My earliest signs of depression occured in high school. It was eleventh grade. I rembember it kind of catching me off guard. I was in very similar classes to what I had been in. I was actually enjoying my friendships and my life did not suck. I just felt kind of down. I commented on it one day to a teacher, the fact that I just did not feel quite as part of my current classes, and I remember her being worried. This fact sort of off-put me at the time, because I did not understand what it entailed.
This was probably the beginning of the time where I began to feel a bubble grow around me in social interactions. With only a few exceptions, I always feel this sense of separation no matter what I do, and it increases with the number of people. At this time I also developed a sense of distance from physical stimuli. I remember sitting in class and noticing the walls had a fuzzy, blue tint to them.
But it is highschool, you know? Thing just aren't quite what they should be. We get the girl blues and we get the homework blues and oh my baby left me and I have the can't get style blues. It mostly slipped under my radar. My twelth grade year was kind of fun, even with a greater degree of unsettledness. It was a mood to be forgotten.
Don't forget this: it was spring.
My first year at Jefferson Davis Junior College was great. It was one of those life defining moments that you occasionally have. I met great friends (most of which I still talk with on occasion). I worked hard to establish myself as an academic. It was a little tricky getting back and forth every day, but I found a way. It was paid for by my honor's credentials, so it was not a burden on me or my family. It was sort of like an improved version of highschool.
I still sucked a little in the girl department, but not so bad that it crashed any sort of vibe I had going.
I think the problems started in late november or early december of the second year. I can recall talking to Mr Tedder, the physics instructor, and Rhett Ellis, the Campus Minister, about it. I found myself quickly on the edge of tears. I described it, this time, as a feeling of separation. I just felt removed from everything. There was this sense of talking through people through a glass window (bubble), and a sense of things being dimmer than they had been.
Mr. Tedder talked to me about his own experiences, how he didn't really have anyone in his life, but the way he found meaning here or there through various means (no pun intended). It really did help.
The "crash" came three months later, about the mid of March. I had built up this odd little balancing act. I had been feeling increasingly hard on myself, probably triggered by the concept of being done soon and having to move on. I found myself lying, at least in white lies, to my friends about things I had done in the past so that I could a little better. I was a very country little boy who had not seen nor heard half the things that my friends grew up with, and I was not sure how to handle it. I mainly just suggested that I had grew up with it, myself.
It is at this time that I really noticed my mental image of myself as a person dwarfed by those around me. I was one of the tallest people (easily in the top 5%) at JDCC, but I can remember what it was like to feel shorter than all the others. It was a weird time.
The trigger that broke the camel's foot was when I was asked by a friend to help set him up with another friend. I had no real feelings, besides a general sense of "she is cute" for the latter friend. The first friend was nervous that I had a crush on her. The weird thing was, at this time, I sort of developed one. I think, now, that it was merely a sense of loneliness that I had been sporting for some time combined with the concept of being a matchmaker for someone else but not myself that led to me taking it so hard. But I took it VERY hard.
There was this strange and annoying dance where I went back and forth between trying to attack the friend for what he had asked me to do and trying to help him out. I really have no idea what was wrong with me, but it was clear something was up. There was this unspecified urgency in my voice. I was unable to truly participate in the construction of a relationship, yet I wanted to sabotage.
I think, once set in motion, that this would have ended poorly on either side of the boat. I had set up an impossible sum, and was having to deal with the imbalance. It backwashed over me, underminded several of my friendships, further made me feel distanced, and generally collapsed over the summer, leaving me more tired and ready to move on than anything.
All my self doubts were made front and center. All my questions. All my loathings. I couldn't look away from them anymore. I think it had very little to do with the girl. I think she just made a convenient excuse.
After arriving at UAH (the University of Alabama in Huntsville), my first experience was one of general fun. There was a certain relaxation to the freedom that I suffered. I once again tried to establish myself in a new light, which only partially succeeded. It was a good time for me, though. All in all. There were nothing but positive growths. I found myself a bit nervous about classes, and my social feelings of inferiority continued, but I pushed on ahead.
It was again about the decline of the year (November) when the first twitches began. I got nervous about the stupidest things. I made a play for a girl, a very sweet and beautiful girl, and lost it. But this did not drive me insane like the last goof up did. No, it was something else, a feeling of being too close to life.
I think I would have succumbed had I not met a wonderful person in the spring semester. I was still overdramatic and melodramatic (a horrible combination) about minor things, but I took it easy. There was no romantic future in this girl, but she was a nice kick in the face as far as beauty and happiness are concerned. She helped me to pull through, and before I knew it I was back at home for the summer.
The next year was horrible, the first of three real winners. It began on a generally positive upswing (fyi, for a college student, a year begins in the fall) but soon feelings of a self doubt were sneaking in. Again, it was about november when it began. I was a Resident Advisor, at the time, and this added to it in that I was tired most of the time from the extra work.
Then came the girl, C----. Oh, she was sweet. Somehow, she seemed like exactly what I needed. But it was not meant to be, and I could feel it. The more I knew it was going nowhere, the more that I knew I needed to move on, the more I hated myself and was scared of what this meant about me. I clung harder. She was the peg that fit in the holes my doubt created, or so I thought. She wasn't, really. I found this out much too late.
To make a long story short, it was the spring when every thing broke loose. By this time I knew C---- wasn't for me, but I so wanted to be with her just so that I didn't have to realize I was alone.
This time, I began to write lots of poetry. I mean LOTS of poetry. If it were not for this time, I probably wouldn't consider myself a proper poet in the least. It gave me lots of practise. At this time, I would often SPAM my friends with e-mails of my poetry. I wanted attention. Relationships had failed and so I wanted to try for friendship. Except, not friendship. I felt so bad I guess I just wanted pity, pure and simple. I was crippled. This was also the closest I have ever come to suicide.
Rather than go into prolonged descriptions of the next few years, I will sum it up, instead. Every year from then (2000) until 2004, I had depressive episodes usually starting in a mild case about November, entering into a full blown case about the end of February or early March. It would then extend into early summer. In 2001, it actually made it until about mid summer, and in 2003 (the "summer of hell", as I call it, for lots of reasons) it pushed all the way into the fall of the year. 2003, though, had lots of reasons for this, and would have sapped even emotionally stable people.Despite all of this, I never grew as suicidal as I did back in 2000.
In a lot of cases, a failed relationship (romantic or friendship) would fail or would at least sour a little. In a lot of cases, I would go through a few knee jerk periods that would make things worse. The worst part of it was how often I used it as a "lever" to get my way.
I have since moved out of a period of my life which would be classified as an era of depression. I still have twinges, mind you. I imagine that we all do from time to time, unless we are completely devoid of introspection. This is a guess, though. I once thought I would spend a good deal of my time studying depression, turning my suffering into help. I have never really pursued this, though. I have done my best to help others, and often take a protective stance of those with depression.
I have often thought about the root of the problem behind depression and I have my own theory, here. Philip K Dick (my page about him can be found here agreed with me, but looking up some pyschological studies, I found that we are in the minority. My basic reasoning is that depression stems from a similar source as anger and hatred. I noticed that depressed people will often respond well to outburts of anger, if not for long, and tend to express themselves through violent actions: suicide, cutting, loud music, destructive life styles. The classic psychological model of depression is way more subdued than my experience has led me to witness. Pyschiatrists think of it as a mental disorder that causes people to sit around all day and do nothing but hate themselves.
I think both are pointing at similar things.
If I had to diagram the pattern, I would say that first life moves to some sort of place that the person does not like. This can be triggered by a sense of low self worth, in that everything you do is a wrong thing. This can also trigger the sense of low self worth, meaning you have entered into a cycle.
At this point in time, you enter into a stage where you become frustrated and angry about some things. Due to a sense of futility, you do not feel as though anything can be changed. It might also be triggered about a confusion as to how to change things, but these emotions are very similar.
This will then cycle into a stage where you either repress your anger or direct it towards yourself. I think this is brought on by an extended sense of self in the world. You think of more things as being directly caused or related to yourself than is possible (or the truth). You start taking blame for things you had no control over. You develop a "healthy" sense of loathing towards your inablity to control these things, things you should not even consider controlling except for this increased sense of self extension.
Suicide, cutting, and other self destructive acts develop out of this when you finally reach the point where you want to punish yourself, and through yourself the world you are now partially taking credit for, in a physical manner. Most cutters describe a sense of calm after the act, one that can become addicting (part of this addicting quality to cutting seems to stem from a feeling of brotherhood that cutters often share, though I am not an expert on this and only have a few cutters who have suggested it to me).
This mental state can continue indefinitely until something breaks it open. It can be a general sense of wanting to attack the world. Or, it might be the realization of how things are outside of your control. I think Christianity, and religion, plays an important part here for a lot of people because it holds that you should put it all in God's hands. This is a welcome message for some people, whose extended ego has led them to psychologically accept the world's burdens. I do not think it is a coincidence that so man people's witnessing includes phrases like "I was at the end of my rope, but then God/Jesus/Allah/Whomever pulled me through.
I have never quite dug the concept of anti-depressants. I have always thought of them like pain killers, useful but they will often mask the danger that pain is telling you. My wife's stint on them has both softened and hardened my stance. Once she got a high enough dose going, she did alright on them (prior to this, they did nothing for her). But when she tried coming off of them, it nearly threw her back into a depressive cycle. My brother, Danny, one time shared a similar story.
But what is something better than anti-depressants? I think knowledge helps. I found that me recognizing the strong part that my anger is playing in my depression helps me to reshape my depressive thoughts. I have found that I can direct the anger at their proper things, and not take credit for stuff outside of my control. I keep my egospace in check and I keep my feelings open and mature.
Sure, I get frustrated from time to time. But that is part of life. I think we all do, and it is ok. It is probably healthy. We just need to learn how to stem it at that point.
Before I end this, I want to point out that there is one final part of the chapter: allergies. In my case, most of my depressive episodes have increased with the onset of spring. I don't know what this means, though, since a lot of times the early signs of the episode start about early to mid-winter. I think it might be a factor, but I have no idea how big of a factor.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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