Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Toll of Depression

I originally wrote this for my atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief, but I think it is better suited here.

I usually don't post a lot of personal pictures here, but this one is important to me.

Me, my son Connor as a baby and his big brother Liam at age 4. They are 13 and 16 now.

Doesn't look like I am suffering from depression here at all, but I was.

This photo was taken sometime in February 2004.  I have to trust the date on the file because I have no recollection of it happening.   I didn't know it then, but I was still about 5-6 months before I started to get well.

Back in 2000 to 2001 I started to hit a downward spiral. I am not really sure what caused it but there were lot of factors that added to it.  By the end of 2001 I was in deep. So deep that I barely recall anything that happened between 2001 and 2005.   Which is really fucking sad to be honest.  My kids were born in 1999 and 2003, this should have been one of the happiest times in my life.

I was fortunate.  Really.  My wife was there for me every awful moment I put her through. Sleeping all day, up all night. Thankfully I never had suicidal thoughts. I never gave into drinking too much, in fact, I think the whole thing cut my drinking down to nothing.  I did get to write. That is plus.
But there were days that just disappeared from me. Hours, even days, lost in some haze that I to this day can't recall.

I used to think that I was immune to this sort of thing. Really.  I had a GREAT childhood. Parents that loved and supported me. Great friends. I always had a job. I may not have been rich but I could afford to feed myself and I had a place to sleep at night.  I knew the warning signs too.  I have degrees in Psychology. I did my Master's work while working a suicide hotline.  I did my Ph.D. work in one of the best cities in the country.  I really had it made.

Maybe that all made it worse. I felt like I was a sham. I didn't have the right to be so depressed. There were so many others out there that had it worse than me.    But that is part of the stigma.
In psychology, we call depression the "Common Cold" of psychological ailments because it is so common.  But what I had was more like full blown N1H1 flu.  I knew the signs and I was bowled over anyway.

The toll comes in from the damage that happens all around you.  I was taking really piss poor care of myself.  Despite trying to get out and exercise I still gained weight. My health in general sucked. Then there are the relationships.  I basically had two personality traits then; catatonic or angry.  Thank goodness my wife and kids are as stubborn as they are. I don't know if I would have stuck with me.

This video by +Wil Wheaton kinda sums up how things were for me too. The first two minutes really captures how the anger was.   I met him in 2009 or so. Had I known all of this we could have at least mentioned it to each other. How we both got out of it.

I didn't go see anyone. Maybe I should have. I might have gotten better sooner.

It's weird.  I have started, stopped and started this post at least a dozen times. I have had to update my kids' ages a couple of times since starting.

In the process of revising this post, this was posted to my feed. (and yet again more evidence of how many time I have started and restarted this).

It is Sex+ and atheist YouTuber and Vlogger +Laci Green.   I like Laci. I think she is great.  This video though doesn't make me happy.

It doesn't make me happy because I know all too well what she is saying.  I have been there.

In fact here is another one.

And one more (see I told you I started this many times). +JaclynGlenn is another fave of mine and she makes a lot of great points.

Sometimes I feel like it is some kind of monster, waiting to draw me back in.  Minus a minor episode in 2007 things have been really good. But yet it is always there, lurking in the shadows.

What do I want to say about this?

I guess to say this is not uncommon.  People all over suffer from this.

The things I learned that I really wish I knew back then:
- It won't be forever.  I knew that, intellectually, but it was hard to process that then.
- Get help. I get shots for the flu, take Lipitor for all chili-cheese dogs I ate as a kid and getting help for this is no different.
- Get a support net. I was lucky.  My wife and kids kept me protected and safe. I never could have made it without them.

I am better now.
But I see the same behaviors I went through in others and I wanted to post this to let them know that they are not alone, they are not unique in their suffering and there is help and others out there.

We have the greatest communication tool ever invented (to date), lets use it to make things better.

(Note: just putting this link here in case I do put it up on my other blog.


Jonathan Linneman said...

Great post...especially the part about feeling like you "didn't have the right to be so depressed." It's all too easy to cover things up and let it spiral, especially in a world where it's more acceptable to deal with problems by spending time at the bar than it is by spending time with a therapist. Thanks very much for posting!

Unknown said...

At one point in my live I learned that some of us have a chemical issue that triggers depression. As a result of working with Dr. Beverly Serabian (if you live near Providence, RI, and are ever in need, she is indeed wonderful), I learned to recognize the signs of the trigger, and learned to sorta short-circuit it before I fell into that deep hole into which I would fall and flounder about for long periods of time.

Alcohol helped me wallow in that hole into which I would fall, but not help me to get out; drugs did not help me get out, or help me to keep from falling into it.

What I learned during the the two or so years of talk with Beverly helps keep me out of the hole.

Thanks for posting this. It is important

Timmy Crabcakes said...

I've got that same hole of missing time from around the turn of the century. People tell me stuff I did and said and I can't remember any of it. Just a dark time where I alienated a lot of people and did myself nothing but harm.
Like you say, I feel it's still lurking out there... could come back... exercise and diet seem important to keeping it at bay... and staying involved socially even when I'd rather hide.
And it does help knowing how common it really is.

Fuzzy Skinner said...

I can certainly understand why you stopped and started working on this post before finally posting it, but it feels like a meaningful coincidence that you post it today. I've been struggling with depression for a while now, and this bit of encouragement comes not four days after my best friend urged me to go to my university's counselor for help. And less than four hours before I read this, I got a reminder of just how much some people in my life truly care about me.

Thank you for sharing this.

Unknown said...

Being someone who also struggles with depression, I cannot tell you how much posts like this can help. It helps us feel like we are not along in this fight, there are others dealing with it as well, and to keep pushing through. I also know how good it can feel to write something like this, having done something similar last year for my blog.

I want to just say thank you for writing this, Tim. Depression can be a killer, something I know for a fact, and every little thing that brings light to how bad it can be helps.

taichara said...

Thank you very much, Tim. Truly.

minitrue said...

Tim, thanks for a great post. While I've never suffered with depression, my wife has, and like you, when we talk about the time before she was diagnosed, she has the same blanks in her memory.

Great to hear your doing better.