I think I’m suffering the post-holiday blues. Given my life with clinical depression, I suffered the pre-holiday blues and the mid-holiday blues, as well. But, these past couple of days have been a bit worse than the rest.
Dudo and Moose don’t care. As long as there are birds to watch (and a drain hole to monitor). I wish I could be more like them.
Come to think of it, never mind. Although they both know how to chill, they can be even more anxiety prone than I. The sound of the door bell sends them scurrying into the closet. Nothing could make me scurry into the closet. Nothing.
Creo que estoy sufriendo la melancolia después de las fiestas. Dada mi vida con depresión clínica, también sufrí la melancolia previos a las fiestas y durante las fiestas. Pero, estos últimos días han sido un poco peores que el resto.
A Dudo y Moose no les importa. Mientras haya pájaros para observar (y un agujero de drenaje para monitorear). Desearía poder ser más como ellos.
Ahora que lo pienso, no importa. Aunque los dos saben cómo relajarse, pueden ser incluso más propensos a la ansiedad que yo. El sonido del timbre de la puerta los hace correr hacia el armario. Nada podría hacerme salir corriendo hacia el armario. Nada.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with, and began treatment for, clinical depression (see previous blog post), San Geraldo and I were on the move again. It was our third move in our five years together. From Boston, Massachusetts; to Los Angeles, California; to Washington D.C.; to New Haven, Connecticut.
I was doing well and didn’t seem to need any talk therapy. The antidepressant medication had done the trick. After about a year on the medication, I independently decided I was ready to go drug-free. I phased off the meds and continued to do well. However, over the course of the next year, without really realising it, I had begun to give myself those pep talks again to help me face the days. Finally, more than a year later, I had another major crash. I found a psychiatrist in New Haven and started back on Sinequan. He was a Freudian psychiatrist (so, let’s call him Sigmund) and hardly spoke. But that didn’t really matter to me. At first, I just wanted to talk and cry. But, after a few weeks, the medication levelled off my brain chemistry again and I was back to this new life I had been learning to live. I was no longer crying and only went to Sigmund for weekly med checks.
Since Sigmund didn’t talk, he didn’t help me to understand my condition any more clearly. I still thought I could get to a point where I wouldn’t need to take medication. So, I went through another cycle of about a year and half without medication before another crash. And I still wasn’t learning.
By the next crash (yet another), we were living in California (having moved from New Haven after 1-1/2 years to Guilford, Connecticut, and then to San Diego five years later where we celebrated our 12th anniversary). I found a psychiatrist who truly changed my life permanently (although I still had my stubborn moments).
When I insisted I didn’t need to be on medication forever, he asked, “Would you say that if you were diabetic?”
“That’s different,” I argued.
And thus began my real education on the “illness” called clinical depression. I’ve read that clinical depression is one-third each biological, brain chemistry, and inherited traits (if broken into quarters, the fourth would be hormones). Maybe an oversimplification, but my depression I’m sure has been partly a result of my childhood and later-life experiences. But many children have suffered much more troubled childhoods. And many adults have suffered much more painful lives. This is simply the way my brain responds. There’s nobody and no thing to blame. Besides, I’ve looked hard into my life experiences and, finally, there’s only me to face the result and survive it.
SORRY. I’M EVEN BORING MYSELF.
I know that physical activity is important for me. And healthy mental activity, too. But those alone are not enough. Unless there is some new revelation in the treatment of clinical depression, I now accept that I will likely always be on medication to treat it. And that’s fine with me. Sometimes, the medication may need to be changed or adjusted. That’s also fine with me. Yes, I do have some challenging times, but they’re nothing like those crashes I used to have. And, as I think about it, I probably wouldn’t give up my experience of this depression. Now that I’ve survived it, at least. It has played a large part in forming the person I am. I’m sure it’s where my humour was born. It taught me to be more honest with myself and with others. And it has certainly taught me to appreciate this life.
I’m still learning to forgive (myself and others) and to forget what doesn’t do me any good to remember. But, as long as I’m being honest, I haven’t forgiven everyone. And I haven’t forgotten everything. OK, and I can still be bitter, sarcastic, and acerbic. But not all the time. So, what the hell.
Many of you were very moved by my recent revelations and I’m so grateful for your support and understanding. But please don’t cry for me. I’m here to entertain you, enlighten you, charm and inform you. (Ain’t I grand?) I’m not here to depress you!
A few months before my 32nd birthday, San Geraldo and I were heading home from a walk through our neighbourhood in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. We were talking about nothing in particular when I broke down and sputtered, “I can’t do this anymore.”
As I think back to this moment, I realise San Geraldo must have thought I was leaving him or had some terrible confession that would make him want to leave me. “What can’t you do?” he asked in concern.
Through sobs, I explained, “For months now, every night I go to bed and my last thought is, ‘I hope I don’t wake up in the morning. I hope I die in my sleep.’ “
Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is, ‘Oh fuck.’ “
I don’t remember the rest but I distinctly remember that opening.
After some discussion and lots of moral support, San Geraldo said I needed to “talk to someone.” When he saw I didn’t know where or how to begin, he said he would get me an appointment with “someone.”
He asked colleagues and got the name of a psychotherapist and I saw him the next afternoon. The therapist first had me fill out a long questionnaire, which I found kind of fun. I like questionnaires. We then talked. Well, I mostly cried. But the result was that he felt certain I suffered from clinical depression. Through a psychiatrist, I was prescribed an antidepressant called Sinequan.
This is now an old-style antidepressant with loads of side-effects, one of which was to make me really drowsy. I could only take the meds just before bedtime. That side-effect soon became a major bonus. I immediately began to sleep more soundly than I had ever slept.
Other side effects were more problematic for me — like cotton-mouth and reduced sex … um … “follow-through.” (How’s that for a euphemism?)
AT HOME IN GEORGETOWN; A LIFE FILLED WITH SO MANY GIFTS. STILL, I KNOW I WENT TO BED THAT NIGHT HOPING I WOULDN’T SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY.
After a couple of weeks I began to notice a fairly dramatic change in my mood. In fact, I felt as if I were meeting a person I had never known before. I woke up one morning happy. I didn’t have to talk myself into facing the day. I couldn’t remember a time in my adult life when I had actually experienced that.
It wasn’t a complete turnaround but I no longer hoped to die in my sleep. So, I went to the drugstore and bought some Biotene toothpaste for the cotton mouth. I figured the sex issues were survivable. Besides, I had had an overactive sex drive to begin with.
And since My Mother the Dowager Duchess will read this, I’ll not say another word about sex.
I thought I’d be telling you today the entire story of my battles with clinical depression. But, as I began to write, I realised there’s a lot more to tell if the story is going to be of any use to anyone. I didn’t take pills for two weeks and solve all my problems. But I did discover that I wouldn’t mind sticking around for a good long while.
You know what’s really depressing? I have some great photos to share of that year (1986) in Georgetown but I can’t get my f$%&ing scanner to work. I’ve shared two shots from our home in Georgetown and will share more another time. So just listen to the music; smile if you’re able; and, well, hold on.
We woke up to a downpour during the wee hours of Monday morning. I found it magnificent. San Geraldo found it foreboding.
Later Monday morning, the sky and sea displayed what I thought were brilliant and dramatic colour and contrast. San Geraldo thought it was “evil and threatening.”
And so the day went. We managed to get ourselves to the gym in the afternoon for an uplifting, pun intended, workout. (San Geraldo will probably ask, “What pun?”)
Tuesday was an uneventful day. My depression comes and goes. But it’s mild and manageable. Moments of miserable thoughts that soon pass. Much longer moments of gratitude for a good life and kind, empathetic people like San Geraldo and all of you.
I hope you don’t mind if in the coming days I share stories of my experience of clinical depression. Although I still obviously have challenges at times, treatment absolutely transformed my life. Maybe it can help you or someone you know either to understand it better or to get through it.
Meanwhile, here are some photos of the terrace view of Monday morning’s magnificent, brilliant, dramatic, foreboding, evil, and threatening Mediterranean Sea and sky.
(Click any image and decide which descriptors you would use.)
A FEW HOURS LATER AS WE HEADED OUT FOR COFFEE.
I SAID, “WOW!” SAN GERALD SAID, “DREARY.”
“Enough, enough of being basely tearful! I’ll show my noble stuff by being gay and cheerful!”
As most of you know, I live with clinical depression. I do what I can to keep the dark days — and nights — at bay. Medication helps, but needs to be adjusted over time. Without medication, I couldn’t survive. And sometimes I feel like I have to justify that to others.
“Oh, just change your attitude,” they’ll say.
“I just pull myself by my bootstraps and put a smile on my face,” some tell me.
“Just spend more time at the gym.”
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Attitude helps. A smile helps. Exercise helps. But they don’t cure clinical depression.
With the help of San Geraldo, I manage to keep the worst bouts from returning, simply by being aware and getting help when I/we see the patterns returning. What returns are the voices in my head. They tell me I’m not good enough (for what, I don’t know). I’m not handsome enough (for my life as a fashion model?), I’m not smart enough, kind enough, rich enough, confident enough, talented enough, humble enough.
On my good days, none of that even matters.
On my bad days, I’m simply not enough.
Lately, I’m not finding myself interesting enough, which explains my recent dearth of blog posts.
But, finally, rather than trying vainly to be enough for you (OK, for myself), I figured it was time to just tell you what’s been going on in my head.
The walks have helped. Usually about 11 km (8 miles) in 2-1/2 to 3 hours, with a day off between. Monday, it’s back to the gym. Really. No excuses.