Slough of despond

So, yes, sorry about the lack of posts.  I have managed, for the most part, to see off the paranoia but I am now, as you may have gathered from the title, feeling rather depressed.

As always when I’m depressed, I’m not wandering around complaining loudly about how miserable I feel, because, truthfully, I don’t feel that miserable.  I never do.  I spent a few hours on Sunday night alternately staring at a picture I took of my mum about four years ago and another of her headstone, and that certainly didn’t make me happy, but it didn’t really make me sad either.  I find it hard to explain why, but I am usually drawn to look at photographs of her – specifically, these two photographs, the one connected to a simple, quiet, happy memory of her, the other to her grave – at times like this.  Part of it is that I just want to feel something, anything – even the desperation of grief is preferable to the quiet blank void I feel at times like this.  I try to do the same thing with music, listening to things that have evoked an emotional response in the past in the hopes that they will somehow break the dam, but they don’t.

I have a lot of what get called the somatic symptoms of depression.  I have a lot of pain in my joints and, especially, my muscles – when I walk I feel myself hobbling along like an old man, but I can’t do anything about it.  I am tired all the time.  I am, slightly unusually, sleeping a fair bit, but waking up feeling no better, no more refreshed, no less tired.  I feel exhausted to the point of dizziness when I try to stand up.  I have little appetite, and what little I have I find hard to satisfy, because I have no energy to shop, or cook, or eat.  I am feeling the cold, even as I sweat with the heat of the sun shining through the curtains.  I have a constant headache that I cannot shift.  (And yes, I know that these sound like the symptoms of some kind of physical illness, but they’re not – I’ve been here before.)

Concentration is a struggle – this post has so far taken 4 hours to write, and I’m not done yet.  I am reading, but only old books I have read a thousand times before so it doesn’t matter if I only take in a fraction of what’s on the page – I know what happens anyway.  I am having bad dreams and, very unusually for me, I am remembering them.  One in particular, where I had a heavy mass in my abdomen; I could feel it sitting there, could swing it side to side and watch it stretch my distended skin.  I knew it was a tumour – a massive, rugby-ball-sized tumour.  There are real world things that explain some of this, but this feeling – that I am carrying death inside me – resonated and resonates with me in a huge way: the despair, the hopelessness, the fatalism.  Well, I can’t describe it.

What is perhaps worst about this is the total loss of energy, not just physical energy, but mental energy.  My little routines have all collapsed because I just don’t have the willpower; it took nearly everything I had to drag myself out of bed today, not to spend it all under the duvet like I did yesterday.  I feel guilty about this, but also frustrated because I know the lack of doing things will contribute hugely to the depression – but what can I do?  When it takes energy to fight the depression, and the depression has stolen has stolen all my energy, what can I do?

At least I got out of bed today.  So that’s something.

I still feel the unfairness of this.  I have been getting depressed in the summer for…I’m not sure how long, actually, but certainly since I started this blog – there are posts that make that clear for both of the last two summers.  But this still feels wrong to me, because there always used to be a seasonal element to my moods.  I would feel at my best in the autumn and the spring, worst in winter, and somewhere between the two states in the summer.  That’s not true anymore, and I don’t think it’s just the case that I’m getting depressed at any time – there’s a correlation between this time of year and feeling lousy.  (And that’s an argument in favour of keeping this blog, and writing about this kind of maudlin self-indulgent shit in it, right there – no way I’d have remembered that without being able to check back and see.)

I don’t know why, though, and without knowing why it’s very hard to think what to do about it.  There’s nothing to do, I don’t think, except endure through it, and I am not very good at enduring, not when I don’t have some reason for believing that respite is in sight.  If I can see well enough, analyse well enough, to understand what’s going on – that’s where I get my strength from.  If I can’t do that – now I can’t do that – I have nothing to see me safe.

Well, that’s the depression talking.  Things are almost certainly not as bad as they seem, not as desperate, nor as hopeless.  I may not be able to analyse causes, but I can still analyse symptoms, and recognise them for what they are. I can recognise the physical symptoms of depression well enough to know that I do not have a physical illness, despite what it feels like; I can recognise the mental symptoms well enough to know that things are not actually hopeless, despite what it feels like.

It’s times like this I really wished antidepressants worked for me.  I put up a good show of resistance to psychiatry, but in truth I’m making a virtue of a necessity.  If antidepressants would make it all better – or even not all better, just a bit better, a small increment better – I would take them in a shot.  But, they don’t.  I realised a while back that antidepressants only work if you believe they will – and I lost that faith the moment I realised it was faith doing the work, not biochemistry.

Still, I got out of bed today, and I wrote a blog post.  So, that’s two things.

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10 Responses to Slough of despond

  1. So sorry you’re feeling like this. I know it too well.

    I’m not going to tell you to take antidepressants, but they do work through biochemistry. They don’t necessarily work better than placebo for mild or even moderate depression, but they work much better than placebo for major depression.

    They work best when combined with actively cultivating an attitude of hope — a little like viagra working best if you look at something nice and fondle your crotch. But they do work even for people bound and determined to stay in bed and just stop breathing.

    They might not work for you, or the ones you’ve tried might not work for you. But most people with major depression can be biochemically enabled to live a life they want.

    Yaay for writing blog posts!

  2. J. Wibble says:

    I’ve often been known to say “I’m out of bed and made it to the computer, what more do you want?” Some days that’s all I can manage, some days I can’t even manage that. The frustration is immense, but I try to keep telling myself that the productivity will come back when the depression lifts, which it will. Another positive aspect of your blog is that you can see that things do get better, that the energy and focus will come back. Don’t worry about being maudlin and self-indulgent, it’s your blog and you can write what the hell you like. :)

    Maybe the depression in summer is a paradoxical reaction to the increased daylight hours. If there is a correlation between your mood and the weather, it’s comforting to know that the weather will always keep changing, and thus your mood will change with it. It means you’re not always stuck in one place, and there is some respite on the horizon even if you can’t quite see it.

  3. cellar_door says:

    Just sending some ((hugs)) x

  4. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

  5. No Other Medicine says:

    Just wondered if you’d tried anti-psychotics? Anti-depressants never worked for me either and my latest doctor has said this isn’t uncommon and that certain anti-psychotics work as anti-depressants for people like me. I’d like to say I took one tablet and suddenly everything was all Daily Mail style happiness but of course it didn’t work like that. I do think it’s lifted my mood slightly though so I’m going to perservere for now and see if I can put up with the oh so lovely side-effects because I don’t want to spend another summer in bed either.

    Hoping you feel better soon.

  6. *hugs*

    I thought I’d never be able to take an AD or find one that would work. My past psychs also thought the same. They decided they did more harm that good – usually making me agitated. However my new psych decided to give another one a try and I’ve found one that is working. I don’t quite believe it half the time, but it is. I feel so much better.

    I wouldn’t give up completely. If things really get bad, the option is there to try again. xx

  7. Adair says:

    Congrats on getting out of bed!

    Don’t call your posts “maudlin self-indulgent shit”. That’s verbally abusing yourself and insulting those of us who read what you write.

    I used to (maybe still do) have a big problem with not feeling anything while showing clear other symptoms of mood problems.

    Keep reading your books and get through this. Don’t worry about the lack of posts; you were churning them out just before this slump.

    I am personally fighting a lack of willpower of another sort: someone linked me to a Harry Potter fanfiction maybe a month back. Now, I don’t really like Harry Potter, but I do have pretty bad compulsive tendencies, so I’ve been doing things like not leaving the house for days at a time and ending up with nothing to eat but microwaved potatoes while I read or write HP fanfictions incessantly.

    So, uhh, in a completely different way, I feel your pain.

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  9. Neuroskeptic says:

    Damn. You have my sympathy. But things could be worse – at least you recognize that you’re depressed, and that the way you’re feeling is pathological, not normal. Depression’s a bitch because it can make you forget that – but you haven’t.

    I’d encourage you to keep trying with the antidepressants. They’re not all the same. I took mirtazapine for months, and had nothing to show for it but weird dreams, sleeping loads, and putting on 20 kilos. Then I started on venlafaxine and bam, my mood started to improve. (A lot slower than it should have because my psychiatrist decided to go with a stupidly low dose, but it got there eventually).

    There is undoubtedly a placebo element to it as well. But that isn’t the only thing. The point is to try different drugs until one works – and not to spend months and months with each one if it’s not working; in my experience (as a patient and also in my conversations with psychiatrists) if it works, it works within a couple of weeks (assuming you get the dose right). So it needn’t take forever.

  10. Hang in there. And please know that your posts are far from maudlin self-indulgent shit. You’re ability to describe your situation helps me realise I am not alone, that other people feel (or don’t feel) much the same.

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