Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Tackling Depression

A couple dear friends of mine have recently written about their experiences with depression. Lots of people have it, have had it, or will have it. Everyone has an opinion on it, and only those who have experienced it really know. We really know that it's not just feeling down or bored or lazy. It's not just feeling sad. It's not just mood at all. What's really going on is that a person with depression suffers from a chemical imbalance in the brain. All those chemicals that your brain produces to make you feel happy don't get produced as much in a person with depression, or they get absorbed and metabolized too quickly. That is how depression happens. We don't need to reach a certain age or have a certain event happen to be depressed, just our brain not doing with those chemicals what it should be doing. Yes, age and events can trigger your brain to not treat those feel-happy chemicals the way it should, but that is not necessary for one to have depression. This is important and everyone needs to know this. I can point to an event that was a 'cause' for me, but not everyone can and many don't have one at all. That's why antidepressants can work, they are drugs that adjust those chemicals in the brain. But the really important thing to know is that it's not going to just go away.

Anyway, I'm not really here to go into what depression is on a medical level. A friend of mine posted an article on her Facebook page that I thought was worth a mention. Just based on the title, 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You're Depressed, I thought this was going to be another list of 'just be happy' sparkles and unicorns and rainbows. I was pleased to see it was more of a counter to that sparkles and unicorns and rainbows list. Number 19 made me stop reading that and start writing this: "Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. 'I am not a psychic'. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them." It's a lot like what my friend Enid wrote on her blog: "DEPRESSION HAS BEEN LYING TO YOU. Depression tries to tell you that you're worthless, you're bad, you're stupid, you're blah blah blah de fucking blah blah on and on and on it talks so damn much about so much bullshit and it's all LIES. Christ on a fucking cracker, it will not shut up. It goes on and on blah blah blabbity blah and you're not good enough and nobody cares and nobody understands and blah blah blabbity BLAH the world would be better off without you, your friends, your family, they'd be better off without you blah blah blah OH MY GOD, DEPRESSION, SHUT UP."

I never really thought of it that way before, but it's very true. Depression tells you that you are alone, that no one cares, that nothing will ever change or be better, and that you deserve to feel that sad and helpless and alone, and you don't deserve to feel anything else.

Like most people, those chemicals in my brain fluctuate. Quite a bit. Generally, I'm a happy person. I have a job, I have a home, I have family who care for me and a boyfriend who loves me. There are some days when all of those things I have are so far away from me it's like they're not there at all. I can't control when that happens, I can't change a habit or do something different to keep that at bay, it happens because it's in my brain. Now, I've come a long way from the time when I wanted to end my life. I remember that well. It seemed things were fine; it was 1997, I was graduating high school, going to be the first person in my family to go to college, I was acting which I loved, and I wanted to die. A friend of mine saw some signs and was concerned and told my mother. My mother asked if everything was alright. I lied. I told her everything was fine and my friend was being silly. Then I worked on my plan. No one really cared, not my friend who was concerned, not my mom who took that information seriously. Depression told me so. And I had a plan. And then I realized I needed help, fessed up to my mom about lying about actually being ok, and she got me some help. I don't know what changed my mind about asking for help. Not a clue.

That point, that almost no return point, I haven't been in a place like that in a good long while. But there was a time, it was two years ago November. It was bad. I was the worst I had been since that day in 1997. I didn't want to die, not like I did then, but I did want to hurt myself, and on some occasions I did. I've never been a cutter, but it's easy to explain away a few bruises. I was already well practiced in that anyway and mysterious bruises crop up on me all the time (I just bruise easily, I've always been that way). So I did that, I hit myself with things until there were bruises, until I could feel pain when I just lightly touched them. I used a variety of things, one time it was the metal hammer from my toolkit, the butt of my Phantom pistols on my mantle, the poker I use for the woodstove. I once heard it described, in relation to cutting, that the pain you cause yourself is feeling something other than the things depression is telling you to feel. I hit my legs, my arms, my torso, my head. Just to feel the pain of a bruise. I have never harmed myself like that before or since. But I honestly cannot promise that I never will again.

My friend Jade reminds me that the village doesn't go away once the child is raised. There is a reason why humans need groups of others around them, that's the way we are built. If you think you need help, that's when it's time to ask for it. And don't wait. Having worked on coping with my depression on my own for years and years and years, I can tell you that it's hard, so very hard, and I really don't recommend it.

1 comment :

Jen said...

As a person with Bipolar Disorder, I want to thank you for pointing this out. Even with medication, there are bad days, and it helps to remember that Depression is a lying sonofabitch.