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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Welcome to the Wasteland

Five years ago this coming Sunday, I recovered from what I am positive was a diagnosable case of clinical depression. This is the kind of thing that people don't just pull out of like a airplane pulling out of a dive... this was clearly a miracle. When I realized that for some time I had been depressed in a way that was different from just having a bad day, or week, or month... that I was depressed in a way that I couldn't just "cheer up" from... I started a private blog about it, with the intention that if I ever became suicidal and succeeded in ending my own life, my family would know why. This week I've decided to finally make those private blog posts public; maybe they will give others hope that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.

Here's the first post on the blog which I had entitled "Up From The Wasteland".

3/28/2008 11:00am

Yesterday I realized that I most probably am suffering from clinical depression.

I knew I had been down for quite some time... a number of years, in fact, probably since sometime in 2002. I had been laid off in late 2001 in a round of massive layoffs as the company I worked for struggled to survive in the wake of a long series of poor choices by management. At first I was pretty upbeat, thinking I would be working again very soon, but by the middle of the year I was crying out to God that I didn't understand why I hadn't found a job yet and wouldn't He help me find one because my unemployment checks were running out? Anyway, that's a story for another post. This post is about the past three days.

Wednesday night as I was listening to my pastor's message I realized that I didn't care if I lived or died. Not that I wanted to die, because I absolutely do not. In the past few years I have seen the aftermath of several suicides, and I don't want to be the cause of that kind of suffering for my loved ones... again, that's for another blog post. But the idea of some horrible catastrophe happening and me being wiped off the face of the earth, or some illness doing me in... except for the pain that would likely accompany those things, the idea of dying didn't bother me any more. Now, as a Christian I know that death is a defeated enemy and not to be feared, but death is an enemy and is to be at least resisted. I think that's the problem... I don't know if I have the resistance in me. It was like I was ready to go, and I wasn't even sick.

Then yesterday I got to thinking... maybe I WAS sick. I hopped on the Wikipedia article about clinical depression... that van Gogh picture is positively creepy to me, which maybe is another sign that I need help... and made myself an informal checklist of the list of symptoms they have there. Of about 15 symptoms I found listed, I have all but three, one of which is the "converse" of one which I have so that one probably doesn't count, so I appear to have twelve out of the fourteen symptoms. From there I went to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Web site and read some of their material, then I went to my health insurance provider's Web site and read about what they have for depression (which may have been a poor move if they are monitoring what their customers do on their Web site, but oh well). They had a link to The Reawakening Center, which I followed and took their little self-assessment tool. I scored a 16; the results page says that if your score is higher than five you may have clinical depression. It's hard to ignore the signs: if I go to someone who is qualified to make a diagnosis, I almost certainly will be recommended for treatment. The only bright spot is that I honestly am not suicidal.

The key question here is: for how long am I not suicidal? I read yesterday that the reason drug treatments sometimes result in suicide is that the willingness to take action returns before the depression abates... so the person who has been sad but lethargic is suddenly sad and ready to do something about it. If I get on antidepressants, will that happen to me? I don't know, and nobody really does until you try. That's why you have to be closely monitored if you start taking that stuff.

And back to the how long aspect... as a child and teenager I did have thoughts about suicide from time to time. I never made an attempt; I don't know if that was because of good sense or because of lack of courage, but for whatever reason, I never actually tried anything. But like a recovered alcoholic, that aspect of my personality may still lurk somewhere, and if that beast still lives, I don't want to go into its cave and wake it up without backup.

This blog is, at this writing, private. Nobody but me can view it (well, me and probably the techs at Google, I suppose, if they wanted something to chuckle about). I hope that one day there will be a happy ending to the story and I am able to make it public. That's why I've called the blog "Up From The Wasteland" and why I've put the lyrics to the AD song by the same name in the sidebar. Call it a "faith statement" if you will. It's my way of reaching out for some hope. Also, if the worst should happen and I descend into a mental illness that drives me to something terrible, I will myself to remember to make a final post and make this blog public then, too. If I don't make it through this, I want the tale to be told. I'm being totally honest here, and this world needs all the total honesty it can get. Maybe, one way or another, my story will help someone deal with the spectres in his or her own mind.

Be sure to come back all this week to read the rest of this story. Fortunately for me, it has a happy ending! Continue with the next post here.

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