So, I have this disease, it's called depression.
It used to be that people thought this disease was a character flaw, that only people who were weak or overly dramatic or of a "nervous disposition" would get depressed. But now we know that there are chemical changes that occur in the brain when one goes from simply having the blues, to an actual state of chemical depression. Those things that mght cause pleasure or elevated mood have either a severely reduced effect, or no effect at all. The depressed state becomes normal, and the bodies homeostatic mechanisms seek to keep it that way. That's a gross oversimplification, of course, so my apologies to you genuine scientists and medical folk, like erythromeister. Also, we can inherit a disposition for this disease, which I certainly have.
Things which are clinically interesting, but personally an impossible annoyance occur when one is depressed. Depression may be the only disease that makes the sufferer believe that he deserves to have it. This is a particularly insidious symptom, because it makes the depressed one less likely to seek out treatment, less able to work hard at treatment, and less likely to do things which will reduce the severity and length of the affliction. Also, one's capacity for rational thought is reduced ... or at least, the thoughts my occur, but they are not given the normal weight that they would have in someone who is not depressed.
I had a long talk with my bestest friend, the Hobbit, last night. The scariest part of this has been recognizing that I was having irrational thoughts, but not being able to stop it. The truth is that a really serious depression is debilitatingly awful. The suffering one endures is genuinely acute. I don't want to sound overly emo, and too hand-on-my-forehead "oh, I cast myself on the thorns of life, woe is me!" ... but it's real, the suffering. It's so awful that the mind has to find a way to escape it. To simply endure it is impossible. If you've had it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you probably think I'm just being dramatic. I'm not, I swear.
So what happens to me is that I seek some method of escape from the torment. I can easily see how this creates addicts - if getting drunk or high would make it better, even for a little while, I could see exactly why someone would become dependent on that release. For me, my thoughts fixate. I look at what I perceive to be the cause of the depression, and externalize it. The suffering isn't because of ME, it's because [insert heartbreaker here] left me, and if only she'd love me again, I would be okay. So I try and make that happen, because even though my rational mind is screaming that it won't work - that even if I somehow succeed, it actually doesn't change the underlying problem, which is my propensity for depression. But my mind needs escape, and so I keep finding myself in a loop; imagining scenarios that lead to a reuniting, re-playing things that went wrong and imagining how I might have done them right, concocting plans to demonstrate my worthiness and loveability. But all along, there's my rational self trying to get back in the driver's seat - knowing that none of the things that I'm fixating on are really a solution at all, and in fact, will probably make matters worse, not better.
Finding myself unable to exert conscious control over my thoughts was very frightening. I knew what I wanted to be thinking and feeling, and why I should be doing... I just couldn't. My own internal resources were simply insufficient to the task. Anyone who tells you the cure for depression is just cultivating a certain state of mind is wrong. There are times when the chemical imbalance is just too strong - one can have the right thoughts to cultivate that mindfullness, and simply have no effect.
And this is where medicine comes in. I've been taking Wellbutrin (really its generic equivalent) for a week and a half now. It's made a huge difference. It's not that I don't still have those irrational thoughts -- but I'm no longer completely fixated, and my rational mind is driving the bus again. I am still unhappy, particularly when I am not otherwise distracted - but it's no longer intolerable. It's manageable. And things which give pleasure actually feel good again - food tastes good, music is enjoyable, the company of friends is valuable... other um, stuff... Obviously, there's work to be done to root out the underlying problems, and address them thoroughly. But now I can at least get on with life. Staying busy helps tremendously, as does exercise. The psycho amount of exercise I've been getting is invaluable - not only does it keep my mind occupied so I don't feel so unhappy, but also I feel physically better, look better, and am healthier. And Aikido in particular was always a potent way for me to stay mentally centered and focused, so that's doubly good. Not to mention the perk to well-being and self-esteem that comes with significant weight loss. (14 pounds since "D-Day")
It's not a panacea though. I still can't sleep through the night, I wake up after a few hours and can't get back to sleep. I still have a sharply reduced appetite. And probably the worst part is that if I am not mentally occupied pretty much every minute of every day, it catches up with me, and I start to castigate myself for being in this predicament in the first place. My thoughts run away with me, and I feel down and disappointed and heartbroken all over again. The difference is, now I can snap out of it.
Another funny thing about depression - when I've talked with other friends who are dealing with it, I am of course full of confidence and assertions that it's just a disease, that it's not your fault - blaming yourself (or another) for depression is like blaming them for a broken leg. But when I get it? Oh, that's totally different, I'm here because I'm worthless, because I'm too weak to have a normal brain without outside assistance. It's my fault, you see? Fortunately, my rational brain is driving the bus enough to at least recognize that it's not a rational thought, and I should let it pass. But yet another example of how insidious a disease depression is - one develops double-standards, to one's own detriment.
The struggle goes on. I'm blessed, truly blessed, by friends who have gone to great lengths to help. It's working. I'm winning the fight, though it's still on-going.