‘member when I didn’t post anything for a couple of weeks? Yeah… that happens sometimes. Occasionally, I am genuinely too busy to find time to write. Other times I just have nothing to say. Every once in a while, though, it’s due to a certain nature of mine that you may have noticed in the title of this post.
Good ol’ depression.
I thought, after almost 7 years of its existence, it was about time I really address this issue in blog-form. Now, I’m not medically diagnosed as a depressive fella, but this isn’t a title I’ve taken on lightly — not a whim I’ve decided to adorn myself with just because I’m feelin’ bummed about not making it to work on time one day. For many years, I’ve read up on the subject of depression, seeking to understand it from both a clinical and personal point of view, and while I am certain that a professional would take interest in labeling my condition more accurately (Bipolar II, perhaps?), I’m just here to talk about how I live with it.
I remember, very distinctly, the first time I felt “depressed.” I was probably in my early teens, somewhere between 6th and 9th grade, and I was very suddenly struck with the idea that I simply didn’t want to be alive anymore. I didn’t consider suicide, at that point, and this was an age before the Internet had filled me with knowledge of self-harm and other things that seem more prevalent today (or, maybe I was just sheltered), but I recall ambling around my house one night, wanting to simply be dead. At one point, I plopped my face into the corner of our kitchen couch, the room illuminated only by lights from elsewhere in the house, and I just could not shake the feeling. My mom noticed me wandering around aimlessly, as I’m sure I was quite transparent, and I told her, “I’m tired of being alive.” Now, for a long time, I could look back at that point and think of other possibilities for my emotional state: boredom, troubles with my dad, fear of upcoming changes, romantic loneliness. As time has moved forward, though, and as this mood has cropped up several, several times since, I think it’s very easy to identify it as my first episode of depression.
Of course, as a hormonal teenager, emotions can run very high and very low, too. I used to use a mini-cassette recorder to play around with, but I also used it as a diary for a couple of years during the beginning of high school. Oh, how cringe-worthy those tapes would be to hear now 😉 . I remember at one point saying, “I’m soooo super depressed,” which is about as teenage-angst as one could imagine a phrase being, but depression also popped up in sincerity, as well. If we scoot forward a bit, to my senior-year of high school, life hit some low points — mostly because of my relationship with my dad. I was more than checked out of school by that point, and my dwindling GPA reflected that… which was cause for a LOT of angry speeches and yelling in my house. Even during the couple of years after graduation, as I was coming into my own adulthood, my dad had a HORRIBLE time dealing with a child who was starting to live his own life and who vocalized disagreements. I was also in a really bad emotional state, in general, and all of this culminated in the one time in my life that I most strongly considered killing myself. My goodness, this is getting heavy… let’s take an adorable break:
Okay, that’s better. So, anyways, I used to take the 73 toll-road to and from high school (I went to a private school 30 minutes away from my home). To set the scene, here’s how I came home from a bad day at school on more than one occasion: I had the windows down, The Misfits or Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside” was blasting out of my speakers, I had the collar of my black trench coat popped up as I glared at people driving next to me (OMG… so much stinkin’ teenage angst!), and one day, as I started down one of the steep hills of the highway, I pushed hard into the accelerator. My poor little Honda Civic started rattling and shimmying as I hit 115-120mph.. It was during one of these emotional rides home, though perhaps not the same one at which I hit the aforementioned speeds, that I looked to the huge support pillars of a distant overpass and considered plowing my car right into one of them. It was a consideration fueled purely by emotion and pain, but even through all of that I abstained. It never was, and never has been, a “serious” thought, because I’m too smart for that. Not that I’m high and mighty, but while logic has been my downfall in the past, it is also my savior. I won’t draw this part out any longer, since this isn’t what I intended to write about, but there are three thoughts that serve to create the basic reason that I’ve never killed myself:
1. One can never know what tomorrow might bring, and the more life I’ve lived, the more I can see how true that is,
2. I have hope that life can improve from whatever emotional dungeon I’m in (it always has so far),
and 3. I believe in God, that He wanted me here in existence for SOME reason, and it is hardly my place to deny that.
So, okay.. I’m not going to off myself, and that’s wonderful, but what about all of that stuff I said during my first episode about wanting to not be alive? Depression is a very wide-ranging condition, remember, so I’m only talking about myself, here. It seems to actually be a common thread, though, among depressive folks. The feeling isn’t that I want to kill myself, it’s that I’m simply tired of being alive. You may not see the semantic difference in there, but it’s really important. You may think of depression as feeling sad or crying, and that’s sure there, but the worst part about it, as I’ve experienced it, is the emotional apathy.
What is a dark time like for me? There are a lot of possibilities. It’s usually sparked by something genuine, but fairly inconsequential (something that reminds me how I’m lonely or a job/school/life stress), and it immediately spirals out in every direction. I may feel bitter, angry, abusive, distraught, etc., etc., but given enough time, depression rather quickly devolves into apathy. For the last week, or so, I’ve been devoid of all access to regular emotions. It’s sort of like walking around in a mechanical body, one that’s operating entirely on auto-pilot, while I’m tucked away in the cockpit, barely experiencing any of the emotional inputs. That, I think, is the absolute worst part of depression — it robs me of life. I could have a fun time at work or a great day out with my friend, KB, but it barely penetrates me; by the time I’m in my car on my way home, the feelings are usually already flying out the window, and I’m left feeling just as hollow as when I started. That’s the perfect word to use. Hollow.
The wonderful comic/blog, Hyperbole and a Half, famously featured a post about the author’s depression experience a few years ago, and it is absolutely the best representation of depression that I’ve come across, because it handles the situation with a keen humor and is very aware of its message… and you should check it out: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html
As mentioned in that comic, it’s just very hard to get going when one is depressed. It’s a horrible cycle, because trying to find motivation during this time is like trying to push a cement truck up a hill with your bare hands. If only you had a cement truck to push.. with… oh. Yeah, it’s like that. I’m fully aware that my lack of motivation is causing me troubles, but I can’t just flip the motivation-switch to energize myself enough to be able to motivate myself. As the kids say, these days, “I can’t even…” I’ve never called out of work or missed an important meeting because of depression, though. Just as with alcoholism, there’s a high-functioning variety of depressives, as well. I’ve heard it referred to as “smiling depression,” but I sure don’t do a whole lot of smiling. In fact, I just barely keep myself above water. During this last week+, I’d stay up until 2am doing absolutely nothing valuable and I’d barely roll out of bed around noon. I went to my classes, but I didn’t really study for my first test of the semester (ended up with an 80%, which could’ve been an easy 95%+ if I’d put in effort). I went to work, but a new job working for an after-school program felt like the greatest burden in the world and I was barely pieced-together at Lego. My hygiene tends to fail, I barely eat. My ambitions, my creativity, my gusto, and just about every emotional possibility leave me, and I find myself detached from my own life, in a bubble, simply waiting until I can return to it. So, how DO I return? Mmm… how, indeed 🙂 .
I am actually writing this from a perfectly happy state-of-mind. Late last night (that’d be Sunday, probably, for you), the fog began to lift. By the time I woke up this morning (Monday), I was 100% myself, again. To contrast that to just the day before, when I felt nothing but mental exhaustion and emotional void, I seem like two completely different people. Of course, when I AM going through a rough time, I’m not very vocal about it, but for those who hear about it through conversation and my need to talk things out – the difference is pretty stark. There are two ways I leave this gloomy state: either an emotional break or a random melting. Neither one are really of my own doing.
About a month ago, I went through a few bad days (when I wrote about my confusion as to why someone would want to be in a relationship), but what got me out of that one was watching Frozen for the first time. I identified VERY much with a certain character who is dealing with a storm inside, a storm that she can’t quite control and that hurts others when it explodes out. I watched the movie, enjoyed it, but then as I stayed up listening to the songs from that movie over and over, and exploring other beautiful tunes online, I broke down, emotionally, and I sobbed. I didn’t cry. I sobbed. For about 45 minutes, off and on (mostly on), I went back and forth between standing at my desk and kneeling on the ground… an uncontrollable wave of tears just pouring right through me. And do you know how I felt after that? Cleansed. It’s as if my emotions get so tangled up and bitterly entwined with each other, that I hit a point where I can’t hold anymore and it all comes out in tears. It’s like the rain, though, and it washes me through and through, and I’m left as a clean, soft-hearted little boy who just loves everything and is as purely “me” as I ever am. It’d be a fantastic frame of mind to be in all of the time, I think 🙂 . Option two is usually what comes about when I’ve been down enough to become “hollow,” and then, like that… it’s just done. No emotional breakthrough, no great event. Within the span of a couple of hours, I go from emotional zombie to good ol’ happy me.
This was a long post (at least, it felt long) — a mixture of confession and, perhaps, enlightenment. I hope it was interesting, at least. If one spends enough time here, especially when it comes to my creative endeavors, I believe you can certainly identify a very dark vein that runs through my storytelling. Now that I’m back to me, I’m going to resume a short story that I’m adapting from a short screenplay I wrote years ago, and it’s not exactly a chipper tale. When my humor, my stories, or even my blog posts reveal a more gloomy undertone, I think it’s simply reflective of myself. I absolutely love life, and I’m a sincerely happy guy, but darkness is very much a part of my existence. Not that I am here presenting a cheery facade to cover up my consistent sorrow, my base emotion is genuinely cheery 🙂 , but I live a life of duality — occasionally, I collapse into very dark, empty places, and I don’t try to deny that. So, perhaps, that’s why I decided to finally address the issue, in full, here. This isn’t a post with a dramatic conclusion or a personal realization, but it’s also not an entry void of hope and muddled in confusion. I do my best to carry on during these heavy times, and while the darkness I face is not as bleak as I’m sure it is for others, perhaps my words here can offer an encouragement.
Even if it’s just one of solidarity 🙂 .
Okay, okay… here’s another cute-break. Happy Monday/Tuesday, everybody!