Thursday, July 05, 2018

Depression: Follow Up

It was about 4 months ago that I posted on this very blog that I was diagnosed with moderate severe depression, and was getting treatment.

Since so many of you fine folks have expressed concern, and wanted to be kept up to date, I decided to do a follow up post about it.

The short summary is that things are going OK so far.  I have some down days, and some up days, but they seem to be in the normal range - everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed every now and then, right?  However since I stabilized on my brain meds, I’ve not had any long term feelings of wanting to run away and hide, or a lack of ambition at work. Maybe the occasional string of afternoons of bleh, but that’s far better than the months of bleh I had before.

In short, things are going pretty well, all things considered.

I have made the following observations, which you all may find interesting.
I have a lack of trust in the past

I’ve noticed I don’t really trust my opinions on past events.  Basically anything in the year or so before my diagnosis are fuzzy opinion-wise.  Things like the project I was working on when I burnt out at work. Without going into too much detail, it was a project that made use of some new software tools.  I became one of the experts on the team about the tools, and developed some bad feelings about it. Since I burnt out I have had fewer reasons to work with those tools .  However when I am asked about my opinions on using those tools, I have a hard time knowing if my opinions are based on bad perceptions due to my depression, or if the tools actually are not that great.

Same with road trips - do I have bad feelings about some locations because the locations were bad, or because my brain is warped?  Is it both?
You can see how annoying that can be. I even feel that way about current events - do I dislike that idea because the idea is bad, or cause my brain is being a bitch today?

I am more vocal about expressing opinions

Unless I was directly asked, I used to keep most opinions about things - all things - to myself.  I tend to have a different outlook on things than others - this has nothing to do with the depression.  You know that expression about some people seeing a glass as being half empty or half full? I’m the guy who thinks the glass is the wrong size.  Just, different perspective, ya know? I got tired of having to explain why my opinions were odd, so it was easier to just not talk about em.

I have realized thru this process that I held a lot of stuff in as a result, and I think that contributed to the depth of my issues.  I mean, I am quite sure most of my depression issues is brain chemical imbalance, but it didn’t help that I kept myself marginalized and as a result not being understood.

Now?  I don’t care.  I honestly don’t give two craps anymore if people agree with my opinions, or even understand them.  If they are important, and will affect me, I am going to speak up about them. It is not that I expect to get my own way or anything - I really don’t.  I expect decisions that affect a group to be the best decisions for the group - but I refuse to let that decision be made until my views are expressed, even if they are ultimately dismissed.
Tho, I have found, that my opinions are not as marginalized as I expected they would be. So bonus there.
I feel fragile

I’ve never felt fragile before.  It is a new experience for me. I’ve had health issues before - injuries and illnesses that have knocked me on my ass for a few days or weeks.  However never anything that I felt I wouldn’t recover from. This depression stuff feels like it’s going to be with me for a long time - likely a lifetime.  

People do recover completely from depression, and get off the meds, so I may not be in this exact situation my whole life.  However I am a lot more conscious of my mental health, and I don’t see that ever going away.

Not that being aware of my mental health is a bad thing.  It is actually a good place to be - I just had to get there the hard way.  However I know my brain can break, and bring me down and that makes me feel fragile.  However that also makes me feel empowered to take steps to protect my mental heath, even if I never experience a bout of depression again.

Another thing that makes me feel fragile is that several times I have had friends check in on me.  I have never been “checked in on” before - at least I didn’t recognize it as such. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate it when they did check in (you know who you are - thank you!).  It is a level of caring friendship I’ve not really experienced before, which is awesome. However the fact remains that they felt the need to check in, and I actually understood it, and welcomed it, and that just helps to sink home that I got some real problems going on.

Even tho things are looking positive, this shits real, yo. I am more protective of my mental space I have started changing my behaviour to protect my mental health. For example If I am feeling emotionally weary I'll take naps in the middle of the day, if I can. If I can't (like being at work), I'll change my environment (go outside, go for a stroll around the office etc.) to give myself a mental break. I have also dramatically lessened by consumption of current event news, and political social media consumption - especially stuff that doesn't affect me, or I can't control. I have silenced some folks on Facebook for 30 days if they get too uppity on Trump discussions, for example. (Don't get me wrong, I still think he is the worst thing to happen to the US politics since Jefferson Davis - but I can't vote, and most of his decisions don't affect my day to day life, so I tuned that twatwaffle out of my world as much as I can.) I am better off for it. Little things, but little things add up.
I am more open than ever

Since I have been posting about my depression on a public blog, this likely doesn’t surprise you that I am open to talking about my depression.  However I am open about it to folks in real life as well.

All my close co-workers know about my issues.  If I am having an off day and I think it’s related to my crazy brain, and it’s relevant to what I am doing (stressful oncall week, or having an in depth conversation and I am feeling overly cranky or sensitive), I’ll let them know.  I feel it is only fair to let them know that any frustration I may be expressing isn’t their fault but my own brain.

When it comes to personal interactions, I do the same thing, and for the same reasons.  If I am hanging out with a bunch of friends for a weekend, I am not afraid to say “Hey, I need to get some quiet time right now ‘cause of my mental health” or something similar.  Again I think it’s only fair to let them know that the reason Dave seems miserable is cause his brain is wonky, not cause of anything the group is doing.
In conclusion

So that’s where I am right now.  I am generally in a good head space, but I feel different than I did 6 months ago. I feel less sure of myself, and more cautious about things that seem to bring me down. However I have a better awareness of myself, so I think overall it’s a more positive change.

As always, if you have questions, comments, witty limericks, or a snarky retort, feel free to drop it in the comments, or send me a private note.