Towards Antidepression. My Journal On The Path.
I am becoming antidepressed. Antidepressed as in antifragile, per Nassim Taleb. Not “antidepressed” as in under the effects of antidepressants, but “antidepressed” as in the opposite of depressed. Antifragility enables things to become stronger with shocks, antidepression makes me stronger as I overcome that which once overwhelmed me.
It has, and continues to, take a lot of time, money, therapy, drugs, patience (so much patience), hope, and acceptance. And…it’s been worth every bit.
The result is wonderful most of the time, although the depression still occasionally takes over, but less completely and much less frequently. My “enjoyment quotient” is much higher.
Let’s also be clear that my depression hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still in here, still doing its thing. I have gotten “bigger.” Inside. I’m like the Tardis now, bigger on the inside than on the outside. My internal (emotional? ratio-emotive?) landscape has gotten larger. Before, I was zoomed into the depression-addiction; it was my whole map. Now I seem to have zoomed out. I can see and partake of that old landscape if I choose, and now it is (mostly) by choice. I’m no longer lost in it all the time.
And, right now, I am on the edge — yo-yo-ing back and forth between the depression and antidepression — and the differences are remarkable.
- My body uses energy differently; when I’m depressed my body goes into an energy conservation mode in which it thinks that every calorie of energy is precious and there are no more coming, so every calorie is important. Thus, every action, thought, and emotion is questioned prior to “execution” for its use of energy. A lot of energy gets burned up just figuring out how to use less of it. At those times my body seems to think that every action, emotion, and thought is depletive. Antidepressed it’s totally the opposite; every action, emotion, and thought (let’s shorthand that to “activities”) makes more energy. It’s accretive. (up to a point, of course) Antidepressed, every activity segues to the following one because I am interested to see what’s next — I am drawn into the future. At some deeply biological level I know, while antidepressed, that every activity is likely to produce more energy because my curiosity, my engagement with the world, produces it. The energy is never-ending.
- I have the end in mind. No longer just reactive, I’m striving towards something. Having an endpoint in mind provides context to each moment and every day (mostly) I can see what progress has been made towards that endpoint. I’m eating my own dog food here, because it’s the same process I advise a number of clients on. Context adds meaning to each moment. To each activity. And a lack of it causes a lot of hamster-wheeling.
- I am so much less angry. Things that would immediately set me off no longer do that. (my wife likes this part a lot) The reaction — the emotion — is still there when I get triggered, but it’s off in the distance, as opposed to having invaded my being before I could even be aware of it. Kind of like a far-off explosion, I can see the flash, but the bang takes a while to get to me (if it even does).
- I listen, a lot more. My wife came back from Al-anon one night with a great acronym: WAIT. Why Am I Talking? It’s my mantra now. The power of active listening is amazing. I learn so much more when my anxiety-fueled frenzy isn’t having me formulate my next comment while the other person is still talking. Really listening requires a certain level of serenity.
- I enjoy interacting with people and they can tell, so they’re doing it more. Every positive interaction adds momentum to my progress. And, often, another person I get to add to my community.
- I remember stuff. Which is a bit surprising, considering that cannabis is part of my antidepression “recipe.” (see below) And my memory is so much better. I can remember conversations that happened a week ago, yesterday, and 2 minutes ago. From inside here what seems to be happening is that I have the cognitive capacity to actually make memories. Before now, so much of my cognitive capacity was working on dealing with my internal state, that I never really laid down memories. Now that the cognitive load of just being in the world has reduced significantly, I can pay attention to what’s going on outside me. Wow! There’s a whole interesting, awe-inspiring, and wonderful world out there. Now I can partake in it (!).
- I have a community. I joined a men’s group 18 months ago and it changed my life. The power of community is remarkable. I believe it’s the cure to a lot of our social ills today; depression, anxiety, addiction, loneliness, xenophobia, and I could go on.
“Can we talk?…” (Joan Rivers)
The lack of conversation regarding mental health in our society today isolates every one of us that suffers with any form of it. I believe that there are other people like me out there; people who can help me and whom I could help.
It’s time to make that happen. Communities of the mentally unhealthy (or whatever term you care to adopt, personally I’m not fond of being thought of as “ill”) would be an incredibly valuable gift to the world. And to each and every person who participated (hopefully, anyway).
We are everywhere. You see us every day. We see each other every day. And the crime is that we can’t help each other. All because of a stupid stigma.
Let’s see if we can end that. And…I’ll start: I am depressed, I am an addict, I am cyclothymic (larger mood swings than normal), and…I am successful, I am smart, I am creative, I am male, I am 62: all true at the same time.
Once we have created enough community, we’ll finally be able to ask a critical question: “why is this life we’ve created causing so many of us to be depressed?”
Until we have an answer to that, more programs, studies, or compassion won’t fix it. There is only one thing we need to get started:
My antidepression recipe
I’ve been dealing with my depression for most of my life. The funny thing is that even when I look back at “happy” times, I know that the suck (as I used to call it) was in there. Depression is one of the easiest mental health issues to hide. Smiling and laughter hide the deepest of crevasses.
Here are the things I am sure are helping me:
- Exercise; Monday-Friday every morning 45 minutes of strenuous walking
- Meditation; Also every weekday morning, at least 20 minutes (it’s the best part of my day)
- Less alcohol (but not none); I don’t think I need to say more about that
- Medications; Effexor (225mg/day), Cannabis (vaping everyday)
- Community; I joined a men’s group 18 months ago, and it was, perhaps, the single best thing I have done to reduce my addictive-depressive tendencies. I am convinced that community is part of the cure for depression, depression-addiction, and (possibly) a lot of other diseases that might look like social problems.
Here is a list of things that I think are helping:
- Probiotics (I’ve been studying the gut-brain connection and this seemed to make sense)
- 18oz of water every morning before meditation (don’t ask me why, but it seems to help)
- A daily goal: I make at least 1 person laugh everyday
- Staying in touch with my community
- Saying “yes” in response to that “I don wanna” feeling (another thing my wife likes a lot)
If you are suffering with mental unhealthiness, my sincerest wishes for getting better. Not “better” like “well” but better as in “better than today.” For some of us, that’s the best we can hope for.
Better is just fine, I have discovered.