Contemplating Depression…And Beyond

Once again I’ve emerged from the dark miasma of depression and am finding all those things I enjoyed in the past are once again sources of joy and stimulation.  I’m no stranger to this situation having ‘been there, done that’ more times than I care to remember.  But this time is different because I finally sought medical assistance for the condition and am continuing to take 50 mg. of Sertraline (Zoloft) on a daily basis.  The med is helping as did the counseling but I’m left wondering if I would’ve once again found my free  of the desperate darkness of emptiness without such assistance?  If the past is any indication then the answer is an unqualified ‘Yes’.  But this latest bout was stronger than most and it showed no signs of dissipating after ravaging my emotional well-being for more than a month.  Sure, I remember times when I struggled for a year or more but that was also before I recognized the depression for what it was…a chronic condition that was robbing me of my joy, my balance and my caring.  And while I ultimately am just pleased it is no longer a factor in my day to day existence I still wonder…

Of course part of my concern is based upon the fear it will eventually once more sweep into my life and drag me down into the dark depths of despair.  However, if I continue taking the Sertraline this most likely will not occur.  However, I really am not a ‘pill person’ and hence I have real issues with taking meds especially if I feel they are having minimal to no immediate benefit so I remain a bit conflicted.  I’m working on becoming more sanguine regarding taking the daily dose of Sertraline – my doctor tells me it is about the minimum dose prescribed nowadays – and am viewing it like I do insurance.  It is an investment in maintaining my well-being should the worst occur.  In this sense I view the daily med as I do insurance in general – a ‘necessary evil’.  I guess if I didn’t already take daily doses of HCTZ, Amlodipine and Losartan Potassium for the hypertension and Metformin for the late onset Type 2 diabetes swallowing my daily tablet of Sertraline wouldn’t be such a big deal..?

So I’m heading towards a place whereby I just need to remember how bad this last bout of depression had become and how much the Sertraline appeared to help in dispelling the condition.  As I look back at this latest event I remain confounded by how this condition functions.  How does an apparent biochemical imbalance have the ability to literally wipe away the joy and enthusiasm one holds for life and replace it with a complete lack of motivation and an overpowering numbness which makes even the most beloved activities empty and without value?  In contemplating this question I am struck by the awareness that if depression is ‘just’ a biochemical imbalance with such power over our thoughts and perceptions what does that say regarding the basis for our reality?  Is our very existence nothing but a complex series of biochemical and bio-electrical reactions?  Are the emotions which are so ‘human’ such as love, compassion, fear and loathing predicated only upon a proper balance of molecules, electricity, neurons and synapses?

In a way this description of human beings seems almost derogatory but there’s no denying the direction our race’s ‘voyages of discovery’ are heading regarding the biological sciences.  However, if one looks beyond just the mechanical/chemical reactions there’s something I find truly fascinating.  If all life exists based upon these same fundamental interactions then is not all life related?  Some may find the concept of a human being’s life force being identical to that of a microorganism to be insulting but I do believe this feeling is valid.  In this sense, all life is inter-related and, hence, all life is precious.  Think on this concept!  On an energy level all life is related and most likely interconnected as well.  This ‘connectedness’ is probably on a quantum level but being part of the very small doesn’t diminish its importance.  What a profound concept!!

We human beings have seemed driven to place ourselves at the apex of the ‘web of life’ on this planet and, in many respects, this is an accurate measurement.  But we should never have allowed this concept to morph into a feeling of being superior to all other life!  If we do, indeed, share such basic commonalities with all other life on this planet perhaps we should look deep within ourselves and begin to realize as a race with so many distinct cultures we honestly need to stop celebrating our differences and begin to embrace our commonalities.  There is nothing ‘wrong’ about being different or distinct unless we allow these perceptions to divide us or set us apart from other.  So perhaps we should begin to celebrate our uniqueness and our commonalities..?  While doing so, perhaps the time has come to enlarge our acceptance of all life around us and understand that the myriad of life forms is but the Universe’s way of celebrating life?  If we could all come to honestly embrace this fundamentally  amazing ‘sameness’ our lives would be so much richer and we might better understand the value of diversity.

Neuron

Is this the sum total of a human being..??

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.