Things 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.