A little chat about depression

This post is about personal, non-game stuff, so feel free to skip it if you’re not in the mood.

I mentioned very briefly last week in my Cart Life review that I have Depression, or Depressive Disorder, or whatever we call it now. I don’t know exactly when it started, but I suspect it was probably about a decade ago. I also don’t know why it started. Well.. I sort of do, but there’s no one thing, just a bunch of little things that seemed to grind me down over time.

Of course if you asked me I would have denied it. I have always believed that everyone is a little crazy in their own way, and life is just tough sometimes. And really I’m pretty privileged and have it pretty good in the general scheme of things, so what was there to be depressed about? Eventually those reasonable thoughts were joined by other ones, ones that said that if I felt hopeless all the time it was my own fault for not working harder, for not being prettier, or smarter, or kinder. Occasionally I would engage in dangerous behavior or call myself terrible names, but it was nothing more than I deserved.

A few years ago that I decided that perhaps I should see a therapist, because that seemed like a thing that miserable people do, and I found a nice woman who I met with a few times. After about our third appointment though she commented that I seemed like a “good person who was overwhelmed by things”, and I was so horrified that I skipped my next meeting and never went back. Not horrified at her, of course, but at myself for so selfishly misleading this professional into thinking that I was I was a good person.

I like that story, or at least I like how well it describes how after time Depression changes you so you literally cannot recognize help when it is in front of your face.

I feel chagrined now, typing that, because I am not the kind of person who likes admitting weakness. To be perfectly immodest, I consider myself to be pretty damn smart, and good at reading people. How can I be held hostage by my own brain? That’s stupid — I’m perfectly able to think my way out of things. Plus big pharma is pretty terrible, and Depression is kind of a First World Problem. Pills might work for other people, and good on them, but they weren’t going to help me.

So this is going to sound really weird, but what finally pushed me over the edge to getting more help was Wil Wheaton. While I respect his work and his dedication to not being a dick, I’ve never considered myself a Wheaton fan in particular, but his post about depression from back in September appeared in one of my social networks. He wrote of his life shortly after starting medication, “I felt [my wife's] hand in mine, and realized that I didn’t have any lingering tension or unhappiness just buzzing around in my skull. I was just enjoying a walk with my wife, and holding her hand.”

I thought to myself, “Shit, man. That sounds pretty damn nice.”

And so I started medication a couple of months ago. I went though almost four weeks of taking the pills and was just about at the point of chalking them up as yet another thing that I fail at, when.. somehow things started to change. Perhaps events in my life weren’t exactly the way I had perceived them? Maybe I was being my own worst enemy? Out of curiosity I tried to notice when I thought cruel things about myself. I felt guilty about it, a lot at first, but being kind to yourself is like a muscle. It’s not second nature yet, but it gets easier every day.

I feel so much lighter now. Somehow in the last month I started laughing more, and I’m better able to determine my own needs. I’m the same person I always was, but now the screaming banshee of failure in my head is turning into just a whisper.

I wrote this mostly because I was convinced to pursue medication because of blog posts just like this one telling me that it’s okay to want to be better. It’s only fair that I pay it forward, so to you, dear reader, I say: if you read any of the above and thought to yourself, “That sounds great, but it won’t help me because I’m (beyond help / hopeless / culpable),” I think you’re wrong.

Talk to someone close to you, talk to a doctor, talk to a therapist, just start talking. Tell them that you need help. It’s okay, and you’re worth it. Depression isn’t a punishment bestowed upon the weak and unworthy, it’s an illness. You deserve to know what it’s like when you’re on your own team.

Author: Jessica Cook

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9 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I would add that a lot of people subscribe to the idea that somehow struggling along with depression,etc, builds character, but I believe the opposite. Depression is corrosive to character. It makes a people negative and mean, even if only to themselves, and that is not a recipe for strengthening character. What builds character is making the choice not to let depression win, and that means treating it.

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  2. I loved reading this post. It can be a difficult subject to talk about, and it helps a lot when people are willing to share their personal experiences. Thanks!

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  3. I’ve had a long sordid past with depression myself. It helps hearing that other people are dealing with it too. For me I grew up with a suicidal mother, and after a childhood of having to talk her down, it pretty much taught me those same bad coping mechanisms. There have been many times in my past where it has come to a head, but probably the biggest of these was in college.

    I actually tried to get help, and the free on campus support staff was exactly the wrong kind of help for me. The gruff old man told me that essentially depression was a first world problem, and that I just needed to grow up and quit thinking that way. The result pretty much has lead me to write off help from that point on. But in an odd way it did help, because it made me mad enough to start fighting with the voices in my head.

    I’m overall in a pretty stable place right now, but there isn’t a week that goes by without some of those “bad thoughts” entering my head. So far I have been able to fight them back and get on with my life. I lead a pretty awesome life, have a great spouse, and am genuinely cared about by family, friends and co-workers. However deep down inside I still feel like a failure and a fraud, and I am not sure if I will ever be able to reconcile the differences.

    I’ve noticed that with every major bout of depression starts a lapse in my own blogging. I shut down, stop talking, and have a really hard time crawling back out of the hole I dig for myself. Anyways thanks so much for talking about your own experiences.
    Belghast´s last post: Reverberating the Praise

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  4. Thank you very much for the comments! This was a challenging post to write, but I’m glad I did for both my own sake and just to add to the voices out there encouraging people to seek help if they need it.

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  5. It took me four years of messing up most everything in my life to admit that I needed help, and one of the first steps I took was getting on some medication. Even at the minimum dose I could tell it was making the day-to-day that much easier. I’m still working on managing myself with exercise, therapy, and everything else that goes along with dealing with depression, but having the edge taken off that constant background noise of self-criticism and pessimism made everything seem within my reach again. I know they’re probably not for everyone, and it may take a few tries to find the right drugs, but they can make a huge difference.

    So, I’m 100% on the same page as you. Great post, kudos for bringing a little more attention to this, and keep up the solid content.

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  6. One big problem with getting treatment is that we believe that we can deal with it, or that it will go away – it’s only a temporary thing.

    For me, it was that there was no end in sight.

    I prayed that there not be an end, the outcome would be unbearable. But living with it day-to-day was almost equally as unbearable.

    I didn’t see a therapist, there was no time or extra money. Talking to my family doctor about the depression that I was experiencing quickly got me a prescription. She did a little research and did a wonderful job of deciding on something that should help.

    Suddenly, I could get through a day without crying or feeling hopelessly lost.

    There was no real way for me to lose the depression completely, I was still living on a daily basis. In many ways, I still am.

    When I got to the point that I could get through the day without crying, the medication went by the wayside. Having to take pills to get through the day made me feel weak.

    The up-side to it is that the prescription pulled me out far enough that I was able to keep going. The down-side… well, even medicine and a whole lot of love can’t fix everything, but I’m stronger now and can get through the days.
    Anna´s last post: Make Your Own Grave Blanket

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  7. You and I are going to grab a beer this year when the weather doesn’t suck. I promise you this.

    Or a Strawberry Daiquiri. I dunno what your poison is ^^.
    Matticus´s last post: What Keeps a Guild Together?

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  8. Keith and Anna, thank you for sharing your stories.

    Matticus… you have a deal! (Beeeeeer.)

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