My name is Phil, and I am depressed. Well, sort of.
I’ve been writing about my depression off and on for a few months, and I stopped because it seemed like I didn’t have anything more to say. I had hit a bit of a plateau and nothing seemed different or noteworthy. I did my thing every day, some days better than others, not too bad, nor too good. While in therapy, I resolved issues and finally brought to an end sources of mental and emotional pain. But I did not feel better.
I was intellectually happy to be clear of what had tormented me for so long, but resolving conflicts did not bring me emotional happiness. Closure, to be sure, maturity, definitely, and depth. Depth of understanding, and of insight. I felt like I had grown as a person, had emerged from a period of mental confusion, but I wasn’t better.
I longed to feel normal, to be happy, and to grasp the ability to exert power over my will. So I took the only avenue left to me: I did drugs.
It is amusing to me to phrase my recovery in those terms because the American “War on Drugs” has given drugs, and some medicines, a bit of a bad name. I’m not sure where we got the idea, as a society, that trying to outlaw and violently eradicate various drugs was a good or effective idea, since the exact same policy didn’t work for alcohol in the 20s. Anyway, my only previous interaction with mind altering drugs was in college when I experimented with kidney stones and their wonderful side effect: oxycodone. Boy, that stuff made me feel great. I’ll admit I went to a few classes high, and for a week or so I had no pain. Then my wonderful girlfriend, who is now my wonderful wife, eradicated my remaining stash. She did that because she realized what I didn’t: oxy may make me feel good, but it wasn’t exactly the best way to achieve that feeling. It may seem as if I am arguing for removing oxy from those who would seek to use it for other purposes than physical pain alleviation, but I’m not really. I could care less if people are getting high, much as I care less that people get drunk, or smoke themselves into cancer. Personal choice shouldn’t be curtailed. What I am saying is that while oxy fixed my symptoms, it didn’t fix my problems and Hannah wanted me to face my problems and get better for real. The end result would be about the same, but one method would be much more effective, permanent, and less annoying for those around me.
In the course of my therapeutic recovery, I was put on some medication. Not being a doctor, I can’t really explain what it does, but having paid attention in health class, I vaguely understand how it works, at least well enough for my own peace of mind. My initial dosage helped, it really did. I didn’t notice much change, but my wife did. I’ve described depression as being in a black room, and trying desperately to reach a door, through which there is light. I also talked about my everyday life as being one in which I am completely aware of my surroundings, of things I want to do, of actions I want to take but being completely unable to make the decision to act upon my wishes. It is a feeling of inertia, of moving through a chest deep pool of syrup. My initial dosage made the syrup knee deep, and made the room a murky light grey. I was better, but barely.
Recently, both my therapist and my doctor recommended increasing the dosage. So I did. And the difference has been remarkable. The very day in which I took the increase, I noticed a huge difference. I was content, even borderline happy. I had the power to exert my will. I saw things to do and I did them. I had complete freedom of movement. I looked around and was no longer in a black room but a light meadow. No longer was I held back by invisible forces; I could move freely. The only drawback with which I had to contend was ordinary, everyday, human laziness.
In other words, I am myself again. The best part is this: all of that was two weeks ago. I’ve waited to write about this new step, this new development because at first it was so strange, so overwhelming, so weird to me that I didn’t trust it. I wasn’t sure what to make of this new reality. It was wonderful and frightening all at the same time. And while, unlike oxy, I was not high, I was happy and energetic. I felt no pain for the first time in a very long time. So I waited to see if it would wear off, if my brain would adjust to the medication and things would simmer back down. So far, they haven’t. These days I get more done in an hour than I used to do in a week. I have made and enacted plans. I am getting my life moving again, simply because now I can.
Sure, I have bad days. But they are normal person bad days. They are bad because bad things happen in them. They are not bad simply because. I have good days that are normal people good days. They are good because nothing bad happens. I delight in little things again. Bleakness isn’t part of my reality.
So I wonder: am I still depressed? Yes. Clinical depression is a medical condition. If I were to stop taking my medication, I would be back in the black room before I knew it. There is a deficiency in my brain, just as there is a deficiency in my cardiovascular system that results in high blood pressure, just like there is a deficiency in my eyes that makes me nearsighted. I offset the other problems through the miracles of modern technology, namely other drugs and contact lenses, so too I offset my depression with medication. Also, I have learned to cope with the emotional trauma that is a part of life. Alcoholics can get treatment for being drunk, but the other part of their continued life as a sober person is the constant coping with the emotional part of alcoholism: the lack of control and the necessitation of constant vigilance. I learned, through my therapist, how to approach and understand emotional stresses so that I no longer allow them to overwhelm me, to take over my feelings, or to bar me from living a full life. I don’t do it perfectly yet, I am still very much at the start of this new journey, but the point is that now I can walk. I can start my journey anew.
I am, as the song goes, “walking on sunshine” and boy, does it feel great!
(read about my depression by searching my blog for the tag “depression“)