Tuesday, June 18, 2019

To Hell With Depression

     Depression sucks.  I have struggled with depression most of my life.  Off and on, thank heavens; the cloudbank lifts quite often and it hasn't been a big problem for me in many years.  I try to keep busy.

     Here's the deal: most of the drugs developed to "treat" depression are about as subtle as a hammer.  I used Wellbutrin to quit smoking, back before there was a specific stop-smoking version of the drug, and it made me twitchy and strange (yes, more than usual). But it got me past the critical few weeks of really strong cravings, so it was worth it in the short term.*  Long-term?  No thanks; I'd rather be moody.

     But it's not really an either-or choice; for me, mild depression can be faked away.  Tricked.  Cheated: get busy at something, get into the physicality of it or the mental effort of mowing a lawn, building a bookshelf, even, sometimes, putting words on paper, and you can forget how everything is bleak and gloomily awful.

     Maybe it still is, when the thing is finished; maybe it comes back.  You've nevertheless bought your brain an hour or more of different chemicals, different electrical patterns, different thoughts.

     I think that's what the drugs do, too.  One of the angles they tried in treating my chronic facial pain/migraine was to run through a few anti-depressants; supposedly some of them help with some kinds of chronic pain and only a deeply cynical person -- or possibly an M. D. neurologist -- would wonder if they might help with someone who was using attention-seeking behavior as a cover for depression.   For me, all they did was screw me up and if you thought having little lightnings dancing along one cheekbone, eye and ear was unpleasant, add in a touch of depersonalization or bigtime emotional numbing, and see how that improves the experience.  (Hint: it doesn't.)

     Depression's a real thing but it doesn't help to let it loom too large.  If you pick at it, it just grows.  If you possibly can, go do something else instead.  The only way to get off that track is to stop going around on it and there are scads of other things to do.  If they're not fun, at least they can be useful.  It's like picking away at a brick wall with a lovely, sunlit meadow on the other side: there's a lot of gritty mortar to dig out before that first brick falls and lets a sunbeam through.
* I'm still addicted.  It's a long time between cravings but even now, twenty-some years later, every once in awhile it hits me, I could really use a smoke just now.  Yeah, and reek like an ashtray the next day, with a tongue like a mile of muddy road.  No thanks!


Anonymous said...

Ex smoker of 20 years, approximately. Yeah, I'm glad I quit, but when I leave the house on a cool / cold day, I remember way back when waking up, grabbing a Camel Filter and a BIC to go outside and have my first cigarette felt sooo good.

It was hard to quit and no way am I going to go through that again - to hell with that noise. But yeah - I miss it too. Most smokers I know also think that, not uncommon at all.

Merle said...

I've been struggling with depression since my wife died the end of May.
Still don't have any answers.

David aka True Blue Sam said...

Doctors love to throw pills at depression. I have seen some terrible failures with that approach.

Roberta X said...

Merle, I'm sorry. :( My Mom faced that after Dad passed and she was a long time mourning. There's no cure for that but time and fond memories.

Merle said...

Thank you.

waepnedmann said...

My SIL has migraines that are so bad she has to go to the ER and they give her an injection that knocks her out. When she wakes up all is good...until the next time.
I do not know how you make do with OTC meds.

As far as low dose anti-depressant meds:
I was born with a spinal defect that caused me pain through my entire life.
Thirty-odd years ago my doc said he had just heard about using low doses of an anti-depressant med, one-tenth of a normal dose, for chronic pain.
I said OK.
It felt like I was moving through jello. Every movement was an effort. The doc told me to try it for thirty days to give my body/brain a chance to adjust to the drug. No change. After thirty days I quit it.
Later in life I learned that a lot of drugs/meds actually change the physical architecture of a person's brain. When you stop using them it takes at least thirty days for the brain to star restructuring itself (hence the classic thirty-day rehab).

Smoking is odd in that there seems to be a time frame for the strong urge to smoke after quitting at thirty days, three months and one year.
I know someone who dreamed about smoking for twenty years after she quit.
Nicotine is a powerful drug and I would wager that there are substantial architectural changes that occur in nicotine user's brains that are never reversed.

As for my back:
Ten years later surgical procedures improved, I went a specialist in Flagstaff, AZ, and I had surgery that pretty much fixed my back problem. That particular surgery is fairly common today, but when I was diagnosed in my mid twenties the doc told me that surgery had a low percentage of success and to not even consider it until I was dragging my leg as I walked. Twenty years later... +1 for medical science!

Migraines are a terrible curse.
I do not know how you can function while in that much pain.
Tough is different than strong.

Anonymous said...

Never smoked till I got out of college.
Smoked *heavily* (Camels; 2-3 packs) 25 years.
Quit last 30 years - cold turkey; no problems at all; no problems or regrets.
Someday, Doc will say, "Too bad, you're on the way out."
Whereupon I rush to the store for a carton of Camels.

pigpen51 said...

I never touched a cigarette until I went through a divorce and started playing music in a rock band, where everyone else smoked. I was smoking within 3 months. It took me 20 years before I quit. I was able to just stop on my own, but it seemed easy to me, at the time. I know for others, it is tough. And I also know that I cannot touch a cigarette or I am lost, and will be a full time smoker again.
As for the migraines, I used to go to the ER and get a shot for migraines, but now with the war on drugs, none of the hospitals will treat migraines with narcotics. So I am pretty much screwed as far as an abortive for my migraines. I have one nearly every day. It is horrible, and I am on disability due to both the migraines, and also a broken back at the age of 20, from a car accident. But there are people in much worse shape than me, and I have a wife that I am crazy about, so I still feel blessed.

Rob K said...

Ketosis fixed my depression. I had the realization recently that I just wasn't depressed. I felt good. No despair.

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Depression is very personal. Therapies that worked wonders for one person may make it worse for another.

That said, I think switching to "Daylight" LED lighting in our house helped. "Sunny disposition is more than just words that sound good together.

The rest of the story is that 5000K-to-6500K lighting woke my wife up and it impacted her sleep. The solution was to have two sets of lighting in her corner of the room. The 5000K goes off a few hours before bedtime and the 2400K goes on.

LED bulbs are cheap. Might be worth a try.

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Additional note to Roberta on lighting:

If you do a search on "Human Centric Lighting" you will get a boat-load of information on spectrum and effect on humans. Some of it is sales tripe. Some is really good information.

People selling HCL have been able to justify installation of variable "K" lighting simple on the basis of moderating the post-lunch sag in productivity.

Having worked in industrial settings I have seen many buildings lit with high pressure sodium lamps. Almost no blue content. I have also seen dim, almost burned out, buzzy fluorescent lamps. I had an employee whose migraines were triggered by weld sparks. Go figure.

I don't know if you keep a journal but you might consider keeping track of the lighting and your moods/headaches.

Very highest regards,


fillyjonk said...

I used to get periodic migraines, starting in young adulthood. I gained a lot of sympathy for people who live with chronic pain because of having them....even as I knew if I could either go to bed and sleep for a few hours, or if I threw up*, the headache would get better and I'd be free of it again.

they were not frequent enough to mess with taking a prophylactic. My brother had to do that though. And he had some kind of "rescue medication" where he had to go and lie down after taking it. (One of the ergotamines, I think)

I guess I was one of the lucky ones...they were very infrequent, and going on a beta blocker a few years ago made them even less frequent. But yeah, migraines suck big time.

(*Apparently this is a thing for some people with migraines. My brother had it too, even worse than I did)

I've never been what I would call clinically depressed but I have certainly had "blah" or "meh" periods where I felt like everything was terrible and just a slog and I didn't take as much delight in stuff as I felt I should. My general way of dealing with those times was to remind myself, "sometimes the only way out is through" and to keep slogging along. Usually I'd eventually find something that either made me laugh or caught my interest to work on again (often starting a new project helped).

Will said...

It's been a few years since I have read about it, but nicotine was then rated as the most addictive substance known to mankind. Makes permanent changes in the brain chemistry.

Oddly, research has concluded that people with life-long low levels of depression tend to be more accurate in assessing reality than the rest of the population. The majority erred on the side of thinking things were better than they were. Sort of a "rose-tinted glasses" viewpoint. Perhaps that is what mankind needs in order to make progress?

If you find that the down cycles in your life are a regular thing, it might indicate a mild form of manic-depression. I suspect that that tends to get worse (stronger) with age, but I haven't seen confirmation of it.

David/TBS: There is one of the most popular ones on the market that can cause permanent brain damage. I'll not mention it by name, as that seems to cause some blog problems. Just look for the one that lists memory problems as the #1 side effect.