Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why Depression Sucks (for me)

Depression sucks in general, but here's why it's hard for me personally. Do note that, as I'm typing this, I'm not actually "low" yet. I'm feeling the black dog a little more heavily today, but I'm hoping to shake him off.

If you don't know the black dog metaphor, I'll see if I can embed the video.


Depression, for me, was something I grappled with through most of my teen years, and a large chunk of my 20s. I attempted suicide when I was 16, and for years I thought it was because of the relationship I was in (rather, that I had just gotten out of) and a bunch of other stressors in my life. It wasn't. Looking back, I can see how a confluence of factors - including those stressors, but also including how our society tells teens that their problems don't matter, that they're stupid, that they're in the midst of the best time of their lives (oh my god, what a horrible destructive lie), that I just wanted attention, and so on and on. And all of that fed the dog.

It got better for me when Heather and I got married, but the dog came back hard as our marriage was winding down. It really didn't have much to do with Heather or our relationship. It was, again, a confluence of things. I was happy in a lot of ways, or I should have been, but here's the thing about the black dog, and why I find it so scary - the black dog doesn't care. It hears all of the "but you have all these good things going for you." It hears that, nods, and stares. It doesn't care for the good things, because it knows that the good things are an attempt to distract you, and that dog is fucking implacable.

In 2009 I very nearly ended it all. And, again, it wasn't that I was sad. Sadness is just one little part of depression. It was mostly that I was terrified. Sadness has a cause. I was sad when my father died. I was sad when I didn't get into grad school for writing (though that was probably for the best). Depression isn't traceable to any one thing, as much as my traitorous brain tries to make it about one thing or another. But at the end of the day, it's this swirling, horrible, chaotic hole that threatens to swallow me, and the only way I could see to make that feeling of terrible, unchecked freefall was to stop.

I didn't want to die. I wanted to stop.

I got better. I realized that day, after I'd been standing in my driveway in the freezing cold wondering how long it would take hypothermia to set in if I walked into the woods, stripped down and got in the creek, that I really needed help. So, encouraged by the people who loved me, I went back into therapy. I considered medication, but I wanted to try to get past the black dog without it, and that worked out. If I hadn't been able to drive the dog off by just realigning my own thoughts, you can bet I'd have started on meds. I used to be anti-meds. I'm not anymore. I'm anti-feeling-like-death-would-be-sweet-release.

Depression sucks (for me) because it's scary and because it's unpredictable. Sure, when things get overwhelming it's hard to cope, but that's not the same thing. I can get past "overwhelmed" by taking some time with my kids or my friends, or watching Super Troopers for the 100th time, or whatever. The black dog doesn't care about any of that. It's patient, it's tenacious, and it's happy - rather, willing - to wait until I'm alone and then barge in. The black dog doesn't bite. That I could cope with; pain's easy. The black dog just acts like this fucking echo of all the shit in my head that I hate.

Scariest thing?

Sometimes that black dog wins.

Sometimes people fall into that hole he makes in them, and they can't get out. Some people alter themselves chemically to try and fix the problem, some people compensate in other ways. And eventually, some folks just...give up. They fall in, and they stop struggling. I know that feeling. But I don't want it.

The black dog, however, does not care what I want. So I have to. I have to care harder and louder and more passionately because if I do, I can eventually send the dog away.

Like I said at the beginning, I'm not depressed right now. I'm just...having a hard time. Being sick took something out of me, ongoing health issues are worrying me, I have a lot to do, and going to work every day has become harder because so much of my job is slowly getting replaced by mind-numbing bullshit.

The dog isn't here yet. But I can hear its little toenails, and I really, really don't want it to find me.