Friday, July 21, 2017

Depression isn't logical, but it's real.

I haven't posted anything for a while. Today, though, in the wake of yet another notable suicide, I feel compelled to share something that's... well... about as personal as it gets.

I didn't know Chester Bennington. I didn't know Chris Cornell or Kurt Cobain either, so I can't fathom the anguish their deaths inflicted on family and friends who did know and love them. Even so, their music provided such joy for so many, including this random fan in the upper left corner of the country, each of their losses packed quite a wallop. It's a sensation that approximates the dull ache of a gut punch, one that diminishes over time but never completely dissipates.

On the surface it's puzzling, bordering even on the absurd, that these gifted artists in their creative primes would choose to end their lives at their own hands. Such acts of self-destruction, to the outside observer, defy logic. These men seemingly had it all: loving families, adoring fans, wealth, fame and unfathomable talent. Further, we're taught that our very existence has always hinged on the strongest of human instincts—survival.

Yet still it happens time and again, to rich and poor, to famous and anonymous.

I suffer from depression. I'm sure I've had it my whole life, but I really wasn't conscious of it until my twenties, when I finally was able to label my emotions with a modicum of maturity. The thing is, it really does fly in the face of reason for those who haven't experienced it, so it's very difficult to convey in words. Nonetheless, I'll give it a try.

Depression comes on slowly, like a thick, damp fog rolling in from the horizon. Once it hits shore, you're enveloped in it. The world transforms to tinted shades of dull brown sepia. Ordinary tasks seem insurmountable, especially when the alarm clock signals the promise of a day filled with them. You tell yourself to snap out of it, but you know that's foolish. Minutes, sometimes hours, creep along on the brink of tears. Respites of emotional optimism surface in uneven intervals, yet the certainty of despair is never far away. In simpler terms, depression is toxic combination of helplessness and hopelessness.

Have I ever considered suicide? No, but that doesn't mean that at various times I didn't believe life was pointless. I'd try to count my blessings—my wife and daughters, a comfortable life in a beautiful part of the world, a career I loved—but the fog wasn't about to lift by sheer force of will.

Finally, I got help. Depression isn't curable, but it is manageable. It's not a weakness or a character flaw, but it's a condition that requires continued care and vigilance, and it only took me 55 years to begin figuring out how to deal with it:

1) Don't ignore it. Healthy distractions can be useful short-term tools, but try hard to not gloss it over. You might not like how it manifests itself due to your inattention.

2) Don't self-medicate. You might alter your consciousness after four IPAs, but trust me, things will be that much worse in the morning, when you wake up depressed, dehydrated and craving three breakfast burritos.

3) Talk to someone, anyone. It's so much better than keeping it bottled up, and when another person is aware of your situation, you're more likely to seek professional help. It's like having a workout partner.

4) If you're uncomfortable talking about it, write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. You'll be amazed how much it helps.

5) Talk to your doctor. He or she can provide a wealth of options, both pharmaceutical and not.

6) If you aren't prone to depression, pay attention to friends and loved ones who present symptoms of it—lethargy, moodiness, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, sleeplessness, oversleeping—just things that aren't typical of the person you thought you knew so well.

I'm not a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker, but I know enough about depression to understand that I should withhold judgment about people who take their own lives. Their struggle is real and it defies logic, which is why it's up to all of us to help prevent it.

Thanks for listening.

2 comments :

  1. Thanks Tim, this really hits home. I needed to hear this!
    Laurie

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  2. Thanks for sharing this blog its very informative and useful for us.

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