Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The War on Depression

At the risk of sounding like a Republican, I am not a doctor and I am not a scientist. But that does not stop me from having strong beliefs and hypotheses about a medical profession I know nothing about! In short, take everything I say with a healthy dose of skepticism. I am not going to attempt to write out any full-blown conclusions, but to analyze my own self and relay my experiences for what they are worth. Perhaps it can help others.

To start, I have a somewhat mild and irregular depression. It comes and goes, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly. I can go a couple months without any symptoms and suddenly I'm in the depths of despair for seemingly no reason. I might come out of it in a day and sometimes it takes weeks. It may be on and off throughout every day for a prolonged period of time. It all just depends. But depends on what?

I like to see the world through the eyes of programming. I think much of the world operates like programming: cause and effect. A program does something because it is programmed to do so under certain stimuli. Granted, the world has nearly infinite stimuli so it can be hard to nail down any one particular culprit and it may very well be a mix of culprits. I'm constantly searching, observing, and hoping, to come to some conclusions by analyzing inputs and outputs.

I recently had a stretch of depression that lasted a few weeks. I felt like doing nothing. I just wanted to lay around the house or go back to sleep as soon as I got home. I try to fight through it rather than sleep since sleep never really helps anyway and I have a wife and four kids to look after. No one wants an absent father, but it can be exceedingly hard and filled with failure to try. That, of course, is also depressing and furthers a cycle.

Why am I depressed? I'm not sure everyone has a reason. I'm not sure I always have a reason myself. Sometimes I just feel like crap and I don't want to do anything. I think, however, that most of my depression stems from a type of trigger and I think environmental factors make me more or less susceptible to that trigger. One such environmental factor has something to do with consuming liquids that are not purely water. Now, don't get me wrong, I can still be depressed drinking only water, and I can still be happy while gorging on soda and coffee. This makes it hard to identify them as possible problems. What I think is going on, however, is that caffeine and/or aspartame, and/or Splenda (sucralose), and/or sugar, and/or alcohol puts undo stress on my body and makes me more likely to succumb to the other pressures which cause my depression.

So what's the true cause? It's likely quite dependent on the person. When I am depressed, however, I am most often considering my own worthlessness. I do not feel valuable no matter how much evidence is presented otherwise. I will brush it off as meaningless. I want to contribute but I don't feel as if I'm successful. I've written a book, but no one reads it. I'm very logical and well-thought-out, but no one wants to hear my words. I can program, draw, run, joke, or do any other human faculty, but never as good as others. No one values my abilities, and those who think I'm great are simply uninformed or clueless. I'm useless. I'm a nobody. And I'm not okay with that. When I see someone else getting attention, especially for doing or saying something that I, too, have once said or done, it is a slap to my face. They're worthy and I'm not. But why? What's wrong with me? These events, I believe, have a chance to trigger my depression depending on my other environmental factors of food choice, exercise, sleep, liquids, etc.

So for the best chance of avoiding depression, the easiest thing I can do is avoid all liquids that are not water. This helps quite a bit. A single drink may or may not have an impact depending on what simultaneous triggers I receive which are entirely unpredictable. Sometimes they come from others, and sometimes they come from within myself. If I consider something I want to do and then consider how hard it would be to do it with skills I do not yet possess, I freeze up and feel overwhelmed. I begin to contemplate my own inabilities which gets me down a little. Getting down, I realize that I could never pull it off because I get depressed too easily. All these things begin to depress me as I think about them.

Other times, it's just a flat-out rejection that triggers me. If I show someone something that I made or wrote and they brush it off, argue with it, or otherwise invalidate me, there is a high chance I will shut down. I'm apparently very easily triggered by rejection. Somehow, rejection, feelings of rejection, and a lack of belonging or value are the triggers which press on the true cause of my depression. Knowing this is actually half the battle. Understanding where my dark feelings come from (a physical/emotional/mental need or corruption in my brain) I can suddenly realize that it's not "me" that is truly worthless. It's like having a broken finger. A person doesn't lose value as a person simply for losing a finger's use, and I'm actually quite successful and accomplished for having such an ailment as this. It helps ease the pain to recognize it's not a problem "with me" but with my body. It takes just enough edge off to potentially help me overcome. It is not a magical cure, of course.

So what is the cure? For me, I presume the cure has something to do with resolving these unmet emotional needs which probably stem from childhood or young-adult experiences. As a child, I had very few friends, no strong family relationships, and I coupled this with an out-of-the box mentality. By thinking outside the box rather than fitting in, I found myself... well... not fitting in! I was quite often rejected, dejected, and alone. I rarely felt belonging, and I rarely felt valued. So now, as an adult, how do I fix this? I presume that if I manage to find my sense of worth despite the onslaught of inferiority to the online world of giants and my severe lack of meaningful relationships, I could probably rid myself of depression for good. All I really know for now, however, is that drugs have never helped, religion was all the more devastating and likely caused most of this to begin with, and it is very, very hard to overcome. Depression is a spiral to the depths as it produces self-loathing which perpetuates more self-loathing. Is the key to beating it within myself? Am I entirely reliant on others to justify my worth? Is the key in finding a new way to see myself? I have no idea. But for now, I'm going to keep a close eye on my intake, try to stop thinking when negative perceptions arise, and take indefinite breaks on projects with no thought or regrets when I find they are fueling my sense of incapability.

If possible, I will try to find ways to belong to some kind of group, but this does open the door to more rejection and teeters on a fine line of helping and harming. I'm glad that my own depression does not last forever. I can mostly function and accomplish some pretty great feets such as finishing my basement by hand, writing a book, developing an Android app, designing my own papercraft, making a board game, etc. It's just a shame they're never as good as they could be without the ailment. No, wait, that's thinking negative thoughts. I'm such a dummy for failing even in this post. Gah! That recognition was further negative. I'm such a failure! No, wait, I know how to handled this, "STFU, brain! You're malfunctioning! I'm going to go watch TV now."

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