December 23rd

Mental health is depressing

To my friends with genuine serious Depression

So, here's my confession to what little of the general world I could care about:

... for the last few months, I seem to have been struggling with some kind of Depression. And Anxiety too.


On the one hand, I do not simply mean "ugh, what a crap day".

I mean something like the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition)'s clinical definition of "Depressive Disorders":

"... other specified depressive disorder, and unspecified depressive disorder. Unlike in DSM-IV, this chapter “Depressive Disorders” has been separated from the previous chapter “Bipolar and Related Disorders.” The common feature of all of these disorders is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function. What differs among them are issues of duration, timing, or presumed etiology."

And, Anxiety Disorder: "anxiety is anticipation of future threat. Obviously, these two states overlap, but they also differ, with fear more often associated with surges of autonomic arousal necessary for fight or flight, thoughts of immediate danger, and escape behaviors, and anxiety more often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautious or avoidant behaviors. Sometimes the level of fear or anxiety is reduced by pervasive avoidance behaviors.".

On the other hand, part of me feels like I have no right to say anything like this; as if I had Impostor Syndrome. Why? Because I have people I damn well care about, friends and work colleagues past, even present, who have this thing. Seriously. Medically. Biologically, neurologically. The sort of thing that requires professional help by people who (at least on TV / Netflix / holotainer) wear the white coats and get ignored by most of the people in the movie.

And I am insanely, ridiculously, unfairly lucky.

For months, I've been waking up depressed every day. I have been self-medicating(*) in order to combat the "sad, empty, or irritable mood", the "somatic and cognitive changes", the "individual's capacity to function".

(*) yes, my regular GP is indeed aware of my self-medicating with, as Eddie Morra once said, "medication. Special medication". And if I hadn't self-medicated... I would not have been able to function. I'm standing up and saying that, right now. If I hadn't self-medicated, I'dve been huddled on the floor, unable to work, probably to respond.

But that's not the Unfairly Lucky part.

It is literally Psychology 101 (which I took as an Easy-A non-engineering unit when I studied Engineering) that there are Four Models Of Abnormality:
  • biological / medical (it's your body's fault, not yours) reasons
  • psychodynamic / Freudian (have you tried not repressing how you're feeling? Thanks, cigar-boy) reasons
  • behavioural / environmental (it's the environment's fault, you need to avoid that thing or get used to it) reasons
  • cognitive (have you tried thinking about or seeing it differently?) reasons.

I am terrifyingly lucky, because I figured I had only three hopeful ways of dealing with my depression. One involved "special medication". And was becoming less effective by the month.
And another just wasn't going to work unless I could find another job.

Yesterday, the last (half!) day of the year on the job, I needed the biggest work-day dose I've needed yet. I've been needing doses for months now, just to bring myself to get out of bed, get out the door, get to work. Well, that and the fear of getting fired. Even on the weekends I was tortured; had to try detoxing off the medication so the body could uptake more during the week, so I'd spend 36 to 40 hours of the weekend in a stumbling, lead-brained haze.

Today... the weekend before Christmas, the workplace has closed for the week... on a quarter of the caffeine I'd had yesterday, without any special medication, after the dose I had yesterday...

... I've put on the laundry, fixed two of my home computer-adminstration scripts, fixed the font-size issue in all my blogposts, written two more blogposts and fixed a third, arranged to deal with some family issues between two other members...

... and caught myself singing. Since this misery started, it's crazy-unusual for me to have put music on in the morning. Since July, the only singing I've been able to bring myself to do is once the medication has fully kicked in while driving in the car, to help me avoid thinking about some of the things I've been anxious about. Now? Here I am, no dose, and I've been singing along to the music.

And the only real change that's happened, compared to the last five months of my life, is... I'm not working for a week.

... in this - the season where Depression is seen to get worse...

I suspect that this is happening to me because there's more mental illness in my workplace than people suspect.
Warning: I am not a medical or psychological professional; but I suspect (can point to behaviours and a list of diagnostic symptoms) that my management demonstrate some signs of sociopathy (okay, antisocial personality disorder) or narcissistic personality disorder. Spend long enough in a twisted place, how do you avoid becoming twisted yourself?

... and isn't it worse, that these antisocial personality disorders running the hierarchy is a known, known, statistically known thing?

Please don't bother telling me I need to get out. Thanks, I worked that one out already. But that's not the point. The point is - for maybe a week, if I'm lucky, I get to escape.

The pressure, the pain, the squeezing crushing sensation in my head, the lack of energy, being so drained I find the idea of playing a computer game an unworkable completely show-stopping idea. I can't even read a book. I can't even watch a movie unless it's something I've seen already so I don't have to watch it too closely, but haven't seen so often it's going to bore and frustrate me.

Before this situation... I was sane. The only things that hit me even half as hard as this were:
  • losing a home / relationship (that one started me drinking alcohol. I stopped after I was out though)
  • nearing the end of an unsuccessful postgraduate study
  • or being afraid of losing a friend about whom I care deeply (that's the one that sent me back to the vodka a few times).

This working life has pushed me even harder than those things; plus, unlike then, I have pretty much no support now that I can ask for or rely on.

I'm stunned by how dramatic the change in me is after one single day. If anybody wants to take this as a condemnation of my workplace, go right ahead. If anybody wants to take that as some kind of celebration of my personal strength, oh stop it.

... my brain is finally clear enough for me to realise one other thing, too - those people suffering a biological, medical form-model of Depression or Anxiety...

... to my friends, people who are some of the nicest people I've ever known or worked with and have had life just fuck them over inside their own heads and need extreme, professional help to get through... there're at least three of you, you know who you are...

... I'm so sorry.

I'm sorry. I don't have a half of the problems you're living with and you haven't had the day's escape I'm so insanely grateful to have.

I understand. I know that's not enough. I'm sorry.

Please don't give up. Please don't stop.