Monday, April 25, 2005


I was going to write about Chronic Motor Tic Disorder and how it relates to Insomnia but I thought I'd save that for next week and write about Depression and Insomnia instead. It is a different style of blog entry for me. I would normally go back and edit it by peppering it with humor, but I'm sick as a dog today. Any attempts at humor would fail miserably. However, it is very real and lets you inside my thinking process. For that reason alone I believe the entry has merit. Post a comment. Let me know if you agree with me or not.

When one suffers from depression, one's outlook on life tends to be skewed. Events seem bleak and insurmountable. Sometimes events can trigger an episode of depression. Sometimes depression seems to simply happen, like changes in the weather. Not everything that happens to me is a depression inducing trauma, but sometimes life feels like it. These days I am more likely to cope with the problem and move beyond it without incident than let it stick in my craw and nurture black, gothic moods as I have done in the past. Here's how I recently coped with a world shattering computer disaster. Maybe you can find something here that will help you overcome your own bouts with depression.

3:30am - About five days ago, I was finishing up some blog edits on my iBook when I decided to jaunt on down to my iMac and see how the defragging process was going. Although OS X optimizes it's drive contents as it goes along, if one does any desktop video one discovers that good old fashion defragging optimizes the drive for optimal performance for streaming video to and from the hard drive. This is usually a simple process but I forgot one simple thing: one shouldn't attempt defragging if only 10% of the drive is free. The software needs room to move those big DV projects around. In my case, I only had 3GB free out of 76GB (an 80GB drive). One would think that would be enough, but when I checked on my drive I discovered the program had exited with errors. To my horror, the contents of the drive had been mangled. As I clicked on file after file they disappeared and I began to feel panic creeping in from the edges. A quick reboot and the drive no longer appeared. More of that bad luck that hangs around me like a cloud with none of my extremely positive luck in sight. The Universe was out to get me, but I wouldn't let myself panic yet. There were utilities I could use to fix this.

4:00am - By the time 4am rolled around, Disk Warrior had repaired the drive's directory structure. Success! But when I rebooted I discovered that 75GB of 76GB was available. Four years of meticulously commented rips from my CD & cassette tape collection - over 2500 MP3s - gone. Hundreds of personally metatagged resource images - gone. Those losses I could live with, but what I couldn't live with was over 50GB of unedited home movies awaiting the magic of iDVD and iMovie. That loss broke my heart. Depression began to set in. I faithfully backup - on and off site - all my important data except the three items I just listed. Just my luck. But I wouldn't give up yet and started the repair process over again.

4:35am - I began to realize that I needed to sleep and that nothing could be done about the lost data. I forced myself to go to bed.

5:20am - Still awake I could feel panic bubbling up inside me. I recognize the danger signs for depression and begin my self analysis1.

Do I have a reason for being depressed? Yes. Is my level of depression appropriate for the situation at hand? No. Therefor I must not allow myself to be depressed.

Time to do something productive. I begin a deep block by block file reclamation process on the hard drive.

5:40am - I begin taking notes about what has happened and how I felt about it. More enforced productivity2. Finally, I relax and drift off to sleep.

7:40am - I awake to take the kids to school. The software isn't finished with its routine. But my depression is in check.

10:00am - I finish these notes after reading news and email. I'm tired enough to sleep again. Lucky for me my other kids are sick and still asleep. Depression held at bay. Panic avoided.

Obviously, I have a real problem with insomnia with no ready solution yet discovered to quiet my restless mind. However, I was very pleased with my success at staving off depression. Of course, I was holding out hope for a recovery of my data, but in the past the depression would have consumed me anyway. There would have been no hope - only panic. I would have become overwhelmed with emotion. I was able to utilize the techniques I have developed over the years to keep myself level headed. The depression didn't go away, but it was forced into the background - subservient to my will. Although I have not always been so successful in the past managing depression, this event has proven to me that I have made great progress. Unfortunately, the insomnia was a symptom of the depression and was not managed well at all, but my attack was reduced to a 12 hour experience instead of something that consumed a full week of my life. I'll take my victories where ever I can.

If you don't suffer from depression, you might very well think that this is all rather pathetic. Perhaps you think this is far too much drama for such a little event. Unfortunately for those with depression, the mind over reacts to the world around it. The levels of serotonin drop, and a feeling of abject sadness drops over them like a heavy, wet blanket. It is suffocating and paralyzing at its worst. But one doesn't have to rely on medications alone to take back control of one's life. (See 'Medical' Causes of Depression - chemical imbalance or not?) With discipline and self-awareness one can gauge one's responses and direct them into healthier channels.

In the end, I was able to reconstruct my hard drive. I lost data, but amazingly nothing that was important. All my MP3s, my pictures, and family digital movies were restored without a flaw. 73GBs of data shuffled about with only 3GB to work with and nothing of import was mangled. Just my luck. Take that, Universe.

Coping Strategies:

1) Recognize that you are experiencing depression and analyze your feelings. Depression is a natural reaction to negative events in our lives. If your feelings aren't appropriate for the situation at hand then you may be experiencing clinical Depression - exaggerated by chemical imbalances in your mind.

2) Shake the depression off by distracting yourself, changing your surroundings, getting out of the house, reading a good book, watching a funny movie, or focusing on a project - anything that can help you give your mind time to readjust and regain balance. I chose to be stubborn and document the process. Continue to analyze yourself to make sure what you are doing is working. Otherwise, do something else.