Tag Archives: Depression

The Captain and I (part 3 of 4)

19 Feb

(Part One)

(Part Two)

So yes, when I was suffering from a massive depression caused by a legitimate disaster that was (partially) my own fault, I drowned my anti-depressants in alcohol. At this point I was enamored with vanilla vodka and orange soda which, as I’ve surely told you if we’ve ever drank together, tastes exactly like an orange dream-cicle. “You know,” I’d have told you, “like when we were kids.” (Someone three years past the age of majority doesn’t really get to talk about childhood as some distant epoch, but they do it anyway). Needless to say, the anti-depressants didn’t do their job terribly well.

I struggled through another whole year of college, now an English major because: I’m a fairly talented writer and people like to read my things, artists are by-and-large intolerable and self-centered pricks, and I needed to change majors because art school had largely kicked me out. I did very well when I bothered to, once I understood the “culture” of the English department I got to writing quite well. I never bothered to do inconsequential stuff like reading the other student’s pieces, or the assigned reading, or anything the professors handed me. I would get out of school, spend a few hours brooding near my girlfriend, whose incredibly endurance with this behavior should have warranted some form of medal, then go home and drink.

Drinking helped my writing. I wrote some real masterpieces drunk. If you look back at some of the incoherent and emotional messages I sent my friends, family, and girlfriend you’d surely demand I was given a Pulitzer. My cryptic and impossible to decipher allegory in status messages (Michael Potter sure wishes someone would call him) will garner a Nobel (in Passive-Aggression) someday. None could hold back the tears evoked by my half-finished songs with no perceptible rhythm and the most tenuous of rhyme schemes. Finally, who couldn’t identify with the sad-twenty-something-male misunderstood by everyone who was the protagonist in so many no-where-near-finished half stories, and who was TOTALLY not a shitty doppelganger of myself.

TOTALLY.

To the incredible surprise of no-one, I did not pull my grades above the 2.0 needed to stay in school. And so in June I was told that I would not be returning to IUPUI for the Fall 2009 semester. This piece of news was just a fragment of the joy 2009 brought. Believe it or not I’m tired of going on about it. Suffice to say the girlfriend lost her patience, followed quickly by my job. One friend was in the grips of his own crumbling relationship, one was in Germany studying life, one was in Ohio being a productive member of society, and the other was fighting for said society in Iraq. Lacking anything to celebrate and anyone to celebrate with, I cut the shit and started taking drinking seriously.

Late 2009 and early 2010 are not fuzzy because drinking makes it hard to remember; that is one effect of alcohol I rarely ever deal with.  They are fuzzy because when you’re depressed, your mind doesn’t remember things well. Your short term memory goes to hell. It’s not just that you can’t remember happy things, you don’t remember the sad things either. I continued dutifully taking my medicine, washing it down with a Berringer Chardonnay or a Chateau St. Michelle Riesling. It was a wonderful time, I made a great show out of my “break-up beard” and churned out several emotionally-earnest if ridiculously unsophisticated stories. But mostly I drank, a lot. (The astute reader will realize the author has switched to wine. This is because the author was reading Hemmingway. Of note: don’t read Hemmingway if you’re depressed).

When not killing yourself is the excuse for your nightly celebration, you have begun to approach what experts refer to as “rock bottom.”

(To Be Continued)

From Act 3, Scene One of Hamlet

29 Jan

Being sad sucks. Depression is one of the worst diseases I know. That’s not just because I’ve had it, though my intimate relationship with it has certainly informed my opinion. No, the reason depression sucks is because it ruins everything. Every. Thing. That’s not an exaggeration… everything sucks when you’re depressed.

Everyone has been depressed, be it a chronic thing or a phase you went through after your high school break up. Everyone has felt the lack of energy, the lack of motivation, and the lack of satisfaction. Unfortunately, if you haven’t had chronic depression, it gets hard to understand the effect that depression can have on your life at large.

When you’re depressed for a month, your grades in that period will slip, you’ll let yourself go, and you’ll lose a few friendly acquaintances that don’t have time for your crap. Then, when it passes on, you get up off your butt, make up your homework, hit the gym, and go out and meet new people. That’s when you’re depressed for a month.

When you’re depressed for years… your grades slip… for semesters, You let yourself go… and gain thirty pounds (if you’re lucky!), and you destroy relationships you thought would last forever. And the fact that you’ve ruined your life makes getting out of the depression increasingly difficult. Maybe you will get over it, and have an energy and optimism you thought you’d never feel. Just one thing…

What the hell do you do now?

When depression has become your norm, when the bar you’ve set for yourself has gotten that low, trying to be something more is terrifying – and very, very difficult. The million things you never bothered to do because it was a triumph getting out of bed, suddenly they matter and you either forgot or never learned how to do them.

When you’re depressed you forget that the reason people get haircuts every couple weeks isn’t because their obsessed with shallow things, it’s because you look ridiculous if you let your hair grow out that long without a trim. You realize that showing up on time isn’t required because people are uptight, it’s because everyone has things to do and waiting for you isn’t one of them. You realize that liquor isn’t calorie-free and maybe that’s why you’ve got that gut.

That’s the easy stuff. As you care about your appearance, you figure out how to work a trip the barber in (note to self: barber). When your time matters to you, you start respecting other people’s more. And when you Google “calories in a shot of rum” you switch to zero-calorie Pepsi and drink a lot of water. Quick simple fixes.

What do you do about four semesters of lack-luster to awful grades? The school doesn’t really give a damn that you had some self-esteem issues, because your employer won’t either. And didn’t, that’s why you were unemployed and have that comfortable mountain of debt now. You also destroyed your social circle, so that the only people you know are either depressed themselves or uncomfortable introducing your sad-ass to their other friends.

The answer is the same as when it was a month. You work hard, and while a month of depression only requires a month of extra work, three years takes three years.  In order to recover from your three years of being miserable, you have to spend three years working your ass-off. That’s the deal.

Now you’ve got some aces in the hole here. Everyone you know by now expects absolutely nothing from you. These people love you, but they had to lower their standards. There is a reason they would go on and on about how good you look with a shave: this was a legitimate milestone for you. So now when you roll in with a 3.0 GPA, by God, it’s amazing. Cause they’ve been conditioned to hope for a 2.5 and expect a 1.8. You also feel effing amazing. You know that day every year, the first time you get to wear shorts? Remember how amazing that feels? You can’t the stupid smile off of your face, hell, the air even smells better. Imagine how that would feel after a three year winter and you start to get the idea of what it’s like. Finally, your own expectations are pretty much crap too. In order to cope with how inept you were because of the depression, you came to expect very little from yourself as well. You became incredibly skilled at making excuses that you never believed. So now when turning in homework (which it turns out, isn’t all that hard) gets you good grades, you feel like the most capable and skilled individual on planet earth.

Except when you throw a 3.0 semester on top of four semester with a cumulative 1.8 GPA… you get… a 2.0 GPA. And even though YOU know everything has changed, and your friends and family can see everything has too… the school, which also lowered its expectations, is a bit harder to convince. So instead of affordable federal aid, you’ve got what’ll turn into tens of thousands of dollars in private debt that you have to start paying off NOW. Oh, and now that you’re capable of functioning like a real person, all those lowered expectations from everyone you love feel condescending.

So here you are, and you’ve got a choice to make. This is going to be hard. Really, really hard. Everyone is hedging their bets on you, from your parents to your college to, yes, yourself. You’re broke enough that you’re considering the Ramen diet and the reason you haven’t gotten to the barber is because you need food. You don’t know a single person in your classes, and while the work seems easy and interesting, you’re sure that’s just cause you’re missing something critical. You’ve lost a little weight, but you don’t look anything like you did before everything fell apart. It would be easy… so very easy… to just slide back. Hell, people would understand! The excuses start making themselves…

Fuck that.

Life is hard. That’s not some cynical hard-ass comment, that’s the truth. You’re not the only one flailing around not knowing what to do. Barack Obama is the president of the United States and he had an absentee father who died when he was fifteen. Your great-grandparents lived through the great depression. No you didn’t ask for depression, no you didn’t deserve it, but they didn’t deserve what happened to them either. It’s never going to be easy. It’s never going to be simple. That was childhood. And back then? That stuff seemed pretty complicated and intense. This is how it is.

It’s doable. More than that, it’s possible to excel. You can do this. I don’t need to elucidate the reasons why you want to. Satisfaction. Purpose. Hell, something to do other than think about how much things suck right now. Make your own reasons.The important thing – really the only thing – is that you ARE doing this, and until you absolutely can’t?

You will.