It is not exactly unconventional wisdom to say that depression is an insidious disease. But I think conventional wisdom holds that it is synonymous with sadness. And I don't think that's the case. I think it would be more accurate to think of it as physical, mental, and spiritual numbness. It is not the same as feeling sad. It is like feeling nothing at all. I have cried more in the years since my depression began being treated than I ever did before.
I am on anti-depressants now. Before going on them, I was pretty against them. I thought they would change who I was, or worse, cause me to be a laughing fool. Depression is the only disease I know of which tries to convince its host that it cannot be treated. In fact, they have not changed the essence of me at all. What anti-depressants have done is allow me to share who I am with other people in ways I would never have imagined before.
It took me years to muster up the courage to talk to my doctor about depression. When I finally did, I started by describing my physical symptoms. He couldn't find anything wrong with me, of course, and was about to leave. Doctors call this a "doorknob moment", I now know. The patient, seeing the doctor is going to leave and fearing he/she will never get this close again, blurts out "could it be..." I knew it was, of course, and had for a long time. So what brought me to the doctor that day? I finally had had enough. I had a fantastic wife, the perfect wife for me. I had a great house in a great area for raising a family. I had a job which did not suck (yet). I had many great friends. And I was absolutely miserable. I finally realized that there was nothing external that I could change that was going to help. So I went to the doctor. He gave me a sample and sent me home.
And, here again, I was very lucky. I forget what it is called, but what happened to me is pretty rare, I think. The medicine, which can take weeks to work, helped me within days. I was leaving work my second day on the meds and was stopped in my tracks. Right next to me was a flowering crab apple tree. It was magnificent! I can smell it still. Across the road were many more. What a sight! I took a few deep breaths. My God! And then it occurred to me that they did not bloom that day. I had never noticed them before - drove and walked right by them. I could go on and on listing all the things that have happened in my life that anti-depressants made possible. My kids, for example, would be on the list. Not long after starting the meds, I asked my wife why we didn't have kids yet. She didn't really know. She had mentioned it before and talked about adoption and I just wasn't interested. I made an appointment with my doctor the next day and it was discovered that I have a low sperm count. Next thing I knew, we were applying to adopt. But here's another example, and I will forewarn you that it's silly, but it is a perfect example of something that takes almost no energy and that I still would have been unable to do before the medication: Stacy and I had a long weekend off, so we decided to fly to St. Louis. We got in late in the evening and it was raining. Hard. Our hotel indicated that it was across the street from Union Station. I knew the transit train went to Union Station so we took it. We walked out of Union Station, into the darkness, into the rain, and looked for our hotel. We couldn't see it. Stacy called and was given directions. It was at least four blocks away. Seeing no cabs, nor people, we walked. It occurred to me that our predicament was begging us to be depressed. We weren't. We simply walked to our hotel. Once there we found that the hotel had no restaurant. Where was the nearest place to eat? Union Station, naturally. Before anti-depressants that would have been the end of my evening. I would have yelled at poor Stacy. I would have said, "Fuck it. I'm going to bed. Fucking horseshit town." But instead, though we were disappointed, we sat down on the bed and talked about our options.
"Me too. What should we do?"
"I don't know. I guess call a cab and go back to Union Station. They have a Hooters! Er, I mean, they have a Hooters I think I heard. They have good wings, I think."
"Okay. Let's do that."
Done. See how easy that was? Trust me when I tell you that I could not have done it without pharmaceutical help.
So I was on my way, with the help of medicine. I was not home yet, though. But, friends, that is enough for today...