Monday, November 12, 2012

Black Dog


The Black Dog and I have been keeping firm company for over a month now. My doctor decided the antidepressants I was taking weren’t enough—they weren’t doing enough—to give me the long-term recovery I needed. So she switched them and started me out on a low dose to see how I reacted.

I reacted poorly.

I snarled at everyone like a wounded wolf, made snide comments which was the least of my offenses, thought pessimistic thoughts, dwelled on Facebook—especially on the posts about politics so I could really upset myself, and all around did all the things that a person in the grip of a bad depression does.

For a month this went on, and as each week passed, I got more and more despondent and worse, I wasn’t writing. I couldn’t write. I hated everything I committed to screen; I hated my story; I hated myself for being the loser I was who couldn’t even write one stupid little story. Finally, the doctor realized we should up the dosages again because clearly this was my depression acting out and not a reaction to the meds. And she kept upping it until it was the same dosage as the previous medicine. I almost feel better; I can feel it.

I’m not snarling as much; I’m not loathing as much; and best of all, I read the last few pages of my story and didn’t hate them nearly as much. In fact, I sat down and wrote three new pages to go with it, the most I’d written in at least a month.

There’s not a lot people understand about depression. Sometimes it comes for a reason, but many times, it just shows up like some relative that no one likes but everyone is forced to allow to stay for days or weeks at a time. If you can’t explain why you’re depressed, people think you’re exaggerating or that you’re wallowing on purpose. If you’d only think happy thoughts, you’d boost yourself right out of it. But it’s not that easy. It’s not how that works.

But my mojo is returning, I believe, and the meds are finally starting to what they’re supposed to. I’m no longer certain I’ll manage to finish in time for the contest, but I do believe I’ll finish.

Do you suffer from bouts of depression? How do you deal with it? Does it keep you from writing or does it help?

30 comments:

Maureen said...

Ah, welcome to my hell. I'm ready to talk to my doc about upping the anti-depressents, or even going to a new med. I don't tend to get mean, I find myself mired in hopelessness and a day by day belief that nothing can be done.

I believe in the long term that I will haul out of this, but so far it's been the worst bout I've ever suffered from. I believe because it's accompanied by the hormonal woes of menopause...

Do I suffer from depression? Always. At some level or another. It's a chronic thing and this will pass.

Trust me, Hellion, it does pass...but I know all about it...

Marnee Bailey said...

I suffered from really awful postpartum with my second. I had a short stint after my first, but after I had my second baby, it was awful. Panic attacks, fixations, trouble sleeping. I lost touch with some friends because I barely wanted to leave my house, could hardly go to the grocery store without having a panic attack. Had horrible emotional swings, cried all the time, and just felt like I was the worst mom in the world. He was born in May and I started to feel a little relief in January/February of the following year, though I wouldn't say I returned to "normal" until last summer, over a year after he was born.

I didn't write that year. I was more worried just about getting through every day. That's why it took me almost 2 complete years to finish my last book. I started back at it when I started to feel like myself again.

I can't imagine having to deal with depression daily or on a chronic basis, let alone write through it. :( I am so glad that you're feeling closer to normal though.

TerriOsburn said...

I'm fortunate that this isn't an issue for me. But I know several people who do go through it and it's hard to watch. If I feel this helpless from a distance I can't imagine how it must feel inside the cloud.

Haleigh said...

Yes, this is an area I know well. I'm some hefty doses myself of an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety med, that combined, seem to be doing the trick. I can at least walk into a public place without a full-on panic attack.

I agree that there something about depression that makes it almost impossible to be creative, and confident in your creativity. Cause really, that's what it takes to keep writing, right? Being confident enough in what you just wrote to keep moving forward with the same story? And in the midst of depression, that confidence is just . . . gone. The creative spark is gone.

At the moment I'm fine but I also know how quickly I can disappear down the rabbit hole.

I'm so glad your confidence is coming back, Hellie! I have no advice for anyone, but I know the feeling well of being unable to write, and having that quiet little voice say "no one will notice if you give up." Shut up and die, voice.

Janga said...

Except for grief, which takes its own unpredictable, individual path, the closest I've come to more than a bad case of the blues or the "mean reds," to borrow a term from Holly Golightly, is when we have several consecutive days of bleak, gray, winter days--and then the return of sunshine brings relief. I'd probably suffer from SAD if I lived in a region with less sunlight. I have a close friend and a family member who are bipolar, and I know how severe their depression can be.

Based on experience with them, my only advice is to take your meds and see your doctor when they stop being effective. I'm glad you're feeling better, Hellie.

MsHellion said...

Mo, I think if I'm by myself, I do the hopeless thing, but the snarling comes out if I have to interact with people--and when I work with students and faculty all day, it's a lot of interaction and snarling. Doesn't help when your female supervisor seems to think provoking you is the best course of action either. *LOL*

I'm hoping this works, but I feel I still have a long ways to go. I just feel the creativity coming back a little, so I know it's working. :)

MsHellion said...

I was more worried just about getting through every day.

Marn, that's totally it. I feel like I'm fighting to get through every day. I mean, I know this will pass, but struggling through the every day right now is making me nuts. And life just doesn't stop. Things just keep getting worse and I'm no more equipped to deal with them than the stuff I'm ignoring now. *LOL* That's the thing that sucks about depression--the world doesn't let up. You just have to have supportive people in your life somehow...

MsHellion said...

Terri, it sucks even more inside the cloud. *LOL* I hope you never have to go through it.

MsHellion said...

Hal, I would love to tell the voice to shut up and die. *LOL* But yes, it's very much the spark is gone, but I think the creativity spark is the life spark--and when you're depressed, your life spark is gone. You're not really living, just existing, trying to get through the blizzard you're lost in.

MsHellion said...

Janga, depression and grief are a lot alike. Only with grief you have something tangible to point to to explain it.

My other boss asked me if the weather affected my mood. His wife gets depressed because of SAD, but I don't think that's quite it.

P. Kirby said...

Yes. I've dealt with depression since I was in my teens, with bouts that have gone as far as contemplating ending it all. I borrow the term "dark passenger" from the TV show Dexter to describe my issues with depression. (Dexter, of course, is referring to his need to kill, kill, kill.)

I can't afford drugs or therapy, so I've always had to manage it naturally. I hit a low, or maybe it was a high, back in April of this year, when anxiety attacks actually drove me to go to urgent care. They gave me some drugs, which made me feel dopey and I thought, "Screw this."

Anyway, I put myself on a exercise/diet plan that has done wonders. Besides managing my ferocious highs and lows, I'm in the best shape of my life. I can run for more than a block; actually up to a mile a day. Tis awesome.

Last week I came down with chicken pox, yes, chicken pox, and I've had to taper off on my exercise. Which is making me nervous, because it really seems to control my dark passenger.

Anyway, can't guarantee that simple diet and exercise will work for everyone, but it sure did wonders for me. (And I hated exercising; now I'm kind of addicted to it.)

irisheyes said...

I suffered from depression and severe panic attacks when I was very young. Thankfully, I had a forward thinking mother who tried her hardest to get me the help I needed. Along with remembering what it was like first hand I have someone very close to me who has suffered with depression her whole life. It's awful.

And you're right Ter, it is very difficult to watch. The one thing I do know for sure is that her medication has changed her life. The hopelessness and apathy are gone. Fighting to get her to stay on the meds is the problem. She thinks this is some character defect that if she were strong enough she could overcome on her own. Every time she tries to reduce or stop she spirals down again. Finally after years, she has stopped fighting the meds and she's living a wonderful life. DON'T STOP YOUR MEDS!

I think that saying that not a lot of people understand about depression is a huge understatment, Hellie. I gave up a long time ago trying to explain it. I'll discuss politics or religion before I discuss depression. It's hard to explain to people the hopelessness of depression or the unadulterated fear of a panic attack. And it's the not being able to answer the "why" of it that makes it so hard.

For all of you suffering and pulling through in spite of it all, I salute you!

irisheyes said...

Ter, I know this makes me sound really, really bad, but I'm with Hellie - given the choice between watching a loved one and being in the cloud myself, I would pick watching! I've spent my whole adult life making sure I never feel that way again!

Maureen said...

(I)You're not really living, just existing, trying to get through the blizzard you're lost in.(/I)

This is so right. It's like wandering in a fog. One that also seeps into the ears and fills the head.

I think sometimes if I could get angry I'd fight my way out of it quicker. Yeah, mine is more quiet, no storm. Just fog.

TerriOsburn said...

I didn't mean to imply that it's harder being the observer.

irisheyes said...

I didn't mean to make you feel bad, Ter. It was just a statement as to how bad it can be. Usually people say it's harder to watch a person... with cancer, with a disability, with Alzheimer's, etc. etc. than to deal with whatever yourself. And sometimes that's the case, but with depression (at least for me) that's not the case.

Maureen - I am PETRIFIED of menopause. For the past 10 years I've been listening to family and friends talk about menopause. In the back of my mind I keep wondering if that is what's going to bring it all back. I'm exercising, eating right, researching herbs - anything I can to make sure I pass through it with the least amount of distress.

Maureen said...

you've had kids, Irish. I think that can help it pass easier. And sounds like you're doing everything right! Keep moving and gets lot slots of calcium and vit D.

Maureen said...

Terri, I think it's hard either way. The sense of powerlessness is there no matter.

quantum said...

Half the pirates seem to suffer/have suffered from this affliction!

I have seen the debilitating effects at close quarters and have every sympathy. It's my impression that sufferers are often reluctant to seek medical help, making the depression deeper through a negative feedback process, and the subsequent recovery much longer.

If the cause is an imbalance in the brain chemistry then powerful non-addictive drugs (eg prozac) are often available nowadays thank goodness. For psychological causes, often arising from childhood problems, then psychotherapy can be helpful.

As a little boost to supplement the meds and therapy I can recommend a free webinar on Quantum Touch running right now. With a title like that I had to recommend it ... but it really is good and may help get your energies back in balance:
http://seeingandperceiving.kajabi.com/fe/32100-video-1

Hope you feel better soon Hellie.

Heck. What happened to the colours on this web site .... I can hardly read anything!

Marnee Bailey said...

I have someone very close to me who suffers from depression. I think both ends suck too. When it was me, I felt helpless because I didn't know how to make it stop. With my loved one, it was hard because they struggled with accepting it. It caused problems with their work, with their family. Since seeking help, so much has changed for them though. In such a good way.

I do think that it's got a bit of a taboo in our culture. People don't talk about it or feel uncomfortable admitting they have a problem. I find that especially the case with men. Which is sad. It's a chemistry thing. Being uncomfortable with your chemistry is like being uncomfortable with your height or hair color, ya know?

irisheyes said...

It's a chemistry thing. Being uncomfortable with your chemistry is like being uncomfortable with your height or hair color, ya know?

ITA, Marn!!! That's the argument that finally got me to convince my loved one to stick with the meds. It's not a character flaw you can fix by being a better person. It is a chemical imbalance that can be helped with the proper meds.

I remember Oprah had a show on a couple of years ago with a group of bi-polar celebrities. The one issue they all had in common was their struggle with accepting they would be on meds the rest of their life. They would get on the meds, feel fine and think they could either decrease their dosage or ween themselves off of it. Every. Single. Time. They slid back into the depression.

irisheyes said...

Thanks, Maureen. That gives me hope :)

MsHellion said...

P.Kirby, my doctor's long term agenda is to get me addicted to exercise. :) I'm just gotten out of the habit; and I'm more of a social exerciser if I'm going to bother at all...and blah-blah-blah, excuses excuses. *LOL*

I'm tempted to take up running except I can barely take a flight of stairs without sounding like a winded horse. (Though the doctor has not forbidden it--"Yes! Do it if you feel the urge!") And I know there are foods that you can eat that can help improve your mood; as well as eating healthy in general can help improve your mood. :)

MsHellion said...

Irish, thanks for the support! I know depression is so hard to understand. My dad, when he found out I was taking meds, he said, "It's your fault you're depressed. You're supposed to think happy thoughts." Ah, well, he's 90. His generation doesn't do depression. :)

MsHellion said...

Mo, I compared it to a blizzard because in a blizzard you run into the danger of if you lie down, you'll die, you have to keep plugging along until you can find safety again. For me it's a blizzard. I know I have to keep going; I know safety is near and I will be fine; but what I really want to do is lie down and sleep.

MsHellion said...

Irish, I don't know anything about menopause, but I do hear it is different for everybody. Your experience may be much different than what you've heard; and as Mo said, you're doing proactive things to keep it as painless as possible.

MsHellion said...

Q, good to see you! I thought I might have frightened you off with my talk today--but I did reference Churchill (black dog), so I was thinking of you.

I think I would benefit from a combo of both, I think. I definitely need to talk and work some things out, do some proactive things, as well as diet and exercise, but I think some of this is brain chemistry too. Depression does run in my family.

Thank you, Q.

MsHellion said...

Marn, I agree. It is hard to admit to this. It makes you feel broken or defective. And yes, it would be a lot harder for a man to admit. They're not allowed to admit to any weaknesses...

I admit I'm not real comfortable with my hair color either. :)

MsHellion said...

Any reason why artists or writers seem to suffer from depression more than other segments of society?

TerriOsburn said...

Monkey brain? Or the lack of value placed on anything creative in our society. And that goes way back, not just right now. Things must have monetary value or people don't seem to know how to appreciate them. The irony being very little of monetary value gets appreciated either. It just gets consumed.