Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Depression: Dealing with the Doldrums

My wife told me today that the air around me was so heavy she found it hard to breathe when she was near me. I knew I was feeling down, but I hadn’t realized how deeply down I had gone. That’s the problem with depression - it’s such an integral part of you that you cannot notice how much it has taken over. Take today for instance. I was so depressed that I walked through the day in a daze. And yet I wasn’t initially aware that I was depressed. In fact, I was becoming frustrated with myself because I was so out of sync. Ever feel that way? Like you’re walking around in a rain cloud and wondering in anger why everything you touch is so wet and soggy? Time was I would lose weeks or months to this feeling. I was so sad I’d forgotten what happiness felt like and accepted “slightly less morose” as a form of improvement.

Later on today I recognized I was in the dumps but lacked the energy to pull myself out of it. Those of you with depression know what I’m talking about. You are intimately acquainted with the heavy waves of sadness that wash over you. Everyone else wonders why we don’t just shake it off. They think “Get over it”. To that I say “Get a clue.” These wonderful minds we have been blessed with sometimes are shipped broken from the factory. They produce chemicals in the wrong ratio. In the case of depression the chemicals that regulate happiness are not produced in enough amounts. So sadness prevails. Little things feel insurmountable and big things feel like a mountain range has been dropped on your head. It takes immense practice and training to be able to distinguish when depression has settled in. You need to teach yourself to realize that depression is an outside force and that you can be free from it. However, we are often too busy dealing with the mountain load to even recognize we need liberation. The little things in life that trigger depression seem so legitimate to be overwhelmed about. It’s all relative, of course, and to those on the outside the battle seems silly, but to the heavy heart depression is a form of blindness that alters perception.

As I write this I feel a little of today’s blackness lift away from me. Sometimes an event can trigger depression, as mine was triggered today. Sometimes depression can settle upon me like foggy dew completely at random. But as always, the feelings are in excess and inappropriate to the given situations. A manual correction needs to be made and the mood must be set aside if I wish to function. I didn’t do so well recognizing that today. At least I recognize it now. Some might recommend medication as the obvious cure, but don’t go there with me. I have tried them all and I’m too sensitive to the side effects ~ like hair on my nose and extra elbows. Trust me. It’s not a pretty sight.

So here I stare the depression in the face and tell myself it’s all in my mind. Sometimes I distract myself to get over it, and other times, like today, I write about it. Consider writing a metaphorical way of holding a magnifying glass over the problem. With the right amount of light and focus I can burn the problem away with intense scrutiny. I can’t say that I’m ready to tap dance in the streets, but I might be willing to shuffle my feet to a happier beat now.