Depression

A Journey Into Darkness 

I originally posted the following essay as a Facebook post, but I thought I would also put it on my blog, because I hope that perhaps someone might see this and know they are not alone and that they aren’t losing their minds as I did when it happened to me. 

I generally don’t issue content warnings, but I am making an exception in this case as it may be triggering for some. I am going to talk about my first panic attack and descent to depression thereafter. This was inspired by hearing Ari talking about their experiences on the SJW Circle Jerk.  

I should preface with saying that this panic attack I am describing was the the first one that was induced by substance use. I actually had one when I foolishly smoked too much of the that potent Amsterdam weed. I went there to visit when I lived with my Dad when he was stationed in Germany. The feelings were the same but only temporary. 

So on to the first “chemical imbalance” experience. I was sitting there drinking some cheap wine because I was too young yet to buy alcohol on my own. I was only 20. I was living with Stepmother and my then baby sister. Dad had gone to Omaha for a job and they were going to join him and I was planning on staying in school in Montgomery and staying with a friend. So anyway I am just sitting there drinking when all of a sudden this wave of utter terror overcame me. I had no idea what was going on because I was just sitting there and there was no external cause. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was going to die and my throat felt like it was closing up. For some reason I thought gargling salt water would help, which obviously didn’t do shit. I considered calling an ambulance because I really thought I was going to die. Keep in mind that I didn’t know anything about mental illness and the internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today so I couldn’t really look it up. So finally somehow I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep. 

Thus feeling of terror only diminished somewhat over they next six months. It was replaced by a background feeling of hopelessness and nearly overwhelming anxiety. Nothing was done enjoyable. I lost a lot of weight. I even cut out caffeine and smoking because I thought that had something to do with it. Luckily I was a on break from college so that was OK. I basically just stopped going to work because I couldn’t muster the energy to move. They basically fired me because I stopped showing up. At one point I went to a doctor on base and they gave me Buspar which did nothing except make me lightheaded. I finally just gave up on the idea if staying in college at AUM and came back to Nashville to live with my mom. It was through her love and assistance that I finally got to help I needed and started taking Zoloft. Eventually I emerged from the darkness a started feeling semi-normal again. So that is a brief synopsis of my introduction to mental illness. A couple of things I wanted to mention that I felt during this time 

  • I felt disassociated. Things didn’t seem real and I felt like I was a ghost 
  • I got this strange fear that I was going to go blind. I think this is a from hearing Terry Gilliam went blind temporarily due to stress when he was directing a movie. This is a feeling I deal with to this day on occasion. 
  • I couldn’t leave town. A friend wanted me to go out of town with him. I got like a half an hour out of the city and I told him to turn back. I was afraid of being away from the hospital in case something happened. 

These are just a few of the things. I am don’t want to keep y’all longer. But this shit is real and anyone who tells you that antidepressants don’t help like Tom mother fucking Cruise should be kneecapped. 

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TPPP Episode 12 : A Light in the Darkness

Welcome to another episode of The Podunk Polymath Podcast. First, I read another great iTunes review I received. This episode, though, is a special one because my friend Eric Parsons joins me on the palaver to talk about depression. Both Eric and I give our personal accounts of our struggles with depression. I also give the accounts of some people who submitted their own stories about depression, and there is even a recording someone submitted about her own issues with mental illness. I did this episode partially as therapy for myself, but I also hope to demonstrate to people battling depression that they are not alone, and that there are people that care and want to help. I hope I achieved this objective, but I will let y’all be the judge of my success. Thank you for listening, and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need someone with with to talk.

Download the episode here.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

NIMH – Major Depression Among Adults

Anxiety And Depression Association of America, ADAA

Robin Williams and the Stigma of Depression

 I generally don’t get too worked up when a celebrity dies. My attitude is, unless you know him or her personally, it’s hard to have any sort of attachment one way or another. But as I sat there in the break room of my second job and finding out from Facebook that Robin Williams had dies, I immediately felt a twinge of horror and disbelief. When I later found out that he committed suicide, it deepened my sadness, for I had heard that he had struggled with addiction and depression throughout his life. A post Lewis Black put up on his Facebook page summed it up for me:

Fuck the demons that took Robin from us. His generosity of spirit was as boundless as his comedy. I will miss him terribly.

 I have suffered from depression and anxiety in my life, especially when I was younger. I remember the sense of hopelessness and the inability to feel happiness no matter what I did. I also know that most of the time it is often a biological phenomenon, when our neurotransmitters are out of whack and wreak havoc on our mental well-being. Certainly, these effects can be exacerbated by drug or alcohol abuse, which affected individuals usually take to forget the pain and darkness they feel, but in the end make the depression even worse, and makes one feel even more hopeless. Many times those suffering from this horrible disease think suicide is the only way to escape from the living hell they are going through. Some are able to fight the battle against this evil chimera and win. Unfortunately, Robin lost that battle, though he fought valiantly for most of his adult life to overcome it.

 So when I hear people calling Mr. Williams a “coward”, or say that he should just have “snapped out of it”, it makes me want to throat-punch the ignorant fucks. “He was rich and famous, what did he have to be depressed about?” is another common refrain. I realize not all of the people spouting this crap are trying to be malicious; some have simply never experienced depression and don’t understand the sort of grey pall it casts over one’s life, no matter how great that life appears to the outside world. They don’t understand that the sort of depression that Mr. Williams suffered from was not what is commonly referred to “feeling down”, which is usually brought on by some external factors such as losing one’s job or close family member. This disease is one which comes seemingly from nowhere, with nothing to presage its onset many times, independent of anything that may be occurring in one’s life, and this is what makes it so frightening and debilitating. For if one doesn’t know what the cause of a condition is, how does one fight it? You may feel alone and terrified to reveal your problem, because you think you might end up in a mental institution. It is under these circumstances that many people feel they have no recourse but to take their own life, because the pain is too much to bear.

 This is not the “coward’s way out”. Unless you know the true horror of deep depression, you don’t get to say a god damn word about the proper way to deal with the disease. You don’t get to sit in high judgment on someone when you have no idea what is going on in someone else’s internal world. I was fortunate enough to emerge from my depression with the help of medication and family support, but not everyone has that, or they may be too proud to ask for it. And I certainly didn’t have it chronically like Mr. Williams seems to have had. He probably got tired of fighting those demons Mr. Black spoke of, since he had been doing it his whole life. So I will not judge him. Neither should anyone else. The most we can do is try to increase our understanding as a society so people won’t say the ignorant shit that seems to spew forth like a geyser of sewage every time something like this happens. We must also, finally, treat mental illness seriously and stop sweeping it under the rug. We’ve seen the mentally ill take the lives of children at an elementary school, as well as patrons in a theater. And we’ve seen take one of the funniest, most generous, and most kind-hearted human ever to roam this planet. Let’s try our damnedest to make sure that it doesn’t take any more precious lives.