Sunday, November 19, 2006

Young, blue

I have been depressed in my life. I am not now, but i experience it as weight, heaviness pushing down on my center.

The times i have taken medication for depression have been when something happened outside me that caused me to become unable to cope, unable to sleep, unable to eat. But most of the time i am fairly happy. I manage my depressive nature with exercise. If i don't do anything for a few days, i feel the dark starting to creep in under my cognitive door, like the poison gas in a Batman episode.

This seems to be fairly common knowledge now, but some element of depression is hereditary. I believe this because the first time i remember being depressed i was 9 years old. It lasted for about three months. I stopped reading. I stopped laughing. I became less animated. There was no cause for it that i can remember, it just came in one day and sat on me.

My parents sat me down after a month or two of this and had a talk with me. Something i loathed. What child wants to hear, "Meno, we need to talk about your behavior." That alone was enough to send me into spasms of self-conscious squirming and escape fantasies.

The pep talk i was given was something along the lines of "I sentence you to hang by the neck until you cheer up." (Yes, it's Monty Python again.) My parents were displeased with me for bumming out the rest of the family. And of course, i was ashamed.

I didn't remember this episode until my mother reminded me of it a while ago. "Remember that time in 4th grade that you were such a pill for a while?"

I look for signs of depression in Em, but i have never seen any. How odd, a happy person. Maybe it skips a generation.

20 comments:

caro said...

Well... I have been depressed most of my life. I am bi-polar actually. It runs in my family, on both sides. I have 3 girls and as of yet, I can't really detect any of the symptoms among them. True they are still relatively young but I am keeping my fingers crossed. Not that I think there is anything shameful about this disease but man, I don't want my babies to suffer the way that i have... Thanks for addressing this. Not easy.

urban-urchin said...

It's good to look for it and even better she doesn't show signs of it.

jen said...

how wonderful that you know to be watchful, and how, if there ever were signs, to know exactly what role to play. lucky her. brave you.

amusing said...

I am still figuring out depression. Have I had it a long time and didn't get it? Was it brought on by his affairs? Baby blues? There's the wondering if I'm "done" and should stop pills, or if that will send me into a darkness again.

I was so glad for the scene in "Shopgirl" in which the female lead is so happily in love she gives up her medication but then falls darkly into bed and can't get up.

My sister was deeply affected by the sudden car crash death of a good friend in high school. My parents told her to cheer up b/c it was Thanksgiving, the grandparents were visiting and she was being a downer.

None of us really know how to cope with the world, do we? We make it up as we go along and hope for the best.

meno said...

caro, there is nothing shameful about this disease, bur sometimes society tells us otherwise. i don't want my baby to suffer this either. But i can't do much to prevent it, other than to understand and treat her how i would like to have been treated.

u-u, you are so cute! I don't know why i said that, but that's what i felt when i saw your name. we take the best care of our children that we can.

jen, you know the helpless love that we have for our kids. I will be there for her, and not shame her. And so will you.

amusing, i love the thinking process that you go through in your posts and comments. I need to watch Shopgirl. The world will just not be made sense of, despite our best efforts.

Dick said...

Depression is something I can't understand but I do know it is very real. Maybe I am just too much the tank is half full type personality to be affected by negative things enough to get pushed into depression. I guess if anything could push me that way it would have been Annie's death, but I seem to have come through that more or less okay.

D_Man said...

Batman always escaped in the end.

daufiero said...

Despite my extremely self-destructive youth, including 3 attempts at suicide, I never realized until much later that I was depressed. "What's a kid got to be depressed about?" was the attitude in our family.

Although they didn't help me as much as I would have liked, at least my parents never gave up on me, as I begged them to do.

Already, my daughter is so tough (contrary, belligerent), I am very worried about what the future will bring.

Bob said...

I have been depressed for as long as I have memories. My parents don't understand, but I've never got the "get over it" speech. (they did send me to therapy when I was 11-12 years old, though.) Making matters even more fun, my wife has had major problems with it too. She did get the "get over it" speech, with liberal doses of "get right with God and it will get better". (How ironic is it that MIL started taking Effexor 4-5 years ago for depression. It allowed her and my wife to reconcile after years of acrimony).

I was so afraid that our children would suffer from it. Our daughter is a happy person and has exhibited no signs of it - she is 19. My son attempted suicide 2 years ago last month (he turned 21 yesterday). He not only has to cope with what are probably hereditary seeds of depression, he is struggling with homosexuality. Living in a small town in the south hasn't exactly been a nurturing experience for a maturing gay young man.

I wish with all of my heart I could make it better for him but I can't even make it better for myself. All can do is love my son, tell him so, support him, and feel my heart break as his struggles continue.

Sanjay said...

Maybe it has escaped for good, I hope so. :)

Thailand Gal said...

Well, you (and half the bloody universe) already knows my situation now. The "get over it" stuff was the hardest to deal with. It's like telling a person who can't walk to just "get up and do it!" It's a chemical deficiency generally. I'm glad you're watching for it in Em. It can be treated quite easily as long as a lifetime of thinking patterns and behavior haven't taken over.

Peace

~Chani

holly said...

em is happy, because she has a more caring, more loving mother than you did. how could she not thrive in her environment?

depression is such an enigma. I can look around, and see many of my blessings-of which there are too many to count-yet, every winter, the darkness creeps in, unbidden. last year was the worst, we didn't decorate for Christmas, didn't even put the tree up until the kids were in bed Christmas Eve. thankfully, so far this year, I'm feeling okay.

the scary part is how it can affect others around you. I know that when I'm down, the atmosphere around here is dark, but I had never really thought about it until they started playing those commercials, "who does depression affect?"

my mother, bless her heart, has always told me to just shake it off, it'll get better. she has lived through some real tough crap, and by proxy, my brother and I; so I think if she can shake it off, why can't I? who knows, I just try to be happy right now, that's all I can do, right?

you always right posts that set the gears in motion. thanks for that.

Ginnie said...

Depression is another of those diseases that can't be understood by those who've never been there. My friends who are clinically depressed say that it is very similar to alcoholism, which is my disease. Isolation is sometimes the most comforting thing but also the deadliest. We both have found that we need to keep actice...even when we have to force it.
I'm so glad your little girl is a happy child. You are doing something right, for sure. Probably lots of unconditional love. (I feel so much for your commenter Bob...and hope his son knows how supportive he is.)

Josephine said...

I think that it's a combination of things that bring out depression. I was depressed at a very early age as well, and I inherited it from both sides of my family.

But I think that environment has a major influence on when and how the brain reveals those tendencies toward a certain chemistry.

Perhaps Em has it somewhere, but her life at home and in school have not awakened it.

liv said...

The first instance that I remember of being "informed" of my emotional distress was when my Mom took me to a psychologist's office where I engaged in some new-fangled "play therapy" (remember, it was the late 70's) and then was taken into a room where I faced about 5 people sitting in large, leather backed chairs. They all wanted to know why I said I hated myself. Quite frankly, I was a fried little person:taking care of my infant brother while my mom wallowed in bed with post partum depression. (which, I don't blame her for, btw.) It just was too much to take.

I still feel overwhelmed when I look after my kids sometimes. Like that 4 year old who is tired of not being allowed just to play or watch TV. When the skies are grey I feel that way too. Luckily, I have divided my depressed feelings into two categories which I characterize as "situational"---i.e. specific forces outside of my brain are depressing me AND "chemical"---i.e. an inexplicable sadness that has nothing to do with the stuff of my life. Thinking of the madness in these compartmentalized ways has helped me to sort out and deal with my feelings better.

Your daughter is very fortunate that you have gained wisdom from what cannot always have been the easiest path. Peace, sister.

Maggie said...

I like most people who suffer from depression or do not, don't know what to say. I have been on medication for it once. Getting off of it was the worst experience in my life. I didn't think I would survive. But now I think that it is more environmental for me, that I swing with the weather or stress and therefore do not understand very well those that suffer from the chemical side of it. Though I try to understand. It is such a tough and touchy thing. I do know that the worst thing for either situational or chemical is to hear something like, "you just have to choose to be happy." Who in their right mind wouldn't just choose to be happy if they could?

Mignon said...

The stories of your childhood make me cringe, but I guess what doesn't kill you is making me stronger, at least...

meno said...

hi dick! you are a lucky man to have such a great disposition.

d-man, exactly! "Holy heroin Batman! We're in another fix."

de, that was exactly the attitude of my parents too. Good for your parents, mine didn't give up on me so much as i learned never to ask them for anything. I don't envy you with your daughter, but at least you know to be vigilant.

bob, my heart goes out to your son. At least he has you there for him. I hope he can find a place somewhere accepting. Sigh, if only we as parents could make it all better. That's some story about the MIL.

sanjay, as long as i keep on moving, it seems to stay away, even in the dark dark winter months.

chani, (i like saying that name) well, maybe not HALF the universe. :) I hope to be able to help Em quickly if it ever becomes an issue, because neurons that fire together, wire together. A fancy way to say repeated thought patterns become habit.

holly, i guess maybe some people can shake it off, but not me, and it sounds like not you either. I hope you find a way to stay above it this year. There's nothing like a good dose of guilt to make it worse. Good luck.

ginny, my natural tendency when depressed is to go off and hide by myself. But as you say, that is NOT the answer, in fact, it just makes it worse.

josephine, i think you are right. So far her life is pretty good, but it will likely not remain that way. Maybe i'll just keep her home the rest of her life and protect her. Okay, bad idea.

hi liv, wow, that's quite a lot to take on at 4. That's the situational trigger that we talk about.

maggie, getting off the meds is quite the roller coaster isn't it. It doen't really encourage taking them in the first place. And i would choose to be happy, beautiful, smart and rich!

mignon, and you know, my parents weren't truly awful or anything, but at the time, children were to be seen and not heard, and all that philosophy. I am SO GLAD that some of that crap no longer is in fashion. They did what they knew without really thinking about it.

Mother of Invention said...

I am glad you've found your way to deal with it and that exercise gets those endorphins secreting or something like that. Keep it up.

I do get a bit down in the winter, but it's mostly the light and the fact that I get lonely when my husband skis a lot and I feel the distance. I can't do those things with him.

The darkness affects my moods too. I guess the main thing for me to feel depressed about is all my health problems. Menopause just adds to the equation. I was on Paxil for stress once for 6 weeks and it was hard to come off too but it did help me deal with things and I felt much happier.

I suppose most of mine is situational as someone else was saying. Guess I'm much luckier than some.

bobealia said...

That dark feeling in your center is what I call "the slipery slope." Against doctor's orders, I never took meds, but stopped taking birth control instead. That was enough that I was able to cope. I don't know about my parents, but I know both my grandmothers on both sides suffered from depression. One drank and one refused to eat. Maybe it does skip a generation?