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Depression Suppression

February 24, 2012

I’ll come right out and say it. There have been times when I’ve felt so low I haven’t known how to pull myself out of it. There have been times I’ve – like my grandfather – tried to isolate myself from the world until it passes. There have been times when the feeling was so strong that it fed on itself and I didn’t want to pull myself out.

When I was 17 my parents took me to see a psychologist – an old man working out of Makawao that I couldn’t relate to at all. They were concerned I wasn’t able to engage myself fully in directed activities. That my moods were getting the better of me. That I was lost, and possibly heading down a wrong path. There may be more to it than that; I’ll have to ask someday. I’m not saying they were wrong about my mind state – I was trying to figure out a lot in those days, like we all were, and not having an easy time of it. But I didn’t find any answers in his sand-box or on his couch.

One of the most frustrating things in life is understanding something at an intuitive level but lacking the tools to express it. This has been the case for most of my life. In childhood I lacked the concepts. In adolescence I lacked the words. In adulthood I lacked the courage.

In parenthood I lack the luxury of excuses. Parenthood is the hardest spiritual path to follow, because you can’t just live it in your mind. You have to live it in your heart and in your actions.

I’ve come to understand myself much better since becoming a father. Being forced to engage fully in working – as opposed to finding a new job once a year – has clarified my frustrations with capitalism. Starting my own business has provided confidence as well as an alternative to a rigid life schedule. And seeing my own actions reflected in my daughter has forced me to face them squarely.

When I feel a bout of depression coming on, my first impulse is to look at the physical aspects of my day-to-day life for its root cause. This is dangerous because it’s easy to lay it on someone else. And when I’m already going down the spiral my communication tends to get muddy. So as quickly as possible I move on to searching within myself for the problem. This is also dangerous because it can lead to self-recrimination, furthering the downward spiral. The worst thing is when I lay a trip on my loved ones and then get down on myself for it. That just feeds the fire.

When Ann and I conceived I told her that I suffered from depression. That the people closest to me usually bore the brunt of my pain. That there would be times when I just needed to be alone. She listened stoically and promised to help as best she could. What else could she say?

I know it’s hard on her (and Eva) when it happens. I’m not going to use this opportunity to exonerate myself or point fingers. But I will use it to share what I’ve learned and hope that it can help someone else out there. I’m not a psychologist and have no wish to operate out of a degree-adorned box. My answers lie in nature, in living, and in learning. Primarily self-knowledge.

The best thing to do when you start to feel down is to move your body. Play ball, go swimming, go running, punch a bag. This can be hard to do because all of your inner demons are screaming to crawl into bed and turn your back on the world. And you can do that. But if you exhaust your body first, you’ll be able to sleep. Insomnia only makes it worse.

Don’t ignore the feeling. Don’t try to suppress it with fiery determination. It’ll just pop up and affect a different facet of your life. If you can – if there’s someone you trust – tell them. Just say it. Hey, I’m feeling really depressed. Chances are you’ll burst out in tears at this divulgence, and that’s good.

And if someone has the guts to say this to you, don’t ask them why! Tell them you’re sorry to hear it, and then take care of them. Cook them a healthy meal. Rub their back, or their feet. Do more if it’s your lover, but don’t ask them for anything. And remember: you haven’t done a thing to cause their feelings.

At this point in life I’ve worked out a good number of my frustrations. Oh, there are many remaining to be addressed, but that’s as it should be. Self-knowledge is a lifelong journey. What I do have – what I am very grateful for – is a body free of pharmaceuticals. I may experience peaks and troughs, but I can work on prolonging the peaks and smoothing the troughs. My life isn’t a flatline.

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From → Rants

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