I hesitate to write this for many reasons. I’m tired of writing about it and I’m tired of talking about it. The last job I had was working with people with depression who were undergoing a treatment called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). I’ve had the treatment and it worked, so it was easy for me to relate to the patients and them to me. I would tell them stories about how it was for me. I would tell them about never answering the phone, no matter who was calling. I would tell them about all the cancelled appointments or lunches with friends and the excuses I made to get out of them. Diarrhea was always a good one because it was usually true. The anxiety leading up to having to be somewhere would wreck my stomach. The patients would tell me how hard it was to take a shower or brush their teeth. No one who hasn’t had depression gets that. They would talk about the dishes in the sink and the laundry piling up. They would tell me how lazy and shitty they felt about it. Helpless and hopeless. I would tell them to forget the million dishes and just put five things away during a commercial break, because five is way more manageable than a million or even ten. They understood, and I could see them light up, if only for a minute, being able to talk to someone who really got it. But as rewarding as it was, it also wore me the fuck out some days. Eight hours in a dark room with depressed people can take its toll. And some people had comorbid conditions that would not allow them to hear anything, which is unbelievably frustrating.
I also had to write and tell my “story” for the company. For sales. I would tell prospective patients about being an English professor—it sounded better than Adjunct Faculty—before the depression and anxiety hit. I would tell them about losing my job and moving in with my mom. I would tell them about the drinking. About how I drank so much that I got pancreatitis and almost died. How I’m diabetic now and don’t have a gall bladder or spleen. The suicide plans. The pills that didn’t work. The doctors. The therapists. How worried my parents and friends were. I told them that no one understood. About the people who kept asking me “Why?” And finally, I would tell them about TMS and how it saved my life. I haven’t had a drink since. I don’t isolate and getting shit done is easy.
While all that is/was completely true, it gets a little fucked up when you have to do a commercial about it. Imagine not being in control of your story anymore. Imagine people recognizing you on the street. Not exactly how I wanted my fifteen minutes of fame. I got so sick of it that my boss got better at telling my story than me. The owner of the company would tell my “story” to doctors he was trying to convince to go into business with him. After a very short time, the business part got beyond disgusting.
Another reason I was resisting writing this is because I feel like everyone I know already knows these things about me. Most of the people who read my blog at this point are my friends. (Feel free to skip this one, guys.) As a person with depression, you get the idea that everyone is sick of hearing your shit, but that’s the disease talking. And yes, it is a disease, like random cancer. There is a physiological difference in the brain. Nothing in particular caused it and it is not your fault.
And those are just a few of the reasons I didn’t want to write and post this.
As I was telling myself all the reasons I didn’t want to write about depression, I realized that all those reasons are exactly why I should write it. Awareness is key to curing any disease and it’s no different with mental illness. If anything, it’s more important to talk about because of the stigma related to it. Not only do others not understand, but those of us suffering don’t either. We still think it’s some character flaw or weakness, so we stay silent. We keep our mouths shut to avoid judgment—whether the judgment is there or not. Anyway, here’s what’s happening with me right now.
Before I came up with all the excuses not to write about this, I was thinking about my current mental state. In the last year or so, my depression has slowly crept back in. It is nowhere near as bad as it was before TMS, but it still sucks. I don’t want to do anything or be with anyone. I don’t have any fun doing anything. Dishes and toothbrushing are problems again. And again, I don’t want anyone to know. I don’t want them worry. I don’t want people to think I’ll drink again. I’m not going to but I do wonder if people are thinking it. That last part is probably ridiculous, but a bit of paranoia comes with being a recovering alcoholic. Anyway, faking it wears you the fuck out, and no matter how good we think we are at faking it, people know.
It became very clear to me this morning that some old patterns have resurfaced. As I was planning my day—making a to-do list and worrying about being unemployed—I started to get anxious about not having enough diet Coke to last the rest of the day. Of course, that’s fucking dumb, but it felt almost as bad as the thought of running out of booze. I started to think about running out of money for diet Coke and cigarettes. I thought about how embarrassing it would be to ask my girlfriend or mom or whomever for money for those things. I shouldn’t be drinking that much soda or smoking that many cigarettes anyway. The anxiety of it was really fucking me up. All I wanted was to be home alone with enough soda and cigarettes to last through the day. I wanted the doors locked and the blinds shut. Minutes after my girlfriend left, I drove to the grocery store and bought three twelve-packs. I also bought ice so I could put the cokes in the cooler. Pulling cans out of a cooler seems so much more comforting or something. Yeah, I knew what I was doing. Cans. Cooler. Fear of running out. Fear of people and being away from home. Not wanting people to know what I was up to. Putting it all off as long as I could before giving in. Jesus.
But I’m not going to drink or kill myself or anything like that. I haven’t given up. The TMS has kept the real darkness away. I’ve started seeing a new doctor and we’re playing with my meds. I’m reminding myself that new treatments come out all the time. I’m pretty sure I just need a med adjustment, but it’s good to keep all the other options in mind.
I should be wrapping this up with a nice little paragraph, reminding you that you’re not alone. You’re not. I should eloquently repeat the part about awareness. That shit is key. I should go back through this to make the point of view and verb tense consistent, but I’m not going to. I’ve washed my five dishes today and I’m about to go brush my teeth.