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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thinking about Depression and Psychosis

Oprah's got me thinking. I overslept so I'm all pensive now. She's doing a show about a guy who killed his two kids. She's having a hard time believing depression can cause something like that to happen.

Apparently the guy had just started new meds and all that, too. I won't begin to understand how a father can kill two five-year-old girls, but I could certainly understand a psychotic break or having thoughts that black. Not that I've been there.

I remember walking with an ex once and we were talking and somehow the subject of insanity came up, insanity and artists. The question was asked, did each of us think we had the capacity to become insane? He steadfastly denied it would/could ever happen to him (I strongly disagree) while I said it could easily happen to me.

I don't think I'm any more liable to go off my nut than the next guy, though. I think depression and psychosis are something we haven't even come close to understanding yet, and I do not underestimate their potential. Some people are lucky, they have no idea of what depression entails. Lucky. Some of us know it a little too well.

When I'm depressed, I tend to be very stoic about it most of the time, and I can do so because I tend to avoid people. I try not to let them in too much. I've never had violent thoughts. I've never thought of hurting myself, let alone killing myself. I wouldn't think it'd be that much of a leap from some of my darkest days, though.

The only things that possibly separate me from the rest of the pack when it comes to giving control to depression is that a) I know a lot about it and b) I tend to be a very open writer, and that openness sometimes gives me an element of control over certain things and certain perspectives that I might not otherwise have.

Chemical depressions, however, scare the hell out of me. Organic depressions are a matter of will. You simply need to recognize the fight, and then fight that fight. Chemical depressions are a world apart. It's like there's a puppet master behind the scenes and there's only so much slack in your strings.

This year was the first time I've ever endured a chemically-induced depression. I write this now about three months after the worst of it, but that three months feels like a year. I'm a completely different person. I feel stress, but I cope well with it. I have focus, I'm more grounded. Just a little over three months ago, I went through a few months of harshness that culminated in a four-day descent that I never, ever want to feel again. Had I not already known I was depressed and begun taking steps to fight it, I'm not sure I'd have come out of that quite so unscathed.

The worst of it hit me when I was not expecting it. I thought I was going on the mend. I'd begun meds already, a couple weeks prior, and then this freefall hit. When I remember that last week, I feel like I'm spinning. And it was the meds I was on. The pill, the last of a three-month suppression cycle -- four consecutive packs. A break in my emotions came the moment I got my period. Suddenly, a split in the clouds. Literally. It was incredible how much my mood changed within hours. I went from weeping on the phone with a counsellor in the morning, shaking with anxiety, to feeling like everything was going to be all right. And thank god. I don't know what might've happened had I sunk any lower than I did that last day there.

I will always, always have medical supervision when I take hormones or meds of any kind, is the outcome of that experience.

No, I can't understand how a parent could kill their own children, and I hope to God I never understand that. I don't, however, doubt the possibility that a psychotic break could cause a loving parent to do something as horrible as that. I don't doubt my ability to succumb to psychosis, though, nor should anyone else doubt theirs. The mind is a vast and infinitely powerful thing and we'll will never understand it. In fact, I sometimes think imagination and intellect could be a liability when it comes to psychosis. Look at John Nash. Intelligence doesn't mean stability. The greater the mind, the further the fall?

It'd be nice if more people could understand the blackness of depression. There's still so little understanding of it, and very little acceptance. Even having gone to the dance a couple times myself, I know I still judge mental illness. I find it hard to accept. And I know better. Hell, there's a long ways to go. Until we get there, though, people will continue hiding depression as a secret shame, and more people will continue to be hurt by actions that might've been prevented had they felt they could ask for more help. Ah, ignorance, you're such a bitch.

Post-script: My god, this is one of the hardest rains I've ever, ever seen. It's pounding against the windows. I need to head to work in this. I'm moving very slowly. The bus will be evil. There is no way to stay dry on a day like this.