WARNING: There may be a few adult concepts in here and dirty words. But, trust me, it’s all from the heart.
Have I been fun to be around this year? Specifically, the past seven or so weeks, since I was first hospitalized? Because there have been some super lean times in my life. Not just lean times. Desperate times. Hopeless times. Very dark times. I’ve been hospitalized twice, been seen by a team that consists of a therapist, a naturopath, a doctor, two psychiatrists and one neuropsychologist to be named later. I’ve been on mental health leave since mid-May. It’s been a nightmare of a year for me, one that started with me writing the terribly difficult “Thoughts. Feelings.” note back in January. That note sort of acted as a road map to what, exactly, I am not happy with in my life. Most of that note is still valid. Now there are new wrinkles, each one is pretty ugly.
FIrstly... day to day life has been tough. Like, super tough. Here’s a super awesome visual: It feels like my self-confidence has been shattered and I am trying to pick up the pieces, day by day, hoping to come up with a reasonable facsimile of what my self confidence used to be. It’s a non-linear process. Some days have been days that I build confidence, some days it feels like confidence is totally lost and we’re right back at square one. It’s been a process of getting better, but I have come up with a few things that have helped me to get back to stable.
One of the new things I’ve tried are pills. This has been the year of antidepressants being introduced into my life, and that has been less than enjoyable. Firstly, antidep’s do not work as well as you’d hope, for those who have never used them. They can numb some emotional pain but they can’t take it all away nor can they convert the pain into pleasure. Was I expecting this? Yes! Talk about unreal expectations. I was expecting this because I had heard of what happens when you come off of antidep’s like Paxil. I thought, “Wow, if they’re so hard to come off of, they’d better do some miracles while you’re on them.” Uh, no. They do not make miracles happen. I don’t have any experience in quitting them, I do have some light experiences of missing doses. Those are bad times. I’ve written about them.
Another thing I’ve been trying to do is minimizing doing things that ultimately bring me down and maximizing things that either neutralize bad feelings or make me feel better about myself. One thing that has made me feel bad about myself, recently... well, this is a tough one. But one of the things that has made me feel pretty awful about myself is alcohol, specifically the day after I drink a lot of it. I have had too many mornings where I wake up hungover, headachey and alone. I also think “Man, I let a lot of people down” when I drink. This feeling... wow. This is a new thing for me. Ever since the beginning of the year I have felt overly anxious about what other people are thinking about me. Dangerous? Probably. But I can’t shake it. It might be a little weird to think this way, but it is what it is, and it is what I am going through right now. I am on an anti-anxietal partially because of this. That isn’t too fun to be on, either, especially when you miss a dose and then think about it all day.
WARNING: Mixing medications and alcohol is damn dangerous. I’ve tried to not do that but I think I’ve unintentionally taken them too closely together and that has contributed to feeling terrible. If you’re doing this, stop it.
But anyway, going back to alcohol, if I get through this, I will be cutting back on the brown bottle mania that has consumed a lot of my life. It’s tough considering I once thought alcohol was some entry to a club, some secret handshake, some way to get “some” that’s just a little higher than the level I could normally achieve. As it turns out... it does very little good in the moment and too much bad after the moment. At least that’s the way it is with me. Currently I have some impulse control problems with liquor... So, I mean, I’m not going to pull a Homer Simpson, sing a cover of Sinatra and dump a six pack down the drain... I’m just going to wean myself away from alcohol and take steps to avoid the stuff.
What else is good? Writing! Well, it’s not always good. It’s possibly the most neutral thing I do. I have always loved writing. Journaling is something that’s helped me get through some tough times. It’s therapeutic to write things down. Sometimes I think I overshare a bit, but like almost everything I do, it’s from the heart, so at least you know that it’s totally sincere. (Also I will very rarely go all TMI on Facebook’s virgin ears, count on it.) One of the main reasons I write is simple: so I can document what I went through and so I can figure out how I got through it. Living is a hard thing to do -- lessons aren’t often learned the easy way. So I write stuff down and hopefully learn from it. It’s great, it makes for some amazing stories, it keeps my writing skills going, it just plain makes me feel human about a potentially impossible situation.
SIDENOTE: Yes, I know that maybe it isn’t the best to update social media with a lot of details but come on. How else am I supposed to let everyone know what’s going on really quickly?
Speaking of others... Man, this is where it gets tough. I have spoken to people about my depression and have received interesting responses. My family doctor is befuddled by my depression. A friend of mine said “Keith, I never thought you were depressed, because you’re the most positive person I’ve ever met.” (That might be a combination of two things two people said.) Well... When I get the strength to go out, I try to be as positive as I possibly can. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but most of the time I am strong enough to smile and look alright. I joke around, I make good jokes, I sound like I know what I am talking about. I always have! Now, more than ever, when I am in a constant emotional crisis, I want to at least look like everything’s alright in my part of the world. I have always made it a point to treat others with the dignity, respect, and compassion they deserve...
And thank God I’ve done that, because now, when it feels like I am down, out, useless, and just wasting space, there have been people that have let me know that is not so. The usual suspects have stepped up (family, including one family member who, famously, will “never get Facebook”) and I thank you guys for caring... but also, people in this community have taken the time to let me know they care about me, or that they are on my side. I have made a lot of friends within this city, and, at the one of the best times they could step up and let me know they care for me, they love me, and they are rooting for me, they have. One person who I “coach” said it best: “Keith, you are loved and needed.” Damn. Another person I rarely see let me know they are on my side, and that got me close to breaking down in public, which would be dumb, but appropriate for the situation. Yes, sometimes when I’m around others I break down and cry, or think about it, or talk about crying (which is really out of character for me) but... I also was told that crying is the best way to have the biggest emotional release. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign you’re being pushed to your absolute limits of your own strength. It’s healthy to cry. And the support other people have shown me, from strangers on twitter to people I have been close with for years, is healthy to me and makes me weep, happily, knowing there are people out there who are thinking about me, even at my darkest point.
A bunch of people have left a bunch of words with me, everything from gigantic messages to the most basic words of support -- “Hang in there.” Well, I have got to say that the support I’ve received has helped me focus a lot on hanging in there instead of hanging from something. (That’s dark, yes, but pretty accurate.) I am trying as hard as I can to go forward and become healthy. I wouldn’t if I didn’t believe that this depression is only a temporary thing, that I can beat this, that I will be able to accomplish goals set out for myself, that I can change my destiny... But I also am doing this because I don’t want everyone to be super sad over me. I’ve been to too many funerals. Those are basically the worst things that can happen in this world and I don’t want to be responsible for so much sadness at one time.
I hope I never forget that in my darkest hours, which I don’t think I’ve experienced yet, but I think I can beat. WHEN I get out of this depression and move forward with my life it’ll be a happy day. There will be tough times ahead, but I have to believe that good times are not far behind.
So if you see me out and about, stop me for a second to say hello, to give me a handshake or a hug, don’t be bothered if I hang on for too long, it’s weird, I know, but it’s part of the healing process. Be happy when you see me out and about, it means I’ve conquered a lot to be in a public situation. As my friend’s tattoo says, “When you’re walking through hell, keep walking.” I may be in the middle of my own personal hell, but I sure haven’t stopped.