I don’t often have the opportunity to sit in front of the ’puter and read blogs over a quiet ale, but today seems to be one of those oh-so rare Saturday’s.
And now, having just read Jacques Chester’s hauntingly familiar recognition of depression, and the link to another programmer’s impressions of his own affliction, I feel somewhat compelled to contribute. Depression is most definitely not a failing of the individual in my eyes, in fact, completely the opposite. Most of us who suffer with a neuro-chemical imbalance do so under the influence some of the most adverse of personal emotions a human being can experience, and often never let on to those we co-habit with or associate with daily that anything is in anyway awry. To carry on with life, because deep down inside you know the reality is that it – life – is going to happen around you whether you like it or not, takes some incredible courage in many situations. I know. I’ve been to the edge and looked over. I fallen in once or twice. It’s very dark down there. In fact, it can be terrifyingly seductive to stay there. The anger, desperation, fear and shunning of all external influences just in case they utter some annoying platitude like "it’ll pass" or "hey, life goes on y’know", can, strangely, be empowering. I can identify with Will Shipley in that a hyper-focus on those things you excel at and which provide a mental direction for concentration, can be what keeps you relatively sane while inside you’re crumbling away.
Of course, unless you’ve suffered depression, unless you’ve sunk into that pit where the world weighs on you darkly and the way out isn’t toward the light at the top, but through the bottom of your own despair, you simply cannot hope to understand. I know that sounds elitist, but trust me, it truly is a matter of having to be there. From a personal perspective, I’m ever so glad I never pursued a life-long desire to take up sports shooting. I now know that a firearm may well have been my shovel to dig my way out of the bottom of my pit, at least one time in the past.
But I know now, as Jacques obviously does and all depression suffers discover sooner or later, that far from being a mental failing or retardation of faculties, depression is an illness brought on by ones own body chemistry. I especially relate to Jacques own description:
"We all of us sail in the uncertain sea of serotonin; but some of us sail in shallow waters."
That simple statement speaks absolute volumes. We are all vastly different individuals and no two are in any way alike when it comes to our body chemistry and how we use it. We all have to settle for what we have, and use it as best as we can. We all suffer stress and it impacts on all of us differently. Life itself is stressful. The moment you open your eyes every morning, and even while you’re sleeping, your mind is working. Not your brain, but your mind. The brain is an organic feature representative of the human mind but the mind itself is vastly different. It’s the mind and the personality it exhibits which drives the brain into serotonin deficiencies. I know very well that this is so in my case. I’m not OCD, but I was very close to it some twenty years ago. Always the perfectionist in many aspects of life, nothing was ever good enough and no-one ever met my standards. Like the internal combustion engine, a person can only run at redline for so long before something gives.
Like Will Shipley, I now revel in the fact that my daily dose of SSRI enables me to function on a level where life no longer bothers me. A day is a day and what happens within that day, happens. Can I cope? Supremely well in comparison to times past. Do things still bug me? Certainly, but now I can view the day’s stressful issues remotely, objectively and unemotionally. I know for a fact, because I experimented once with going off the SSRI, that I’ll take the drug for the rest of my life. I couldn’t care less because I at least have a life. Without it, I’d not be here writing this now.
If you’re reading this, and can identify with bits & pieces, take heart. As those who don’t understand will so often tell you, it does get better. You can make it better but you’ll need help. That’s what medicos are for. That’s what shrinks are for. That’s what serotonin replacement medication is for. Never be afraid to ask for help. Until you do, no-one will know what you’re experiencing. That’s the trap with depression. It’s a self-sustaining disease and only those who suffer from it, or know how to treat it professionally, will understand.