This one is probably going to sound a little uniformed and scattered. Admittedly, I’ve been living with depression for a long time, but I’ve done far less research on it than I should have. At least that’s how it feels. I’ve talked to a number of doctors and I’ve read a lot of research. I still haven’t cracked it so maybe that’s why I feel like I haven’t learned enough.
This blog isn’t about that, happily. It’s just about my journey and that’s comparatively easy to put down in print.
My experience has been that there is usually one of two triggers for a depressive episode – and I’ve had some doozies. The first is that impossible to fathom, internal tide of terrible that just wells up with chronic depressives. Trigger is an inaccurate word in this case. It just happens. I can be watching a tv show that I really enjoy, attending a social event, be at a job, or whatever and all of a sudden there’s overwhelming sadness. This is one of the biggest problems that I struggle with and it’s been getting worse. I don’t know the answer; my wife says it’s just chemicals and I think she probably has a point. Doesn’t make it feel any better, but at least it’s something I can tell myself.
Second are external triggers. Everyone deals with these. Death of a loved one, financial problems, politics, the evening news – all these things can be depressing however I’d hazard a guess that they hit chronic depressives harder. Bad news can bring a person down for a bit, but they can usually dig down and figure out what they need to do to get past it. Chronics, on the other hand, wallow. It’s actually kind of comfortable. So when there’s an external trigger it provides an excuse to wrap oneself up in a big burrito of sad.
At least that’s been my experience. I certainly would never claim a monopoly on depression. A facebook acquaintance of mine who happens to be one of the most upbeat people I know was recently diagnosed with depression. He’s in his fifties, an avid weight-lifter, great cook, hugger and all around happy dude. He went in for a regular check up a couple weeks ago and his long time doctor recognized some differences in his general demeanor. Doc asked him the standard questions then prescribed what I assume is a common depression treatment – my friend didn’t say what, only that he was comfortable with it. He shared that he’s recently lost some friends and family members. I’m sure he’s going to pull through pretty quickly. His personality and strong support network will see to that.
Here’s another example of external triggers. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. You might not think so if you’ve been following this blog for a while. I try to write fast and honest here so I’m sure there’s more than a few grammatical errors. Otherwise, though, I’m pretty careful – as much as I can be – in my personal and professional conduct. Consequently, when I do screw up it bothers me. Most people, as far as I’ve observed, seem able to shake that kind of thing off in a few minutes, hours or, at most, a day. Me? It can destroy a week and, worse, if my mistake affects other people else it can destroy the relationship. Not from their perspective but from mine. I read or assign too much into their disappointment and find myself entirely avoiding them.
I realize that, that can be more of a self esteem thing, but as far as I see it it’s all part of the same problem. More to the point, it can trigger a depressive episode. That’s the point I’m trying to make. If something happens that makes me feel bad about myself it seems to trigger the chronic. Instead of just fixing the mistake and moving on, I crawl inside of myself and spend too much time thereafter hating myself and everyone around me.
I don’t have any answer or advice in this area. It’s just about where I live.