Dec 9, 2009

Depression 6: Calm with a chance of waves

Sorry I haven't been blogging every day, though that's actually back to normal for me so it's probably a good sign.

I started taking some anti-depressants this weekend, and I think they, and/or other things, are starting to have good effects. I know I didn't want to take them, but Saturday I talked to my doc(s) who agreed my symptoms match chemical depression exactly. I'm taking only half of a low dosage thinking I might as well treat the chemical aspects of this. I also saw a psychiatrist (long-time family friend) on Monday, and he really helped me to understand how my mind and emotions are interconnected; that when our minds go too fast for too long, they can seize up and we lose that emotional regulator.

So, I probably won't read quite so much philosophy and/or theology for a while - I was reading Greatest Marvel of Nature (Philosophy of the Human Person), New Seeds of Contemplation, my Old Testament book, and about a dozen theology blogs every day; and feeling guilty that I couldn't read more. All of this on top of solving abstract and complex computer programming problems in my day job. So cutting back from abstraction and introspection for a while will help until the motor's back in alignment.

My mood swings aren't as wild anymore and my lows aren't as low and aren't lasting as long. Things are somewhat reversed now in that evenings are more calm and relaxed, and mornings are more anxious, but not nearly so bad as last week. I seem to hit a pretty steady calm around noon, with just some mild waves of anxiety in the evenings.

I have some freaking amazing friends and family. My wife especially, who has to put up with my weird moody and emotional swings. All of you reading my blog has helped. And getting together with family on Saturday was good therapy, as is hanging out with friends to play some video games or watch some college basketball in the evenings. Anything and everything to distract my mind and emotions from themselves.

I had a better night of sleep last night - from midnight to 4am when Clover woke up, and then back to sleep until about 6am. Then another good hour from 7am to 8am on the dog bed with the dogs. ;) Almost back up to my full 8 hours. My appetite is still wonky - only ate a little bit of lunch around noon. That's been really strange to experience - the sensation of simultaneously being really hungry but not wanting to eat anything. And I haven't done any more exercise since Thursday since I'm not eating a full amount. If I get a good dinner in tonight I'll try to jog tomorrow morning. But probably won't go for any 4-mile "Guinness Challenge" runs for a while. ;)

I feel like the flow of this is going from existential crisis -> depression -> (hopefully) simpler awareness. I'm not even going to think about what God might be revealing to me in all this. I'm sure it's like most of his revelation - we can't really understand it while we're in the midst of it. Will probably take some time and distance from the flash to see the light for whatever it might be.

Dec 3, 2009

Depression 5 > Indention

I think I'm starting to turn a corner on this. Last night I had a great class with my instructors who were both really supportive. Hot Chocolate from the kitchen helped too. It's rare to find such people who are veritable scholars AND compassionate friends.

In fact, one event was a poignant salve for my soul.

I don't usually like taking verses out of context, but the juxtaposition of our study of Amos and my context was just too meaningful. My faith crisis began Thanksgiving night when we were driving between relatives' houses. I looked up at the sky and saw ORION and one of those "I wonder if there really is a God who made all this?" thoughts leaped into me and wouldn't shake loose. As much as I can tell, I think that really might have been THE instigation of all this existential crisis and depression. So when I heard Mark read this:

"He who made the Pleiades and ORION, who turns darkness into dawn, and darkens day into night ..." Am. 5:8

I couldn't help but get a little emotional. As far as I'm concerned, God spoke straight to me last night, and He did it thru my instructors. Our studies at PSI are so much more than just great intellectual pursuit - they are a steady comfort for me. I was made acutely aware of it again when we walked into the library with Joey. Just being in the presence of so much great Godly knowledge was soothing.

After class I felt great and stayed up for a while writing, then praying for some people who have shared some of their own depression stories with me. I fell asleep around 12:30 pretty easily.

I woke up a bit too early (6am) and in a bit of the familiar funk, though not as anxious, which was good. I let the dogs out and fed them. I got on facebook and emails a bit. I decided to go do a weight workout. I could tell I'm not as strong as I was last time - probably the lack of sleep and nutrition.

After the workout, I went home to shower, but instead I bawled my eyes out like I've never cried before. It was loud and messy crying, for no particular reason. I'm talking crying that scared my dogs. For a good 5 minutes or so. I finally pulled myself into the shower and headed out to the appointment. On the way there, I did something I never normally do: I turned on "Christian" radio. Immediately, this song started: Rediscover You by Starfield. It made me feel better and made me keep the station on for a good part of the day.

My appointment went well. I'm a model of health, physically, except for the funky appetite and sleeping, which is messing up my metabolism a bit. The doc asked if I wanted to try anti-depressants and I said I'd rather not if I can help it. But I did take a prescription for sleeping medicine in case I have more rough nights in the future. Just explaining my symptoms helped. I'm looking forward to my psychiatric appointment on Monday. Looking forward to things helps, so here's an exercise one of my instructors suggested ...

10 things that bring me joy:

  1. When my wife touches me because she knows I need it.

  2. When Clover laughs at me; also when she poops while looking at me.

  3. Talking openly and honestly to friends and family

  4. Having people over to the house

  5. Hot Chocolate

  6. Sharing good beer

  7. Buying things for others

  8. Peaceful sleep

  9. A good workout

  10. Knowing that the whole world doesn't feel bad when I do

  11. (BONUS) Productive work

I really feel like my spiritual and mental anxiety are passing. I still feel emotionally down, but this feels more like previous "downs" I've had. I can remember the deeper painful thoughts and feelings, but they don't send me into despair anymore. They've left an impression on me, but I don't feel them depressing me now.

Going to do dinner, a party, and some gaming tonight with friends and family, and planning on getting some good sleep too, one way or another! ;)

Dec 2, 2009

Depression 4 - help from my friends

This post is pretty much a "Dear Diary" post. If you read this blog for the (amateur) theological musings, you can probably skip this one.

I had kind of a weird day today.

This morning's "run" back-fired. I woke up at 5am (yeah, that's part of all this) and my mind was doing its anxiety thing, so I decided to head out. I hardly ate at all yesterday and I had no energy, so I decided I'd just "walk" to the gym and maybe weigh myself to find out if I've been losing weight. It was still so early that I was pretty much walking alone in the dark. I got so shaky and tired on my walk that I seriously considered stopping and napping on some random neighbor's porch chairs. After I shook off that idea, I went into a mild panic about whether or not I could actually make it home or if I'd collapse in the street. Took lots of willpower to get back home, where I collapsed into the bed next to Tiffany to try to soothe my mind some more. Finally got back to some sleep from 7-8, woke up hungry and ate, then tried to sleep again until about 9:30.

Tiff asked me if I wanted to go out with her and Clover today to childrens' story time at the library and errands. My first inclination was to just sit and mope some more at home, but somewhat inexplicably, I decided at the last minute to go. After story time, a co-worker good friend called me with some profound verses that really helped me a lot, though they turned me into an emotional mess. :)

"Adam fell that men might be; and men care, that they might have joy."

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

"And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me."

These are really things that I needed to hear. They are from the book of Mormon! That just makes me appreciate God can He expresses Himself in the different stripes of Christianity (and even other religions!) God has a big paintbrush and many colors I think. I'm not saying I'm ready to become a Mormon, but if I believe God can reveal Himself thru areligious "spiritual" songs, surely His Truth can be found in these other ways His people seek Him. For now I need to defer the subjects of apostasy or scriptural cannon and just appreciate what I believe is a real way of God trying to reach me.

Right after that call emotionally pried me open, we walked into Agora and I talked to pastor Jeff a bit. A random coffee-house patron came over to see our baby and when she found out her name was Clover she got really excited. She explained her cats names are Shamrock and Clover and she's writing an article on the shamrock as a Christian symbol of the Trinity and St. Patrick and everything (part of the reason we named Clover). She said she had gone thru some depression in the past and needed God to reveal Himself to her in a big way. She had 5 customers that day walk in with clovers on their clothing and that just meant something to her. When I told her I've been feeling depressed lately too and have been needing God to reveal Himself to me, she got really excited, said our meeting was no coincidence, and wanted to pray with me. So we did. She prayed an eager and zealous Oral Roberts style prayer for me, and it helped. Like I said, big paintbrush and many colors - from the book of Joseph Smith to a KJV-quotin' Bible-belt evangelical.

Right on the heels of that, we went to lunch with a couple of other really good friends. I knew one of them has struggled with depression before, and I feel awful that I was ever skeptical of this person! (Note to self: apologize.) Lunch was good and I had a bit more of an appetite so I wolfed down some Chik-Fil-A nuggets and fruit. Our other friend there has a little boy and I got to go into the play area with him for a while, which helped. After lunch, we went back to our house for something called "Parents as Teachers" which is a cool program where someone from Tulsa Public Schools comes to your house to talk about your baby/child and their early learning.

During most of the session though, I was reading an encouraging message from my sister on facebook and that really helped. I think our family has been close for so long that we sometimes take our love for granted and don't bring it up to the surface in our every-day conversations and interactions. We all love one another deeply, but we don't talk about it all the time. And I would normally be the last member of the clan to ask for direct emotional support, so it was such a relief that she gave it so quickly and abundantly. She said God gives us our spouses for a reason, and I would add that He also gives us our families AND our friends for these kinds of times.

After the session, we talked with our friend for a bit and came to find out this friend took anti-depressants for a time too! And we talked a bit about some other mutual friends who have gone thru depressions before. It's re-assuring to know I'm not alone in this, and I'm not losing my mind! (I mean, considering sleeping on a strange neighbor's porch? I really thought that was an inevitable step to institutionalization.)

Having our friends in the house really helped and I think helps. Can't say why, but I know I'm like my dad in that I just enjoy having people over. (Oh, and my dad helped me set up appointments with a family medical doctor and with a psychiatric doctor. Turns out another of my siblings has been thru something like this and went to these doctors and took anti-depressants for a while too! And yet another sibling went thru it and did some cognitive therapy, and a couple of our grandparents have been thru it! It was reassuring to me to know that there is indeed a physiological, probably genetic, aspect to it and it can be treated in a number of ways.)

I felt much better after our friends left and my appetite returned with a vengeance. Slammed down some carrots, humus, crackers, cheese, ham, and peaches. Then I started writing this blog post. I think I'm coming thru the despair now and just need to shake some more emotional funk. Talking about it candidly and honestly really, REALLY helps - thank you to all of you who are reading thru this with me, it helps a bunch! And I'm sure I'll talk about it more tonight with my instructors and students at school. I'm actually excited to go! I'm also still starving, and I hear Tiffany making Chicken-and-Dumplings in the kitchen ...

(Interesting tidbit: while looking for the picture, I discovered that Chicken and Dumplings originated during the Great Depression! Whoa.)

Dec 1, 2009

Depression 3; See also: Existential Crisis

Need to write this while I'm on my exercise high.

This morning when I woke up early in my funk, I started working and also looking at some more articles about depression and stuff. I googled 'personal mortality crisis' and got back Existential crisis. (I can already feel the sting of the realization hitting me again, but not quite as strongly or hopelessly now.) It looked appropriate because in its "See also" section it listed Dark Night of the Soul which Saint mentioned in a comment, and Alan mentioned in a personal message.

One of the things that struck me from the wikipedia article was the bit that an existential crisis may result from "a new found grasp or appreciation of one's mortality." Uh, yes!! That's me! I think some of that comes from the birth of Clover. Something odd about seeing new life come into the world that makes you appreciate the flip-side, I guess. The article went on "... it provokes the sufferer's introspection about personal mortality, thus revealing the psychological repression of said awareness." Uh, yes again! Whoa.

Now maybe it's arrogance, but the first "External articles" link that I clicked on was Existential depression in gifted individuals. Since I've already got that much arrogance, I may as well note that I grew up in the "gifted" track all thru school, and people do often make comments about my "smarts" or "intelligence" or whatever. In any case, knowing that this is a common deal stemming from the mind and intellect is comforting; more on that later. On my run this morning, I considered it could be important for me to be dealing with this, since gifted children can experience it as young as 12! If Clover were to go thru this before I did, it would be terrible.

The other great link I clicked was on handling existential crisis. It seems like a good post-modern approach for coping with the mind's anxiety and the body's emotional depression. Just being able to think in those terms helps me, as I've attached to the idea that "faith is not the absence of doubt, but the perseverance of the will thru doubt." I don't know if I got that from Lewis or somewhere else, but it's helping.

Like I said, this whole thing has blown away whatever misconceptions I ever had about a strong distinction of body, mind, and soul. My morning run invigorated my body, which got my mind out of its funk. I kept that idea of "perseverance of the will" with me and towards the end of my run my will just had to impose itself. I imagine the scenario something like my mind and emotions are going childishly insane in the living room, and my will finally wakes up, walks calmly into the room and just gives a stern "Alright, that's enough now kids. Just shut the fuck up, alright?" ;)

I don't know if it's "over" or whatever or if it ever will be completely. But I feel like I'm coping now and can at least get back to some normalcy of life. Need to keep at the running though, that's for sure.