Desperate to Defeat Depression

It has been almost two months since I last added something to my blog and that bothers me.  Of course, said ‘two months’ were spread across the ‘holidaze’ and it is always easy to get caught up in ancillary activities which usurp time from blogging.  However, this was not the case for me as I enjoyed a fairly low key and relaxed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  No, for me my blogging has suffered, as have so many other activities, from the return of an old nemesis from my not so distant past – depression.  Given this occurred with the advent of winter here in the higher latitudes a number of folks suggested it might be SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and while SAD might be a contributor I do not believe this is the case.  In the first place I love the winter in this area, it is my favorite season.  I live for the cold temperatures and snow events which have, sadly, been rather sparse again this winter.  The longer periods of darkness do not bother me in the least.  In fact, I struggle much more with the absence of a night sky and any real darkness from early May through late August than the deep darkness we see from mid-September through early March.  And, too, I continue to take my daily Vitamin D3 supplement to help ameliorate any SAD symptoms.  So, no, I do not see SAD as the root cause for my lack of interest in anything.

As more and more information has come to light regarding depression and its symptoms, causes and prevalence I’ve come to recognize I’ve dealt with depression since I was in junior high school.  Not continually but rather in sporadic episodes which often lasted for months to even years.  In hindsight, I didn’t even know my lack of interest and seemingly anti-social behavior weren’t ‘normal’ for me until one late summer in south central Wisconsin when I was in my middle thirties.  I’d always suffered from hay fever and the late summer was one of my least favorite times as that’s when the ragweed pollinates and I was doomed to a totally stuffed up head, continually runny nose and sneezing fits until the first hard freeze.  But that late August I never felt the onset of these symptoms and marveled that I saw the first frost without experiencing any hay fever symptoms.  Within another few months I began to notice my overall mood was much brighter and I felt more alive and just ‘lighter’.  It took another few months for me to realize I had been living with depression for decades and suddenly the depression had lifted.  Given this happened at the same time my hay fever disappeared I’m betting my body went through some biochemical shift in my middle thirties and whatever caused my sudden lack of sensitivity to ragweed pollen also caused my depression to disappear.  Since that time depression has often returned – unlike the hay fever which has never again plagued me – but I recognized its beginning and began to learn methods to mitigate its effects.  Across my forties and fifties I was involved in a tug of war with depression; sometimes it would hit me for a week or two but I always won out in the end.

But then came the end of 2017.  In hindsight, I could feel its return in November of 2017 and I prepared to once again do battle.  And it did come on and I tried all my old tricks to minimize its effects and banish it once again.  But this time nothing has worked and, indeed, I’m experiencing what I believe to be serious depression.  Without question, this is as bad as any bouts I can recall and seems to be worse.  Twenty seventeen was a tough year for me with diagnoses of severe hypertension and late onset Type 2 diabetes; because of these conditions I’ve been taking a single med for the diabetes but three meds for the hypertension.  It is possible one or more of these drugs are ‘enhancing’ the effects of this recent re-occurrence of depression.  But said diagnoses also prompted me to begin a much healthier lifestyle; I currently do between 11,500 and 14,000 daily steps (around 5.0 to 6.3 miles) spread across my day to try to keep me in motion at least once an hour.  I do this exercise seven days a week and try to supplement it with some additional exercise like using my fluid resistance indoor bicycling rig.  The diabetes forced me to assume a ‘low carb lifestyle’ which has allowed me to manage the condition (I’m currently working on 78 consecutive days with a blood glucose level at or below 135 mg/dL) through diet and exercise.  In addition, I’ve dropped fifty pounds across the past year with another twenty to twenty five to go.  Both these positive shifts should help mitigate my depression.  But with this latest onset nothing seems able to dispel the dark helplessness that’s settled over my awareness.

Given all this I’ve elected to visit the local clinic and talk with the behavioral health specialist regarding this sudden and intense bout of depression.  Despite having dealt with depression for much of my life I’ve never seen a medical professional regarding the condition.  Early on, as in back in the sixties and early seventies, I knew nothing about the condition and assumed dealing with the ‘dark times’ and lack of interest in anything along with shunning socialization was just part of ‘being me’.  Later, I just soldiered on and began to learn some techniques which often helped like fasting and rigorous exercise.  During my later forties and fifties depression would ‘come and go’ but never felt bad enough nor lasted long enough to seek medical advice.  But this has all changed across the past couple of months.  I’ve never seriously considered suicide but of late there have been numerous times I have wished I’d just go to bed and not awaken.  But when I feel this way I quickly remember my canine companions; I made a commitment when I brought them into my pack and I will fulfill those commitments. 

Mostly I’m just tired of struggling with health issues and associated financial concerns.  But I’ve dealt with both in the past and never felt so overwhelmed or bereft of hope.  I’m so hoping western medicine can offer me a means to battle back against this seemingly impenetrable veil of empty darkness!  I really don’t want to take any more pills and I sure do not want a ‘treatment’ which brings new negatives into my existence via the dreaded ‘side effects’ but if I can get a prescription for something which allows me to rise above the daily feelings of isolation, desolation and frustration it could well be a God Send.  I know depression is often stronger and more prevalent in older folks and at sixty four and a half years of age I’m definitely getting up there so perhaps this is part of what’s driving the severity and resolute nature of this latest onslaught?  I just know I have to do something as for the first time in decades I feel utterly powerless to escape depression’s grip and it is slowly wearing me down at a time when I’m not feeling a surfeit of inner strength. 

12 thoughts on “Desperate to Defeat Depression

  1. Susan Carl

    Sorry to hear that you’re temporarily in the “dumps”. I think it’s a great sign that you’re on the mend by the fact that you’re able to talk it through and put your thoughts to paper. I don’t know if it will help knowing that so many people rely on your blogs to find out what you’re currently up to because they’re genuinely interested and care about you.
    Me, for one!
    I’m guessing that after your trip to the therapist’s office, the suggestion will be to seek out social/physical interaction. Online socialization is important (staying in touch, finding information), but physical contact is so important and is an innate human need. In other words… You need a mega amount of hugs! So glad your kids can help some what with that! Why not force yourself to get out in the community again, make friends and/or sign up for a class or club that is of interest to you. I know, it’s not that convenient since you’re quite a distance from town, but try scheduling a once-a-month get together that you can look forward to -that would be helpful and fun!
    You’ve made so many changes in your life recently- most not too pleasant, so you need to be good to yourself once in a while – you’re so worth it!!! Hopefully thoughts of using your new little RV in the near future will help get you thru this bump in the road! Love ya, guy!

  2. Oh my friend! I am not liking this, it makes my heart hurt. I have been thinking about you and thinking about you and never do I send a note.
    Holding you close in my heart as you climb up out of this hole. I never quite understood being depressed in winter–it really is an amazing time of year and the days getting longer are so exciting. I count the minutes as they gain each day! Yet, I know it happens. Cabin fever and what not. Know you are in my thoughts, even if my own world keeps me from reaching out.
    Heart you, dear friend!

  3. You already got some good advice, took the right steps and I hope this phase will end, soon. Best wishes.

    • Thanks, my Friend! I’m looking forward to this morning’s appointment with the local clinic’s behavioral health specialist. Then, at 14:00, I’ll attend the first of six “Living Well” classes offered at the same clinic. They target people newly diagnosed with diabetes so I’m hoping to get lots of good tips, new recipes (always a good thing!), membership in the local diabetes support group and maybe develop some new relationships. Took a morning walk a bit earlier with my two canine companions in the light to moderate snowfall; there was 5.1″ of new snow and more coming down. Thankfully, it is typical ‘Talkeetna snow’ so it is light and fluffy which made the 2.1 mile walk a bit easier. My headlamp did yeoman’s service and let me feel a bit better about not surprising moose. Normally I expect ‘the kidz’ to scent out any large wildlife long before I see it but they’re not infallible. From time to time I shut off the headlamp just to get a feel for how dark it is up here in winter; it was a bit unnerving but still fun. Hope all is well with you and yours..!

  4. I have been very lucky in that when I was depressed it was always situational or hormonal. I had a very bad bout after the birth of my youngest and my doctor kept telling me it would pass. She was about six months old when it did finally lift. I felt like I was living in a deep ditch with the sun above, visible but not reaching me. When it finally lifted I felt like I was able to crawl out of the ditch and walk in the sunshine at last. I hope I never end up back in the ditch. My only tip beyond commiserating is to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D. I recommend being sure you have 3000 IU daily from food and if you aren’t, add some artificial supplements. Our standards recommended daily intake of vitamin D of 400 IU were developed with an eye to preventing rickets and are really inadequate given new evidence on he role of vitamin D in so many other aspects of our life. On and congrats on getting the diabetes under control. No small feat that!

    • I’m slowly coming around thanks to some counseling and 50 mg. Sertraline (Zoloft) per day. Once I’ve climbed back to my ‘normal’ balance I want to discontinue the Sertraline and see if I remain okay. The less medication I have to take the happier I am! I currently take 2,000 IU/day of Vitamin D3 mainly to combat SAD; it never used to bother me but last year I noticed I was experiencing some of the effects so I talked to a number of locals who recommended this course of action. It works great! Thanks for the kind words regarding my current success controlling my late onset Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise! It’s amazing what the fear of becoming insulin dependent can do to one’s motivation!! In late May of 2017 I was diagnosed; at that time my A1c was ’14’ and my immediate blood glucose was 375 mg/dL! I was largely clueless as to how severe this was but my doctor sat me down and told me most doctors would have immediately started me on insulin with such values. But she offered me three months to get my A1c down to ‘6.5’ or lower. I went into a blue funk for three days followed by denial for another two; then I methodically cleared the house of all high calorie/high carb food items, began spending hours researching Type 2 diabetes and developing a low carb lifestyle. Three months later I had my A1c at ‘6.0’ and three months after that it tested ‘5.7’ which is about where it was before the original diagnosis. Now the trick will be to hold my blood glucose daily tests at or below 135 mg/dL; doing so will give me an A1c between ‘6.0’ and ‘5.5’. This getting old thing is not for the faint of heart!

  5. I’m new to reading your blog, and have greatly enjoyed your photos of snow and the pups. Sorry to hear you are feeling poorly, and I hope it passes / gets better soon. Sounds like you have adopted a healthy lifestyle as far as exercise goes. Inflammation is very bad, and eating right can help with that. Diet plays a big role in our health. When I have days / months / years when I just want to leave the planet, I tell myself that it will pass, and eventually it does. So hang in there.

    • Good Morning from south central Alaska! Thanks for following my blog! When I began this ‘project’ just after relocating to this area (I moved up here in early August of 2013 but began this blog in October of 2013) I envisioned it being a ‘dairy’ of a sixty year old’s lifestyle shift from suburban life in the lower 48 to his dream of a semi-rural lifestyle in south central Alaska. As you may have noticed it has morphed into a lot more than just the aforementioned. Thanks for your kind words regarding my battles with depression; I’ve managed to once again find my way free of the ailment – at least for now – but I’m also taking 50 mg. Sertraline (Zoloft) daily to combat the symptoms. Across the past six weeks I’ve become much more ‘light’ and centered which marks a return to the ‘old’ me. I loved your sage words!! I developed a mantra decades back when battling depression which is almost identical; I continually remind myself that – “This, too, shall pass!”. It always helps me and reminds me that all things in this existence are fleeting and I need to keep that in mind as my journey continues. I’m still working on developing a better structure in my daily existence – something important to help those struggling with depression – and expanding my circle of local friends. I left everyone behind when I relocated and while I knew I’d be starting over from scratch I didn’t envision it being so difficult. It’s not that the people aren’t friendly – they are the best! – but most have spent the better part of their lives here and thus they have well established social circles. Being single exacerbates the difficulty in breaking into such circles. However, my volunteering (I sit on the Sunshine Community Health Clinic’s board and I’ll soon be a bona fide member of the Upper Susitna Senior Center’s board) is really helping me develop new relationships and I intend to work diligently at expanding my social contacts. Mostly I’m back to really enjoying life up here and as winter will soon fade away to the oncoming spring I need to be preparing for all the nasty mosquitoes and the onslaught of tourists. That’s life in this area and as with all of life ya just gotta take the bad with the good. Have a great week!

      • Glad to hear you are doing good now! As older single people, moving to a new place, it is very tough to make friends. I’m right there with you. Sounds like you will find companions soon enough with the social involvement you have planned. I really hope so. Keep taking and sharing those photos…

        • Thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement! I did give up a lot in terms my social structure/support system when I relocated but I knew this would be the case and I also knew I’d have to work hard to establish a new support structure. While it has taken me a bit longer than I expected I am moving forward and that’s all anyone can ask – especially at my age. Across the past year and a half I’ve been focused so much on my health I haven’t really continued to build my social network. Sure, I remain in touch with a number of dear friends in the lower 48 but while Skype is better than just a phone call or an email it’s not the same as ‘being there’. I’m beginning to feel I’ve made all the correct moves regarding my health and am getting myself to a much healthier and happier persona; as long as I can keep the cyclical depression from interfering I should be in a good position to really begin to enjoy my life. Last September I took ‘the kidz’ on a 5,200+ mile round-trip to Montana to pick up a 2017 R-pod travel trailer. I documented that experience on this blog back in October. I’m hopefully once the snow melts but before the tourists arrive I can get down into the Kenai with my canine companions for some relaxing camping. I used to be a big tent camper and backpacker but age and physical infirmities kinda did away with such activities. The R-pod is a good compromise as it is small but just big enough for me and ‘the kidz’. Not sure if you are on ‘Facebook’; I used it quite a bit but tired of the stupidity and vitriol back in October of 2013 so I stopped using the site. Just recently I’m starting to use it again but to a much lesser degree and I’d like to keep it that way. Anyway, there are a lot of images on my site and links to libraries of photos from my previous trips to Alaska, my relocation ‘adventure’ and life up here. You are welcome to visit and peruse if you’d like. I’m listed under ‘Bill Was’. Here’s wishing you and yours a great new week! I have a committee meeting this afternoon, the weekly ‘Tuesday Lunch’ at the Upper Susitna Senior Center on Tuesday and an ‘all staff’ lunch with the Sunshine Community Health Center’s crew on Wednesday. Definitely some good socialization upcoming!

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