Thursday, September 20, 2007

All They Hear Is "Blah Blah Blah"

My eight year old once upon a time © Douglas CooteySometimes explaining our troubles can sound like whining to people who do not share our burdens.

Moments before my friend whisked me away to a night of distraction two weekends ago, I jotted down some quick notes. My weekend had been hard. I recorded and produced an album for nine hours on that Saturday, then began ticking early the next day. The ticking lasted for over thirty six hours. In addition to that, my hard drive had burped and lost 195 gigabytes of data a few days before. No utilities I ran could resurrect the data. It was gone. A weekend of deep digging yielded no results. Bad Block City had rezoned my drive. With the last attempt a colossal failure, I could officially sink into blackness. Depression was settling in. Not just because I lost data, but because I was drained and lacking the energy to fight it off. Then again, I could go catch an action adventure flick with lots of mindless explosions and violence instead of sinking into despair. Guess which option won out? Nothing kicks Depression in the fanny like a good Bruce Willis flick.

So, what does this have to do with whining? Well, I had a bad weekend. It was hard. I had to fight off Depression. It was really hard. My computer was mean to me. Did I mention I had a hard time? And do you care? Let's be honest. You probably don't. You have your own problems, and if you don't suffer from Depression you can't quite understand why seemingly insignificant events can trigger a battle with deep sadness. Obviously, losing 195 gigabytes of data is by no means insignificant, but should it usher in crushing Depression? It's a bummer to be sure, but it's not the end of the world.

There was a time when I would write about my bad luck. Oh, I tried to be funny about it, but it just sounded like whining in the end. Maybe the experiences were too close to my heart. Maybe the wounds were still open and raw. I couldn't step back far enough to skewer them with wit. There is also the possibility that we cannot complain about injustice without sounding a bit whiny to those who couldn't care less about our personal turmoil. I have found that others experience this same problem.

I've been getting a lot of hits lately from a blog called Beyond Blue over at Beliefnet. The articles are frequent, well written, and I'm terribly jealous of the author. How does she find the time to write so much? And look at all the comments. Her approach to Depression is similar to mine with a fair amount of cognitive behavior therapy, though she embraces meds - a path that is not open for me. She sings the comforting song that sometimes there's nothing you can do about Depression. It just hurts. And people love her. Then I read this blog of hers on how people "just don't get it."

When I finished her blog I said to myself, "Whine, whine, whine. That's all non-depressives hear when we try to explain our burden." I was amazed. She sounded like she was whining. I sounded like I was whining. And there was nothing we could do about it because we cannot force people to care. Some will simply never get it, and frankly, we should be thankful for that. Depression is a terrible burden and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Well, maybe I'd wish it on them for a weekend or two. I feel the same way about my other disabilities. Only those who have them truly understand them.

This is why I changed the focus of my blog from writing about the problems I had to writing about the strategies I use to cope with them. It is a policy that has worked well for me and has reached more people, though those who wallow in their misery lost interest in me. Regardless, not only have I met many wonderful people through this blog, I have become a better and more well-minded individual. Although some people have accused me of not really having Depression or AD/HD because my life is not a medication filled blackened cesspit like theirs, I just laugh at them now. If only they knew what a mess my world really was because of these disabilities, but if I went into too much detail you might think I was whining.





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10 comments:

One Tired Mama said...

I hear you! I am listening! I care! And unfortunately, I do know what depression feels like.

However, I don't think Bruce Willis is my answer. I need a good chick-flick recommendation. ;)

Anonymous said...

I suffer with depression as well. I do not take medication. I feel it's important for me to face depression head on and try to resolve how I will deal with my pain. I suffer daily with health problems and the painful reality of my son's death, caused by a drunk driver. I really try hard not to be a whiner. Sooo, I protect myself by trying not to delve to deeply into others problems. Once I start down the dark path of depression it's harder to pull myself away. Trying to help others in a positive way really helps me , as well as , working towards educating the public on the dangers of DUI's. Thinking positive thoughts and helping others is my therapy.

Douglas Cootey said...

One Tired Mama ~ Thank you. My daughter recommends Pride & Prejudice with Kiera Knightley. I concur. It is a beautiful production. Not sure if it would lift *my* spirits, but then I'm not a teenage girl. ;)

Anonymous ~ I think I know who you are. I trust I left your computer in tip top shape?

Thanks for commenting. Giving ourselves in service is often very therapeutical. Finding a hobby or a cause is also very helpful to keep the mind active and proactively involved with something that gives satisfaction to yourself and other.

Anonymous said...

Hi Douglas,
I have read your blog on and off (just because I've had internet access on and off) since it was a featured blog. I'd just like to say how much I enjoy reading it. I hear you and I understand how this depression works as I suffer from it myself.

I thought I was out of the woods until I met someone I fell in love with very quickly. It didn't work out and suddenly I'm back down in those pits of despair quicker than you can say 'I don't love you'. It's not just sadness at a lost relationship but more than that. Everything is such an effort. Crying is too much effort as is thinking, eating or sleeping. I don't want to exist. Luckily I have a lot of good friends to look after me, but your blog helps me too.

You're ace. Just wanted to tell you why I thought so.

yours,

A lonely 22yr old girl from Cambridge, England.

Douglas Cootey said...

Hey, lonely girl. Thanks for being a long time reader. I really appreciate that.

Your comment touched upon the crux of the matter for non-depressives. They hear you just broke up and they readily dismiss any depression you have as simple heartache. The problem is that for many depressives all sad feelings are experienced through a magnifying glass. Yes, in this case the depression can be linked to a real world event, but the intensity of the feelings is out of balance with reality - disabling you.

So there are a few things I do when I am in your shoes. Although I've been married for 19 years now (last August) that is not to say we don't have our disagreements. Sometimes, the conflict can be quite painful.

First, I ask myself, "Do you have a reason to be depressed?"

If the answer is "no" then I know that it is merely Depression I am experiencing and try to use my coping strategies to lift myself out of it.

If the answer is "yes" then I ask myself, "Are my feelings appropriate for the situation?" Depending on the situation, it may be perfectly natural to feel down. But with depressives more often than not the feelings are overly intense, as with your feelings of not wanting to exist (I hate feeling that way, don't you?). Obviously, you see these feelings as being excessive.

I'm glad you have friends. Next time you find yourself feeling overly down because of this event in your life, if you can't find a way to lift your spirits on your own, call your friends and ask them to help distract you. Before I met my wife I broke up with a girl then instantly regretted it. I went through the most incredible depression I had ever experienced in my life. To deal with it I read 33 books that month. Each time I finished a book I'd start feeling again so I grabbed another book and dive in. After a while, I had read enough. I picked myself up, I started dating again, I met my wife... I think you get the picture.

All is not as bleak as it seems. I know you know this intellectually, but chemically you're a bit off kilter. Hang in there. Keep fighting it, and you'll come out on top.

I'm glad you exist. Thanks for taking time to comment here. You helped me out tonight greater than you realize. I hope I helped you as well.

~Douglas

Douglas Cootey said...

I should say, I experienced the most incredible depression I had experienced up to that point in my life...I was only 19 at the time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Douglas. Your reply makes me feel a lot better.

xx

Sylvana said...

OMG - I just watched that Pride and Prejudice two nights ago! I thought it was fabulous, and I am not a chick-flicker. It actually made me want to read Jane Austen!

My hard drive took a dive recently. I explained my feelings to someone like this, "I feel like I just had a fire. Sure I'm OK, but I just lost a lot of important stuff and a large portion of my life that I can never get back." I cried. A couple of times now.
Backup? Yep, I backed up onto an external hard drive which I can not as of yet get any computer to talk to!

I think people have a hard time understanding that a specific event doesn't necessarily cause depression; it just lowers the person's immunity/resistance to the symptoms.

What I find most effective with my bouts of depression is just DOING SOMETHING! Even a tiny accomplishment can help get me back on track. Sometimes I really have to fight myself to get it done, and those starter accomplishments might not be neat and perfect, but just getting something done makes a huge a difference.

Hope you are feeling better soon!

Douglas Cootey said...

Wonderfully expressed, Sylvana. Those last two paragraphs were absolute gold. Thanks for sharing.

I finished a movie tonight and was immediately depressed. "Why haven't I amounted to anything?" I asked myself. "Why haven't I found success?" Witnessing somebody's creative success is one of those events that doesn't cause depression, but it certainly lowers my resistance to it. Some events play on our fears. Some play on our insecurities. The trick is to discover what your individual trigger is (Mine is insecurity). Then, as you said so succinctly, just do SOMETHING. Anything else, just get up, get moving, don't wallow, do SOMETHING.

I decided to check on comments, print out a cover letter for my next submission, and then go to bed. Seemingly simple, yet so difficult to do when feeling depression creeping in. I choose, however, not to let myself lose any time being sad all the time. I constantly shove Depression into the background. It's not easy, but then, letting myself sink into the Black is not an option.

Great comments, everyone. Thanks for posting.

~Douglas

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