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I have, for almost as long as I can remember (and that's a long time) suffered from dysthymia, also referred to as "chronic depression." It's a kind of depression that isn't usually as crippling and "get on the ledge"-ey as severe depression, but on the other hand, it never goes away. It's like the tide-- the water level rises and falls, but the sea is always there.

For the past several months, the tide has been getting higher and higher. While I'm sure the various stages of grief, anxieties about work, creative frustration, and other personal factors aren't helping, there's also a certain amount of "it's just doing what it's gonna do" about it.

This morning, when I told laurie_robey that I was depressed, she asked "What are you depressed about?" She meant it quite seriously and with all the love and care in the world, but it was just plain not a helpful question. There is no "what" that I'm depressed about, because depression is your brain shutting down its "awesome" receptors and firing off its "suck" receptors, and then trying to find a rationalization for why you feel so bad.

There are external circumstances that my depression has attached itself to, but they're not real "causes." You know how when you're grumpy, every little thing irritates you, but it's really just the grumpiness looking for a target? Depression works exactly the same way. I've had trouble coming up with creative works lately, and that bugs me, so the depression takes that and blows it up into despair (and makes a point of not noticing some of the strides I've made in artistic skill). I've lost contact with some of my old friends, so the depression takes that and blows it up into soul-crushing loneliness (and tries to sweep under the rug the fact that I've made quite a number of new friends over the past year).

Since Friday night, I've gotten precious little sleep, due to convention logistics and other factors, and that as much as anything led to this morning's emotional meltdown. So the true answer to Laurie's question, "What are you depressed about?" would be "I'm depressed about needing more sleep," which let's face it, is a pretty silly thing to wallow in despair over. It's not what I felt like I was depressed about, however. If you'd asked my emotional brain what it was so upset about, it would have replied with a laundry list of self-loathing neuroses, unfeasible wishes, and nonsensical complaints, all of which the brain manufactured to explain to itself what it was so sad about.

But there was no real "what." My thinking brain understands this and so called in sick and went back to bed. An extra four hours of sleep later and I've recovered a lot of my equilibrium and am somewhat functional again. My thinking brain has become quite adept over the years at spotting the depression at work and heading it off at the pass, but this morning the depression was in full force before my thinking brain was even awake, which is why it hit so hard.

But I am getting better now. Thanks for your patience and well-wishes, all! And if you suffer from depression yourself, remember to sleep! A nap is often the cheapest, most effective form of self-medicating for depressives... and without the crazy and dangerous side-effects.

-The Gneech


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 3rd, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
I don't know how hard it is for you to write about your depression and put it on the Internet, but I appreciate that you do. The more people that talk about their experiences with depression, and the more people they can get to listen, the more everyone understands what depression really is and how we can all deal with it.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
That's the main reason I post these things, really, is hoping other folks with similar issues will find something helpful, or at least comfort in not being alone.

And to explain to people why I get so moody at random. ^.^'

Jul. 3rd, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
I know exactly where of you speak.

My thoughts are with you (... and with me)
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
:) Thanks! Sometimes just knowing you're not alone can help!

Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for putting into words how my bi-polar disorder's down swing works. I've never really been able to enunciate how it worked, but that makes sense. Sad part is some days I'm bouncier than Pinkie Pie, other days I make Eeyore look happy and positive. I'm a trained actor, I've got an amazing happy mask, so when I get to my Eeyore days, I put on the mask and soldier on as best I can.

Just remember you have numerous friends that love you dearly. You've made yourself very special to more people than you likely realize. And you have been the source that kicked my swing back the other direction more times than I can count.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
^.^ Thanks!

I would imagine that bipolar is much the same as depression, except that instead of your "awesome" receptors shutting down, they trade off with your "suck" receptors.

When the brain is at the right balance, both sets of receptors are working in tandem to regulate your mood. But if the system is screwed up, you get weird results.

Jul. 3rd, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
Pretty much. And it's really *REALLY* weird, things that normally would trigger an "awesome" while balanced or upswing give a cynical "meh" and when up, things that should make me sad, I kinda go "Oh well." and pass by. And yes, this includes things like DEATH. :P (A very close friend's pet died while I was in an up swing, and I had to fake being upset for him. I literally could NOT feel down about it, of course, when I came DOWN a couple days later, that very REACTION was something I beat myself up over for the whole down swing.)
Jul. 3rd, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
Do you know exactly which neurotrasmitters are off-baseline? Is it something you could artificially compensate for? (e.g. deliberately increasing dopamine through exercise, or acetylcholine through choline supplements, etc.)
Jul. 3rd, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
No, that's way more than I know about it. I use "awesome receptors" and "suck receptors" metaphorically. The actual neuroscience, I know little-to-nothing about.

Jul. 3rd, 2012 06:42 pm (UTC)
SO wise. I'm proud to think of you as a friend :)

I'm lucky- I survived upwards of forty years with severe celiac depression (like, doctor in the psych ward tells you in all seriousness you will be on medication your whole life, severe)

The thing about celiac depression is, it seems to work by wheat in your system destroying your ability to metabolize B vitamins (like the vitamin C antagonist in the Gateway novel 'Heechee Rendezvous' by Frederic Pohl). Without them, all the awesome receptors flat out shut down- or more specifically, there seem to be some brain chemicals that regulate whether the world feels like 'a place to be in' or 'a howling worthless existential void'.

Because it's a weird truth that you often gravitate to stuff you're allergic to as comfort food, I lived in that void all my life and it conditioned my every thought and action. I remember bringing a therapist to tears because she'd got me through a bunch of incredibly tough situations, was proud of where I'd got to, expected me to be able to take some joy in it and went 'yay!' in total sincerity- and I hit her with a bleak look and went, stop that, I'm not six.

After I (a) learned about the celiac thing and cut out all wheat from my diet, and (b) discovered poni, now I can understand 'yay' some of the time. There's still a lot missing- you managed to find a mate, I did not- but I did find friends through other avenues and on the whole I'm quietly grateful and not too cranky and bitter, most of the time.

There's a few people out there who can appreciate what a triumph 'I'm usually not bitter and wanting to die' can be, and you're one of them. *hugs!*
Jul. 4th, 2012 03:14 am (UTC)
I've never heard of celiac depression before. Weird! I'm glad you've found out what's going on tho!

*hugs ya back*

Jul. 3rd, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
You know how when you're grumpy, every little thing irritates you, but it's really just the grumpiness looking for a target? Depression works exactly the same way.
Frankly, you list quite a few legitimate reasons for being unhappy, though. I don't honestly think I'd let one thing get me down so much, but all those going on at once? That's plenty of reason to be depressed. Even though lack of sleep sounds like an overly simple answer, it points to several things causing it.

So I don't think there's any harm in saying the answer to "what's depressing you" is "a lot of things" cuz it sounds to me like that's really what it IS...

Jul. 4th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
Well, yeah, there are things that I'm genuinely unhappy about; but I don't think they're really connected to my constant mood crashes lately. I'm sure they're not helping, tho. :)

In any case, yay hugs! ^.^

Jul. 3rd, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
I take naps with regularity. If I am just not feeling my usual self, I know a quick nap will straighten me right out again.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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