The Great(ish) Depression of 2010
I used to scoff at the idea that depression was a valid medical condition. I figured that people “suffering” from depression were either lazy or overly dramatic. I’d like my crow served medium-rare with a side of fries, please.
Winters in Wisconsin are notoriously long and cold. It’s pretty common to go a little stir crazy while waiting for the precious nirvana that is spring. So when I started feeling down, towards the beginning of 2010, I assumed it was just my annual longing to escape the purgatory of the Wisconsin winter.
As the winter months wore on, my mood continued to worsen. I began losing interest in everything I normally enjoy. I had no desire to watch my favorite shows, play my favorite games, attend my weekly gaming session with my friends, spend time with my family, or participate in… other enjoyable activities. The “mood” was affecting every aspect of my life. I would go to work, stare blankly at my desk, come home, and immediately want to go to bed. I started missing due dates on college assignments. I was basically a zombie, minus the desire to eat brains and star in Michael Jackson videos.
Another unfortunate symptom of the Zombie Effect™ was that it seemed to remove the filter that kept me from saying hurtful things to the people I love. There were times when I knew I was saying something I’d normally regret, but I just couldn’t make myself care. I was disconnected from the thought of any potential consequences of my words and actions.
Aside from my increasing nastiness, I did a pretty good job of hiding just how deeply I’d sunk. Even my closest friends didn’t realize there was anything wrong. I’ve got a bit of a reputation for being somewhat anti-social, so when I began distancing myself even further from my regular social circles, I doubt anyone thought too much of it. Only my wife had any inclination of what was going on and even she didn’t realize the full extent. I was too embarrassed to talk about my situation. In fact, as of this writing, only a handful of people are aware of my recent struggles.
My wife will be the first to tell you that I’m a stubborn person. Even as my ability to enjoy life was quickly draining away, I still refused to acknowledge that the cause might be something more serious than the weather. Dawn kept imploring me to talk to a doctor, but I was determined that my bad mood would blow over soon and I’d be able to kick myself back into gear. But everything I did – or didn’t do – just seemed to make the situation worse. I began comfort eating which, combined with my complete lack of activity, caused me to gain weight and feel even worse about myself. I felt guilty about failing my family and being a burden to Dawn. Again, making me feel worse. It was a vicious circle.
I began realizing that this wasn’t something I could just will away, around Valentine’s Day. We had plans to have Dawn’s mom babysit the kids while we went out on a double date with our friends at my favorite restaurant. Normally, this would have made me a pretty happy camper. Date night is enough of a rarity, but dinner at a restaurant we only eat at once or twice a year, with the potential for a romantic Valentine’s evening to follow… Sign me up, right? Wrong. Not only did I dread every minute leading up to our night out, but I was intensely uncomfortable throughout dinner, unable to enjoy any aspect of the meal. Even the food – which is amazing – didn’t taste good to me. All I could think about was going home, climbing into bed, and going to sleep. A few days later, I finally went to see a doctor.
Despite my formerly cynical view of depression, it turns out medical professionals take it pretty seriously. One of the first things they asked was whether I’d had any thoughts of suicide. While I never directly considered taking my own life, I will admit that my thoughts got pretty dark for a while. I started entertaining the idea that maybe my family could get back to being happy and carefree again if I was out of the picture. Of course, as I write that now, it sounds absurd. But at that point, reason had taken a back seat to shame, guilt, and frustration.
Thank God I have such supportive friends and family. Once I finally caved in to Dawn’s pleas to seek help, the doctor was able to find the proper medication to help treat my depression. I’d love to be able to tell you that everything has been sunshine and rainbows ever since, but that would be an exaggeration. I still have bad days. But they are much fewer and farther between. I’ve regained interest in my old activities and have even increased my physical activity level from what it was before I joined the ranks of the undead.
At the risk of sounding like an After-School Special, I would like to encourage anyone who is struggling with depression to seek help. I’m certainly glad I did. I only wish my stubbornness and fear of ridicule hadn’t kept me from enjoying the several months prior.
So… I suppose this means I have to actually get my assignments in on time and attend extended family functions. Oh well. I hear Crown Royal is the proper course of treatment for those particular issues.