Thursday, May 19, 2011

Age Ain't Nothin But A Number

I turn 40 this year.  There I said it.

Since January first, my stomach has churned every time I think of it.  Having typed that I now have to go take an antacid.  Just a second I will be right back.

I realize, on the surface, that it really is only a number.  Technically speaking, I was 40 a few months ago, if you believe that live begins at conception.  So the 40th anniversary of my birth is really just another day.

Except it isn't.  Catastrophization or not, this is becoming a huge depressive trigger for me.  I'm middle aged.  No, seriously, I am.  I can't expect to live much past 80, so 40 is halfway there.  Middle-aged it is.

It's a reminder that the first half of my life has not been of much use.  As we have discussed, I've dealt with depression most of my life.  I have not had what you might call a "happy" life.  I've just managed.  I've kept gainful employment, I have kept my physical health, I have family and friends.....but it's been a hard slog through 40 years.  I feel worn out.  

The last thing I want to do is celebrate my birthday.  I want no cards.  I want no presents.  (I make a decent living and don't need anything.)  I want no cake.  What I really want is to get on a plane, go someplace where no one knows me, and have a normal day being a tourist.  Anywhere but here. 

Celebrating my life seems so empty, so pointless, so fake.

I've expressed my wishes to family and friends, but probably unsurprisingly, people think I am being ridiculous.   I've asked that if they feel the need to buy a present, give something to a charity.  Make someone's life better...someone who really needs something.    The last thing I need is more material goods.  The second last thing I need is a loud reminder of the first rough, hard, unpleasant half of my life.  A reminder that I have to go through that length of time... one more time.

Of course, I could always look at this as an opportunity to make sure the second half of my life doesn't hurt as much as the first.  There, see, I told you a positive ending would show up eventually.

And Another Thing

Oh wait, there's more.  

The previously mentioned life crisis compounded by depression (and a full moon) is just one thing.  

Couple weeks ago I find that someone in my family is experiencing extreme episodes of anxiety and depression.  That person is elderly and unfortunately not able to take medication.  Of course, that person also comes from a generation where mental health problems were thought of very differently.  

"It's a weakness."  "Don't be silly."  "Just get over it."  "We don't talk about such things."  You know how it goes.

I want to be able to say, "Hey.  I know how you feel.  I feel the same way.  It's OK to talk about it with someone.  You aren't alone.  There is help available.  It's not like it used to be.  Me too."


I cannot physically make myself do it. 

I have had an up and down life, thats for sure.  Nothing, however, has ever made me feel more failure than my inability to offer support to others who are saddled with this horrible affliction.  

No one knows the extent of my condition.  No one except me.  The fact that I can't share...quite frankly, hurts.  The fact that I can't share and help make a loved one feel maybe a bit better, devastates me.

Devastation at work, and devastation in the family.  This is not a good recipe.

There is a positive point, albeit not for me.  The elderly family member in question is now suffering in silence.  The immediate family has discovered something is wrong, and I know someone else is helping that person get help.  However I am sure that help would be enhanced by some understanding and support from me.  I have failed to be a good person. Dammit.

I'd say the question of whether mental health problems can be genetic has been answered for my family.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Now That You Mention It

I've been reflecting for the last ten minutes, while I ironed a shirt to wear tomorrow so I can make sure everyone's hockey sticks are in tip top shape.

I've been thinking about the message, the purpose of the Mental Health Blog Party and I think that even though I'm in a disastrous place right now, I gotta make an effort to join my fellow bloggers in getting the message out.

Here it comes.
Mental Health Blog Party Badge

The purpose and the message is this:

Good mental health is so very important.  I've never had any, so I am just going by other people's opinions here, you understand.  However I know what I feel I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.  So I have to assume, and believe, that good mental health is something to be striven for.  To work at.  It's eluded me so far, but it won't forever.

Regular readers will know I've been this way for some time.  I've made efforts at getting help too.  Tried a few different drugs, visited with a retired psychiatrist who doesn't seem to acknowledge that he is in fact retired, the story goes on.

After five years on various drugs that kept me from feeling the darkest of dark but also kept me from feeling extra-positive, I decided to go it alone.  It's not gone well.  I don't know what to do.  For me, drugs are awful things that make a mess of my insides, do little for depression, and kind of put a filter on everything else.  You may (I hope) have better results, but my next step is a mystery.

But here is what I do know.  You gotta try.  If I hadn't started the process of asking for help with my Doctor five... oh my it's been six years ago now... I'd probably not be around.  Now I am in a precarious place but I know more about the process, more about how drugs affect me, and more about how I can control the dark feelings.  Most times.

You gotta start someplace.  Mine's not the most inspiring tale of recovery, but it is a tale if, "this is a long process and not all things work for all people so you might have to try more then one."  Which really, is a rather long title for a tale.

You've heard all the usual things, "tell your Doctor," "tell a friend," "call a help line," and so on.

I'm going to tell you to do something different.  Start reading.  learn all you can about how you feel and why you might be feeling it.  I'll even give you a starting point.  All the posts for the May 18th Mental Health Blog Party are a great place to start learning, and reading, and hopefully, recovering.  You don't even need to scroll up... I'll help you out here.  I know I have a lot of reading ahead of me.

Once you are better informed, your choice on what to do next might be clearer.  At the very least you should be able to understand what's going on.  And that's a big portion of the battle.

Carry on, friends.

So it turns out...

...that today is the Mental Health Blog Party.  I'm not sure the three posts I wrote today (the second two are appearing over the next few hours) will qualify under the criteria... but there's some stuff worth checking out at the link.

Mental Health Blog Party Badge

Turns out it's mental health day.  I never knew.  Glad I posted a few things anyway.

Waiting For the Hammer To Fall

It's that time of the month again.  The time of the month where I experience my bouts of lunacy.  Lunacy not helped by meeting the most wonderful person.  A person off-limits, but a wonderful person nonetheless.

But this post isn't about being lonely.  Just setting the stage with that one.  That's the kind of state of mind I've found myself in.  Lunacy supreme, plus a long-lasting dysthymia that just will...not...go...away.  Needless to say, I am not a happy camper.

Thus we come to the reason for tonight's story.  About a month ago, I found out that the department I work for is being relocated.  Clear across the country.  Inconvenient to say the least, since I am lucky enough to live near family, friends, and home.  Then part two was revealed.  No one is going with the department.  It will be staffed on the other end.  Here's where you should envision a long slow, "okaaayyyyyy".

Now, hurray for me and my staff, they have decided that they like us and will absorb us into other departments.  Good news?  Seems like it on the surface.  Let's face it...these days it's nice to have a job.  Finding out you have one after a major change is somewhat comforting.

Life continues.

Until late last week.  The redistribution of jobs was announced.  I don't want to get too specific, but let's say I was the Captain of an NHL hockey team.  (I promise I am not).  Relatively speaking, I have gone from being the Captain of a major league team to equipment manager in the minor leagues.  Actually, strike that, I was probably the equivalent of an AHL captain.  (That's one step below the NHL.)

It's at this point you should know that I'm using sports analogies and I am not even a sports fan.  At all.  I think the NHL is in playoffs right now but couldn't say for sure.  Hockey just seemed like a good universal example.

So here I am, an equipment manager in some regional sports league.  I'm a pretty good "hockey player".  I'm not one of the best in the world, but I am good at my job.  My old job.  I am not a particularly good equipment manager.  It of course doesn't matter much as I am now in the minors where no one is really good.  We're a collection of people who plod about dreaming of being in the big leagues someday.  Some are on their way up to the majors, some have been there and are in the twilight of their careers.

I do not wish to be anyplace close to anything resembling twilight.

Probably one of the only bright spots in my life has been my work.  It's a field I love, and have loved for a long time.  I derive a great deal of satisfaction from my work.  I wouldn't have dreamed the day would come where I am considering leaving the business.  I also know that depression-addled decisions can be, to say the least, ill-advised.

Needless to say, I am close to devastated.  Mixed in with the aforementioned lunacy and low grade depression, I am not in great shape.  I now have to make a Large Life Choice(tm).

Do I change careers?  Trouble with that is that I work in a pretty specialized field and lack broadly transferable skills.   Do I stick around, and be the best damn equipment manager no one has ever heard of? Trouble there is that I won't be deriving the same job satisfaction from taping up sticks.  I am likely to be really frustrated, really quick.

Or do I check with the other coaches in the AHL and see if someone can used a slightly bruised but capable Team Captain.  Trouble there?  You bet.  Then I would have to move someplace where I have no family, no friends, and I would be all alone.  From a mental health perspective, that might not be the right option.

There's been tears, there's been anger, there's been shock, there's been a kicked-in-the-guts kind of a feeling.    I try to end each post with something hopeful, but I haven't got it in me tonight.  Check back.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Food for the Soul

I like music.  I like music a lot.

I work with music every day, and still I am not sick of it.  I like currents, country, classics, dance, retro, swing, 80s pop, 80s hair bands, 70s pop, 40s standards, Sinatra and Deano, 50s, 60s, acoustic vibes, Kentucky Bluegrass, Broadway show tunes and almost every other kind of music you could imagine.  Except classical...but that's not music, it's fine art, and I'm not much into fine art.

I have two iPods, both of which overflow with samples of the above.  The shuffle button on my "big" iPod is likely to generate something surprising.  I have a networked drive in my house with 18,000 mp3 files accessible to my computers and media devices.  I have a wall of CDs.  An actual wall.

And when I am feeling good, music makes me feel even better.  If I am "up" then I can feel ecstatic with the right combination of music.  The right song at the right moment can induce the best feeling ever.  (Before you ask, I don't experience mania or manic episodes.)  I love how music can enhance my mood and I love how I can experience moments of joy that belie the usual state I am in.


When I am not up, in fact when I am down in the dumps and having a rough time and in the throes of a full-fledged MDE, I cannot listen to any music.  It grates on my ear.  One would think that music that has such potential to make me feel fantastic could theoretically rescue me from the depths of depression.

Indeed, I thought that.

Just yesterday I was running some errands and enjoying shuffle mode on the "small" iPod.  Then, for no discernible reason, the darkness descended and I was in a state.  I found myself constantly hitting the "next" button looking for something that did not irritate me.  How strange is that?  In that one moment, the music I so dearly love became unpalatable, unlistenable, and annoying.

Skipping ahead to a favored, up-tempo song that 12 hours before might have inspired singing along, air drums and/or air guitar, and a smile on my lips, was now the worst song ever recorded.

I have no explanation for this odd phenomenon, and I am perpetually distressed that my beloved music can't haul me out of the depths of an episode.