Saying #6

public Drink SelectPort(Conditions weather, string brandPreference)
{

switch (weather)
{

case Conditions.Storm:

return drinks.First(d => d.Category == “Port”);

break;
default:

return drinks.First(d => d.Category == “Port” && d.brand == brandPreference);

break;

}

}

“A Bit Blue”

A Waterfall in Wales
Flowing water? The Freudian imagery never ends!

Off the strength of my first couple of posts, I’ve been having rather more conversations about depression than is the norm; lot’s of other people’s perspectives, thoughts and experiences have been shared with me – I am amazed at how open people have been about it.

An interesting area that opened up was regarding how we fixate on certain aspects of our depression. Certainly for myself I associate a lot of the depressive related thinking to the firm bop on the head I received, but I know there were other areas of my life and thinking which needed addressing even before that. My attitude towards people was immature, and although I would describe myself as intelligent I would behave unintelligently. I now pride myself on my integrity and honest dealing – previously, this was a problem for me.

I would agree that this ideation – the fact that I could almost excuse some of the aspects of my life because I had a single traumatic incident to hang them off – held me back during my recovery. Part of this is simply explained. People tend to be a lazy as they think they can get away with at any time – and if you have something that seems like a reasonable excuse like “I’m sorry, I don’t want to come out tonight – it’s all part of the head thing” – then you won’t make the effort. It took an awful lot for me to look past the excuse, and see that I still had responsibility for my life and my actions, no matter what had come before. In fact, I still find that socialisation can take a lot of energy for me; I suspect that I am finely balanced on the Extrovert/Introvert seesaw (it largely seems to be a function of food/sleep/exercise that tips it – maybe we’ll have a look at this another time); nevertheless I  finally acknowledged my part in my own life and put myself back into relationships and society.

The other side to this evasion I think is to do with the conflict in self-image that has to take place for some of these things to be fixed. During my first depression, I became extremely introverted, having been moderately extroverted up to this point – one of the side effects of spending a lot of time in my own company recovering my emotional energy was that I became more involved in introspection. These were difficult times for me, because it seemed to me that the ‘voice’ of introspection was extremely rational, and presented my faults to me in very plain terms; I would be in an emotionally fragile state, and then be faced both with my own failings – and more importantly, what that meant for me as a person.

A Hammer and Peg
This peg prevented us from drifting down the canal. That’s like an allegory maybe?

During some of these episodes, I would be forced to look back upon decisions I had made in my life up to that point; people I’d disappointed or hurt, things I had done, things that I hadn’t done that I simply couldn’t square with myself. As people, our personalities are prone to change and flux; but unless we are capable of reconciling with ourselves the consequences of our own decisions then there are things we either won’t correct or assume are innate to ourselves. I failed to acknowledge my problems with people for a long time, because it meant accepting my own part in those problems, it meant accepting responsibility for the things that had gone wrong; indeed, it meant I had been wrong, which is something that I suspect most people find hard to face.

I’m a long way away from my head injury now; and I try now to ensure that I don’t excuse or avoid examining any of my behaviour using it, but I’m also aware that there are always more improvements I can make and ways that I could be a better person. When I’m not in a depressive frame of mind it is relatively easy to stay rational about this and accept areas that I need to improve. When depressed however, I can turn my brain into a toxic soup of recrimination and hatred. Innocent comments from friends or family can easily tip me into a introspective nightmare, where the relatively small point that has been raised with me – “I’m sure that you may be drinking a bit often” – for instance, make me feel like all the progress I’ve made to date is hollow.

What I’ve learned from all this is that I need to be more forgiving of myself during depression – my past is my past, and while I may not be proud of everything there, I am at least trying to make the changes that mean that it won’t happen again.

Until next time,  and as always – if you are currently experiencing depression or depressive thoughts then I strongly advise you to consult a professional as soon as practical.

Laters,

Spugs

“Under the Weather”

A stack of rocks on a beach.
Again, quite Freudian. Let’s not go there.

As you may have gathered from my previous posts, my first depression was not an isolated incident. I think I’ve probably had about four major depressions in my lifetime, but each time there has been a different ‘flavour’ to the experience.

One of the mistakes I continue to make is thinking something along the lines of  “I’ve had depression before, I know the route out now – I don’t have to have this experience again”. This thought is wrong. Wrong, wrong and never been right. Each depressive interlude has been unique, and each exit has been unique. In the first case, the medication I took was my major prop while I thought my way out; my last incident was more to do with toughing it out and just waiting for relief.

I think the lesson for me is that depression is so insidious, and slots so perfectly into your current circumstances, moods and surroundings that it isn’t ever possible to offer a ‘cure’. If you’re short of cash, jobless or lonely then your depression will use these features as part of its shape – equally, you can be successful and surrounded by signs of your achievements – it may instead centre on feelings of inadequacy, guilt or reflections on emptiness. You’re never immune, there is no single panacea.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it felt to me as though depression sidled up to me – the modes of thought which form the depression became a new normal, integrating with my normal day to day in such a way that the transformation felt almost seamless. Fortunately, there are some things which I have found to be common to the early stages all of my depressive episodes; a shift in my sense of humour, excessive feelings of nostalgia, trouble keeping my temper – these I now know are my “breakpoints”. When any of these items show up, I have trained myself to be more critical in my thinking, examining my feelings with a little more care. Whilst I can’t claim any success with being able to prevent or shorten a depressive episode, it’s as well to have yourself  prepared for it. There are some key people in my life who I warn, and ask for their forbearance – better they know it’s another incident than thinking I’ve fallen out with them, or that I’ve lost my decision making capabilities.

There is a huge amount of advice regarding what to do when you are depressed, from the sensible “do more exercise”, to the suspect “detox against depression” – as though my liver is not capable of dealing with the toxins it has to face. This proliferation of advice, largely presented with a few important caveats (like, this may not work for you), is both a feature of the unique nature of each person’s depression, but also the fact that you cannot really tell what has helped and what has not.

During one of my earlier depressions, I took the whole exercise thing to heart and attempted to sweat my way out. As it was, the depressive period lasted about five months – about average for the episodes in my adult life. Did the exercise help? I can’t tell, there is no way of knowing if that depression would have lasted any longer if I’d have succumbed to my strongly felt need to curl up into a small beer-consuming ball. Emotions on the scale we’re talking about have huge inertia, so although you can feel large shifts across weeks (the relief as a depression lifts for instance), any benefit from any specific topical treatment like exercising regularly is likely to be lost.

A View in North Anglesey
Water, lapping on the shore.

Of course, what I’m saying here is not don’t exercise, but instead be prepared for your depression to appear not to respond to anything in particular. You may get good days, you certainly will get bad ones – but I have never spoken to anyone who’s depression just lifted because of a single change they made. Some of my friends quite literally wait their depressions out, warning family and colleagues and trying not to make any key decisions until things have passed.

Until next time,  and as always – if you are currently experiencing depression or depressive thoughts then I strongly advise you to consult a professional as soon as practical.

Laters,

Spugs