The BFDZ

So I went on a little depression-bender the other night. “Bender”, hah, it’s fun to call it that, like it’s something I did because I’m wild and unpredictable and because consequences shmonsequences! A bender is something that is, at least in theory, enjoyable in the moment, but you pay for it later.

My depression-bender wasn’t like that. I did pay for it later — my depression-benders do sometimes come with actual literal hangovers, which isn’t fair at all — but it wasn’t much fun at the time, either. It sucked, like depression always does. It was worse than I remembered, like depression always is.

Maybe it’s a good thing to get depressed once in a while — like in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep:

“I sat down at my mood organ and I experimented. And I finally found a setting for despair.” Her dark, pert face showed satisfaction, as if she had achieved something of worth. “So I put it on my schedule for twice a month; I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to feel hopeless about everything, about staying here on Earth after everybody who’s smart has emigrated, don’t you think?”

“But a mood like that,” Rick said, “you’re apt to stay in it, not dial your way out. Despair like that, about total reality, is self-perpetuating.”

“I program an automatic resetting for three hours later,” his wife said sleekly. “A 481. Awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future; new hope that –”

“I know 481,” he interrupted. He had dialed out the combination many times; he relied on it greatly.

Golly, I love that book. Seriously, though, I don’t put a “six-hour self-accusatory depression” on my schedule on purpose, like Iran Deckard does, and I wouldn’t if I could. I love the world and I love loving the world and I hate depression more than anything else I can think of at the moment.

But it does give you some perspective. People who’ve never been seriously depressed can look at a depressed person and say, out loud or (hopefully) not, “Oh, I remember last time I felt like that. I just needed to think more positively.” They can say that and truly not understand that they deserve to be beaten to death with a shovel.

I mean, gently corrected.

And I understand that, because all it took me was a couple of years on a decently even keel, and I forgot how powerless depression makes you feel: how it doesn’t feel like a feeling at all, but as if the atmosphere of the entire planet has turned dark and noxious, and the only possible escape is Deep Space. So how little would I understand if I had never been there at all?

So, depression sucks, but it’s a good reminder, the same way it’s a good reminder when your plumbing is busted and your basement floods and your house smells like a third world country for a day or two. Because, ha ha, third world countries: not everybody gets to not be one.

Last Thursday was my two-month no-Prozac anniversary, by the way. Can you tell I’m feeling the difference? On Prozac, I didn’t have to worry about triggers: I automatically, or with a miniscule effort, processed them like a healthy person would. Sent a text and got ignored? My buddy must’ve been busy. Told a joke and nobody laughed? It wasn’t that funny. Left the kwoon for the day and nobody said goodbye? They were paying attention to Sifu, like they should be.

Typical depressive reactions to the above situations: (1) everybody hates me, (2) everybody hates me, and (3) everybody hates, me. Respectively.

I’ve spent years unlearning that kind of extreme, irrational response. That unlearning has largely been a success. Still, what I have is essentially A Condition: I have to be careful with myself, the way a diabetic person has to be careful about what he eats. Prozac made that caution much less necessary.

What I’ve found, though, is that depression’s got momentum. Apply enough pressure over a long enough period of time, and it’ll turn around; anyway, mine does. I just have to remember in the meantime not to fall for any of the quick fixes — the binge eating, the porn sessions, the self-isolation, any of the stuff that promises quick relief (and sometimes delivers it) but makes everything worse after.

So, what are the pressure points — where’s the steering wheel on that Big Fuckin’ Depression Zamboni? Here are three obvious ones:

  • Am I eating right? Welllll…all right, I’ve been alternating between coffee-for-two-meals-a-day and snarfing down my roommates’ nearly-expired leftovers.
  • Am I exercising? Uh oh, it’s been a week since I went to Kung Fu, hasn’t it? Oh crap, it’s been nearly two weeks.
  • Am I praying every day? Not unless you count grumbling vaguely skyward and a cursory Hail Mary or two around bedtime.

So I do those things and a few others, and wait. The waiting is important, because I know two things from experience:

  • I didn’t get this way in twenty minutes, so fixing it isn’t going to take twenty minutes, either.
  • If I keep applying pressure to those pressure points, eventually things do change.

Oh, and coffee helps.



11 Comments on “The BFDZ”

  1. Gabriel says:

    Were you deliberately channeling Willow Rosenberg there, or was that just a bonus?

    1. Alas, I’m not Buffy enough to know what you mean by that, so just a bonus, I guess.

  2. Searcheress says:

    Keep walking, or seating, or breathing… :)
    Mostly – keep something. Is it helpful if I say that I understand every single stage you described…

  3. D says:

    I really appreciate your writing about depression with such matter of fact-ness. It’s the way I try to cope with my own. I have a flaw, I am not broken. “what I have is essentially A Condition: I have to be careful with myself, the way a diabetic person has to be careful about what he eats. ”

    I have to carefully keep exercise and food in mind constantly. I’ve never heard anyone else talk about that factor with depression, (granted I avoid conversations about the topic) and it is a make or break step for me. Yes I carefully train my mind to look up out of the well instead of just around at the black slimy walls- but if I’m not eating well and exercising regularly… it’s nigh unto impossible! A stubborn choice of faith is also a tether to reality for me.

    I went on a bender myself the other day, and its always encouraging to be reminded that:
    I didn’t get this way in twenty minutes, so fixing it isn’t going to take twenty minutes, either.
    If I keep applying pressure to those pressure points, eventually things do change.

  4. Searcheress says:

    Question for you with depression!
    Do you have problems with morning? It is as if my psychological imunne system is the weakest in the morning. When I am in bad stage,after waking I feel as if I don’t have “shields on” against depressionn.

    1. I do, sometimes. I’ve been doing this lately: as soon as I realize I’m awake, but before I even get out of bed, I recite the 23rd Psalm. It could work with nearly any prayer, I’m sure, but I happen to be specially fond of that one, and to know it by heart. I think it helps that it’s lengthy and somewhat unfamiliar, because that gives it time to sink in, and ensures that I think about the words.

  5. Peter says:

    “People who’ve never been seriously depressed can look at a depressed person and say, out loud or (hopefully) not, “Oh, I remember last time I felt like that. I just needed to think more positively.” They can say that and truly not understand that they deserve to be beaten to death with a shovel.”

    THAT’S how I feel about it! Although I’ve never talked to someone about depression, this answer always pops up in my google searches.

    Also, I want to congratulate you for creating this blog. I’m in the exactly same particularly sad but-not-the-end-of-the-world condition as you are, and I’m happy to finally find someone who thinks almost the same things that I think about the issue. And I can even learn from you, as you’re older than I am (17). Having depression is not easy, neither it is to have SSA. But above all those problems, it’s even harder to be a true catholic these days, under any specific conditions. And that’s all for now. Sorry for my possibly bad english.

    I’ll take my time and read your blog.

  6. Christine says:

    You don’t have to answer this question in this public forum, but I thought I’d ask it: Is there a reason for going off of Prozac beyond wanting to get by without pills?

    I ask because, if Prozac makes it easier to do things that are good for your physical and emotional health and makes it easier to avoid things that could be bad for your mind and soul, there’s no shame in going back on it. You obviously know better than I do the pros and cons of being on a medication in your own situation, but I’ve found that sometimes it is better to take medicine. It’s not a substitute for doing the right things, but it can make it so much easier to make the decisions that best contribute to your health. My perspective is that there’s no reason to make it harder for yourself than it already has to be.

    Disclaimer: I am on five medications to combat my depression and anxiety and have been on medications, without any breaks, for over eight years. I credit medication with saving my life, and I recently confirmed (how I confirmed it is more than I want to go into) that I would likely still be miserable, and perhaps even suicidal, off of medication, or even with fewer medications. So I am basically a cheerleader for the use of medications where mental and emotional health is at stake. I obviously don’t know your motivations for being on or off of medications, and you obviously don’t have to make the same decisions I made.

    Also, this line is my favorite thing I’ve read in a long time: “People who’ve never been seriously depressed can look at a depressed person and say, out loud or (hopefully) not, “Oh, I remember last time I felt like that. I just needed to think more positively.” They can say that and truly not understand that they deserve to be beaten to death with a shovel.”

    1. Christine, I agree there’s no shame in going on (or back on) meds. I have a few reasons for staying off them, at least for now, but I won’t go into them here. I really appreciate your points, and your sharing your own experience.

  7. John Burrell says:

    Sorry if I missed a post about this.

    It appears the Prozac worked. Why did you go off? I take 30mg citalopram daily and it seems to help me so I stay on it.

  8. John Burrell says:

    Sorry I did not read your reply to Christine. You can ignore my previous comment

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