Coming up for air

When I get down in the dumps for no apparent reason, it doesn’t feel like drowning. I don’t thrash around and fight for just one extra breath. There’s no chaos, no struggle.

I feel like a hermit crab that’s slowly, almost grudgingly, receding back into its shell. I’m conceding defeat to an unseen force that casts a shadow over everything positive in my life.

Why is this happening? What did I do wrong?

The “winning streak,” when you had so many good days, seems like a distant memory from within the shadows. Almost like an episode in the life a different person.

The damnable misery of it all is that I don’t seem to care that I’ve sunk this far down. I only want to stay in my shell and weather the storm. And that is what seems like my mental state is going to be for the foreseeable future.

Logic rendered futile

I envy the Vulcan race. Their uncompromising hold on the principles of logic, and how they let it be the sole guide in their life, seems like a steady, serene life that I can totally subscribe to.

But, as far as I know, there are no Vulcans. Only humans. And our minds are a twisted mess of logic and emotions. I can see how the two elements work together to get us from thought to action.

I view emotions as a sort of fast-burning fuel. So volatile. Capable of getting us to do any number of actions across the spectrum of good, bad or indifferent. But it doesn’t last and our emotions cool off.

That’s where logic comes in. If we apply logic to our emotional urges, our actions can become tempered into something much more effective. Again, those actions can be good, bad or indifferent. And after the quick-burning fuel of emotion has died down, you get the slowly consumed logical fuel to keep you going.

When I’m in the depths of depression, logic is still present, but ineffective in convincing me of anything. Depression is beyond sadness. It doesn’t need a reason to take control. And when I try to use my logical side to convince myself I have no reason to be depressed, the arguments are useless.

Here are some actual points and counterpoints I’ve dealt with:

  • I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful children that mean the world to me.

You don’t deserve to have them in your life. You’re better off being by yourself so you don’t have to burden them with your depression.

  • I have a very rewarding job and I work with very motivated, caring people.

All of your work is meaningless, and they’d probably fire you if they could. Your co-workers are loud and obnoxious. You should stay away from them so you don’t explode on one of them.

  • I have other people in my life, family and friends, who genuinely care about me and my well being.

You’re a burden to them as much as anyone else in your life. You don’t want to flood their busy lives with all your negativity. 

These are the most prominent examples of how depression can rob you of any joy or happiness.

Do you see the light?

Then, after a period of time hunkered down in the darkness, I spot something in the distance. A tiny pinprick of light.

  • Is that real, or another illusion? Is depression creating a worthless point of hope to further torture me?

With painstaking effort, I approach the light. It gets brighter as I get closer. I touch the point with a finger and it easily tears through. Almost as if I was in a black paper bag. I see the world how I did before depression rose up and took over.

Have I truly returned? How?

There’s the most frustrating thing about all of the shit depression does to you. You wonder what you did to trigger it. Then you wrack your brain trying to figure out how to keep it from coming back.

What I’ve figured out is that when I identify certain things that trigger it, depression seems to adapt to my discoveries. And it finds new triggers. Or old, forgotten ones.

I’ll give you an example. We had this cat show up in our yard a few months ago. I didn’t want her. I just wanted to get her healthy enough so we could get her fixed and send her on her way.

Well, among all the care and everything, I fell in love with this cat. I could sit on my porch, holding this little ball of hatred, and feel joy.

One night, after we gave her a bath, she went outside. And I haven’t seen her since.

I have buried so many pets over the years that this shouldn’t have affected me, right? Hell, I buried a loved one’s cat on Christmas Day and didn’t feel a thing.

But her disappearance devastated me.

I felt like I did when I was 5 and my nearly blind grandfather accidentally ran over my kitten. I named him Socks. And I was inconsolable after he died.

How do I cope?

I haven’t figured out the best way to get out of the funk after I’ve gotten into it. But I did run two miles yesterday, and it seemed to help. For some reason, the blues go away when I am active. So, on top of all the other benefits of exercise, I can claim that it helps me with my depression. I also return to the hobbies that keep the blues away (i.e. writing, riding).

I return with a renewed thankfulness for the things in my life that I know are real and are positive. My wife, my children, the other people in my life that I know care about me.

I also have to admit to myself that pain and loss are just as much a part of my life as contentment, joy or gain.

Stay strong.

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