I’ve heard it said that all great writers are depressed. Watch out Hemingway, here I come.
I have always been a “look on the bright side” kind of person, but my ability to see all sides of an issue always had me aware of the dark side as well. I just ignored it. I told myself that was part of the life drive, to remain positive at all times.
I know my brain isn’t always honest with me. I don’t carry many unhappy memories. I can remember things that were bad, they just don’t inhabit my daily experience. If I don’t think about them, on some level they did not happen. At least the pain they caused did not happen. For instance, there was a period of my life that I remember rather vividly. It was filled with exciting events and good friends. If I really focus on it, I can remember the hell I was living in and how very close to death I came a number of times, how those good memories comprised a very small percentage of the actual tour. As long as I don’t focus on it, it was a really good time, but if those memories were in my mind all the time I would not be much fun to be around. Maybe I’m not, and everyone is just patronizing me.
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis my neurologist mentioned that depression could be a symptom, and that fifty percent of people with MS get divorced. It occurred to me that fifty percent of people who get married get divorced, so I didn’t let it bother me.
When my second wife and I were later considering divorce, I went to a psychiatrist. My wife had told me I was crazy and I was looking for a second opinion. The psychiatrist asked me about my childhood and such, and then told me that I was very depressed, because I had had such a traumatic childhood. Really? I just couldn’t believe it. I had never thought of my childhood as anything other than good. My parents rarely beat me, we did happy family things, we were moderately well off financially, what was traumatic? He said it was because my family had moved so often and my parents divorced when I was thirteen. Lots of kids move about, hadn’t he ever come in contact with an upwardly mobile family? Or a military family? This was in 1994, wasn’t divorce rather common by then? It just didn’t make sense, but I’m not a doctor so I took his word for it.
My mother told me that depression ran on her side of the family. My grandmother had been bedridden for the last ten years of her life, and my grandfather took care of her twenty four hours a day. They never appeared outwardly to be depressed, but yes, I could see being depressed under those circumstances. She said she was “clinically depressed”, which I later discovered was a way of saying a doctor had confirmed that she was depressed. Well, so was I then.
A few years later I had a really bad incident, and started taking an anti-depressant, and it worked rather nicely. The only problem was that it interfered with my ability to enjoy alcohol, and working at a winery I needed to be able to drink on a regular basis, so I left the winery. That was more depressing. No win there.
I’ve gone back to the anti-depressants, having learned how to adjust the dosage when needed, and my daily depression has largely subsided. I still have days when I just cry for no apparent reason, and depressing events can get to me more than they “should”, and I tend to be much more emotional than I used to be, but I can tell that the pills do have a positive effect. My current psychiatrist is either a really good actor or he believes I’m handling the ups and downs rather well. He doesn’t tell me I’m depressed, he asks if I feel depressed. I usually don’t. On the other hand, I know that if I allow myself to laugh out loud at disasters he’ll want to give me something a little stronger. So maybe I’m the good actor.
All in all, I know I’ve weathered storms that have sunk others, I know I can make it to tomorrow. I also know that I have depression. I just try not to suffer from it.