Sunday, November 29, 2009

Night Terrors

Woke up screaming last night. It's been a long time since these night terrors last happened - last December. And here it is, the end of November. Is there something about Christmas that gives me these terrifying nightmares?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Aspergers and Depression

I’m not sure what set me off in this direction in my thinking but here I am, wondering if I have Aspergers.

First, an update on life as I know it. Things have been going poorly. The economy hit me hard and one of my two sources of income crumbled away. My other source, writing, is actually doing very well. I signed a book deal – my first – in October and other gigs continue to come in even without my seeking them out. I’m making less than I was, which wasn’t much, but I’m happier in this work. So, I should be happy overall but we are talking about depression, right?

My social world continues to shrink and, although I don’t like social situations in the least, I can tell that the almost complete lack of them since I started working at home is taking a heavy toll on my overall emotional well being. I’ve considered spending two or three mornings a week working in a coffee house. I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone but just being out and among others might help.

My drinking has increased. I’m not ready to say it’s a problem yet but it’s worth mentioning.

Depression has wrapped itself completely around me. I’ve succumbed to it in recent months and have found an odd comfort in the resignation. I haven’t taken St. John’s Wort since the summer.

On to Aspergers. Like I said, I’m not sure what sent my mind down this path but I’ve been thinking about my severe social dislike and awkwardness and wondering if this might have something to do with mild autism, which is an oversimplified way to describe Aspergers. Check out the Wikipedia entry on Aspergers if you’re unfamiliar with this condition and really want to know.

I have most of the symptoms. Some points of my life that seem to really mesh well:

The speech thing – My mom tells me that I was a very late talker. She doesn’t remember my first word because I just started talking in complete sentences one day. (I’ve always thought that was odd. Wouldn’t one remember their baby’s first word or utterance regardless?) Also, in elementary school I used to go to speech therapy. I don’t remember the specific problem – I actually forgot about it until college when suddenly one day the memory came flooding back when I met the son of the woman who was my speech teacher. Weird, right?

Social situations – I’ve beat that one to death; that’s a definite check in the yes column.

Misunderstanding other’s nonverbal communication – check.

And so on.

A few points where I don’t seem to fit the condition: I think I’m a pretty good abstract thinker. My professional writing is nonfiction but I have written fiction in the past and greatly enjoyed it. I also like reading fiction and think that I’m pretty good at picking up on the subtext. However, having a degree in English literature could have given me the training to approach this formulaically.

Lack of empathy – this is the biggest reason that would make me question my having Aspergers. I think that I am hyper-aware of other people around me and their reactions to what I say. I often will stop mid-sentence because the slightest change in my listeners expression. People do think that I have an odd speech pattern and I do tend to go on obsessively about a few topics, both aspects of Aspergers.

So, I took the Autism Spectrum Quotient test this morning and scored a 30 which is rated as above average. I always feel like I’m screwing up these self administered tests, though. I’d just spent an hour or so reading about Aspergers so I recognized the symptoms behind the questions. I realized that I was overcompensating and trying to not be to eager with a “yes, yes, that’s me exactly” sort of response. So did I drive my real score down? Who knows.

What will I do with this new information? I have no idea. Probably nothing. However, it does make me feel even more justified in refusing the social anxiety medication that was prescribed to me years ago. It might have treated a symptom but not the problem if I do indeed have Aspergers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

UK Counselor Directory -

Hi everyone. Not a lot is happening with me. Thanks once again for the kind words that you send me.

I'm just dropping in to share a website that was emailed to me. Rather than give you my take I'll be lazy and just paste the email:
I work for a website called Counselling Directory ( which is an online web directory listing counsellors and psychotherapists all over the UK. Each counsellor has a profile stating what areas they specialise in, a bit about their background, and their qualifications. All the counsellors registered with us will have a relevant qualification and insurance cover or proof of registration with a professional body, so we are assured of their professionalism. The site also has a wealth of information about various types of mental health illness, as well as a blog about the latest health news.

The search facility on the site means you simply type in your postcode or town and the site produces a list of all the counsellors in that area, allowing the individual to browse through them and select and contact one that would be exactly suited to their needs. The site is free to use.

We developed the website when a friend was going through a difficult time, and didn't know where to find help close by. The site has been running for four years now, and we're always looking to try and get our name seen by as many people as possible, as we know from feedback that we provide a valuable and much needed service. We've recently been featured in an article on the Times website, we have a high Google ranking, and have had lots of positive feedback from site users and counsellors alike.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Why is it pretentious to use the right word? I got called out for saying that my uvula is vestigial.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Darkness envelopes

There’s a part of me – a big part of me – that wants to burn all of this. I once had passion; I once had a grasp on what there is and what there isn’t. Or at least I think I did. And I think that I will get there again. But for now, there’s just what I have in front of me. And that’s not much. It never has been.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Back on the SJW

Black days engulfed me right after that last post. There was no real trigger - is there ever? - I just suddenly found myself back at the bottom. If this is mild depression I can't imagine what those with right proper depression go through.

Money is part of it and it might have been what started down the slide but I really can't blame my middle-class poverty. I think it was probably more of where I put my focus rather than the actual cause. Money's been tight now for, well, over a year but I've been up and down plenty in that time. But it's always good to have an excuse for the negative thoughts, isn't it? Gives one the idea that if it weren't for this one thing everything would be roses.

Besides, what better thing than money to focus on? It is the measuring stick of our culture, isn't it? If I'm going to be depressed and plop on a healthy dollop of low self esteem then there's hardly a better way to justify those feelings than to concentrate on the thing about which society agrees with me - I have no money and colossal debt therefore I am a mean little man.

The amazing thing about my depression - and many others' I'm sure - is that it creeps up on me so subtlety, so stealthy that I don't even know it's there. I can't say when for sure that it started, just that for the last week and a half it's had me under its control. But at the time I simply believed that I was worthless and deserved nothing. Depression didn't occur to me.

The tip off came yesterday. I had two night terror dreams two nights ago. Twice in the pre-dawn hours of the morning I woke up shouting and in a panic. Both times I managed to go back to sleep. And then I slept very late into the morning. I had no reason to - I'm no more or less rested these days than usual I just couldn't stop sleeping. Then once I'd finally rousted myself and was thinking about my chores for the day I thought, 'wouldn't it just be easier to put a gun in my mouth?' I thought about where I could do it that would a) cause the least amount of mess and b) cause my wife the least amount of shock.

Then I realized that I was ticking through the symptoms of depression. The big D was back. So, I took a St. John's Wort capsule at lunch but forgot to at dinner. That's because I fell asleep AGAIN at 6p and slept right up until my wife came home at 8. I was too groggy and distracted by the fact that I'd missed making dinner for us to remember my pill.

Got it in this morning though and, as much as I can, plan to three times a day from here on.

It's so hard but at the same time so comically predictable. I'll get to that herbal week I promised soon but for now I need to climb out of this hole.

Monday, May 4, 2009

An Herbal Week

For the third or fourth time since launching The Pursuit of Happiness I'm going to try to take this blog in a new direction. On a more or less weekly basis I'm going to pick a ______ and Depression theme and produce four or five entries about it. Why? I'll get into that at the bottom of this post.

This week I'm going to get into herbs and depression. Obviously the big herb in depression therapy is St. John's Wort. I have discussed SJW, especially my experiences with it, ad nauseam in the past. Tomorrow I'll cover it a bit more thoughtfully. Then later in the week I'll get into other herbs that directly or peripherally can be helpful for those suffering from depression.

Personally, I'm a big fan of herbs. I first got into them when I a) fell in love with pesto and b) priced fresh basil in the grocery store. Suddenly an herb garden with lots and lots of basil made a lot of sense. Now I keep a fair sized herb garden with oregano, chives, sage, arugula, rosemary, three types of basil (sweet or Genovese, columnar and African blue), mint and a few various others that change from season to season.

This all began a few years before my diagnosis of mild depression. When that happened and my therapist tried to take me straight to medication I instead turned to my herb garden. I knew about St. John's Wort but had never grown it nor did I want to. I thought that I probably couldn't produce a consistent enough dosage for it to be effective.

But my diagnosis specifically was mild depression brought on by social anxiety. I still wonder if that is BS b/c the drug she wanted me to take was actually for social anxiety and I'm the suspicious type. However it felt right because I was pretty sure I was depressed and I've been socially anxious my whole life; don't need a diagnosis to know that!

So I read up on the herbs that I already happened to have and made a list of the ones that were said to be helpful against depression as well as relaxing or useful against anxiousness. Anyone who's suffered from depression knows that even temporary relief is blessed, one reason that I think depression can lead to a lot of addictions.

I harvested all of the herbs on my list - five or six, I think it was - and mixed them with about an equal amount of green tea. The stuff tasted like muddy feet but it really did make me feel better. I was working at an office at the time and would come home and lunch to a cup of the tea. It always left me feeling relaxed and, not happy, but content. The effect usually lasted two or three hours.

So that plus the previous entries about SJW have been my experience with herbs and depression. We'll get into more specific discussion about this through the rest of the week.

Why am I doing this?
OK, for anyone still reading and for my regular readers who are probably the only people interested in the why of my new _______ and Depression series.

I'm doing it specifically because I'm out of money. I've been working at home, freelancing for three and a half years now. As everyone else in the world is saying, the economy finally got me. I'm having a much harder time finding clients, my savings have dried up and my taxes were a lot more than I expected.

So I'm trying to turn some of my hobby and navel-gazing sites, like this one, into money makers.

Now, my motivation may be crass but it is one of necessity. Even so, my voice here will remain the same honest, confessional voice that it always has been. Hiding behind anonymity gives me the freedom to be much more honest than I can in anything else that I do.

So, to my loyal readers, I say thank you for the support and comments that you have left on this blog and sent to me personally. I hope that you will continue to read and you enjoy the new direction.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

That Space Between a Good Time and Bad Memory

I attended an industry event last night. It was great fun. I got to spend time talking to people who actually DO what I spend my professional time just writing about. I met members of the industry that I hadn't yet and spent time with people whom I truly admire for their craft.

The drive home was very happy as I reflected on the night. I'd had a great time, made new friends, and learned a little more about my industry. I thought about the different articles I could write, the magazines I could sell them to, what I could blog about, etc.

Then this morning I woke up and started to work on a blog post. That's when the social anxiety monster started whispering in my ear. He reminded me of a less than intelligent question that I asked. He pointed out how fat I must have looked next to some of the prettier people at the event. And he plainly stated that I clearly embarrassed myself and should never show my face around any of these people ever again.

If I let my typical pattern continue I'll have myself convinced that the night was a total disaster for me within a few days. By next weekend I should be in full on depression mode.

Even if I'm conscious of the process, can I stop it?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nothing To Report

Just checking in to report that there's nothing to report.

My year isn't quite as bright and shiny as it was but I still haven't had any really dark days. Still off the SJW, too. It's odd, that. I just realized one day that I had forgotten to take it for a few days and I didn't miss it one whit. I still have a massive pill bottle of it in my desk drawer.

A few things have cropped up but they hardly rate as depressive episodes, just emotional bumps. The first was yesterday I had to get nasty with a magazine that owes me money for some work that I did last summer. I hated doing it and even though I was in the right I still felt small and mean for the rest of the day. That's an odd thing; I know I'm not alone in it. The more I am in the right and the greater the insult to me, the worse I feel when I overtly react to it.

Another is a dear friend lost her mother. As you might imagine I have few friends. This has less to do with my sometimes apparently abrasive personality and more to do with the fact that I simply let few people in. Well, she is one. She's quite a bit older than me and it wasn't unnatural for her mother to go. But I don't really know what to do. I called her when I heard and we talked for around 30 minutes. She discovered her mother collapsed in her (mother's) house so she had to live every minute of that horrible day. Now she's descended into her family as they deal with everything that has to be dealt with. I want to do something for her but I feel like I'll only be intruding. I may give her another call on Friday.

Finally, an old friend who's been gently trying to reconnect with me for months finally forced the issue. I cut him off years ago. I was having a very bad year with my family and … well, it's all stupid and the details are pretty boring if you didn't live them. Suffice to say that I was petty with him and was just being stupidly stubborn. So, he lives a continent away now and pinned me down via facebook. He sent a long, nice email just catching up. No mention of my pettiness. He ended the message by saying that I was someone for whom he felt great affection. Those were his words, great affection. I don't think anyone has ever said that to me. It was startlingly disarming especially when said between two heterosexual men. It made me regret the years.

But, like I said, nothing of the deep, black depression that has engulfed me in the past. Just life.

So that's my update for now. Cheers all!

photo by elisafox

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh, and one more thing

Forgot to mention, I have another book review coming up. Penguin contacted me and wanted to know if I'd check out Climbing Out of Depression: A Practical Guide to Real and Immediate Help so as soon as it arrives and I can carve out a few hours to read it I'll let you know what I think.

Ray's Shiny New Year

Hey, wow, did I leave this blog hanging or what? What a bleak entry that last one was! I was on no sleep; exhausted and sure that I'd never get a peaceful night again.

Then the dreams stopped.

Literally stopped within a night or two of my having written it. I have two theories. One is that I needed the therapy of describing them to someone. (Thanks, readers, for your feedback and more importantly just being there for me to describe them to.) Or two they were holiday related. The date on that post is Dec. 28 meaning that Christmas falls right in the middle of that period of a solid week of nightmares.

But for now they've stopped for whatever reason and I'm grateful.

I've actually been feeling pretty well these last few weeks. I don't have any reason to but when can a depressive look outwardly to explain his feelings? The economy is hitting me hard. A significant portion of my income is based in a sector of US business that is really hurting so consequently my checkbook is, too. Frankly I don't know how I'm going to make it through next month.

Nevertheless I've been in the best mood since New Year's Day that I can remember for months. It might have to do with my clean desk. I ritualistically clean down my office and package up everything from the old year sometime in the first week of the new year. There's nothing quite like a clean desk and office. It's a silly little thing but there it is.

I even realized yesterday that I haven't taken SJW for days and haven't missed it.

It's all almost disconcerting!