Beware, black dogs about

This post was written 9 months ago.
Wed, 12 Jul 2017
So is this the real thing again now? And how long will it last?

This is curious. Curious and somewhat cruel. I am 'celebrating' my 20 years anniversary of the end of the last major depression I went through, and with that, 20 years without antidepressants. I might have thought about that topic a bit too much recently.

I have thought about whether it might be a good thing to take ADs on a regular basis, as seems relatively common these days - at least that is the impression I get. I recently re-read bits of "Listening to Prozac" by Peter Kramer, and it reminded me that with all probability, I would be much better off if I took pills regularly. Because from my frequent encounters with the black dog as a teenager, and then two - no, three - really bad episodes in my twenties, some things have been quite deeply engrained in my brain. Most of all, low confidence. It used to be low confidence in my self-value and my social abilities. This has changed to low confidence in any kind of achievement. I also often find it difficult to just "do" anything at all. Whereas I constantly think, think, think.

It would probably make me more socially adept, more confident, and more productive. A better functioning member of society. And that is exactly my gripe with the whole concept.

So about 15 minutes ago, I was sitting here in tears, and I was experiencing the physical symptoms of depression, perhaps for the first time as pronounced as twenty years ago. I know it so well now, this humungous surge of cortisol. Most times it subsides after a day or two. I get panicky, and I get better. It seemed to be like that this time, but then it picked up again. So my body has been swamped with cortisol, the thoughts become negative - so far I realise not all of them are true, but it's difficult keeping them at bay. And all the plans I had, the people I wanted to contact, the things I wanted to organise, seem to drift off into some nebulous distance, I don't know how far.

Depression knows know pity. And it is spiteful. A moment of neglect in a streak of good mood, and it jumps right in.

The strange thing is, there is a part of me that manages just to observe it, and to an extent it has always been like that. I can perhaps just let it happen and "ride it out" as a friend called it recently. I am sitting in this cosy nest which is our home with support from my family, and at work nobody seems to expect overly much from me (which ironically might have contributed to the state I am in). I have literally no such thing as a career. What is there to lose, if I just lie low for a bit, "flap my wings on the ground" as I once wrote in a diary in my twenties. Though the illness is harrowing and I would feel better on pills, I regard it as a privilege that I can choose not to take them. No pressure to function.

I could even write dispatches from underground. What do I still manage to do when I am physically depressed? Can I influence things in any way?

My last lines make me think that actually, it cannot be that bad yet. I am still writing, I am composed and so on. But the cortisol production is still in full swing and that is just not normal. Robert Sapolsky mentions that while a depressed person is not doing very much at all, and might even be catatonic, there's a huge stress reaction going on inside. In my experience, that is absolutely true. This video, which I've posted before, is in my view the most authoritative thing you can find about depression. THIS IS EXACTLY IT
My meetup group, that is the big sadness. Always so many plans. But for all the things I want to do, there are already others that do them much better it seems. Unless there is something unique to this group, a unique potential, as I have sometimes thought. Then I just hope I can come back and make something of it, at the moment I just do not have the conviction and the minimum of confidence needed.

I wanted to mention this post as well which I saw on Twitter tonight: I love the three last points especially.

I will remind myself of this: "Living with depression is hard work. Every single day we get up and do our best to live our lives alongside an illness which is determined to drag us down. Regardless of what our brains may tell us, we're achieving so much simply by carrying on. We should be proud of ourselves, rather than being ashamed."

And here the lovely Dr Seuss. I actually first encountered this verse in somebody's story about depression and recovery, Lost and Found. It also makes me think of my boyfriend in the 90s, whose name is Seuss (he is remotely related to "Dr Seuss"), who helped me a lot back then.

"You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted.
But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?"
Dr Seuss - Oh, The Places You'll Go

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