Thursday, May 09, 2013

Funny guys don't get depressed

UPDATE: As I write this preface, it's been just a few days shy of a year since I first published this post. I've felt great, and have been off of all prescription medications of any kind since shortly after the original post was written. I wrote this for two reasons. First, it was an outlet and a way for me to finally put to words what I was going through for the benefit of my friends and family. Second, I wrote it in the hopes that someone who goes through depression, whether it's a seemingly situational bout like mine or an ongoing lifelong struggle*, will see themselves somewhere in what I wrote and get the help that they need. There is no shame in needing help, nor in asking for it. Even though I was on the very tail end of this journey when I wrote this, being able to finally put it into words and share it with people felt like a final stamp of closure. Talking (or writing) helps.

*Not that I presume I will never need help of this sort again in my life.


I'm rarely at a loss for words. Let's be honest, I'm normally even less at a loss for words when it comes to talking about myself. More than the last year my life, however, has often been beyond my descriptive grasp. Then today numerous people on Twitter, Facebook, and various blogs posted this: This. This, this, this...

Have you ever sat with a group of friends and try to remember the name of an actor in a movie but can't?. Shit... uh, you know, that actor! He was was on that tv show briefly with the chick from you know what. Damn it! Then you all sit around struggling to remember. UGH! It's right there! Perched on the bridge of your nose, taunting you. But none of you can remember. Then a few days later, your friend texts you out of the blue, "DAVID WHATSHISNAME!" Yes!!! Yes, that's the guy! It's like a weight lifted from your neck that you didn't even know was there. The relief of knowing. The relief of being able to articulate what you knew all along. That's what I felt when I read this.

"No, I don't necessarily want to KILL myself... I just want to become dead somehow." I lost count of how many times a similar thought casually danced in front of me. Or in my case, it was "It sure would be easier if I were just dead." I didn't really want to die per se, but the prospect of my consciousness simply ceasing to exist seemed much easier and much more sensible that continuing to trudge through day after pointless day, not giving a shit about anything or anyone, including myself. I could feign joy, feign sadness, but ultimately I could not be bothered to give the slightest fuck, because I was incapable of feeling those things. I just kind of... was there. A relative I had cared for very much passed away, my mother was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, my niece was born, an incredible woman fell in love with me. I didn't possess the tools to deal with any of it, so I continued doing what I had been doing for so long. I woke up in the morning, took my pills out of the day-of-the-week pill organizer, mentally checked off another day, went to bed that night, and repeated until the pill organizer was empty, refilled it, then started anew.

That fucking pill organizer. Mostly it contained vitamins and supplements, but at varying points it also contained cocktails of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. It saved me time by not having to open a half dozen bottles every morning, but mostly it served as a vivid reminder of yet another pointless, worthless day ahead of me and how many equally pointless, worthless days had already passed that week. Every morning. One slot empty. Two slots empty. Three slots... Empty. One pointless week down. Fill it. Another to go. It was like sitting and staring at the hands on a clock. None of this serves any purpose. I don't serve any purpose. Why am I bothering to go to work, make money, then come home to spend it on all of this pointless bullshit? Things. Cable. Internet. Food. Gas. Who cares?

At first, I thought I was ill. God damn it, this virus will not go away! I slept, and slept, and slept but was constantly on the brink of a pervasive exhaustion I had never felt before in my entire life. I was convinced I had a sleep disorder (which wouldn't be surprising, given my lifelong struggles with insomnia). I completed a sleep study in which I was observed overnight. I felt like I laid in bed for hours that night trying to get to sleep, but the doctor said I was out within 15 minutes of going to bed and stayed that way throughout the night. No sleep apnea, no abnormal brainwave patterns, no heart palpitations. Sound and deep sleep, as perfect and as regenerative as can medically be. I was so desperately tired of being tired. Month after month after month. That's when the prospect of just not existing seemed so tantalizing. That's when I knew this was no virus.

"Would you like me to refer you to a psychologist?"


"A therapist -- would you like to talk to someone? Sometimes it's very helpful to talk."

My family practice doctor, who wasn't really MY doctor, but some guy I had gone to a few times because my long-time doctor had retired, finally was talking to me instead of just throwing pills down my throat or hunting and pecking in vain on the clinic computer throughout my visit, unable to find anything because he didn't know how to spell.

"Um... yeah, I guess that would be good." I knew better than that. I knew damn well it was what I should have done months ago but was too afraid to ask.

"You should know that our initial consults for mental health services are usually quite backlogged. Sometimes they cannot schedule the first appointment for several months out." He returned to tentative clacking on the computer keyboard.

"Yeah, that's fine. Let's go ahead and do that."

"Ok, I will have the nurse give you a number to call." She did, and I didn't wait. I made the call in the car before leaving the parking lot. I knew myself too well. If I didn't do it now, I would sit on it for weeks or months. Or just never do it. This was too important. Fortunately, they had an opening just 3 weeks later.

Therapy ended up not being anything like I had seen on tv. I expected a pair of big overstuffed leather chairs facing each other with perhaps a coffee table or little potted plant between them. A cozy space where Adrian Monk's doctor would ask me about my childhood. But it was just like a regular doctor's office, except with what can only be described as a "medical grade" couch. I sat there, while the doctor sat in his wheeled office chair, nodding his head and swigging water from a CamelBak. His mannerisms and inflections gave me the strong impression that he was gay. Somehow that comforted me. I would have prefered to have talked to a woman -- I've always communicated better and more openly with women. But if I couldn't have a woman doctor, I would much rather have a gay therapist than a straight one. Women know about feelings. Gay men know about feelings. I can trust this guy. He's gay. In retrospect, that seems such a silly thing with which to concern myself, but in the moment, it helped me open up and talk to him.

After 5 or 6 sessions over the course of a few months, we both agreed we had pretty much covered all of the ground there was to cover. I didn't have a horrible childhood. I didn't suffer through years of abuse and torment. I'd just had a rough handful of years that I still hadn't quite finished processing. There was still work to be done on my end, of course, and talking about it hadn't magically cured me. In the meantime, I was still sorting through medications with a psychiatrist and had finally landed on one that didn't make me want tear my own skin off.

Oddly enough, it was the medication that seemed to be the worst of it. Except I was so numbed by it, I thought I was feeling better. I wasn't. I was just that -- numb. I didn't get angry about much of anything, I wasn't sad, I wasn't worried, and I wasn't overjoyed by much of anything. Then I felt something -- guilt. I knew I SHOULD be feeling something. I should care about other people's problems. I should care about my friend going through a tough time. I should care about my mom's health problems. I should care about this woman in my arms. I couldn't. I was incapable. And the numbness was soon replaced with overwhelming guilt. It was a guilt I had never felt before. I was like grief. I was grieving for my loss of empathy and ability to love or just give two shits about much of anything, really.

A very small number of people in my inner circle were aware of what I was going through. I was too ashamed to talk about it, even though I knew and was told outright, there was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I knew it would likely relieve some of the growing resentment and anger from a handful of my friends when I abruptly ended my relationship with the woman, who ironically was probably the most understanding of anyone of what I was going through. But I wasn't ready.

I didn't wake up feeling ready today. Under proper medical supervision (with a swift kick in the ass from a friend), I'm just about completely free of "the meds" now, but I'm still in a bit of a void. Slowly, I feel like I'm returning to normal, connecting to people in ways I haven't felt capable of in over a year. Then today I read a comic that said everything I have been unable to express and somehow felt a lot braver. Still not ready, but braver.


Aliecat said...

I'm so sorry you were going through this. I wish people didn't feel so ashamed for having an illness and wanting to try and get better. I've never suffered with depression, but lots of people close to me have, and I know it's a battle. I'm glad you're fighting.

Jeremy QA Gibbens said...

Thanks, Alie. That is part of why I have wanted to write this for a long time. I knew logically I had nothing to be ashamed of. I know so many people who have openly struggled with depression throughout their entire lives. But I still felt horribly ashamed and wanted to hide behind jokes and self-effacing comments. I want other people to know that their friends and family will understand the best they can.

Ed Kohler said...

Dude. I stumble across the most interesting stuff in Google Reader.

It's good to hear that you've figured some things out and are on the road to recovery. Getting that out there seems like a solid move both for yourself and for others who may be going through similar stuff.

If you ever need someone to talk to, hit me up on my burner.