By Richard Bleil
Today has been a good day. I have an upcoming job interview (for a very good job), and have stumbled upon unexpected funding to pay for the trip. My partner and I have landed a rather lucrative consultancy contract as well which we can reasonably expect to lead to additional work down the road. All in all, it’s been a good day.
This has my friend worried about the weekend.
No, this isn’t a post on superstition, but rather, depression. I’ve probably written about this in the past, and if I have, I apologize for being redundant, repetitive and saying the same thing over and over again. Many years ago, I was diagnosed as “manic depressive”, but today it’s probably better known as “bipolar disorder”. Here’s the way it works.
When I have good days, then invariably, a day or two later, it’s followed with a rather profound and prolonged depression. My particular disorder has been associated with lack of serotonin i my brain. Serotonin is a small molecule in the brain that attaches itself to nerve receptors that make us feel happy. Today, you can get serotonin in pill form as a sleep aid. When they triedantidepressantss on me (which I never was comfortable using), the medications were “serotonin uptake inhibitors”. See, the brain releases serotonin, which floats around in the inter cellular fluid until one of two things happen; either it finds the nerve cell to which it will attach, or it is re-absorbed without having fulfilled its mission in life, a.k.a. making me happy. By inhibiting the re-uptake, in principle, more serotonin is available in the inter cellularnfluid mix because, well, it’s not being re-absorbed as quickly.
Never did squat for me.
What I do not understand, though, is that after a good day (which my therapist once told me is how most people feel every day…lucky bastards!), it is followed by a crash. The way my therapist explained it is that, after having what would be a “normal day” for most people, there’s a component of my psyche that realizes what I am missing. Most days, I feel nothing at all, which is actually a dangerous thing.
Often, people who are dangerously depressed will injure themselves. The theory is that, because of their depression, they often feel nothing, and feeling pain is, ironically enough, less painful than feeling nothing. Feeling nothing is routine for me. When somebody begins to injure themselves (I’ve never reached that phase), presumably it is often the final step before attempted suicide. But, excessive and prolonged (about a week if I’m lucky) after good news is very common for me.
If you have a fried suffering from depression, this is something you might want to keep in mind. I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating; if somebody is feeling blue, don’t try to force the to “cheer up”. No Peter Pan advice, no trying to force them to events or to leave their home, but just let them know that you are sympathetic and that you are there for them when they are ready.
It doesn’t happen so much when I am in a happy relationship. I say “happy” because, as I posted previously, being in a bad relationship can be worse than being alone. I have a good friend who suffers from depression as well, and tends to attack it intellectually, studying the various forms of emotional disorders and potential treatments. She periodically just disappears, sometimes for about a month. She is in another country, so it’s not like I run into her periodically, but I feel her absence when she crawls into herself.
Eventually, she always re-emerges from her self-imposed solitary confinement. But, invariably, she will apologize for her absence. This ALWAYS makes me feel bad. Depression is a medical condition, and like any infection or wound, sometimes it takes time to heal. The way to heal is not always so easy, and often requires time alone with your own feelings. There are things that can help; a sympathetic ear, the physical contact when there is somebody special with whom you can curl up, these are all great in helping fight the symptoms, but nobody can beat those feelings back other than the victim. When she apologizes to me, I know that in addition to fighting her feelings, she is adding guilt, as if somehow she is obligated to me (and others) to be interactive, to keep them happy as well. The LAST thing I want to do is add to her anxiety.
I’m one of the lucky ones. My depression has never been to the level of debilitation, but more than that, I have friends who not only are concerned about me but who also understand my cycles. They know that a good day is followed by bad, and they check up on me. They don’t try to stop the descent, but they let me know they love me, and are there for me. What more could a guy ask for?