Monday, February 08, 2010

Depression Came in Through the Back Door

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

Feeling Blue (cc) Douglas CooteyThere are times when life can be overwhelming. Usually, trauma, injury, death, or heartbreak can knock normally upbeat people off their stride. Then there are people such as myself whose brains are wired in curious, but dysfunctional, ways. We tend to get knocked off our stride if the wind’s blowing the wrong way. Speaking for myself, I am often frustrated how fragile my mind seems. Not hearty or rugged, but delicate and easily crumpled. This tends to make me angry at myself, so I overcompensate in some alpha male way like exercising or attacking a pile of clutter.

This leads me to something I came across last month. There’s been a tab I’ve kept up in my browser for weeks. I’ve wanted to write about it here, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. It’s an article about Depression and fanboys and coping with reality. The problem was that my blog isn't just about mental health anymore. It's about overcoming my obstacles to become an author.

That being said, I believe I now understand how regular folks see people like me. Let me introduce you to Avatar Movie Blues, where fans try to cope with reality after experiencing the heightened utopia of Pandora. I read the article with my mouth agape. I smirked. I snickered. My eyebrows went up and down like two caterpillars having a belly laugh. Could these people be for real? Could they seriously want to commit suicide because reality paled in comparison to Cameron’s 3D fantasy? Only a few paragraphs were read in chuckle, but then I was quite troubled by what I read.

There, but for the grace of God, goes Douglas Cootey.

Truthfully, most of my sardonic mirth came from the fact that the authors of the article mined a fan site’s forum for comments in order to write their article. Fans are known for their hyperbolic drama. Obviously, these fans were experiencing cognitive dissonance. But a real crisis? It all seemed a bit silly until I realized that triggers for Depression are unique to the individual. I may be baffled at the idea of a CG movie pushing a person towards suicide, but then who was I to judge?

I was depressed myself, and I didn’t even know it. The rejection hit me harder than I had planned. So much for reaching an important milestone… Coupled with illness and insomnia, the rejection tipped the scales for me and I spent most of last week in a funk.

I wasn’t depressed because I was rejected. I see a difference between disappointment, which would have been expected, and Depression, which is like having my brain knocked of its track. The rejection was simply a trigger for the Depression, which always lurks underneath. Others who suffer from Depression as I know all too well of this lurker. Sometimes the chemicals are off for no reason at all, but many times there is a trigger that causes the blackness to sneak in like fog in the night.

I haven’t lost a week to Depression in a very long while. I don’t ask to be Depressed. I don’t choose to lose days to sadness. In fact, I get quite upset with myself when it happens. I can, however, choose to compensate for Depression and lift my spirits in some way. It’s hard work, but I have learned that the results are worth the labor.

When I figured out what was happening in my head by Friday evening, I started playing snappy music, and cleaned my studio—took me hours—but the end result was that I had made a mental shift for the better. I’m not exactly cheery yet, but I’m determined to get there.

Now I know for certain that my “Avatar” this year will be the rejection. I’ve received rejections before with no troubles. In fact, I received that rejection with no trouble, but I was apparently vulnerable this last time. Once I slipped into Depression I began to doubt myself. I know not to expect good news with each reply, but the rejection fed into the Depression until I began to feel I had no worth. So silly, I know. As I said before, it’s not logical. I certainly don’t feel that way now. It was a trick of the mind.

I’ll simply have to mentally prepare for disappointment in the future. I know that there will be many more rejections coming my way. That’s the nature of the business. I can’t have random binary packets of disappointment triggering bouts of Depression. I’ll have to have certain safeguards in place just in case I am down on the day a rejection arrives.

I dropped my guard this time. I haven’t been bowled over this badly in a long while. I aim to not let that happen again.