For the better part of 15 years now, I’ve dealt with mild to severe depression. It comes and goes seemingly randomly. I haven’t been able to pin-point the triggers and haven’t made much progress in controlling it. I don’t deal well with medication and I’m not big on talking, so the counseling angle is never very appealing. Usually, the episodes are around 2 weeks long and then fade and everything goes back to normal (which is probably still depressed, but manageable). For the last 8 months or so, however, it’s been more of a constant weight with some time-spans dipping into the severe range for extended periods. I think it’s time for me to get some help, but taking that first step is the hardest part.
What the last 8 months has shown me, however, is that most people in my life don’t even notice, or at least don’t get what is going on. And that makes it worse. Am I really that much of an asshole on a regular basis, that when things get really bad in my head, outwardly I’m not all that different? Those that do notice, tend to say the worst possible things that they could to a depressed person. I’m sure it stems from misunderstanding and a feeling of being unable to know what to do, but these are a few things that, at least from my perspective, should never be said to, or around, a depressed person:
- “Cheer up!” – That is one phrase, above all others, that makes just want to punch someone in the throat.
- “He’s grumpy today” – Grumpy? Talk about trivializing. Ugh.
- “He’s just being a dick today” – Yeah, while I had headphones on at work (nothing play on them) and a coworker (who is also a close friend) said that to a bunch of folks (including my boss) who were in his cubicle (next to mine).
- “What’s your problem?” or “Why are you so miserable?” – I’m not going to answer with “I am depressed”. So, my non-answer will just lead to the statements above anyway by my avoiding the question.
- “Focus on the positive” – If I could do that, I wouldn’t be a depressive. My brain doesn’t allow that.
- “I’m praying for you” – Just…don’t.
Some suggestions of things that might be somewhat helpful, or at the least not hurtful:
- “Is there anything I can do to help?” – Probably not, but at least it’s a non-accusatory thing to say.
- “Sorry that you’re dealing with this.”
- “I’m here for you if you need anything”
- Say nothing at all
So, I guess I just wanted this to serve as a reason (not an excuse) for the way I respond (or don’t respond as it were) to the various things that life throws my way. Take it for what it’s worth, or don’t take it. Either is fine. When it’s bad, I internalize. I don’t talk. I don’t want to talk. And trying to make me talk makes it worse. But saying stuff like what is on the first list above should be the very LAST thing anyone should do. But…they still will.
(actually…a lot of days have been UN-days lately)
Well, here we go again. I’ve been in a down-mode for quite a while now. It’s left me feeling completely unmotivated. I just don’t really get it this time. I don’t feel overly sad, actually, I FEEL kind of content overall. I just lack any kind of motivation to do the things I usually like to do. Exercise, take photos, write, etc. I dunno. I’m sure it’s some kind of seasonal affective disorder, but the random nature of it bothers me. It doesn’t seem to sync up to the same times every year. All I do is work, go home, sit on my ass, get up the next day and do it all again. I feel like this cycle is endless and there’s nothing I can really do about it.
This is a tough question.
At least, it’s a tough question for me personally. What I do know for sure is that I’m a TON more happy now than I ever was as believer. I can look at happiness as an average. Am I bouncing off the walls every day with joy? Of course not! I’d find myself in a padded cell wearing a nice new jacket with sleeves that tie in the back if I was. Am I completely miserable every day? Same answer as above. Over the last few years, however, I think that I’ve found that the average ‘level of happiness’ that I feel has increased steadily. There are lots of reasons that I can attribute this change too, but for the sake of keeping with the general topic of this blog, I’ll stick to the religious reasons.
I can remember with vivid detail the day that I finally admitted to myself that I was an atheist. (It was after a long period of teeter-tottering back and forth on the topic due to the fear of the stigma associated with that moniker.) I’ve told this to several people since then: the feeling was that of a thousand pounds of weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I felt like all the irrational guilt that I had been carrying around with me for years had finally rolled away. I was finally able to look at myself and the world objectively and determine that things are not nearly as dire as I was made to believe. I don’t have to fear infinite punishment for finite crimes. I don’t have to worry that my lifestyle (and the life I wanted to live) was in some way counter to the rules of some dictator in the sky. I don’t have to live according to a rule book that is so self-contradictory that my mind couldn’t make sense of it.
The result? A nearly immediate sense of happiness. Some of that initial ‘thrill’ so to speak, has of course subsided. But the over-all sense that life is much more worth living now continues to be tangible. I now find value in THIS life. I find value in the NOW! Not in aspirations of an eternal existence that not a single person in the world has a drop of evidence for. Why waste even a second of our time here worrying about a 2nd life? Every minute is valuable, because we don’t get that minute back. This outlook is not perfect, and it takes a conscious effort every single day for me to keep it in perspective. I fail OFTEN, but the trend, I believe is in the right direction.
I’m not sure what’s going on with me lately. I haven’t felt like ‘myself’ in a long while. To be honest, I’m not even sure what ‘myself’ means anymore. It seems that my mind is always going in a thousand different directions and a lot of times my point of view seems to change with the wind.
For example, and just a silly little example at that, I overheard small portion of two co-worker’s conversation earlier today, and the one said to the other “You’re not a big Global Warming guy are you?”. That’s all I heard, but the inner monologue I had going on after that was: “Of course he’s not, he wouldn’t want to actually LOOK at any of the evidence would he?”. And then I had to give pause. Because if I would have actually SAID that to them, I’m sure one of them would have said something along the lines of “And what is the evidence?”. I would have been stuck. I know for certain that I’ve read and heard the arguments from scientific studies on global warming. And all I have to go on is those experts. Obviously, I am not a scientist and don’t have first hand access to the data. And it’s not the kind of thing that I seem capable of keeping in my brain to be able to bring up at a moments notice and defend the position that I have. So, I question myself. Do I really believe what I believe in this case? Or am I just trying to convince myself of something? I end up feeling hypocritical when it’s all said and done.
That is just one example. I don’t know. I just feel like I’ve kind of lost who I am over the last decade or so. I used to enjoy so many things that I no longer find any use for. I feel lost. I wish I knew why this was so I could fix it. Occasionally, I’ll have a day where I can look back at the end and think, wow…I wish everyday could be like that. And then my question is why can’t everyday be like that? I mean…so few are. Maybe I wouldn’t value those days so much if they were more frequent.
I understand that this whole post is vague. And I guess that’s because I don’t really know what the issue is. I’m hoping that by starting to write this stuff down, I can work through what’s going on in my head and get to the crux of the issue.
Why is being happy and content such a struggle?