Depression 2: A Very Unsexy Update

I haven’t posted an update since the end of August, and while there are reasons for this, they’re not reasons I like—or even like to acknowledge. In fact, I started working on this post in one form or another about two weeks ago, and only that after an acquaintance, coming to understand my situation, suggested that a general update might be in order for the sake of keeping folks informed. He was right, and I told him as much—but it still took me this long to be able to drag myself to the keyboard to get it done.

As I said, there’s a reason for that. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder about ten years ago. In reality, I’d been struggling with it most of my post-pubescent life, but it wasn’t until a particularly devastating event dragged it to the surface that I consented to let anyone put a name on it. And even then, I resented the naming of the name. We’ll get to why shortly.

Unlike normal periods of sadness and grief, this flavor of depression is pretty brutal—or at least my experience of it is. In essence, it shuts down my life. Most of the time when it hits, I’m resilient enough—just enough—to be able to get necessary things done. I can pay the bills, meet most do-or-die public obligations, go to work and go through the motions, put on a decent face at the store or the bank, not scowl too much when friends pay a visit. But behind that façade, the world feels like another planet, but not the kind where you’d want to have an adventure.

It’s like a veil drops down, and nothing matters. And I do mean nothing. Not just, say, the stack of model robots and airplanes I like to build and which are gathering dust on my office shelf. Not just the book or magazine I started reading four months ago and then suddenly couldn’t be forced to finish if my life depended on it. Things like managing basic daily tasks go to hell, too. Things like caring whether I’ve checked the mail (I think maybe I did Friday), or if I’ve brushed my teeth (maybe), or whether I have clean socks or dishes (nope).

When depression gets me by the throat in the worst way, it can spiral much blacker and deeper, too. I’m not suicidal now, thankfully, but I have been before during past battles, and even though that registers quite clearly as unreasonable to the logical parts of my mind, there’s this howling, nebulous little corner of my universe where it makes an unsettling amount of sense. When I blunder into that space, it’s not pretty. Currently (and for a good long while since last time) it’s not an issue. With any luck, and with hard work, it will hopefully remain that way for a long while to come.

But in spite of what I just said, it’s important to stress that my depression did get hold of me at the end of the summer in a bad, if not the worst, way. It’s had its claws dug in ever since, and I’m not out of its clutches yet. Thankfully, with the support of my very patient spouse and too many others to count or easily name here, I’ve kept the very worst of it at bay. But it is very real.

As I’ve observed before on this blog, I don’t like admitting it’s real. I come from a background where things like depression aren’t “real” maladies. They are signs of sin, excuses, weak-spiritedness, absences of faith, or attempts to secure attention or hurt others. But most significantly of all, people facing such issues are considered to be failures regardless of whether they overcome them or are consumed by them—simply because they have faced them.

So in confronting my own depression, I often find myself unwilling to accept that it exists (and therefore unwilling seek help battling it) despite the fact that I can map with reasonable accuracy every single time it has kicked my ass since about the age of 12.

It’s kicking my ass right now, for instance.

But I’m undertaking to get help with it this time. If you’ll entertain a bit of blunt, dark humor, I’m sick to death of it. That being the case, it’s worth noting that “fixing” this bout of depression so I can finish up Oath as I intend isn’t a precise art. I’m in the midst of a lot of work hauling myself out of the hole, and I’m often consumed by the frustration that I can’t cure it with willpower, or cauterize it like a gaping wound, or lop it off like a rotten appendage and move on with my life, get back to normal quickly, get things done.

I realize that where I’m at right now may look like laziness, but I want to assure you that it is not. I will finish Oath, and I will go on to complete other projects, too. I have many of them planned. Right now, though, I feel like I’m falling down on the job here, being a bad writer, a bad human being, you name it. But I also know my mind, right now, in its current state, wants to “hurry up and fail” so it can confirm what it already believes: that Oath will fail because I, by (an illogical) definition, must fail—you know, because depression.

But I refuse to consign this project or any other to failure just because of a self-sabotaging thought pattern that has no grounding in reality. What that means, unfortunately, is that work on Oath must, by necessity, be slow going until I have attended to this current battle.

I have been advised by folks whom I trust to provide wise external perspectives that this is good. That more time, even if I don’t like it, is what this needs. Right now, I’m going to trust that perspective, as the past months have told me that my understanding of certain things is out of joint. I’m not a little grumpy about it, but so far all the advice I’ve received has turned out to be good.

So if that means more time, whether I like it or not, I have to give it more time. But it will get done. All I can ask of you at this juncture is your patience as I work through this.