Depression; a postscript

Wow. I didn’t expect anything like the responses I had to my last post. I want to explain some things.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in late 2000-early 2001. I didn’t go to the doctor looking for a diagnosis, the doctor just started asking questions. I’d had a breakdown a couple of years earlier, and never “dealt” with it. I was put on anti-depressants, and went off them six months later, against doctor’s orders.

I had another breakdown in the middle of 2006. I was in a high-stress job, and eventually came apart at the seams. I was put on anti-depressants again, which I ceased taking on Good Friday this year. While they helped me get sorted out again, for me the side effects were ultimately worse than the cure.

One of the comments claimed that depression is a ‘modern invention’. There’s an element of truth to what he’s saying, but it’s wrapped in a attitude that’s the kind of response (in my experience) that causes many mentally ill people keep their mouths shut and “deal with it” in silence. 

I don’t shirk my responsibilities. I’ve been employed since I left high school. I’m raising a family, mindful that my attitudes and response to this illness have had an effect, and will have an effect on my children. Mindful of a family history of depression.

My grandfather drank himself to death. My grandmother was on lithium for part of her life. My cousin blew his brains out. My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic who dried out in his seventies. I had a shrink once describe it to me as “you lost the genetic lotto”.

Please understand why I wrote that post. I’m don’t want your pity, and I’m not a hero. I’m just a guy, trying to live my life and raise my family. My younger brother is extremely visually impaired; to me he’s a hero for just living through what he’s had to live through, and still keeping a cheesy grin on his face.

I wrote that post because I was finally able to put into words what has been rolling around inside my head for ages, trying to come out. I wanted something to be able to point people to if they ask what it’s like to live with depression, to explain what it’s like from the inside.

I’m not sitting on my couch waiting to die, crying into my cornflakes “woe is me”. I’m trying to live. To appreciate my life, and the blessings I have. I have an illness that won’t go away through wishful thinking, or just “deciding to stop”. However, there are things I can do to deal with the blackest days and that is what I choose to do. Some days I succeed, some days I fail.

But please, please, PLEASE – don’t use my post as an excuse to sit on your couch, crying into YOUR cornflakes. If you’re in a situation to read these posts, you’re likely to be financially in the top 20% of the world population. You ARE blessed. Live life. Don’t let it just wash over you.

It’s hard; I understand just how hard it can be. Maybe you’re like me and “lost the genetic lotto”. Maybe you suffered through experiences that have caused your brain to break. Maybe you’ve been pushed (or pushed yourself) to the edge, and then went over.

In 2008, you don’t have an excuse to suffer in silence, or feel sorry for yourself over your illness. Get help. Talk to people. Look after yourself, and take responsibility for dealing with your illness. In my experience, people are a lot more likely to be willing to look out for you if you’re being proactive about dealing with it.

Be gentle with yourself, allow for the fact that you’ll have black days. But remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and however briefly you pass into that light, and you may enter a tunnel again, that light is unlikely to be an oncoming train.

pps. 23rd Sept.

One more thing. Get out there and start creating. Write, paint, sing, just start something. I can only speak from my experience, but of the people I’ve met who suffer depression, there seems to be a much higher percentage of them that have incredible creative talents. Almost like the other side of the coin. I don’t know, I only have circumstantial evidence, and it might even warrant another post.

It seems to me that creating stuff (particularly stuff that’s not focussed on depression) seems to provide an outlet for something buried inside. Maybe I do need to write another post 🙂

  • Kiara

    Valid point & addendum to your original post. I suspect a lot of people who responded to the other one about their own depression simply appreciate understanding THEMSELVES a bit better by hearing the illness described so succinctly. For me, I’m obsessed with figuring out WHY I act the way I do sometimes. It feels like understanding why is a huge help in changing things. As is occasionally accepting the black mood & having a good cry. I worry sometimes that I lean too much on my friends, but I TRY to also be there & accepting of them when they need it, so I hope it evens out in the end.

  • A great post, and heartfelt. Depression is like a squatter. It comes on in, uninvited, takes up residence in your home, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes in the sitting room right in front of TV, and sometimes even in your bedroom. With a bit of help and good skills you can send it out of the house, but given a chance, it’ll sneak in the back door. If you ignore it, it’ll try getting back in the kitchen and without warning suddenly you’ll find it on your lap when you want to watch TV.
    It never completely goes away, although it might live in the garden shed and you’ll see it only occasionally. It’s not about a pity party, it simply likes company and coping with it alone is really hard work.
    Even with family, friends and professional help (medical, psychological and pharmacological) it is up to YOU to do things about it, but you cannot do it alone. It’s like diabetes – it doesn’t matter how ‘good’ or ‘nice’ you are, if you’re vulnerable, it’ll come on in.
    I’ve also found being accepting of it means that occasionally I can ‘give in’ – and perhaps by giving my depression a bit of attention or a cuddle (having a day off or crying or sleeping a lot), it decides it’s had enough and disappears into the garden shed again!

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  • Katharine

    I appreciate and receive your authenticity . .

  • good to read about the background for your depression post. the about page didn’t do the job right.
    your thoughts are a good appetizer for introspection and i appreciate you contributing this piece of mind to the blogs we read.
    i don’t want to sound cheezy, guess i’ll stop. good job

  • Barb

    Bravo!!

  • Beth

    I like what you said about creating. Though I struggle with episodic depression myself, I am generally a very upbeat, energetic, optimistic person. So when I suffer from depression, it can be very confusing for me and my friends, and very frustrating for them. So, in order to avoid that and still express my thoughts, I write, draw, create. For me, it is much more constructive than endlessly talking about what I’m thinking – my thought-patterns aren’t helping!

    Good luck, and I am glad you know there is a community of people out there with you.

  • Gator

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your heartfelt comments. I have seen the black hole. I have seen the abyss but like you, I have chosen to live my life. I rejected the medications from the start which made it a very long haul back from the abyss. I live my life now, I count my blessings and I am grateful for what I have. I hope that you can find the same peace. 🙂

  • Kieran

    Thanks for your original post and this addendum. While I understand you aren’t after praise or pity, I’d just like you to know that simply by writing, as you did, you’ve helped me a lot. Please consider this appreciation, not praise – just as Kiara said. While you might not be a hero, you’re a very good everyday regular guy.

    I’d like to add to your anecdotal evidence by saying that learning to play the guitar (or any instrument, really) really helps. Expressing feelings musically (even though I’m not very good, yet) has been very good for me as an outlet. I can definitely imagine writing, painting, sculpting, singing, cooking or even just using your mind to imagine could do a lot of people a whole world of good.

    This might come as a surprise, but I’ve found the concepts of Buddhism have helped. The same as the above, I can imagine any religion would help. Prayer and meditation, especially.

    I hope my comments have contributed well to your blog, and thanks again for your contribution to my life. I wish you every happiness in whatever you do.

  • Bryan

    Hi, I just “Stumbled Upon” your post. It was a good read. like you I too suffer the black days and wait until they pass. Those days are unbearably long and drawn out. What I do know however, is that they do pass and each time I feel better for having survivied them. I stay away from the “happy pills” prescribed by those who are there to “help”. Eating well, exercising and staying active are the best antidote to the blackness. It is hard to go on sometimes but I know, just like others with this affliction, that a good home cooked meal, the love of my beautiful wife and lots of hugs, and a good night’s sleep, I will come out of it, although it may take some days or weeks.

  • Bryan

    Oh yeah, and I like to draw, and I am learning the guitar as I love music. I played the saxophone when I was in my teens but had to give it up due to the blackness.

    As for this being a modern illness, many have suffered through the ages. one of my favourite painters, Van Gogh was apparently a sufferer of this illness. If you read his letters or one of his biographies, you will probably relate to him and what he went through. perhaps that is.

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