Thursday, 28 May 2015

Not My Best Moment

Image "Coco"  by Andy Rennie
I'd just awakened from an afternoon nap when the doorbell rang. I went to the door, opened it, and stood gawping at the person at the door. Absolutely no thought went through my head and no words went through my mouth. I was in an utterly moronic state. My hair was mussed, my clothes were rumpled and my eyes still had that just awakened look.

At the door was our newspaper girl. She was, not surprisingly, non-plussed by my demeanor. She, very hesitantly, mentioned she "was collecting" and it was only then that I clued in.

I felt so bad. Can you picture it: you're a young girl, dressed for summer, collecting for newspaper delivery. You ring a customer's doorbell, and who should come to answer your ring but a 50-something, dishevelled old man, overweight, mouth hanging open staring at you with a blank imbecility.

I'm shocked she didn't run in terror.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Additional Thoughts on "Another Group of Three - Pt 3"

Image by bykst (pixabay.com)
I was concerned about the effect my post, Another Group of Three - Pt 3, might have on my recovery. To be safe, I reached out to my counsellors and gave them links to the post.

Not surprisingly, they asked questions, good questions, questions that forced me to think. I took a short sabbatical from posting and gave them the consideration they deserved.

One question I was asked focussed on a couple of sentences from that post. I wrote:
I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. I will always suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. I've known this for many years but tried to ignore it. By ignoring my illness, I set in motion the causal connections that led to September 2, 2014.

On reflection, these remarks attribute to me an understanding about myself that I didn't have, particularly on September 2, 2014. My near-death on that date and the research and therapies and analyses (both professional and self-directed) that followed, helped me to view my past and recognize additional incidents of prolonged depression. So, although I now realize that I've lived with Major Depressive Disorder for decades, this understanding wasn't always the case.

What I did know was that I was moody, someone we Scots would call a "dour bugger". During my teens, I attributed the moodiness to typical teenage mood swings. When I was older, I attributed them to the stresses of post-secondary studies, or shift work, or money problems, or raising a family, or a bad nights sleep. In other words, the same stresses that everyone experiences. Even though I knew I wasn't always so dour, it didn't occur to me to seek a solution for what I didn't realize to be a problem.

Image "Hiding Cat"
by The Next Web Photos
I also knew that there were days, which I called Black Days, where the best thing I could do was stay in my room with a pillow over my eyes and let the mood work itself away. The solitude soothed me and helped me regain balance.

Initially, these Black Days never seemed to stick around for long. They came, and they went. I didn't see them as the harbingers of the larger issue that they clearly were. Over time though, as these things are wont to do, the episodes of The Black grew in frequency, duration and, to my everlasting regret, depth of despair. Again, I see this now. I didn't truly see it then immersed in each cycle as I was.

You see, as I mentioned above, when I was in the midst of an episode there was always some external event (employment instability, marital breakup, financial woes and the like). The setback suggested my grim mood was a natural reaction. Everybody has setbacks, and everybody reacts to them in different ways. But, with time the grimness dissipated and my mood improved. Since The Black went away, I didn't think I needed help.

Now, why did I use the word "truly" above? It's a small concession to a troubling possibility: somewhere deep within myself I knew that these episodes of Black Days were more than a reaction to the typical stresses of life. If this is so, I did, as I wrote in the sentences quoted above, ignore my illness and set in motion the causal events that led to my attempted suicide. But I'm also able to accept that I didn't recognize the real danger of The Black since it was, after all, not uncommon and did go away. So, I may have suspected a larger problem but since it wasn't causing any real harm, I gave it only passing consideration. I didn't, I must stress, think that I was suffering from a mental illness - a mood disorder.

And that is the crux of the matter. By not seeing the danger, it overwhelmed me, exhausted me, pushed me into an existence that was less than living. And it nearly killed me.

Image "La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles" by Garrett Ziegler
On September 2, 2014 I learned the true danger of The Black. The Black has infinite patience. The Black is relentless. The Black is unforgiving. The Black is the tar pit of despair, swallowing you whole, surrounding you, suffocating you in its finality, striving never to let you go.

Ultimately, The Black KILLS.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Necessary Pause

Image by geralt (pixabay.com)
I've been considering a question raised by my counsellors. After they'd read my last post, Another Group of Three - Pt 3, they asked me if I was re-living my suicide attempt?

I admit I hadn't considered this possibility; however, the importance of the question warranted a thoughtful answer. So I took some time off from posting to consider the motivations behind that post.

My initial motivation was simply to write to my son in an honest and forthright manner and communicate openly to him. He's fully aware of the events described in that last post, albeit less bluntly, knew it was coming and was ready.

A second, equal, motivation was to take pleasure in writing. Writing, like so much else, had been denied me, and I delighted in having recaptured my voice and expressing myself. My choice of words, my choice of images, convey feeling and nuances and life. And I revel in the opportunity.

But these motivations don't answer the question. I had to consider what other motivations might be at play.

I begin by telling you that the short answer to my counsellors' question is Yes. And No.

If you have no personal experience with Major Depressive Disorder, you can't understand just how debilitating it is. Any understanding you think you have is tainted by the common use of the word "depression" to refer to sadness, grief, loss or economic malaise. These meanings, while well-intentioned, perhaps trivialize what I and many, many others suffer. The illness, my illness, Major Depressive Disorder, is so much more than this.

 Image by John D. using Pablo by Buffer.com
So how do I convey this in any meaningful way? I could go on at length and describe incident after incident, like how I did not eat for days because I was unable to go across the street to get bread; or how self-abuse created feelings of shame of such intolerable levels that I isolated myself, hiding in my apartment for months on end; or how I could not reach out to anyone, especially those who loved me, because I was unworthy of that love.

Such lists, while compelling, lose their effect when presented in this way. They become a diatribe of negativity that disguise the underlying malady, my nemesis, the Black. When you are in the midst of an episode of Major Depressive Disorder, all is negativity. All is Black.

To give voice to the nadir of my despair, I used September 2, 2014, the day upon which I chose to die. That day, more than any other, is the exemplar of my plight. Only through showing you how bleak my illness made me can you gain a sense of the extent of my self-imposed horror or the salvation in my recovery.

Yes, I did re-live September 2, 2014. By so doing, I could be honest with myself, my son and all others who may read this letter. Only by being open could I face the truth.

Yet, I didn't re-live that day in the same way. I sought to learn, to find a seed that could teach me, guide me, and lend support to my recovery. This seed I found. I must have because I didn't fall into a new tailspin.

But just in case, after the post I contacted my counsellors and invited them to read it. I wanted to be sure that someone might be concerned. I reached out, one thing I hadn't done before. If nothing else, I'd learned that one lesson.

I looked at September 2, 2014 with open eyes, saw myself, and found comfort in my survival.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Another Group of Three - Pt 3

Image "Depression" by Tyler Herbert

Major Depressive Disorder and Me

This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Each post can be read independently of the others; however, if you would like to see the full series, click for Part 1 and Part 2.

On September 2, 2014 I chose to die. A couple of days earlier, I'd went through my apartment gathering all the pills - mostly over the counter medications - I could find. Now I opened an app on my KoboARC and left a note for my son and my family. I scribbled another note to my son in an old notebook and left it in front of my living-room chair. I poured myself a small glass of water. Then I went to bed, lay back, and deliberately, one by one, took each pill with a small sip of water until none were left. In all, I swallowed in excess of thirty-five pills. My research told me I'd taken more than enough pills to kill me. I lay back, closed my eyes, and drifted into oblivion.

At some point, over the prior months and years, my mind, for so long my strongest asset, became my worst enemy. An internal war was raging as I fought against myself. I could not understand why I was so despondent, so lethargic, so lacking in anything. I chastised myself mercilessly, castigating myself with the vilest and most repugnant epithets I could hurl all in an effort to elicit some response, to shock and shame myself into action. When this didn't work, the self-loathing grew culminating in a never-ending spiral of self-denigration within an ever closing world of utter Black.

Shame and self-hate prevented my reaching out. After all, there was nothing visibly wrong with me. Everyone has difficult patches in their lives. I had a son who loved me. I had a family.

 Image by John D. using Pablo by Buffer.com
Yet, despite this, my personal world had shrunk to the Black space that my mind had become. The external world was nothing more than torment, a reminder that there was no reason for my lack of, well, anything. And so the self-blame and denigration grew. The Black that was my mind expanded and, through expansion, my perception of, and interaction with, the world became more and more limited. Physically, and especially mentally, I became fatigued and lived in a state that was beyond numb.

By September 2, my mind had become such a poison to me, had exhausted me so much, that the permanent rest offered by Death - oh how seductive that possibility of permanent peace is when all is Black - was welcome. Better to die than to exist like this. I existed, I didn't Live.

No. That is too simple. There was no analysis, no forethought. There was nothing more than desperation, an urgency to make it all stop, to make it all go away. The seductiveness of Death appealed, not because I thought it through, but because it was an act, and any act had been beyond me for so long. My mind was so Black by then, Death seemed natural. I'd convinced myself I was worthless, and suicide is an expression of this worthlessness.

The notes I left were apologies; but, I wasn't apologizing for killing myself. I was apologizing for being so worthless, for letting down my son by not being the dad he deserved, for letting down my family by not fulfilling the hopes they had for me. Someone so worthless, so filled with Black, so lacking in Life, so filled with self-loathing, had nothing to offer anyone.

Image by John D. using Pablo by Buffer.com
I survived. Not by choice but by chance. My salvation is that I seized this chance and sought a means to recover and regain self-worth. This blog, this letter to my son, is about this recovery.

And recovery requires a raw honesty. I tried to kill myself. I hurt my son and my family. I have a mood disorder - Major Depressive Disorder. I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. I will always suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. I've known this for many years but tried to ignore it. By ignoring my illness, I set in motion the causal connections that led to September 2, 2014.

I caused my downfall. Now I'm causing my recovery. This I promise to myself, my son and my family.

This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Each post can be read independently of the others; however, if you would like to see the full series, click for Part 1 and Part 2.