on the facial similarities between a child and potential father on trashy TV, so be it.
The one thing I don’t want from this is sympathy. Understanding, sure. Some page views would be great too! But mostly the understanding. It’s not something that controls my life to such a degree that I can’t function. It’s led to less of a possibility for exciting adventures, maybe, because I’m not going to do something that might embarrass me in public. There have been events I’ve missed out on and opportunities wasted. In general, though, I am happy. I just can’t deny the illogical moments where I am anything but. It’s what makes me me, like a fingerprint or a weird birthmark!
There’s no cure for this. Drugs can help, as can positive thinking, distraction, and support. Things that work for one person may have no effect on another. In my experience, the only thing you can do is try and understand your depression, rather than fight it. It’s likely going to be with you for a long time, in some capacity or another. Part of the healing process is accepting that and learning to co-exist.
Try that Futurama episode with the coffee. It’s helped me.