Tag Archives: depression

The Brain Fight

dt_150501_depression_brain_dna_800x600.jpgThings change, whether you want them to or not. A method you use for years can slowly stop working. You may start to like slightly sour candy over sweet. The road you’ve driven down for years will suddenly have a new speed bump. How we react to the changes often leaves a mark on us as individuals. But as I’m constantly reminded change will come, whether I’m happy about it or not. Just like it has now.

I deal with major clinical depression. For a good portion of the last four or five months, it has been knocking my ass to the ground and dancing an Irish jig on my face. So I am now in the process of changing around my medications. The process of trying to wean myself off one prescription and figure out if the new one is working, I will say, is exactly as fun as you imagine it to be. I’ve encountered one drawback so far and we’re back to my previous baseline. Those of you that have personal experience with mental illness can likely relate. I went back to read some of my other blog posts, in particular the ones where I discuss my own depression. I realize that I’ve given a recap of the road to diagnosis and a brief piece about going to therapy. But what I haven’t really done is attempt to explain to you just what it feels like when this disease hits me. I’m going to try to do that. Let me emphasize that this is specific to myself, not anyone else with mental illness. The brain is complicated and we all have different battles with it. I’m going to do my best to try to describe mine.

There really isn’t any fixed situation that sets it off. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I can already tell it’s not going to be an easy day. I may go to bed when suddenly, something will hit me and then I’ll be up all night with insomnia. Or I can go days being perfectly functional and then, suddenly, I want to climb in bed and stay there for the rest of time. So if you think that I can plan ahead for a bout of depression, sorry but it doesn’t care what my plans are. It just waltzes up to my brain, punches it a few times, and say it’s in charge now.

Sometimes it shows up as exhaustion and apathy. I don’t want to get out of bed or interact with anyone. My body can be sore for no reason. I flat our just stop caring. To put it mildly, it sucks. With very few exceptions, I don’t want to be unproductive everyday. It gets boring and I have kids to take care of.  So it’s a fight with myself to get anything done and sometimes I don’t win.

Sometimes I’ll become anxious and irritable. I’m already prone to worrying and things just get intensified. I become angry for no reason and my heart can race. My mind will over-think everything. I have trouble clarifying my thoughts and stumble over words. I  have to try not to snap at everyone. This makes things more difficult when it comes to my kids. They’re too young to understand what’s going on in my head and I don’t want them to think of their dad as just an angry asshole. So I have to try to stop my depression from parenting for me.

Things have been really bad on those times when it all hits me at once. This is despair. There isn’t another word I can use for it. Full, cold despair. I have been suicidal. I do not and have not harmed myself, but it has gotten close. This is one of the reasons we are looking at a medication change. When my mind starts going to that place, I know something isn’t working. This is also why I will never let myself purchase a gun. I’m not making a political stance here. I’m pointing out that, for my own health, I think a having a gun in my home is a bad idea. If you know me outside of the internet and ever hear that I’ve bought one, consider that a HUGE red flag. Let me say again that I am currently safe. I’m not planning anything and I’m not a danger. But my mind has gone to that place. I’ve thought about how maybe my wife can do better than me and I’m ruining her life. I’ve thought about how I must be damaging my children and they’d be better off without me. Yes, I’ve shaken these thoughts off but they come back. Medication helps. Therapy helps. But the facts remain that this is something that can’t be completely cured. This is my brain. I can’t hire an Igor to transplant a new one. This is what I’ve got to work with, so I will do the work.

Interactions with other people can be a coin flip regarding my depression. They can help bring me back or make things worse. Being an introvert can make it harder, since big party situations exhaust rather than energize me. But I will tell you it’s worth making the attempt. I will try my best to reach out to others, but when most of my brain says no one wants to talk to me it makes that a struggle. I very much count on others to make an effort. In fact, I encourage all of you who know someone struggling to do the same. Reach out to them. Don’t just say you’re there for us. Come to us. I know it isn’t easy and we don’t always respond. Being the friend/spouse/child or any close relationship with a person in my situation is hard. But if you can do it you’re being an amazing person. I can’t express enough how helpful it is when friends at least try to hear you. You probably won’t understand everything. But this is not something we’re trying to use as an excuse or a way to manipulate you. We don’t want to be this way and we’re trying. We’re fighting. So don’t give up on us.

Don’t give up on me. I am 38 years old and have been dealing with this monster for longer than I knew what it was. If I could just clap my hands together and change everything I would. This would also mean I’m an all-powerful wizard, which would rock. But this isn’t my reality. My reality is depression is a part of my life that I have to deal with. And whenever I see other people lose their battle, it terrifies me. It makes me wonder how much longer I can keep this up. So I remind myself that I’m stubborn. I can fight. Mental illness may be a huge venomous snake that slithers around my mind, so I need to show it that the brain it’s picking on is a mongoose. It can’t win. I won’t let it. Claws out and we’ll go another round.

Advertisements

Successful Failure

I’m going to start with a question. Are you successful? Just a quick “yes” or “no” for the moment. You can come back to it when you’re done here.

People tend to obsess over different things. Some more than others, but we are all guilty of something. And I think more than anything, we all focus to some degree on success. Which I find weird because it seems like such a subjective thing. I mean, what definition are you using? Your dad’s version or your teacher’s version? Your cat’s definitions of success? Are you a good mouser?

Focusing on success also means that we spend a lot of time obsessing over failure. That’s the opposite of success, right? If you didn’t succeed you failed. Pretty simple concept except that it isn’t that simple. Have I given you a headache yet? Take some ibuprofen and sit back down with me. I am going to give you a break and make a confession.

I’m a failure. I am a huge fucking failure. By so many definitions!

I’m a man in my late thirties who doesn’t make a lot of money, so I’m a failure by some societal standards. I’ve had more than one artistic pursuit come crashing to the ground. I struggle as a parent and I am positive I’m screwing up my kids. My depression likes to take feelings of failure and gobble them down like Cadbury Mini Eggs, so my brain usually hates me. Yeah, I’m a failure. And I keep reminding myself that it’s fine. There is nothing wrong with failure. Nothing.

I want to be clear that I’m not saying failure is something to be enjoyed. Failing sucks. It doesn’t feel good. But it’s important and, despite claims to the contrary, nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re alive, then you are ultimately going to fail at least a few times.  As the Mythbusters so eloquently stated, failure is always an option.

It can happen for many reasons. Timing can be off. You can misjudge the popularity of something and have an ugly surprise. A stranger can not like the answer you gave to a question and decide you aren’t fit for their company. These are all things that can lead to failure. You can even do everything “right” and still fail, through no fault of your own. That’s life sometimes. You just fail. And if you think you’ve never failed or never will I ask you to send me whatever hallucinogens you’re taking. The only way to not fail is to never try to do anything. Even if you’re the luckiest leprechaun in history you know, deep down in your four-leaf clovers, you will fail at some point.

I don’t enjoy failing, making mistakes, screwing up or any of that stuff. But it means I’m trying and hopefully learning. And those times I do succeed are awesome. But as important as failing is in our lives as a tool of growth it can still trip you up. When your failure makes you put a permanent stop on everything, you’re in trouble. It’s hard, but we all have to remember that we’re still alive and can keep going. Success is our there, in whatever form you need it to be. But you’ll fail first. So feel that failure and use it to keep going. This is why I can accept it. Failure isn’t forever. It’s just another step. We have to keep walking.

Maybe time for a break

This is a short rant. It probably won’t be that amusing. Sorry, but I’m not in the mood.

My productivity on this blog has been suffering. I started with a weekly post. Then it was bi-weekly. Now I’m lucky if I can get two posts in a month. I think part of the issue is other things have been eating up my time. The kids, work, and just being plain tired. Nothing special and certainly no different from plenty of other people.

Really, I think the main reason is that I’m getting tired of assholes. I am encountering them way too much. They are non-stop at work. I go online to have fun or be creative and people just get nastier and more vicious every day. Frankly, half the time I keep thinking of just shutting down entirely. But then I figure this is just depression talking and that maybe isn’t the best idea. Still, I am tapped out and am going into survival mode.

So I think I’m taking a break from posting. Maybe just a few weeks. Possibly longer. I need to get my head together. There is no point in writing when I don’t want to say anything to anyone. This is not a place I want to be in, so I will be taking care of it. For those who are regular readers, I’m sorry. Hope to be back soon.

 

Being quiet

Let me be blunt. I’m writing this because I need to see it.

There has been a drop off in posts over the last few months. To those who have been consistent readers, I apologize. The reality is I have been finding it very difficult to gather my thoughts lately. Sure I can keep posting random thoughts while drinking coffee, which I enjoy doing, but my goal with this blog was to have a little more substance and include some more specific life observations. But frankly, my mind has been beating me over the head with a sack of symbolic doorknobs for a while. So I have been quiet.

It’s no secret that I deal with clinical depression. Recently, it has been winning. My weeks have had more crap days than good ones. And the part that pisses me off the most? The fact that there really isn’t a thing I can point to that has caused it. Is work stressful? Yes, but my job deals with the general public so that’s expected. Financial struggles? Yes, but this is also not new.  Neither is being worn out from lack of sleep or frustrated that my wife and I don’t get enough time together with the girls. These are all things I deal with in my everyday life so why should they have suddenly become harder to handle? So I have tried to be quiet. I go to therapy. I go to work. I take care of my kids. I behave like a goddamn adult.

There have been more days than I want where I’ve felt like falling apart. There have been days when I’ve felt like I’m failing my wife and kids. I’ve had way too many days where things are more or less going fine and I’ve still wanted to just hide pray for everything to just stop.

As of today, my doctor and therapist agreed to increase my medication. My first increase in three years. I guess that’s pretty good. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that medication doesn’t fix everything. It’s job is to help my brain get to a level where I can handle things like a regular human. I still have to make things happen. I still have to take a breath and remind myself that I will continue. To do that, certain parts of my brain need to stay quiet. That’s where medication helps. That’s where therapy helps. And this is why, every so often, I need to write posts like this. I need to see it. I also need to share it because I hope that maybe, by not being quiet, I’m helping someone else. Maybe someone who is having a hard time needs to be reminded that it’s not simple, that depression doesn’t always make sense and that is okay. Keep trying, keep fighting. There are going to be days when depression kicks your ass. It will continue to feel like depression is winning. But it doesn’t really win if you keep going.

And like I said, I needed to see this. I need to acknowledge when things are bad. Being quiet does nothing.

Before the coffee kicks in — the headache edition

I realize it’s been a long time since I last posted. I attribute this to a number of things. Some of this has to do with life deciding that other things needed to take priority. So I’m realizing this as my head seems to be in the grips of a sinus headache. Stupid weather can’t decide if it’s still winter or not, so my head is punishing me for it. Perhaps more coffee will help along with Tylenol. Time to ramble.

Why does the cat stare at the tub faucet like she’s worshiping a pagan god?

Depression has been kicking my ass. I may need to talk about adjusting my medication. Not thrilled about it.

Bailey’s Chocolatini creamer is superior to Bailey’s Mudslide creamer.

My children have turned into walking goo factories. So many runny noses.

I miss having a lot of time to do nothing.

Do ducks have their own Navy?

I am so completely fed up with the 2016 election. It has brought out new forms of ugly.

Can we collectively stop pretending our shit doesn’t stink? Is that even a possibility?

It’s interesting to hear the different names and voices Phoebe gives to toys.

Speaking of my favorite preschooler, she is currently demanding my attention. This is making it increasingly difficult to type. So I’m ending this hear. Sorry for the briefness. My will is not my own. Also, the coffee doesn’t seem to be helping. Time to go be daddy.

 

 

What We Are: or, this is when I lose readers

If you know me on any kind of personal level, you know I hate talking about politics. I have a few reasons. I think that most of us have a tough time doing it without getting defensive. Mainly, it’s because I’ve become far too cynical where this kind of thing is concerned. We seem to get little done and the whole system is such a mess. No matter what people say, the ones who actually have any pull don’t seem to listen.

But over the last few weeks, particularly the last few days, I’ve gotten to the point where if I don’t say something I will make myself sick. And while I try to keep my sense of humor when I write, I just don’t feel like laughing at the moment.

I will never be one of those people who shouts their patriotism for all to hear. I’ve had moments when I’ve felt proud of my country and its people, and moments where I’m disappointed. But regardless of if I have pride or not, this is my home. I see it as something that just is, much like parts of my body just are. Whether I’m proud of my right arm or not, it is my right arm. I see no reason to change that. Still, I have to ask some questions.

When did we become so scared? When did we become so greedy?

I just find myself becoming confused these days. I understand being afraid. There are a lot of things that keep me up at night. I also understand wanting money. Not having it causes an insane amount of stress. But I thought that the point was to acknowledge these things and not let them run your life. Yet every time I go on Facebook or turn on the TV or read a news article, the opposite seems to be true. Is it baseless? No. There are scary things going on in the world. The economy, while a little better than it was, is still a mess. Now, do I think this excuses the behavior I’m seeing? Again, and emphatically, no!

What happened? Yes, I know that 9/11 happened. I know war has happened. I know people have been elected and blamed and defended and all that other stuff. Recently, I know that people in this country have been assaulted and shot and killed. I know that other places like Beirut and Paris have been victims of disgusting terrorist attacks. But rather than becoming stronger, we just seem to fall apart more each year. We could be trying to be better, which I understand is really hard to do. Trust me, I’m stubborn. I get how hard it can be to change anything! That’s why I try to make little changes, one at a time. But at least I’m trying. I’m sure a lot of people are trying just as hard, if not harder. But as a whole, I’ve been having a rough time with what we appear to have become. And what is that? What are we now?

What we are is a contradictory, confused mess. I see people who are terrified of refugees and want stricter background checks or to just make them go away. But suggest stronger checks for people buying guns and you hate freedom. You are trying to take their rights away. We lose our minds when people do crazy shit in the name of one religion, but turn away when it gets done in the name of another. People are throwing around hashtags and phrases like “pro-life” and “All Lives Matter” but couldn’t be bothered to do anything for the homeless, some of which are veterans. And yes, I can despise war and fighting and still support veterans. If you get to be complicated, so do I.

What we are is a society in which we demand people pay for what they want, which is fine. Not everything can be free. But not let them earn enough money to do so because some jobs are “more important than others” is ridiculous. We tell kids to get an education, then try to make it impossible to do so. And if they do, we only hire them for jobs they didn’t need an education to perform. And then we don’t have to pay them more because, again, some jobs are apparently more important than others. Besides, education can lead to science and that seems to be a bad thing now. Seriously, when did science and learning and just THINKING become bad?

What we are is a country where the type of person you are matters less than your gender, your religion, your income, your love life, your damn skin color. We are a society with a political system that has basically made the office of President pointless, because the rest of the government just wants to argue and BE right instead of DO right. We have politicians and people running for office who think that internment camps and making people wear religion-based ID is a good idea! And we still have individuals out there who think the so-called American Dream exists? I’m sorry, but the only “American Dream” that I’ve ever been aware of was a wrestler named Dusty Rhodes and he’s no longer with us.

I’m not looking to pick a fight. I’m just tired. And I make a lot of mistakes. But we have to do better and it won’t happen if we stay the way we are. But I don’t know what the answer is. I look at my daughters and as much as I love them, I get sad. I feel like they are doomed to live in a society that will always look down on them for something. Maybe their bodies, or their personalities, or their passions. I have to keep telling myself that there is still a lot of good in this world, but it gets harder the uglier I see people become. We don’t want to help each other anymore. I sometimes wonder if we ever really did.

This won’t break me. I will keep going. I just had to let it out. I don’t know what the answer is. I just know I have enough stomach issues without letting all this stuff turn into an ulcer. So I guess stop following me if I offend you. Stop talking to me if I disgust you. I won’t take it personally. I’m just done. If you stick around I’ll try to make the next post more fun. But right now I need a ginger ale.

Run down into fall

It has been a few weeks since I’ve tried to write anything. I can’t make no excuses other than it’s been hard to make myself sit down and take the time. Still, I have to admit there have been contributing factors.

My stress level has been super high, which in turn messes with controlling the depression. It can be exhausting having to fight your own brain. The external factors of working hard for not enough money, which I’m aware is a common problem, has kept it difficult to find a moment to really breath. In addition, social media has been a kind of curse for me lately. I am easily prodded by my environment and the constant craziness and level of asshole I am encountering blows my mind. Basically, the unfollow button on Facebook is my new friend. Finally, I have just been trying to survive the summer weather. Hot and humid is not my idea of fun. All of this together has made me want to go dig myself a little hole and not tell anyone where it is.

The arrival of fall is something that at least helps with one of those crap piles. The weather is slowly becoming more manageable and, for me, more pleasant. I like when we start having those autumn days when I can throw a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt and be comfortable. No need for a coat yet. And if it’s too warm, I can lose the layer.

This is my favorite season because I really like fall things. I like when the leaves change color. I happen to enjoy apple cider and pumpkin donuts. Also, I’m a fan of both things in pie format. And next month, we come to Halloween. Probably my favorite holiday even if I don’t get to participate much anymore. My kids do. My preschooler has had her costume picked out for most of this past year. Hazel from the show “Little Charmers” is currently being crafted by my mother-in-law.

So does any of this change things for me? Not in the big scheme, I guess. Fall doesn’t add to my finances. Colorful leaves don’t make things better for my family. Apple cider doesn’t cure depression. Halloween doesn’t make people easier to deal with. But for little bits at a time, these things make me feel kind of happy. Maybe that’s what this post is about. Just to serve as a reminder that there are things that help, even if only for a little while. And I keep going. For my wife. For my kids. For myself. I keep going.

Nightmares

Some people sleep  easily. I don’t. I’ve fought insomnia for years. In the last six, I learned that it’s likely connected to the depression. That actually helped me manage it a bit better, but a good, restful sleep is still a challenge. I have to take an over the counter sleep aid most nights, otherwise it takes me a few hours just to drift off.

I don’t usually remember dreams. I know they are pretty much my brain trying to work through stuff while I’m asleep. I’m just not one of those people who consistently remembers what they were dreaming. I do believe that whatever your mood is on any given day can connect to what you were dreaming the night before.

Today feels like it will suck. I spent most of last night having nightmares. My wife had to wake me up twice because I was yelling out in my sleep. I know in at least one of them, something terrible happened to my kids. I remember that they disappeared. I think something inhuman took them. There was nothing I could do. I can’t recall anymore than that. So I’m very tired. I’m irritable. I’m worried what triggered those dreams is something I saw and my brain is trying to warn me about.

Why don’t I remember good dreams? The closest I get is the random really weird dream. The ones I can never forget. I had a dream in high school where I was toasting bagels at Burger King for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which they kept ordering with no stop in sight. Years later, I dreamed that I had been cast in a new musical and every other member of this cast was made of Play-doh. Again, weird stuff.

Otherwise, it’s nightmares that throw my whole day off. And why pick on my kids, brain? It was bad enough when you gave me that dream where our cat was stomped on and thrown in a trash can, sadly mewing the whole time. Then I had the one where my wife sent ghosts after me. So now we’re picking on the girls? Seriously? Is it because I’m not giving you as much sugar as I used to?

Today is definitely going to be a long day. That’s not even counting the large amount of pooping I’ve already had to do.

Back on the couch

I am going to say something that should shock no one, particularly anyone that knows me or has followed me on this site. I am not perfect. I am extremely imperfect. I more or less accept that. There. We can all move on.

Now, awhile back I wrote a piece about my experience with clinical depression. I’ve mentioned it a bit more in other posts. What I wanted to talk about now is a specific part of my, for lack of a better term, treatment. That would be therapy. Yay! One of the last things people ever want to admit they need!

Before I got the official diagnosis, I had actually already started seeing a therapist after a discussion with my regular doctor. Admitting you need help sucks. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but we get conditioned to think it should be. Much like having any kind of mental illness. So, basically we get kind of screwed. You can’t admit something is wrong and, if you do, then you can’t get help because it’s shameful. Fucked up, right? And of course my attempt was a little late in the game. I still had a breakdown, still ended up in an outpatient program, and had to admit a few things to myself. And one of those was that I needed to be in therapy AND needed to be medicated. Not one or the other. They go together. Much like the comedy stylings of Bert and Ernie.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in that I have had good experiences with therapy. I’ve been able to find people whom I can click with fairly quickly. Some people have to go through a few therapists before they find one that works for them. I’ve only had to change because of moving from one state to another. I have, however, had to stop therapy do to conflicts with jobs or a loss of insurance that would cover it. It was never something I wanted but it had to happen. And each time, I’ve noticed that things just get a little harder to manage. There have been points when I’ve needed to have weekly sessions. Then there have been times when I have been able to go weeks in between seeing my therapist. I stay on the medication and use the things I’ve learned to help myself in my day-to-day. Is it an exact process? No, and it probably never will be.

Let me say that I don’t think I’ve met a single person, mentally ill or not, who couldn’t benefit from some form of therapy. Talking does help and sometimes it isn’t an option to go to your friends or family. They are likely just too attached to the issue you’re dealing with. I’m not saying that you should never go to these people, but sometimes therapy turns in to a venting session. Friends and family have this idea of who you are and are not always ready to accept something different. A trained professional can. They can also help you find better ways to talk to the people close to you that probably never even crossed your mind. Am I making sense? Probably not, but then I am not a trained therapist. What I am is someone who very much advocates how important treating mental illness is. What I am is a guy who is happy to have a great family and might not have made it here without getting help. If anything I say removes the stigma someone has in their head when it comes to therapy or mental illness in general, then that is awesome. But if this has merely bored you, fear not. I’ll get back to talking about things like cat barf the next time a post. Everyone wins.

Pants of life

Today my one-year-old crawled out of her pants.

I should mention that they are a bit too big for her. I also didn’t actually watch her do it. All I know is that one minute, Zoe was on one side of the playroom wearing her pants. The next thing I know, she had crawled to the other side and her pants didn’t go with her.

Should I take this as some kind of sign? Are the pants of life I’m trying to wear too large? I feel like I make a pretty strong effort everyday. I try to be a good husband and a good daddy. I make an effort to be a good friend. I go to my job and I work like I’m supposed to. Is that enough?

I do all these things while trying to be true to myself. Like everyone, I have bad days and there is nothing I can do about them. It’s just reality. As I’ve said before, I also deal with depression and that can make the bad days a lot worse. But I acknowledge those feelings for what they are, I take my medication, and I do the best I can. Really, it’s all just another stitch in the pants I’m wearing. But is that enough?

Has my baby become some kind of infant Nostradamus? Will she and her sister be doomed to watch their father trip and fall because he couldn’t keep his pants of life up?  And will I end up crawling towards failure, leaving behind pants I never should have put on in the first place? Is there no existential belt that can save me?

Of course it’s entirely possible, as well as much more likely, that Zoe is just too little right now for the pants she has on. Big pants on a little baby will ultimately not stay up.

Maybe I just need to get out more. Maybe I’m just using this moment as an excuse to talk about pants for no real reason.  Yeah, that’s probably it.