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Black Dogs, Carbs and Deadlines – A Post on Depression

It took me three months to write this post. Part of it was a lack of courage, part of it was…

Well, read it and you’ll figure it out.

Ever had one of those days where you can’t get off the couch? Ever had a week of them?  How about a month?  How about on and off for most of a year?

Yeah, that was my last year, maybe my last two. I’m not sure.

Falling into the Pit

This January I was doing a lot of lying on the couch. I as behind on my book, I was behind on my marketing plan, I’d stopped blogging (in case you hadn’t noticed) and I was only barely functioning in other parts of my life.  I spent far too much time web-surfing and far too little functioning, and everything I loved wasn’t making me happy anymore.

I think it was that last that caught my attention. I LOVE writing. I LOVE martial arts. I LOVE my kid, my girlfriend, and my life, generally. But I didn’t love any of it anymore.

I began web-surfing again, only this time it was actually research. It didn’t take long.

Then I called my doctor, took some tests and got the diagnosis:

Depression

Not “I’m sad” depression but full-out clinical depression. On the scale they use, I’m “moderate to severe.” Which means that I have a chance of dealing with it without meds. Could be worse. Could be better.

Winston Churchill used to call depression “the black dog,” which seems unfair to dogs, but we all need our metaphors (and for a series of good articles on male depression, check out The Art of Manliness series “Leashing the Black Dog.”).

For me, it’s more like a loa riding me. This loa hates sunlight and life and activity. It hates everything I love and when it rides me, I can’t be bothered to do the things I care about. And there is no way to appease this loa; no Houngan to help make it leave. The only way to get rid of it is to lie curled up on the couch, mindlessly numbing my brain with TV or internet until it gets bored and goes away for a while.

Annoying doesn’t begin to cover it.

Treatment

So what to do about it?  First step was seeing a doctor. He said that the level of depression I was at was possible to treat without medication. The treatment itself is easy enough:

  • Get exercise
  • Eat healthy
  • Get enough sleep
  • Reduce your stressors

Also, having goals to work towards help keeps your brain focused, and taking on responsibilities keeps you thinking forward instead of giving up. In my case, writing to deadline covers both those and is a great motivator.

The problem is, treating the depression like this is tricky. One misstep; one missed workout or deadline or night without enough sleep, and the loa jumps on again and tries to pull everything else off track as well.

This last couple of months have seen a lot of missteps.

Side Note: Do you know why people who are depressed binge on carbs? Self-medication. Eating carbs releases serotonin, which makes you feel happier. I ate a lot of carbs over the past winter.

My other option is anti-depressants. They do work for many, many people, some of whom I know. But I’m leery of them. Their side effects can be as bad as the depression itself, sometimes worse.

Or maybe I just don’t want to admit I have that little control over what’s going on in my head.

So that’s what’s been going on with me, why things have been quiet, and what I’m up to.  I’m not sure if this was a wise post to write, but I needed to write it. Now, back to work. I have a book to write.

Actually, I have about ten, but one thing at a time…

Next Week: Work-life what?

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  • Raeanne May 11, 2015, 2:21 pm

    Depression is nothing to be ashamed about. I was there a couple of years ago while going through a divorce. Writing about your experience can help others who are going through it too. Meditation is also helpful. Enjoy some simple things like a nice cup of tea. I’ve found it worse when I avoid the things I love. My soul needs writing, martial arts, and music. I’ve also found pursuing personal growth like improving my self confidence helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hayden May 11, 2015, 3:27 pm

    Sorry to hear it, Erik. I suffered from mild depression and PTSD in the wake of the Ottawa shooting. My doctor prescribed much the same regime as yours. He also gave me a book called Mind Over Mood (http://www.amazon.ca/Mind-Over-Mood-Change-Changing/dp/0898621283) which uses cognitive therapy to help with depression. It worked for me so you might find it helpful too. Be well, my friend.