Monday, February 14, 2011

I'm not getting you down at all, am I?

I've had a few people remark to me that I haven't blogged in a while (just over a month, actually), and what gives.

Long story short:

- I've been busy at work

- I've been busy outside of work

- I've been procrastinating the things I should be doing in the previous two categories

- I've been depressed again.

I do want to elaborate on that last point. There were a few depression-related newspaper articles a month or so ago that would have made good launching points for this post, and I never got off my arse to actually do it. The Sun and the Metro both had a depression-related article one day, and sometime last week there was something about wearing purple to raise awareness for mental health. I never found out exactly what it was, but I wore purple that day for the heck of it. They all generally fall under the category of "[some campaign] says that not enough people talk about depression", so I figured I'll just talk about mine.

I'd previously seen a shrink and taken pills for a number of years (including all through high school), and went off and back on and back off pills and psychotherapy (which is just a fancy word for "talking"). It has been well over half a decade since I last saw a shrink for depression, and I've been able to work out my own personality problems myself.

In the intervening years, I'd have downswings, often after pushing myself too hard, from which I'd recover after I ease up. It helps that I can be very stubborn.

But things have been going squarely downhill lately.

It doesn't help that I have a really complicated lifestyle, where I don't really have a routine but I'm always got many projects on the go, in each of my personal, work, and extracurricular lives. My sleep schedule is pretty erratic, as are my eating habits. So I've never had a baseline for how I "normally" feel.

So as I dealt with my new job and adjusted to its new full-time hours and new location (and the new pay--at least I didn't have money issues to compound problems), my extracurriculars also demanded more and more from me. If I was falling behind on one, I assumed it was due to pressure from the other.

But both were falling further and further behind, and the things I did to cheer myself up, didn't. It's not that I didn't want to get these things done (I did), it's not that I didn't know what to do (I did), it's that I realized I had absolutely no motivation to do anything productive. I didn't derive satisfaction from completing a project.

To a utilitarian like me, this was a serious problem.

Quitting wasn't really an option. I enjoy my job--when I actually accomplish things--both in absolute terms and relative to whatever else I might get. And it's not like I'd be successful at any other job in this state. Unemployed, I'd just waste away my savings doing nothing until I was depressed and destitute.

Over a month or so, I tried every trick in the book to get back on the wagon. I tried various forms of lists, reminders, and angry notes to myself. I tried (and generally failed at) tricks like drinking more water, changing my sleeping arrangements, and eating healthier. I tried directing my procrastination into lower-priority things that at least needed to get done.

Finally, at a certain point I had reached a low where I didn't want to even bother trying anymore. I was afraid that I had hit a dead end with no escape strategy.

I didn't clue in to the fact that there was something fundamentally wrong with me until one day when I realized that I not only accomplished nothing at work that day, but I also didn't work on any of my personal projects either. I had pissed it away reading news articles, commenting on blogs, diddling away on my stupid Blackberry's games, and snacking. When a deadline would approach or pass, I'd make excuses or pithy apologies.

I finally remembered my Psych 101 classes, that sometimes there is something physiological going on. Maybe I was...depressed.

Sadly, this epiphany by itself did nothing to alleviate the situation. But at least I found another corner to follow on my erstwhile dead end.

My doctor--the one who once said "maybe it's just you" when I complained of chronic fatigue--graciously* fit me in between some other patients the next day, and prescribed me some medications (apparently our overstretched modern medical system has replaced the psychologist with a flowchart as the primary diagnostic tool for depression). She said I probably won't feel the effects until 3 or 4 weeks into taking the pills daily. I'd always found this peculiar because Psych 101--or maybe Wikipedia--also taught that bouts of depression usually last only 2 weeks. Obviously mine had already stretched longer so I was hoping for more than a placebo effect.

(*Not being sarcastic this time. Normally the earliest appointment is two weeks away or more and I don't know what I'd have done if I had to wait that long.)

I'm now 3 weeks in, and still feeling pretty damn shitty. I had five major work/personal tasks I needed to get done on the weekend, and woke up in a panic in the middle of the night last night, realizing I hadn't done any of them.

While I haven't noticed any good effects of the drug, the side effects began pretty much from day one. I've been keeping a list on my Blackberry. The form that came with the drug said I should have notified my doctor immediately about the itching (which I didn't even realize was the drug for a few days), but I'll wait until the 4-week checkup.

There is a moral to the story, and it doesn't really come through well in the above paragraphs. In fact, it's not a very uplifting one, either.

I've always just assumed that everybody else was just as miserable as I am and kept it to themselves--not a bad coping mechanism, actually. But the occasional media campaigns on depression remind me that there are lots of depressed people who don't make this assumption. (And, implicitly, that there really are "normal" people out there who really don't feel like shit all the time. Burst my bubble, why don't you!)

So I thought I'd put it out there that there do exist people who appear to be organized and productive and who have made a name for themselves in their community. But beneath that outer shell of accomplishment, bear in mind that some of them--like me--suffer from depression, and are just good at hiding it.

If you are also depressed, what you choose to do with this knowledge is up to you:

- buck up and stop acting depressed

- take solace in knowing that you're not as alone as things might look

- realize that maybe your depression isn't prominent in others' eyes

If you've read this far hoping for some happy resolution or magic solution to depression, I'm afraid there isn't really one.

But if you are also depressed and my story has made you feel better, or if it has somehow inspired you, what I'd really like you to know is that I am very much not in the mood to care.

- RG>


Chris B said...

RG - it is somewhat ironic that I read this just after reading you quoted in the Citizen. I don't know what comfort it is in depression, but I admire your willingness to fight and devote your time to help others and help improve the city. WOuld that most non-depressed people had this same energy.

Lynn said...

I'm so sorry to hear you're down, Grouchy - I had no idea you struggled with depression. I hope you figure it all out soon.

Alex deVries said...

Isn't "stop acting depressed" a bit like saying "just stop bleeding"? I'm not sure you can just ignore it and expect it will go away.

Some people are affected by lack of sunlight, at least now you can feel the sun getting stronger and the days are longer (about 3 mins/day). Maybe that helps.

Get better and stay well!

RealGrouchy said...

Get better *and* stay well???

So many things demanded of me!

- RG>

Alex deVries said...

I mean:

1. Get better

and once that's done:

2. Stay well

- A

RealGrouchy said...

*dramatic sigh*


- RG>

Nigel said...

Hey Grouchy, I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now, and don't think I actually know you.

My sweetie suffers from depression, and has found a variety of things to be useful in dealing with it. If you want we can put together a comment for you outlining some of what we have done. (I know how bad un-solicited advice can be).

Just wanted to pop in and offer some support, everyone is different, and how this damned black beast affects them is going to be different as well. You did the hardest part (from what I've seen) catching it by yourself.

RealGrouchy said...

Hi Nigel, can't say your name rings a bell (in person or online). Thanks for coming out of the shadows.

Go ahead and type up the comments if you like. Might be useful to people who come see the post.

- RG>