Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Putting a Name To It

My depression has always been a dull throb for me. It’s like a headache that you’ve carried around for a few days that ebbs and flows but never entirely goes away. Sometimes you can forget that your head hurts but when someone asks if that headache went away you realize that you’ve just been ignoring it but it’s still there.

I’ve done a good job of mostly ignoring it but recently the throb has gotten louder; thus this blog. When I posted my first couple of entries I went scurrying out into blog land to see what others were saying about depression. I found a reference to Dysthymia. One of the main reasons that I thought it sounded pretty accurate was that it is long lasting and milder although no less destructive over the long haul; specifically Wikipedia says in time it lead to things “such as high rates of suicide, work impairment, and social isolation.” Boy, does that peg me. I’ll get into those later, especially the big S. In passing I mentioned Dysthymia to James over at Finding Optimism, who has been very generous to me and my blog, in an email. He replied that it seems unlikely since I wrote in an earlier entry that I suffer from most of the physical manifestations of depression. He’s got a good point. But if I’ve had Dysthymia for a long time then I’m due for some physical consequences, right?

In that previous post I described how I self diagnosed my depression. This was later confirmed at a mental health clinic where a counselor, who I did not like, told me after less than an hour of talking that I have a mild case of depression primarily caused by social anxiety. She also promptly told me that I should go on Zoloft (I think) which apparently would help with the social anxiety. This after I explicitly told her at the outset I didn’t want medication.

I’ve been reflecting on that diagnosis over the last few days. Whether she was trying to push the meds for some self-serving reason or she genuinely believed this it would have helped me I’ll never know. I do know that I’ve become very comfortable with her diagnosis. It makes sense, really. I have always been awkward with other people. I wouldn’t call it shy; I’ve often been called that but only by people that don’t know me very well. I’m very opinionated and sometimes quick to take offense and I’m never hesitant to express this to whoever dares cross me. But I do it very awkwardly and spend the next week or more dwelling on the event and invariably beating myself up for it.

Oh yes, I was a joy for my co-workers in the corporate world! Even those I still count as friends were probably as glad to see me go as I was to do so.

The best part about all of this is that any one of these incidents may come up at anytime to torture me. Years later and for no particular reason a memory will jump out at me; refined and distilled by this point to yet another self-told tale of what a blathering oaf I was when this and that happened. I will feel my face heat up and turn red. Typically I’m alone when this happens but if I’m with others I excuse myself to take a moment to savor the bitter taste of the memory once again.

Then the talking starts. This is a new thing and the main reason I try to be alone. No one, not even my wife, has yet caught me and of this writing this is the first time that I’ve consciously dealt with it myself. It starts with a grunt as I try to stop the me in my memory from making an ass of us. Then I babble forth some of the dialogue from the event and finally wrapping it with, “I’m so stupid.” It takes me another few moments to recover then I’m able to move on, generally in a darker mood. Eventually, it fades back down to the dull thud.

My wife says that I talk a lot in my sleep though she claims that she can never understand it. For this first time now, I wonder if I’m reliving these memories in my sleep.

Wow, I really sound like a mess, don’t I? Truly, I’m a functioning adult. These incidents only happen three or four times a month although they seem to be gradually increasing in frequency. They are very swift; usually taking less time than it took to describe them.

Depression brought on by social anxiety – I don’t know if it was a spot on diagnosis or a self fulfilling prophecy but it certainly seems to describe me now.

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