This post deals with my ongoing experience with depression, and while I don’t feel that my struggles are anything to hide, this post also tackles sexuality and interpersonal relationships, which I believe deserve some privacy both for the comfort of my general readers and out of respect of those individuals herein described.
Thank you for your time, patience, and understanding. I know this content won’t be for everyone, even some of those with whom I have explicitly shared it, and I’m perfectly okay with anyone not continuing farther than they feel comfortable.
With a recent site redesign it’s even more unlikely than before that casual visitors will stumble upon my Self-Reflection posts, including this one, which I hope will ease anyone’s worry about me posting this content “publicly.”
As most people reading this know, for the past several years I have been getting treatment for major depressive disorder. This has involved being prescribed various mood stabilizers, a sleep aid, and one-on-one therapy to help address both the depression and comorbid anxiety. I’m currently on a Prozac-generic which has done very well to even out the lows, with a smaller effect on my good moods than several of the previous drugs. I take a sleep aid (a generic for Desyrel) which helps me wake up tired instead of weary, and these have both made a large difference in my daily mood.
That isn’t to say of course that everything is now rosy and vibrant; depression still hangs like a leaden blanket over most aspects of my life, and even when I do have moments of true levity the good feelings don’t last very long. I can’t be sure how much of this is internal to my own sense of self-worth and how much of it is the stress/anxiety I feel about my current employment, but I like to hope that it’s more the latter than the former. I believe the only way I’ll know for sure is when (not if) I get a new job.
Walking away from the improv troupe a few years ago was a very painful decision, both for the circumstances surrounding my departure and the waves of guilt that continue to roll through me to this day, let alone the almost instant evaporation of my entire social circle. Without dwelling too much into the specifics—owing to the sheer number of posts I have in this category on the topic—I can with no small surety say that my leaving had a powerful effect on the assessment of myself as a person, and of my value to others. Though it’s been several years, I still haven’t been able to find the strength or energy to find new friends or more social circles. Though it’s probably a case of everything being greener on the other side, to some degree I truly envy my friends who have a difficult time balancing the sheer number of social engagements on their plate, rather than my complete lack thereof.
One area in which my depression has had significant effects is in the bedroom. I love my wife impossibly much, and genuinely care for her happiness more than for my own, and I can’t ever be thankful and sorry enough for her putting up with my lack of initiative. Worse, this isn’t a recent development; I’ve had depression as a constant companion for a very long time (perhaps my whole life), and there have been long stretches where I couldn’t bring myself to reach out to her—nor anyone. It’s been much, much worse since I left the improv group.
I attribute some of my reticence and inability to satisfy her to the depression itself, some to the medications which blunt my moods, and some to a creeping fear that I don’t or can’t make others happy, or that I don’t deserve to be happy myself. It’s not fair to her, and I hate that I’m not providing for her in this way.
Two friends of mine went to a swingers party this weekend, and as I got ready for work this morning I had the thought “I bet they had more action this weekend than I’ve had in two years.” I don’t mean for that to sound like some plaintive mewling, but rather as a reflection of just how infrequently I feel that I’m mentally available for it.
Though I am far, far more cautious and guarded when and with whom I flirt these days, I still very much enjoy teasing others and making them smile—getting a blush is a huge mark of success to me. I like to think that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to grow more sophisticated in my amorous messages and whispered words, even if there’s no intention or prospect of anything coming to fruition—what a terrible person I would be to attempt to enjoy company out in the world when I find it so difficult to do so at home, with all blame for the situation firmly on myself.
For some reason I’ve always hated the “spoons” analogy when it comes to talking about energy, motivation, and mental taxation, but it illustrates the concept fairly well. If anyone hasn’t heard of it, Wikipedia has a good synopsis. With the amount of time I spend alone or at least not socializing, it can be easy for some to assume that solitude is how I recharge, how I save up the energy required for daily life. In truth, for me even being alone takes energy, as I fight away the stupid discouraging thoughts trying to find their way into my brain; it’s just that being alone and dealing with it is far less taxing than trying to handle them on top of being social.
Over the past year I have developed a very strong laissez faire attitude, perhaps as a survival mechanism. In some ways I feel this has been positive—I’ve become far less judgmental of others, for instance, as I realize their life is theirs to live and I don’t or shouldn’t have much or any say on it—but in many other ways I feel it has been a detriment. It’s hard to feel passionate about a project or an endeavor when my overarching mentality crows “it is what it is.” I attribute at least some of the aforementioned interpersonal relationship issues to this “hands off” mindset, which also has the effect of making me a very passive person.
My workplace has had a large hand in reinforcing the value of a passive attitude as well, by consistently and continually resisting any suggestion made to help improve efficiency or processes. Obviously no company should take all advice, but I would think that, after five years here, I would get something even as tenuous as lip service. My tenure here has very much turned me bitter, because it seems that there’s no point in bringing up any ideas.
I recognize, quite cognizantly, that I have a very charmed life in the aggregate. I’m a white, middle-class man in America with a stable job, a loving wife, and attentive friendships. Something I learned during a stint in group therapy a few years back, and later quoted most succinctly by a good friend, “just because there are people who are starving doesn’t mean your own hunger doesn’t matter.” The idea being that though other people may have objectively (or subjectively) more serious or important issues with which to deal, that shouldn’t minimize the very real effect my own traumas and dramas.
I know for a fact that I’ve written before that my life at the time felt like I was stuck in a waiting room, hoping something new would happen or my number be called. I’m sorry to report that while in general things have stabilized, this waiting room chair has become something of a home to me. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s familiar.
For those who are still with me, who have read through this lengthy post, please allow me to make a request: don’t let me get complacent. With writing, with trying new things, meeting new people, or proving myself elsewhere in the working world, it’s very, very easy for me to forget the fun and successes my life has wrought, and that there is still so much more I can (and should!) reach for, even if the blanket is heavy and the mind foggy.
Thank you, each and everyone.