Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A response to Peacebang's depression thread

PB reacted to this article and asked about depression/medication stories. She got lots of people who didn't like loosing the emotional extremes depression can bring.

I've mentioned before that my Dad is schizophrenic. He has never believed in medication. I should baldly state here that different people with different mental illnesses take their mental illnesses out on the people around them different amounts. (But yeah, I do hope that everybody in the "Brilliant sadness" chorus has examined the effect of the depression on the people they live with.)

Anyway, my Dad was beyond volatile when I was a kid. The things that set him off always seemed to have just enough of a pattern that figuring out a plan to never freak him out always seemed just out of mental reach.

Growing up with a Dad who was essentially human nitroglycerine made my thinking really, really Dad-centric. "How would my actions affect my dad?" was constantly on my mind. I to this day retain a large list of Dad reactions to various things, assembled when I was desperate to figure out why thing A upset him and closely-related thing B did not. I can remember sitting in front of the TV as a very small child, doing mental drills. Which commercial would set him off? Which one would be fine?

Depression was like having Dad in my head all the time even as an adult. It was a head full of nitro. It was having to spend ridiculous amounts of energy on not getting depressed. "Can't think about thing B, because it's closely related to thing A and I might set it off" is the basic pattern, but in my near three decades of life I'd spun off many variations.

The affect of medication for me was to take away the inherent volatility and give me a little bit of power over the situation. I am still sad over big things, but for smaller things or things that don't affect me, I can say "Boy, that's really depressing" without letting the depressing thing be the center of my life and attention for some undetermined period of time.

I am having to learn how to pay attention to things now, having spent a lot of time as a kid learning to keep things in my mental peripheral vision so I could look away quickly if they started upset me. It sucks, but it's progress.

A Yakov Smirnov voice in my head is saying "In Russia, depression has you."

No interest in going back to Russia, kids. None.

CC

7 comments:

ms. kitty said...

That's a really hard way to grow up, CC, and I'm glad you've come so far. I have known several people who were bipolar and didn't like to take their meds because they missed the zingy feeling of the manicky phase and were willing to endure the depression in return for it. The reality was that they were awful to be around, crazy-making. It might have been zingy for them, but it was pretty tense for the rest of us.

Ms. Theologian said...

Good point.

Bill Baar said...

Depression drugs are a gift. Have loved ones afflicted with it, and you understand.

Way too many sad stories and sucides out there because people don't reach out for easy, effective, and inexpensive therapies...

The pyschotropic drugs even a greater gift... I walked through a viturally empty VA Hospital in Tomah Wisc (trying to figure out what to do with all the empty buildings)...the only patients left the people too institutionalized to leave; all empty because of the revolution in drugs.

PG said...

It was having to spend ridiculous amounts of energy on not getting depressed. "Can't think about thing B, because it's closely related to thing A and I might set it off" is the basic pattern, but in my near three decades of life I'd spun off many variations.

That's really helpful to hear. I've had a few friends who were depressed, but the first two pretty much had it under control by the time I knew them, so the third friend was the one for whom I was really aware of the condition. Before she had the right mix of drugs and therapy (and of her life going better after a job loss and other stuff), it was a little difficult to be around her because a topic that might just be tactless around a non-depressed person (e.g., bringing up another person's losing a job) would be really upsetting for her.

all empty because of the revolution in drugs.

Mostly true, but the revolution in drugs and attendant deinstitutionalization movement also has been credited with sparking the 1980s homelessness crisis. I think it's probably less of a problem now because the drugs have fewer side effects and people are better about taking them, but most revolutions have some casualties.

kim said...

Interesting article. I was depressed for a number of years. Not enough to take drugs for it, but a lot like the article described.
what I remember most about it was when it ended. I was standing on the asphalt under the wing of a Cesna, and something in my head went "click" and the depression lifted -- just like that.
My experience convinced me that it is chemical -- and something in my chemistry suddenly changed.
Thom Hartmann, the radio guy, has some really interesting things to say about the evolutionary purpose of depression. Apparently there are studies that show if you take the depressed chimps out of the band of chimps, the rest of them die.

Bill Baar said...

Mostly true, but the revolution in drugs and attendant deinstitutionalization movement also has been credited with sparking the 1980s homelessness crisis.

Institutionalized crippled people before the drug therapies. Drugs weren't going to restore them to independence after years of institutionalized care. It was putting them onto to the streets that created the problem.

h sofia said...

I think there is a big difference between people on drugs for schizophrenia and 12 year old children on drugs for being depressed (after one visit to the doctor) - and yes, I am speaking of someone I know and am close to.

I think the pharmaceutical companies rely on the examples of people who are have severe brain chemistry issues to push the drugs through to people who are just having a hard time coping.

It is a difficult issue, but what concerns me is the unhappy people I know who take drugs because they are unhappy, and nothing in their life has changed.