Monday, April 20, 2009

Where Have I Been?

So where HAVE I been? Well, right here; just not blogging, and barely doing anything else for that matter; unless you call suffering, fretting and brooding as doing something.

I’ve mentioned a time or two that I am a depressive; in fact, since being diagnosed first with Dysthymia in 2002, and with Major Depression not long after that, I have been receiving treatment for my “depressiveness;” although since losing my Cybercare psychiatrist about 3 years ago the treatment has been limited strictly to meds through the local VA pharmacy.

I hate sounding like a drama queen, (it’s so “unmanly”) but it’s a struggle 24/7 to keep my external persona from mirroring the way I actually feel. A psychiatrist, who also happens to be a buddy, told me once that being depressed is a choice. Maybe he’s right. If so, then I take little comfort from that premise since, if true, it implies that there’s something in me that makes me WANT to feel awful despite all the good things in my life, and if I’m honest, I do have a lot of good and even joyful things that should be outweighing all the bad.

So then, according to the good doctor, the way I am, feeling like this, is all MY fault, since anytime I want to I should be able to WILL myself into being and feeling something different. Now THAT I CAN buy, seeing that I’m always willing to blame bad stuff on me. There, you see how I skew good advice into bad? (Rereading the above, doing a little self-analysis, I see evidence of some low self-esteem there. Hmmm. That’s a symptom, right?)

I’ve come to realize that much of my problem is my intellect; not that I’m all that smart, just overly analytical; and what rhymes with analytical? Well, critical. And I AM the ultimate critic, especially when it comes to me and things around me.

That’s another thing I’ve noticed about us depressives—our tendency towards the “me.” We are supremely self-centered and self-indulgent—self, self, self; it’s ALL about us. That’s another idiotic tendency I strive to battle. I fight this propensity by trying to concentrate on my kids and veteran clients by supplanting as much as possible all other thoughts with them. The problem though, is that instead of taking joy in doing that; instead, I tend to worry about them. In other words, it doesn’t help much, if at all.

There are many ways to define a depressive, especially a dysthymic one, where feeling down NEVER goes away; but personal experience leads me to this definition: it’s having an all-pervasive tendency towards the negative, no matter WHAT. THAT negativity, for me, seems to be overarching. Give me a silver lining and I WILL find the problem with it. In other words, when good times are upon me, that just means “the other shoe is about to drop.”

And hell, think about it; isn’t that the basic way of life? Here’s how I see it: Life is a sequence of events—no matter how many good and wonderful things happen throughout it, it’s continually punctuated with horrible ones. Nice things—like falling in love, getting married, having a child, getting promoted, retiring, winning at sports, or just living through everyday satisfying moments—all that for me is wiped away by the inevitability of such things as disease, accidents, and the ultimate downer--death.

The irony in my case is that for the most part most of what’s happened to me in life has gone my way; yet, I take little satisfaction in that since "I know" it’s all "useless." Everything good is fleeting and therefore contaminated by despair; try as I might, THAT is how I see it, even though as I read it back I can see how wacky it is to feel that way! You see, I can intellectualize it all I want to, but I STILL do it.

With that admitted "weirdness" said, for me, the torture of life is not so much living through the bad times; no, it’s the “waiting” for “the inevitable” during those periods of “the good,” or even through just “the normal,” and KNOWING sickeningly that the next “bad thing” is long overdue. Its decades of Chinese water torture, with life’s hellish droplets falling on the torturee’s forehead in an unending but sporadic tempo, the torment stemming from the continuous expectation of the next painful “droplet.”

Obviously, again, with the watchword being pessimism, if not outright fatalism, it’s not always a good way to be in my sideline as benefits advisor, where I meet lots of folks claiming to have a mental condition. But aside from that, what I HAVE observed from doing this volunteer work with veterans who need my help in dealing with a very adversarial local veteran’s office is that when it comes to symptomology and overall diagnoses there are all sorts of variants.

Just the same, for all the different types of depressives, our commonality, once again, is negativity. You can’t be an optimist, except for maybe a part time one, and stil be a true depressive, at least not like the depressive that I am. Although, I DO know how to “sound” optimistic—I will try on occasion to mouth hopeful words without truly meaning or believing any of them. It’s all a part of doing the “dutiful” thing, that is, putting a happy face on over my doom-and-gloomy one.

Then again, I’ve heard of manic-depression, now popularly known as bi-polar disorder, where supposedly one’s mood waxes and wanes between the extremes, but I wouldn’t know someone like that if I met one, although based on the stats I’ve probably met more than quite a few out there. Still, it certainly doesn’t describe me or “my kind.”

So, while I’m in this fleeting mood of “sharing,” three things happened to me about 8 years back that seemed to cause my particular depressive condition, all three of which took place almost simultaneously:

First, I lost my athleticism—my ability came to an end to run long distances, an activity that had once daily pumped vital good-mood-enhancing endorphins into my brain.

Second, I developed hyperthyroidism, a disease that went undiagnosed for many months, and ultimately caused the end of my military career while causing me to lapse into the throes of chemical depression, a condition from which I never really recovered.

And finally, the fact that my career ended sooner than I had long envisioned that it would was itself the final blow leading ultimately to the worst of what ails me.

In short order I lost two very important things: my military service and distance running, both of which used to provide the bulk of what I saw as my self-worth over most of my life. All together, it physically, mentally and spiritually bashed me down like three huge blows of a hammer—Bam! Bam! and BAM! Just the thought of it as I recount how it all came about causes me to sink into my swivel chair.

So, there you go—now you know. I’ll try to get back into this and do some writing and start reading too while I’m at it. I probably should attempt to describe two recent “bad things” that happened in tandem that drove me down into this current pit. One was a physical ailment, the other was an altercation with a neighbor—together, those two things about did me in.


Ed said...

I'm glad you are back Phil. I miss having someone willing to stand up and poke holes in my arguments.

Marie & Barry said...

for days and weeks I have been clicking on your name on my blogsite to see if you started writing again...and I am so happy that you are coming out of your funk!! I am not "labeled" as a depressed person but I know I am...and I know it runs in our family. I have my moments but unlike you...I can find the light at the end of the tunnel. It is just really far!! I am sorry that your tooth and stupid neighbor got you seeing blue. Maybe you should look at your grandbabies and use that as a pick me up!! You have a lot to be thankful have 5 wonderful children that all started loving and talking to you again...what more could you ask for!! And as for your career in the military...think of all those that lost their lives while they least you are still breathing. That has got to mean something! And it was their (military) were great at your job!! And running...don't know why you love it so much..I can only do ONE mile and I am DONE...stick a fork in me!! But I know what you mean...I love the natural high I get after a good workout. Ok...glad to see you back on here and I am enjoying being able to talk to you again...I love you pops...Marie

opass said...

You're a gutsy guy, Phil. I often have the same feelings but don't dare express them, not only in person but especially not in a public forum like a blog. You're tough; you'll do fine. Best regards as always.

Becky Spear said...

HEy dad..I was wondering when you were going to write something new. I've been checking since March for a new blog and I just kept seeing that bird. I really enjoy reading your blogs. Love ya, Becky