Into the Lion’s Den

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“I’ve seen desperation explode into flames
And I don’t want to see it again” – Dire Straits, “Telegraph Road”

Something bad is coming. There’s something pulling me under that I can’t control. I see my patterns and routines changing for the worse. I’m not sleeping. I don’t want to interact with anyone. I don’t have any energy or tolerance for routine annoyances. My temper is short and I’m frustrated, anxious, angry, and above all, scared. Of course, if anyone asks, I’m fine. I don’t go into detail, and I don’t want to talk about it.

I wake up and don’t even have the desire to take my meds; any of them, not just my psych meds. I’ve been missing two or three doses a week for the past two weeks, including medications for heart problems, ulcerative colitis, and diabetes. These are all signs that depression is setting in. I’ve been kind of waiting for it to happen because of several recent stressors and triggers.

I had major oral surgery two weeks ago which left me with four teeth in my mouth. It will take several weeks for my gums to shrink and I can be fitted with dentures. I can’t chew any real solid food and I can’t speak properly. I am angry and frustrated. These are two simple, basic, everyday needs that I can’t perform. I’m embarrassed to say anything, smile, or laugh. When I do, I keep my hand over my mouth. I refuse to trim my moustache because it further prevents people seeing my lack of teeth, although I know full well they can hear the difference. I don’t want to speak to anyone, especially on the phone because I’m difficult to understand. I’m embarrassed to go out in public, but I have to because I have to take care of my son while his mother is at work, and that includes taking him to the park, his martial arts class, and starting soon, swimming lessons. I have to interact with people. There’s no way around it.

There have been several domestic arguments. I’m not going to air dirty laundry and go into to detail, but they have led to a deafening silence at home. The silence is broken internally by that voice in my head, the one that tells me I’m alone, unloved, worthless, unnecessary, and broken. I hurt, mentally and physically.

These have all contributed to an uncontrollable sadness. I want to break down. I want to give up. But I won’t. I have to dig in and try to find a way around the depression. I’m seeing the nurse practitioner this week and will discuss a change in medication. I’ll keep my weekly therapy appointment and try to figure out how to handle this. Unlike previous episodes of depression, I’ve been tracking my moods and patterns, and I can see this one coming. I don’t want to be pulled under like I have before. Because of this, I feel almost like I have an advantage and, despite the lack of a support system, I can still make it through this. I am cautiously optimistic. I’m not broken, not yet anyway. I’ve been through this before and survived, despite what the statistics may say. I may very well wind up being overwhelmed, but not yet. The depression doesn’t have a full hold of me yet, and I’m doing my best to keep it that way this time.

Myth and Madness

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Possible trigger alert:  The following contains descriptions of my experiences with depression and suicidal ideations.

There has been a great deal of talk about depression and suicide lately because of the death of Robin Williams. There also seem to be many misconceptions about depression and the rationale (for lack of a better term) behind killing oneself. Clinical depression is hell. It’s not just feeling sad for a day or two and staying in bed and eating ice cream. It is debilitating. It is soul-crushing. It is never ending. It isn’t a battle because depression is the absence of everything; happiness, hope, coping, it’s all gone. You can’t fight what isn’t there.

Numerous times I’ve read “everyone gets depressed”. No they don’t. People become sad and upset and can recover. Major, recurrent depression affects 6.7% of the U.S. population. 2.6% of the population has been diagnosed as bipolar and almost 83% of those are classified as “severe”.

These numbers seem rather small when looked at as percentages, but the actual numbers represent millions of people. Bipolar actually has a higher suicide rate than depression: 20% (1 in 5) for bipolar patients and 15% for sufferers of depression.

Those are the numbers; here is the thought process I’ve experienced. Depression is crippling. I can’t sleep, I don’t eat, I can’t think rationally, I have no attention span, and I completely and utterly despise myself. I have hurt almost everyone around me, and those I haven’t I have pushed away. I cannot function and I want no part of the world around me. I mutter to myself. I repeat to myself out loud phrases such as “I want to go home”, “I can’t be here anymore” and, “I wish that heart attack had killed me.” When I say “I want to go home” I mean the home I grew up in, someplace warm and comforting where someone else was responsible for my well-being because I can’t take care of myself.

I try to hide myself from the world.  I bury myself under blankets, I hide my face under hoodies.  I stay awake all night and sleep all day because if I’m asleep while everyone else is going about their day and awake while they sleep they can’t reach me.  The world can’t hurt me in the middle of the night like it can in the middle of the day.

I have internal conversations with my brain. I’m not schizophrenic, I don’t hear voices, I hear my own voice telling me I am worthless, useless, and toxic to those around me. This is when the suicidal thoughts creep in.

I cannot describe my anger and rage at some fucking asshole playing armchair psychiatrist and saying that suicide is selfish and cowardly, or even more ludicrous is the idea that it is somehow related to political beliefs. My suicidal thoughts are not selfish. I’m not looking for a way out or to end my pain. I want to prevent myself from causing others pain. I’ve done enough damage and I am hated by those who were closest to me. I can’t continue to cause them any more suffering by being in their lives. My son needs a better, more positive role model and I can’t provide that. He deserves better.

This is depression. I’m not upset or sad. I’m fucking helpless and hopeless. The only way this can end is with me dead and out of the way, unable to disappoint anyone ever again. I won’t be free but everyone else will be.

Depression is harsh and cruel and I truly hope people never experience it. There is nothing worse than being afraid of yourself. I wanted to be left alone, but I wanted someone there so I couldn’t be alone. Depression is desperation. It’s the need for help, but the inability to seek it.

If you know someone who suffers from depression, how can you help? There are no magic words to take it away, but you can help them know that they are not alone.

Let them know you’re there for them.
Tell them they are loved and that they matter.
Tell them you are not frightened of them.
Ask if they’ve seen their doctor or therapist.
Tell them they do not have to be ashamed or apologize for their illness and emotions.

I would not wish the dark thoughts of depression on anyone. I try every day through therapy, medication, and just normal everyday contact to keep myself feeling average. It’s exhausting, but I know I’m worth more than what I think I am. Keeping that in mind when I am in the throes of depression, however, is a different matter.

If you feel you are depressed, or need help, or generally overwhelmed, please, PLEASE, reach out to someone. If no one is immediately available, call one of the suicide hotlines. There are many and they specialize in various areas. Here is a fairly expansive list of phone numbers. Help is always available.