Thoughts on Depression (a work in progress)

The shrink used to say, when you get depressed, ask yourself what are you angry about. You identify what is making you angry so you can do something about it. This still works, but has become less effective as the years multiplied  between now and the instigating crisis that first sent me to psychotherapy.

I am not feeling as angry as I used to, I guess that’s a benefit of getting older. I still feel anger, but it seems I’m more selective with that emotion, I have more – though far from absolute  – control over the coming and going of anger. I take things in stride and douche bags or people being douche bags I seem more able to laugh off  instead of seething  about. A positive development in my life but that doesn’t really help with depression.

Now, these spells of despair – I know of no other way to describe this all encompassing mood – are not happening more frequently, nor staying longer. In fact, it’s their seldomness that is increasing and after a day or so I seem able to shake it off, ignore it, or it simply fades.

But the depth of the spell seems to grow ever more bottomless. The mood is blacker. I am worried about that. The darkness grows in complexity, bleak thoughts rapidly reproduce then lead to other connections but what always seems at first an escape route is just another dead end. The train of thought is on a one way track and there’s no light at the end of this tunnel. Seeing only night is worse than blindness. You just want it to end. Now that I have more past to ponder, there are just more connections, more reasons to feel regret and even when I recognize I had no control over some things, I still feel guilty about my actions or what happened. I have only me to hate if not blame. These putrid notions make me want to die. At least with suicide I wouldn’t feel so useless.

For some reason, I never drank to feel happier and still feel no compulsion to do so with the current spells. Booze was never medication, just a happiness enhancer. Drinking was a social activity where the good mood just got better.

I don’t drink like I used to but even when I drank more regularly, when I was depressed I never drank my way out of it, even as a hope for temporary solace. When a spell hit, I usually  watched TV or stared at the ceiling and walls and chain smoked and when I was in analysis I could talk about the spells to my shrink and at least learn from them if not prevent or alleviate them. Movies were also helpful, although that barely counts cause I used to go to the movies several times a week, depressed or not,  and that would at least distract me for two hours. Movies are too expensive and quite frankly, I watch too many on DVD anyway and cinema as an art form is at its lowest level since its invention. But really, movies or bad TV are just distractions. Chain smoking seemed therapeutic. Depression passes and figuring it out or trying to seems part of the process and cigarette smoking helps contemplation and with my depression it seems contemplation is helpful because even when the conclusion reached is hopelessness, at least a process is created. Pausing to fill your lungs then exhaling, savoring the delicious if deadly fumes, induces reflection, a way out of my tangled dark mess of thoughts and feelings.

Alas, I no longer smoke, I am not much of a drinker, lost my taste for drug taking decades ago. Not only am I incapable of prayer during these spells, but I feel guilty that I am giving into this nullification, which really messes me up even further.  Catholicism has made guilt a daily occurrence – and sometimes it is positive – but coupled with my half WASP side – be useful not ornamental was my father’s constant decree –I am faced with dual conflicts. Being depressed makes me more depressed because it reminds me of some false standard I never lived up to anyway, doubling back on all the childhood crap that comes up when stuck in the dark mire of the mind.

Then it goes away, but never suddenly. The misty dispersal is so gradual I can’t identify it’s occurrence. I never see the depression going, just know when it is gone. Maybe that’s what I should focus on next time, the incremental disappearance of depression, recognizing how one of those increments get formed could be a step in the right direction.

What I must do is abandoned the notion of selfishness. Depression doesn’t overcome you out of selfishness, nor is it some side effect of debilitating self absorption. There is much tragedy in the world – injustices, disasters, preventable violence to make one sad – but these spells are not caused by my realization of the downsides of the human condition, nor are they a failure to appreciate the joys and pleasures which are the other side of that human condition coin. The truth is that depression makes you less aware of the suffering or happiness of others. It is not the result of lacking concern. I am not depressed because of selfishness but the idea that I am threads through the myriad of guilt in my head. Guilt is not all bad, a modicum encourages positive behavior. But when it comes to depression, guilt is inflated and acts only as an enabler.