Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Dark Cloud

Robin Williams' tragic death has hit me especially hard this week. Not necessarily because of the man himself, but because of the way he died. Suicide, stemming from a decades-long battle with depression. He had just about everything one could ask for...family. Friends. Money. A successful, legendary career, complete with some of the highest honors in his profession...and none of it was enough to beat back the demons within his own head.

If he can't make it, with all he had, what hope is there for me?

Of course, I'm not nearly as depressed as he was. I have dysthymia, a low-grade depressive disorder that more or less hovers perpetually over my head, like a storm cloud. I've described it to therapists before as a constant feeling of being bummed out, even when things are really good. I take Wellbutrin for it, and that seems to help. I'm supposed to see a therapist about it regularly, too. I don't, for the usual bullshit reasons...blah blah blah no time in my schedule, blah blah blah hard to find a good therapist, blah blah blah. It all sounds especially petty now.

Despite the medication, occasionally the dysthymia gets to me, anyway. Today is one of those days. I just woke up feeling bummed. I slept fine. Work isn't too bad. I've got a good cup of coffee here. Nothing really to explain it. It's just there. It always is. 

I'm grateful that it's not worse. Suicide has never once entered my head. I don't have a very addictive personality (a nice side effect of my gaming ADD), so I've never had a hard time with drugs or alcohol. But that's the insidious thing about depression. It never feels as bad as it could be. It never seems like something you need to talk about. And the way it skews your perception, you never really know if you're doing as bad as you think you are. In fact, from my experience, people who are depressed are typically the ones who have the hardest time accepting that depression is a real thing. They just think life normally sucks.

I've learned to cope with it, through lessons learned both in therapy and just as I get older and stay cognizant of the fact that I have a condition. Of course there's the fundamental, important stuff...good friends, supportive networks, getting out and walking every now and then...but I have some more specific tricks, too. Like just talking about it. I have dysthymia. It's not who I am. It doesn't rule my life. It's just a detail, as much a part of me as being half-Thai, or left-handed, or being fluent in Tagalog. Another defense mechanism I've learned is to trust my emotions. If something makes me happy, I do it, no matter how silly or impractical it is. If something makes me feel terrible, I avoid it at all costs. This all sounds real basic, but when you're depressed, sometimes you forget just how much control you have. The words Have to, could, and should sometimes feel like prison shackles.

Another defense mechanism...perhaps the biggest weapon in my arsenal...is my hobby. Gaming, particularly tabletop gaming, is my life. It allows me to make sense of the world. It gives me something to connect myself to other people with. It helps me get over myself and just exist. Feelings of loneliness, and a self-fulfilling prophecy to be alone, is something I fight with alot. Gaming gives me something to rally behind. So it's not just a hobby or something silly I do to waste time on a rainy afternoon. Gaming is a tool for my very survival.

I don't think it is at all coincidential that as my life has gotten more complicated...grad school, a full-time career, a strained marriage...my hobby has picked up a lot. Most of the time, I am grateful and happy for it. But every once and awhile, a day like today comes up, and I wonder: is it enough?


1 comment:

  1. I completely get what you're saying here. Depression is something you endure, like a long, cold winter. You can't just snap out of it.

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