Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dang It! Depression Has a Hold of Me Again

Depression Came in Through the Back DoorLast week I went through a bit of a funk after a negative review came in. I did this last January as well. Now, I have to ask myself: Why on earth am I pursuing a process filled with a steep learning curve, a tall unscalable wall of rejection, and more disappointments than a new TV season, if I suffer from Depression?

Am I going to have to call the Samaritans Hotline every time I get a rejection in the mail? Am I made of tasty but frangible pizzelle cookies? (Is that reference too abstruse? I just learned the name of my favorite Italian cookie, and I had to work it in somewhere (Is "abstruse" too obscure? I just discovered that word, and I had to work it in somewhere as well.))

I shouldn't need to surround myself with family members and gaze upon unicorns and rainbows for buoyancy before opening a letter from an agent, publisher, or reviewer. Considering the last bout of rejection occurred nine months ago, I'm doing alright. I believe this because I am determined to thumb my nose at my disabilities and succeed despite of them. Unfortunately, ignoring them isn't the best solution.

I mostly manage my Depression. Since entering my 30s, I don't experience deep bouts more than once every few months. Considering that 18 years ago I was Depressed every few hours, this is phenomenal progress. And all without medication. Still, discouragement can induce a bout of Depression if I'm not on my guard, and I haven't been on my guard since leaving

"Hey, Douglas. EVERYBODY gets depressed when they get a rejection or a negative critique."

So very true, my well intentioned friend. However, Depression—the diagnosis—is caused by a chemical imbalance in the mind and skews towards dysfunction. The best way I have been able to explain it to the skeptical is that my mind overreacts chemically to the stimuli around me. So everybody may feel down when they are rejected, but somebody with Depression, such as myself, may feel devastated, or even suicidal under the same circumstance. It's extreme. It's crazy.

It's stupid.

After all, who is in control here: my brain or my mind? Apparently, my brain is, and it's time to do something about it.

Consider this. Instead of taking a hard, critical look at my work and seeing what I could do to make it, as my author friend so helpfully added, less obtuse, I spent the past week trying to find a reason to live. OK, it wasn't THAT bad, but heck, it wasn't good.

Maybe it was the diet I'm on that had me out of whack. I *have* lost 18 lbs. in the last five weeks. Or maybe it was the spike in pollinating Sagebrush, Ragweed, and mold over the past week that knocked me on my butt. It doesn't matter, though. I have lost time, and I'm upset with myself over it. That in itself is stupid, too. It's not as if I have chosen to have Depression.

So What Have I Learned?

I have come to the realization that I have lost control of my Depression. It's been years since that has happened and I'm not very happy about it. Depression is worse on my productivity than my adult ADHD is. It warps my outlook on life and makes me not very fun to be around. I also tend to be harsher on myself. I lose time escaping my sadness instead of working on my projects. I expect unrealistic things of myself, then punish myself for failing. How on earth did I let this happen to me again?

I read recently that Ted Geisel took nine months to write THE CAT IN THE HAT. Nine months. I spent one month on my story. It takes time to get a story to make sense with an economy of words that is fun to read and easy to understand. It takes time to get anything worth doing done well. And I beat myself up for not succeeding with one ninth the effort of Dr. Seuss? It's silly.

"Look," I say with conviction. "A sensible person doesn't react this way. Be sensible for cryin' out loud! You don't have time to waste being depressed."

This type of talk, as long as I don't berate myself with insults, helps me push away the doldrums. Anger can be a very useful tool. However, with SAD around the corner, I need to lift my spirits higher or I'll never meet my goals. Now that I know what has been going wrong with me for the last few months, I can do something about it. I don't have to let Depression control me.

And so I won't.


Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.