I’m at my friend C.’s lakeside cabin in Maine. We have done nothing the past three days besides eat, sleep, talk, and swim a little. He is here on a sort of retreat from his life, and my situation is similar. Good place for it. Sitting on the deck, we hear the sounds of water, birdsong, insects, the occasional powerboat, the cry of a loon.

I am here on my motorcycle, breaking in the beautiful new machine — my old bike died two weeks ago, and in a burst of extravagance I bought a 2010 model. Unheard of, to have a vehicle so new! (My last one was as old as I am.) She doesn’t have a name yet, but she is already covered in dust from the dirt road between here and civilization. Tomorrow I continue on to Vermont, a ride of at least four hours, to spend the rest of my week off with Sal. It will be ninety degrees, a beautiful day for riding through a beautiful part of the country.

Things are nearly as quiet inside my head as they are outside of it. I credit the pills. They have given me relief from the old vicious cycles. Is it my imagination, or have they also created a kind of shallowness of mind, a distance from contemplation as well as from pain? During prayer time I have been disinterested, distracted; the rest of the day my mind is content to bounce around on the surfaces of things. Is this unusual, or is it just part of my normal cycle? I won’t worry about it yet. The doc and the priest and the shrink and I will sort it all out later, after vacation.

I am still adjusting to the idea of depression as a chemical problem, something solveable, something exterior and undeserved. Last weekend, staying at my parents’ house before the trip, I admitted to my mother that I had always thought of my depression as a moral failing, a character flaw, something that I had more or less brought on myself. She was surprised to hear it, and I was almost surprised at her surprise. I suppose these things are more obvious from the outside: from the inside, depression always feels like a judgment.

I’ve never wholly believed that, but maybe I’d let the idea get more purchase than I should. To friends and family, it is obvious that my depression is something inflicted, something suffered — not, as they say, a part of Who I Am.

Enough. I’m out of cigarettes. Time to take the bike into town.

8 thoughts on “Maine

  1. Scott C

    No, Steve, it’s not your imagination. Speaking from personal experience, they had the same effect on me. Enjoy your time of quiet inside your head, you’ll be able to work through some of the shallowness as your body adjusts to these. Also, the doctor may need to adjust your dosage, but as you wrote, they will sort it out. Also, in my experience, I only needed them for a season and can now function without them. Sure, at times I still fall into a period of depression, but nothing like it was before.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your vacation. Peace.

    Reply
  2. Evelyn

    Did you ever see the episode of House where he finds a cure for his pain, but when pain-free he doesn’t have nearly the level of insight into diagnosis that he used to? Same thing, I think. I lost some of my ability for the insight that comes from brooding when I started using an SSRI. I think it’s a fair trade, though, given that there were whole days when I couldn’t function on any level at all.

    Reply
  3. Contemplative in the Mud

    I don’t know if you’re feeling shallowness… But if it’s good, helpful, and obedient for you to take the pills (as I understand that your story has told us), then it’s truly humble and in conformity with God’s will (at least for now), even though you have to fight with the difficulties and distractions in prayer (for now). Distractions are really hard. But I think you’ve indirectly told us that you’re doing all the really important stuff: humility, health, obedience, praying through it all!

    I love Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Enjoy!

    Reply
  4. Sarah

    As one with depression in my history, I too have experienced these periods of shallowness but not from SSRI’s actually (in hindsight I was on shockingly little meds – something maybe that should have been different). I have found that in some seasons of life, especially now that my depression has been mostly conquered, the peace and stability often does come with a certain shallowness? It’s not like I am shallow all the time… but I was just thinking tonight about how I used to be… how intense, and deep and thoughtful I was. And how… sort of… normal I am now. I have mixed emotions about it (but at the same time, I do not believe I’ve truly lost any of the intellectual or cerebral gifts God gave me, it just seems to take more discipline to mine them).

    That said, although I am not on SSRI’s, my anxiety and depression was linked to a hormonal imbalance that needed correcting, and I am also currently pregnant (which of course totally changes up hormones), so yes, I *am* chemically altered! :) Yet I can’t deny it — these changes have caused me to be healthier than ever. So I wonder if God sometimes just calls us, in different seasons, to focus more on the little things, the mundane things, to just “be” and experience different levels in His creation as well as appreciate perhaps depth we’d been missing before at “levels” we previously assumed were shallow?

    I dunno! :) Prayers for your continued journey and try to enjoy the blessings that come with the quiet, peacefulness of your mind.

    Reply
  5. Mary

    As some others have stated or hinted at, don’t confuse peace with shallowness. You might ask yourself this… was the brooding and introspection that came with/from your depression a true gift from God? An act of free will? Or was it because you couldn’t get out of your head?

    I am also on pills for anxiety/OCD. While the intensity of my prayer life is perhaps gone — although I still have my moments — I feel that I can connect with God and family and friends based on a more true love and desire for sacrafice (of course not yet true agape, but something closer — and I hope I don’t sound prideful here), rather than through anxiety based fear of doing something wrong, of not doing enough, etc. I certainly doesn’t feel the same as I once did, but I’ll take this everyday over the other.

    But of course this is all in hindsight. While I was in your position… just a few weeks in… I was convinced that the pills were going to take away what made me ME — my intensity as a scholar, my love for my boyfriend-now-husband, and other things I can’t remember. They didn’t though. They just helped me be MORE like myself, frankly, to be able to say YES to my life.

    Reply
  6. Melissa

    I haven’t tried meds yet, but I do find when I’m in a place of serenity my thoughts are not as “deep” – because I’m not trying to solve the problems of the universe, or at least of my life, the way I am when depressed.

    Glad you’re feeling better, and enjoy Maine and Vermont – two of my favorite states ever.

    Reply
  7. anon

    Check out the connection between diet/gut and depression…there is a lot out there and it has helped me a lot! GAPS diet is the most involved approach, but quite effective, I understand. Also, books by Julia Ross, The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure, have been seriously helpful for me. All is Grace, anon

    Reply

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