Wednesday, August 20, 2008

20th Anniversary Threatened by Depression

Update 2016: This article was featured in my book "Saying NO to Suicide", with added commentary.

With so much focus on what's wrong with me this Summer, here is something that I did right.

(cc) Douglas CooteyMy wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary on Monday, but it almost didn't happen. We had an argument the night before and it troubled my sleep terribly. I ended up falling asleep sometime long after the Sun had already claimed the day as its own. When I awoke, I was a neurological mess. I couldn't talk well, I couldn't focus visually, and I was twitching and ticking. My oldest daughter tried for two hours to rise me from the dead. Finally, I lumbered out of bed uncomfortably past the zenith of the afternoon.

Even though I was no longer ticking, I still had only one hour to my day before I was supposed to pick my wife up from work and celebrate. The trouble was I didn't feel like celebrating. I had been fighting off the black dog over the weekend and winning, but I'm afraid the argument let the dog out of its pen. All I wanted to do was go off somewhere and be alone. Dealing with people was too fatiguing.

The thing about my life that is both good and bad is that since I am a full-time father, I don't have the luxury of being depressed in my cave isolated away from the family. This is good because I am constantly forced to conquer my Depression for the sake of my children. The downside is that it is an exhausting fight and sometimes getting away for a short time is just what the doctor ordered.

I've written about my ten ways to fight of Depression before. I truly utilize those techniques to keep the black dog at bay. I wanted some solitude and a change of scenery, but I made some phone calls instead. Waking up in the middle of the afternoon to find out I had one hour to get ready for the day, pick up my 13 year old from a surprise dance camp (which she already pulled my wife out of work to get a ride since I was asleep. No guilt or feelings of failure for me there...), help my 16 year old prepare for a surprise gig at the Gallivan Center, and pick up my wife on the other side of town with bells on and a smile gave me a bit of a panic attack, if I'm being honest.

Instead of panicking and crawling into a hole I forced myself to simplify the night. First, the gig. It was for the next day. My daughter had performed at five county fairs this summer, one of which was a sudden "You're on in two hours" arrangement. She assured me she could prepare for this performance without my help and I let myself trust her that she could. Second, a quick call to my mother arranged for a ride home for my dancer. That left only the Depression and the anniversary.

Since escaping to Fiji wasn't an option, I called my wife instead. I can't say that she was excited about the phone call. Changing anniversary plans is not necessarily a romantic event, but she's been with me long enough to know that when I say I won't be very good company unless I do something about it, it's not because I'm trying to excuse being a jerk ahead of time.

We agreed on a ceasefire. I'd come get her as planned, but with smells on instead of bells since I wouldn't have time to shower. This proved to be the wisest move of my marriage. One step through the door and I lost the battle. There she was as beautiful as I'd ever seen her. If I had doubted her interest in our anniversary before, it was washed away. She wouldn't have dressed to impress just to eat at Red Lobster if eating there was all she was interested in. She had dressed to impress me.

At home we agreed that dinner and a play was too much for the night. I wasn't ticking at the moment thanks to my adrenalin boost from the panic, but I was sure to be a mess later. Besides, we decided I needed some exercise. There wouldn't be time to squeeze that in with dinner before heading off to a play. So the play featuring our friend was canceled much to our regret.

(cc) Douglas CooteyBecause I was neurologically out of it, I couldn't go for a bike ride, but I could jumprope for a bit then work out in my studio. Seeing my wife so gorgeous made me very determined to snap out of my funk. If Depression is an imbalance in the mind, then I was determined to flood my mind with endorphins until I found balance.

In the end, dinner was fabulous — made all the more important because we worked together to overcome my disability. I realize that some people feel that my Depression can't be all that bad if I'm able to overcome it, but from what I read of many angry commenters, they seem determined to believe that Depression is unmanageable and they're awful belligerent and grumpy for people who are supposedly better than I am. I just can't live that way. True, I am forced to find alternatives because psychmeds harm me, but that doesn't mean my Depression isn't deep or difficult to bear.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my personal life. I'd be very interested to read about how you beat back the black dog in your own lives.

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