Brace yourself. A rare serious post from this small cog. In a recent post I alluded to the fact that I had issues and that I’d be writing about them soon. Even though I said soon, I’ve kind of been putting it off. No longer. While I’ve never come right out and said it on this blog, I haven’t hidden the fact that I suffer from bouts of depression. The BIG D has currently got me in its grip again, so this seems like a perfect time to write about it. The BIG D is what I call it. You might think that the D stands for Depression, but it doesn’t. It stands for DICK. Because my depression is a BIG ASS MOTHER FUCKING LYING DICK! But the BAMFLD just doesn’t read well and certainly does not feel good rolling off the tongue. So the BIG D it is.
Depression is actually a relatively new thing for me. While I always had what I now know is social anxiety (called shy or weird when I was a kid), I’ve been pretty much a happy person all my life. Sure, I had periods of feeling sad, but they were usually linked to some specific event such as family problems or a break up. I was sad about those things but they didn’t affect my happiness for other things, and they didn’t last very long. However, around five years ago this deep dark soul crushing feeling of despair dropped on me like a ton of bricks and I’ve been dealing with the results ever since.
I had no clue what was going on the first time it happened. I had absolutely no reason to be sad, yet I was. Furthermore, things that used to give me great joy did nothing for me anymore. It was near Christmas time and I just marked it down as the winter blues. I’d heard about those before so that must be what it was right? Luckily it didn’t last too long and I muddled through. I had a few more short bouts where the BIG D grabbed me but I managed to make my way through those too. Never saying a word to anyone about what was going on inside me. Keeping my appearances up, at work, near my friends, and even my family, including my wife. Where I grew up, men did not talk about their problems. You were not a man if you admitted any type of weakness. So I zipped my lip and kept a tough exterior.
Then the year from hell came. 2014 was the worst year of my life. The BIG D came down on me and would not let go. For nearly a whole year I was at the lowest of all lows I had ever experienced. Serious thoughts of suicide were with me on a daily basis. I did research on the best ways to end it. I reviewed my life insurance policy to confirm that I didn’t have a suicide clause so my family would be financially taken care of. I even had a plan. My wife had to have two hip replacements that year and she needed my constant help for most of the year to recover. So as soon as the doctor gave her a clean bill of health and she was back to 100%, I was going to end it all.
Something else happened early that year. I found The Bloggess. I came across Jenny Lawson’s blog in search of something humorous to read. When I started reading what she wrote it was hilarious and it helped a little. However, as I read on I soon discovered that she too suffered from depression and had many helpful things to say about it. The most important thing she taught me was that depression lies! It tells you that you are worthless. That there is no purpose for your existence. That nobody really cares about you. It will tell you any lie to keep you feeling like an absolute piece of shit.
Knowing all this and seeing her tribe of followers, some of whom had the same issues, really helped. But even with that, it was a 50/50 chance that I was still going to take my own life when my wife was back on her feet again. Luckily for me, shortly before that, the darkness lifted and I no longer wanted to end it. What followed could only be described as the best year of my life. Pretty much all of 2015 I was happy, energetic, enthusiastic about things again, and it was great! However, in the back of my mind I kept feeling like I was on that first big hill of a roller coaster. The one that takes the longest to get up. 2015 was that hill and I knew sooner or later I was going to crest the apex and plunge back down. Early in 2016 it happened. But instead of a quick plunge it was almost like a slow motion drop. Every day I just got a little less happy. Lost a little more energy. Became a little less enthusiastic. Before I really even knew it, I was back at the bottom again.
Then late one Friday night I was sitting on my couch by myself, feeling like I was done with the whole life thing. I took out my phone and tweeted the following:
@TheBloggess taught me that depression lies. But I don’t think I can take the lies anymore.
I put the phone in my pocket and walked to my bedroom to get my gun. Just as I reached out to open the cabinet it was stored in, my phone buzzed. I pulled it out and there was a tweet from Jenny telling me that I could take the lies, that I could hold on, and please don’t go. She then called on her tribe to help. I had been on Twitter for several months and made a few tweets and played a few hashtag games but I never really interacted with anyone on there before. What happened next was miraculous. Over the course of the next 5 hours or so I got well over 100 tweets from tribe members encouraging me, telling me to hang around, telling me that I was loved. I also connected with people feeling the same way I was that night and they got help too. The Bloggess and her tribe members literally saved my life that night.
I became a part of that tribe and in the days to follow I continued to receive encouragement. I also gave it to others. We all did our best to keep ourselves and others from going. This gave me the strength to get through that fight with the BIG D and eventually I came out of it again. I wish I could say I kept up with the tribe as much as I did in those early days, but I can’t. I feel guilty about it when so many helped me, but since the election I can hardly stand Twitter now. There is too much screaming on there from both sides and it acts as major triggers for me. So it’s kind of ironic that the medium that helped save my life is now a place that can cause me to slip back down. I will still get on there from time to time to play a hashtag game or check on the tribe, or to post a link to my latest blog post, but I am mostly absent. I’m sorry #TheBloggessTribe. Maybe one day I’ll be able to be a regular visitor again.
It’s been a long way around but let me get to the reason I titled this post as I did. I’ve oft wondered if there is medicine out there that would help me. I’ve read about how people use these drugs to help with the effects of depression. Would that work for me? I should find out, but there is only one problem. In order to get these meds I have to actually talk to a doctor/therapist. My social anxiety makes it near damn impossible for me to doing anything that makes me the center of attention. That’s pretty much a given if you are going to talk to someone about your depression. You have to be the center of attention. Just writing about it now is tying my stomach all up in knots. How do you explain that to a concerned family member that is only trying to help when they say, “You should talk to a professional.” It’s hard to explain that talking to a professional about not being able to talk to people and being depressed is kind of a vicious circle. Hell, I have been to marriage counseling before and I was barely able to make it through that when I had a partner to take some of the lime light.
Many years ago I was diagnosed with Acid Reflux and when my anxiety/depression starts ratcheting up, the reflux follows suit and my stomach hurts and my chest gets all tight. So I start taking Prilosec to treat it. This does a pretty good job, so I began to pretend that the Prilosec was Xanax and I was taking it to deal with my anxiety/depression. It really only works as a short term solution but it’s the closest I can come to taking any meds for my mental condition. Maybe one day that will change.
One thing that does help is when I get out on the trail and start hiking. I don’t know what it is, but there is some type of calm that comes over me and soothes my soul when I am out there. When it’s over and I come back, the effects can linger for a few days but that’s about it. Unfortunately, I am not normally in a position to do any long term hiking other than day hikes or overnight weekend trips. So this solution is only a temporary fix. I am planning a two week hike on the Appalachian Trail in September and I am hoping that big a dose will be enough to kick this current struggle with the BIG D. That is, if I actually go. I’ve been trying to go on this two week hike for two years now. Once it got cancelled due to a changing work schedule. The other time it got cancelled was because the BIG D told me I wasn’t up to the challenge. That I would suck at it. That I couldn’t possibly get prepared for it. I listened and I bailed. This time I was/am determined to see it through. My son is going to join me and we’ve been having a great time planning and getting prepared for it. That was until the BIG D showed up again with all the same lies. Now I am beginning to lose my enthusiasm for the hike and I often fear I’m going to let it derail me again. I can’t let it do that. I. CAN. NOT! And I won’t this time. I need to walk myself back to happy. Who knows? I might even run across a fellow hiker who is a therapist.
Sorry about this long depressing yarn about depression and dicks and stuff. If you read it all the way through, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.