Last night, about 3 AM, I woke up with heart pounding, a profound sense of dread filling me up, accompanied by a deep sadness, and sense of loss. I'm not given to full blown panic attacks, having had maybe two or three in sixty years, but this one got close.
It also reminded me of how I felt when I was caught up in the depths of clinical depression. That cost me seven years of my life, a marriage, and a lot of money.
A short digression into this subject is in order: clinical depression is the most common mental illness out there. It is also the most treatable. If you've never suffered through this, let me explain I'm not talking about being "down in the dumps" or "the blues," or "being sad," or "feeling depressed over something," but rather a state of altered brain chemistry, specifically, a lack of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, along with endorphins, enkeplyns, dopamines, and other chemicals are what makes the brain work the way it's supposed to. Without them, you get seriously funky in little to no time. Well meaning people who don't understand the problem will say, "Hey, cheer up!" "Go out for a walk; you'll feel better," or other things that sound like they're speaking in a foreign language to the person who's depressed. Because the trap of clinical depression is you think you're supposed to feel that way. You can't imagine getting up off the couch and going for a walk, and if you know how to cheer up, you would, but you don't know how. You do, however, know how to do misery really well.
So at 3 am feeling deep worry over something really doesn't derserve to be worried over, I'm in the grips of "Oh my God, not depression again!"
See, when you've survived it once, when you have a bad moment, you don't think "I just had a bad moment." You think, "Oh no, not again!" It's a real worry, even if it's not a real problem. Such is the nature of the subjective reality of the human mind.
I call these events "ghosts and echos." See, there's a young woman about whom I care a great deal; she's been a good friend and I enjoy her company. I thought she was going to call. She didn't. So, I shrugged and got on with my day. But at 3 AM my subconscious is churning up old crap, completely unrelated to the here and now and suddenly I am wrestling with a ghost. It's like she caught someone else's paybacks. So, the mental stuff are ghosts, haunting the here and now. The echos are the feelings that come back to you, even if they are not remotely related to your here and now. Suddenly I'm feeling abandoned, betrayed, whatever, but again it has nothing to do with what's going on today.
That's the trap of clinical depression if you let it be, a smooth transition from the real world into a world filled with cognitive distortions and emotional land mines. It's a bad place to find yourself.
The trick is to recognizer the feelings as being false. Oh, they feel real enough. There were moments at 3 AM I wanted to call and shout, "Where have you been! Why didn't you call!" and any other nutty, irrational things totally unrelated to her, in reality, and very much related to someone in my past who put me through hell. Now, most of you I suspect would not appreciate being awoken at 3 am. Even fewer to be awoken at 3 am to have someone yell at you. And I doubt one of you would appreciate being awoken at 3 am to be yelled at for something someone else had done in the past.
In mentioning my lousy night on a couple of the social networks, some people sent me some e-mail and that caused me to think it was time for this blog post.
Clinical depression is crippling if you let it be. It can be cured. Exercise, diet, rest, SSRI medication if needed, and therapy can all take care of it. If you think you might be suffering, there are a dozen web sites with self-tests you can take that will give you a better insight into this. if you know you're depressed, get help. It is beatable.
See, I work up at 3 am with my heart pounding through my chest, convinced I was being lied to, used, taken advantaged of, and played for a fool, and that I was once again heading back into the deepest, darkest place I've ever been, and then after a few minutes I went, "Oh, no, that was last year when all that was going on, and I'm never going to be depressed again."
You can win this one.
Copyright 25th August 2009 by Raymond E. Feist.
No reproduction without permission.