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Depression meme - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Depression meme
There's a meme going around about depression (pasting in a bit about it). I'm not going to do it because it doesn't seem like a meme-ish subject to me, but as depression is something I suffer from, I thought I'd make an entry about it, and not lock it. The gist is to get talking about how to deal with it, and to point out that it's a common problem, and even really weird-seeming behaviors are maybe not that weird.

Depression isn't just a bad mood. It's not even a question of feeling bad. Sometimes, that's not even the form it takes.

Depression has symptoms that are physical as well as mental. Movement is sluggish, response is slow. I took an IQ test once in a depressive state and scored twenty points lower than I test normally. Physically, in an aggravated state, I'm fatigued and often sick, sometimes even a bit dizzy. I went to the doctor for dizziness and headaches three times before he told me that there wasn't anything wrong with me in a neurological sense--all the symptoms were coming from depression. This didn't make me feel any better, as I felt I should have known this and not bothered a medical professional with stupid phantoms from my own messed up brain... it wasn't like I didn't know this could be a depressive symptom. I took AbPsych, for heaven's sake...

And so on.

The worst part, for me, is my imagination turning on me. It doesn't go away. It just starts filling in little things for me, like, "You don't have friends in town because you're unlikeable, and as soon as you leave the room, everyone heaves a sigh of relief and gets down to the business of having a life." And of course, "If the people who talk to you online met you, they'd think you were a fat, boring lump." Or maybe it would go on a medical kick... this is actually the most common lately. Every time there's a commercial for one of those new prescription drugs--you know, the ones that list vague symptoms so that everyone will harass his or her doctor to put them on this new pill--I start doing an inventory in my head and deciding that I'm probably dying of some horrible thing. Now, I can recognize this intellectually as stupid--thank heaven, I'm a T rather than an F--but that just makes me start kicking myself about being a total goose, which makes the mood part worse.

It also gets tied up with anxiety, and--very unfun symptom--obsessive-compulsive behavior. For me, it's checking the locks on the doors (because if I don't, someone will break in as soon as I'm not looking and all my roommate's things will be stolen and it will be my fault) and a checking routine on things that really aren't fire hazards but which I convince myself will burn the house to a cinder if I don't check. At the worst of it, I unplugged my computer, my radio, and my desk lamp every day before going to work, because I'd somehow come to the conclusion that they were overheating the circuits. I did get one bit of fun out of my OC behavior, though--I went to visit an old friend, who turned out not only to also be suffering from it, but to have the same fixations. We laughed at each other about checking car door locks quite a lot, and laughing is very good.

Then there's the insomnia, which is self-defeating, because being tired only makes it worse. Then that tends to be followed up by bouts of sleeping for ten to fourteen hours. Which isn't healthy.

Another problem is anhedonia. Deciding to do things that will cheer me up doesn't work, because the things I normally enjoy don't do anything for me.

I've tried a couple of different medications; Lexapro works best, but I tend to forget to take it. The most effective strategy I have doesn't exactly make me happy, but it helps get through the worst of it (usually)--I just assert my mind over the weird little chemicals my brain is producing. It's actually something I picked up in my reading about OCD--I had to stop the unplugging. The phrase is kind of a mnemonic: It's not me, it's my OCD. The book is called Brain Lock, and it deals with asserting control and creating new neural pathways by breaking out of the obsessive thinking. It occurred to me that this could be at least somewhat helpful with the imaginary catastrophes of depression as well--"This isn't real, this is a phantom." "This emotion isn't caused by anything; coast above it."

It doesn't always work, but it does often enough to get through day to day most of the time.

Anyway, that's my inside knowledge of depression and how I deal with it. Don't know if it's helpful to anyone.
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pauraque From: pauraque Date: September 8th, 2004 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
In another delightful twist, I was misdiagnosed with clinical depression in my youth. In fact, there were several actual things terribly wrong in my life, and the OCD-like symptoms were from undiagnosed PTSD. They just took a glance at me, said "depression, medicate him", and didn't look any further.

It's bad that this sort of thing is allowed to happen, not just because it fucks with the misdiagnosed person, but because it detracts from the different needs of people who are actually suffering from chemical depression with no external cause.
anaid_rabbit From: anaid_rabbit Date: September 8th, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did the meme. I suffer from depression and very high level anxiety. I don`t feel ready to make a long post about it but let me just say that I can relate to 99% of the things you`re saying. The obsessive thinking, the "bad" and depressing thoughts, the physical effects, everything.

I actually learned to partially ignore my anxiety caused panics thanks to several deep conversations with both my mother and my doctor; it`s like something that needs to be fed, the more I keep thinking about it the bigger it`ll grow, if I just ignore it (not thinking about it is just impossible) it gets smaller and smaller until it eventually disappears. Not sure if it made much sense, just thought I`d share some of my own experience too.
riah_chan From: riah_chan Date: September 8th, 2004 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have depression too and one of the things that helps me not have to medicate myself is cutting down/out processed sugars from my diet. There's a good book called 'Potatos not Prozac' that talks more about it.

I also benefit from a juice called Xango which has juice from a fruit called Mangosteen that helps with all sorts of things... one just happens to be depression. (I didn't start taking the juice for depression... I actually started it for allergies and my husband noticed a significant change in my moods.)

myf From: myf Date: September 8th, 2004 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am so, so lucky not to have suffered from depression, but I just wanted to post that I think it's a great idea to get it spoken about more often. The stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses is so ridiculous, and so deeply unhelpful to not only the people affected but the community as a whole. It is a such a widespread phenomenon, and yet people don't seem to think about it, or know about.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: September 8th, 2004 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, as for me, I'm afraid that if I say the wrong thing to a depressed person, they'll up and commit suicide - better leave this to the experts - but if I know them for a while and then find out they're depressed, I get over that fear. Really is common. I would never have suspected it of Fernwithy. Some of the super-hyper-random kids I knew in middle school, I guess I should have known about, but if I did I would be torn between paralyzed and weepy. Probably not very helpful.

Let's move triakontapentephobia down a notch for weird reactions I need to get over.
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: September 8th, 2004 05:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never been diagnosed with depression, but I started having suicidal thoughts when I was eight. I learned to live with them (being heavily religious, suicide was simply not an option), but they came back in a big way when I was fourteen, and again when I was seventeen.

Nowadays, I'm lucky enough that my depression confines itself to only every once in a while, and only when PMS has struck. Most of my moodiness does, indeed, take the shape of "Nobody actually likes you, and they all whisper about how much they hate you, when you're not there." The problem with that kind of mood is that it feels good, in a perverse sort of way. However, when I catch myself going too far and having morbid thoughts, I use St. John's Wort, which helps relieve it.

As for obsessive behavior, I count things. I count stairs when I'm going up or down--and it's like fingernails on a chalkboard if I miscount. I count the sides of my teeth when I'm brushing.
gaeta From: gaeta Date: September 8th, 2004 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I began being treated for depression in 1998, 2 years after my separation and a couple of weeks after my divorce hearing. It wasn't until 5 years later, having had up and down success with zoloft, wellbutrin and others that I ended up finding a new docotr and getting a new diagnosis -- bipolaar disorder. Turned out antidepressants were contraindicated; they accelerated and accentuated the highs and lows and the lows especially got stronger and stronger. Getting the right diagnosis is soooo important.

I'd also like to offer a cautionary note about the low-carb thing. It was recommended to me and I tried it, getting a fantastic result -- so much that I went off meds altogether. Except it turned out that the switch to low-carb happened to coincide with a period of hypermania, and when that period ended, the crash was almost unendurable. That's what led me to find a new doctor in the first place.

Yes, depression is a common thing, but not everything is straightforward depression and when it's combined with other conditions or when it's part of a different condition, self-treatment can make things much much worse.

Then again, so can inadequate and/or inappropriate mental healthcare.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: September 8th, 2004 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had the beginnings of the war with depression my first year in college. I figured out that it was more and worse than I had thought because I *fixed* the things in my life that were seriously stressing me out, and still felt even worse. Medication stabled me out for about half a year after an absolutely horrendously traumatic encounter with some medication...and then I got tired of the side effects and quit cold turkey. I do not recommend that. I really, really do not recommend that. Mercifully, with a full slate of work and a good occupation, it seems to stay mostly away these days, but I keep a watchful eye out for those bouts of of awfulness.

When I am under, everything looks dimmer. But how do you describe feeling nothing but absolute rage and loathing so strong it almost makes yourself physically ill, all directed inwards? Sometimes, when I get that way even now, I just go and get away from everyone and put on some opera. Music soothes the savage beast.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2004 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the end, if I can't shake it any other way, I'll turn off the lights and sleep it off. I can rarely write when I'm like that--really, I can never write when I'm like that--but sometimes grabbing an old favorite book helps as well. At that point, it's more "humming along with the tune" of the book than actually reading it, but, like you said, "Music soothes..." In my case, word music more than music music.
chienar From: chienar Date: September 8th, 2004 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
So many of us fight the battle with depression in silence, and for too long. Myself, I completely understand the obsessive behaviors, though mine are a bit different than Fern's.

I don't care if the dishes aren't done, or the bedroom is a mess, but the livingroom has got to be just so, and all of the laundry washed/folded/put away. I get annoyed at my mother-in-law for closing things that I've opened to air out the house (with 8 cats, 6 of them hers, the house NEEDS fresh air). And at work, everything has to be in its place.

I'll go for months taking Zoloft, and then wean myself off of it when things are good. Then when things get hairy again, I go back to it. I honestly don't think there is a permanent cure for depression, just ways to make things better.

Some days are good, some are bad... some I think I need 6 zoloft instead of one.
mincot From: mincot Date: September 9th, 2004 07:23 am (UTC) (Link)
(((((((((((Fern)))))))))))))))) I understand everything you've said--I have that, too. Especially the mental talk; when I start going downhill, I start crying over nothing, but it is preceded by an unconcious bout of negativity I call it the gerbil-wheel in my brain...round and round and round and round with no apparent way of stopping it ....
sannalim From: sannalim Date: September 9th, 2004 10:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Somewhat off-topic, but I think a cheery reply might be a useful addition to this conversation--

Every time there's a commercial for one of those new prescription drugs--you know, the ones that list vague symptoms so that everyone will harass his or her doctor to put them on this new pill--I start doing an inventory in my head and deciding that I'm probably dying of some horrible thing.

This quotation reminds me very strongly of one of the first chapters of Three Men In A Boat, by Jerome K Jerome. Very funny little book--if you haven't read it, you should.
From: hobviously Date: September 9th, 2004 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)


Thank you for friending me! I've been secretly fangirling your journal (wow, she likes gen and uses her brain? i'm speechless.) for a while now, but was too shy to make the first move. Hurrah.

Depression has been a constant in my life almost continuously since I turned 12, but I'm gonna play the "two hours of sleep" card and not even go there.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 9th, 2004 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: hi!

Oh, don't be shy! I loved your rant today!
ivylore From: ivylore Date: September 11th, 2004 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I can't recommend salmon oil capsules enough for anxiety, Fern. I began taking them during, what was honestly, a horrible period for me last winter throughout which I was severely depressed, and they worked wonders. I still take them every day. Just to demonstrate how effective they'be been - I went from having a severe fear of flying to flying six times in the past two months - four of which were without any lorazapan to help with my anxiety.

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