Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Depression is really quite depressing

Depression is really quite depressing.

That may seem tautologous, but let me expand a bit on my thesis with jolly tales of Stupid Brain Chemicals, and how they've made life less enjoyable (in parts) than necessary, and how I've tried to live with the importunate pricks.

Episodes of depression have been a recurring part of my life ever since adolescence. The first notable example was in my first year at university, in Palmerston North, in 1981, and it was notable for its intensity — in retrospect, I now recognise much of my earlier adolescent feelings as depressive, but they were more inchoate, and generally subsumed in the usual melange of hormonal chaos common to that age group — and also because it was the first time that I recognised what was actually happening to me.

I had a bunch of emotional complications going on at the time, which seemed terribly important then, so when the world became gloomy and pointless and everything seemed utterly futile, I assumed that these were objective, not subjective feelings, that this bleak sadness was in the world itself, and not just in my brain's interpretation of it. I didn't have any intellectual separation between my mental state, and the state of my life at the time (which was, admittedly, pretty parlous).

As well as making me feel generally sad, hopeless, and helpless, it frankly terrified me. I could see no light at the end of this tunnel, no worthwhile future of any kind, and I couldn't understand why or how the world had suddenly changed so much for the worse. I could see no way out. I drank a lot, and I took a lot of drugs.

I don't remember how or why, but one day I had an epiphany. "Aha!" I said to myself, "I am depressed! This is depression!"

That realisation didn't, of course, immediately make me feel all right, but it did profoundly change my mental process around my state. It meant that the world itself had not suddenly become so bleak and threatening as I had thought, and most importantly it meant that I could see my depression as a perceptual filter that would not be permanent, I just had to wait the fucker out.

I did not, of course, become a Secret Master of Depression at that time. Or at any time soon. But ever since that epiphany, when the grey fog closed in, I could at least — eventually — recognise what was going on, and grit my teeth until it went away again. I still made some stupid life choices when depressed, but maybe not as many as I might have if I hadn't known what was going on.

Over the years, those episodes became less frequent, and less intense, and less long-lasting, and I've come to recognise likely triggers — illness or injury will often spark a bout. Part of that reduction in severity is, I think, to do with the hormonal changes that aging brings. Another part is to do with my attitude to depression — I treat it like that old acquaintance, who I never really liked that much anyway, who turns up to stay, unannounced. I start consciously doing things that I know my Depressive Houseguest will hate, so that he will just FUCK. RIGHT. OFF. I try to do things that I will (or should) enjoy, and I consciously try to enjoy them. I treat myself. I get more exercise, and try to enjoy that. The enjoyment may be strained, and to begin with at least, fake. But over time, I basically fool myself into thinking that I'm happy, and one day I find that I'm not having to pretend any more, until next time at least.

It's not as simple as just "trying not to be depressed", which is, by the way, the most amazingly fatuous advice it's possible to receive. Maybe second most fatuous, after crystals.

I guess, if I were to boil down my technique for dealing with depression now, it is that will no longer pander to it. If you submit to depression, encourage its advances, it will just settle in and make itself comfortable. If that happens, there's the danger that you just get used to it being around, and when you do that, life just gets generally worse.

Depression is real, but it's not true.

Fuck depression.

No comments:

Post a Comment