Way back in 1994-5, I did battle with depression.
My circumstances certainly didn't help. I was back living with my parents, trying to start my life over. I had an OK job making crap money, but I'd often go the entire day without speaking to anybody. Worse, it didn't look like my prospects for breaking into my chosen field were coming to anything.
But, as I learned later, the depression didn't really have much to do with my situation. I wasn't depressed because of how things were. I was simply depressed, period. However, because I was in such a crappy place at the time, I didn't realize it at the time. I thought it was a cause-effect thing.
The depression kind of snuck up on me. It wasn't like it hit me fullforce one day. I just thought I was having a bad day. Then a couple bad days. Then I'd have a good one, then three lousy ones. Finally, I realized I was having FAR too many lousy days for this to just be a "bad patch". Something more severe was going on.
I went to see a doctor to rule out any physical problem, which was tough - I was underempolyed, and had no health insurance. Luckily, I found a doctor who was cool about it, and he cut his rate way down for me. He didn't find anything, so I went in search of a psychiatrist. Only saw the guy twice, again, partially because of my financial situation. I told him I didn't think I needed to be medicated - I just needed some "coping mechanisms" to get me through during my bad patches. He suggested some things, some of which worked, some which didn't.
It was a rough time. When I'd hit a bad time, I'd start obsessing about both my apparent lack of a future, and how ephemeral everything was. You know, the old "we're just gonna die anyway, so what's the point?" My brain would crunch the same questions over and over again, to the point of me not being able to be distracted by anything else. When people would talk to me, when I would watch TV or see a concert, in the back of my mind, I'd be saying "What are you going to do with your life? You'll never get out of this cycle." I found it hard to eat or sleep. (I lost 15 lbs - the only positive out of the whole thing.) I recall watching the sun go down one evening, and feeling this unbelievable sensation of despair. I've never felt anything like it, before or since, and the memory haunts me even almost fifteen years later.
Eventually, I did crawl out of it. I got a job in my chosen field, I moved to a new town, faced new challenges and problems. But for a couple years after, I couldn't even think about that period of my life. I had kept a little journal where I'd write down my thoughts or ruminations on what was wrong, what I was feeling, and what I should probably do. And I couldn't even read that thing for almost four years. It was too painful to even think about. Slowly, I grew to accept that part of me. Yeah, it was a lousy part of my life, but I got through it, and I felt somewhat stronger because of it.
For the next thirteen years, I rarely had any hint of any depression. I would occasionally get very vague twinges during the winter - winter seems to bring out the worst of it - but I never came anywhere near the depths that I plunged to that particular winter.
Until '08. Yep, it's back.
Again, I didn't see it coming. I didn't wake up and, suddenly, there it was. It slowly crept up, one bad day at a time. But then I felt the weight of the dread, the weird but familiar emptiness in the pit of my stomach. And I knew - it's back.
Somehow it doesn't feel quite as bad this time. I mean, the symptoms are the same, but I think I'm handling it better. Possibly because I've now been here before, and know I can get to the other side. Or perhaps because I'm now doing two jobs I love, I'm partnered to the man I love, and in general, am where I want to be in life. Or maybe I'm just older and wiser.
But still, it sucks. I don't have insomnia every night, but it's quite common. I start dreading the end of the day, knowing I'm going to feel scared to go to bed, when these feelings seem to hit full force. And of course, that just feeds the insomnia. (Just because I'm mired in it doesn't mean I can't appreciate the irony of the situation. :) ) Rationally, I know what's going on. My brain is off-kilter, and I need to wait until it gets back on track. My life doesn't REALLY suck, I actually DO enjoy who and where I am, but my brain is telling me otherwise. And it's really easy to believe the brain - I've been trusting it all my life. :)
But the brain messes with me a lot. I'll be feeling blue, then I'll hear a song on the radio (say), and I'll cheer up. So my brain will instantly say "you're cured!" and "anytime this happens again, just listen to this song (or a song like it), and it'll go away!" Which of course it won't. It was just random that that's what worked this time. But then I'll get happy after drinking some tea or watching a movie, and again, the brain announces to me that it's found the cure. Stupid brain. :)
So what's to be done? Nothing really. Ride it out. I've seen the doctor, got the blood work done, nothing. I don't think I need to see a therapist again, although if this continues for a lot longer, then I'll certainly go. But until then, the coping skills come into play. Trying new things. Keeping active. Being social. Enjoying simple pleasures like cooking a hot dog, or drawing a picture, or reading an old favorite book. But bascially, it's gonna come down to me accepting what's happening, and holding tight until it blows over.
Because it will. It did before, and it will again. The thirteen years post-depression were the best thirteen years of my life, absolutely bar none. And if I have to endure a few months of depression to ensure that the next thirteen years kick ass, I'm all for it.
Off to draw a picture. :)