This week’s post, as well as the next several Thursday posts are going to talk about something that I know is a frequent problem throughout the geek community: I’m specifically referring to depression.
While not a “geek specific” topic, depression has always struck me as something our community tends toward more than many other social groups. I say this from experience. From late high school right up through the present, I have had intermittent bouts of depression. I have not specifically been medicated for depression, but I have taken anti-depressants at various times (specifically Zoloft, prescribed to help with Tourette’s syndrome). At the moment, things are going quite well, but that has not always been the case. Parts of college were particularly awful. My sophomore year was the worst and when my depression combined with insomnia, cluster headaches and horrific nightmares, I was very nearly at the point of suicide. I saw no end to everything that was hurting me and I didn’t know what to do. That’s not to say that suicide ever struck me as a good idea, but I was nearly out of other ideas. The only thing that kept me from pursuing that option further was the fact that I had a solid group of friends.
I was extremely lucky to have a people like that around me that cared as much as they did. Hell, they had a meeting one time to figure out what they could do to help me. But just because they wanted to help me, doesn’t mean that my struggles went away overnight. Coming away from that dark place has been a long journey and it’s not over. While there has yet to be a time that was ever as bad as that year, I’ve had more than one recurrence over the last several years, and it’s always a struggle. Nothing seems to go right, I don’t feel capable of doing anything, and it’s all downhill from there. It doesn’t help that in addition to the Tourette’s I also have ADD and OCD, so my natural difficulty focusing is enhanced by my obsessing on how terrible things are. I would literally watch myself spiral into this hole, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Over the years I have learned that there are some things I can do. I’m not talking about some kind of magic light switch that makes me feel great again. It’s a long, difficult, and usually fairly painful process. Ask Tracy, she’s been around for a couple cycles now. It means making decisions to do things I don’t want to. I have to get up and go to work. I do things I know will cause help me on a physical level, things that generate good brain chemicals. I don’t drink alcohol and I cut back on the crap in my diet. I do anything that will just give me a little edge on the depression. Sometimes that’s all it takes: the smallest of toe holds—the tiniest piece of hope taking root—helps to bring me back.
Looking at things from this side (with depression banished, at least for now), I have only one piece of advice I’d like to share: whatever you do, fight to get help when needed. Somedays that will be a losing battle. Things will seem even worse than they did when the day started. But other days, there will be victories. They don’t have to be big ones. Hell, they might even be that things didn’t get worse. But do everything that can be done. No one is so far gone that they can’t climb back out again. If medication helps, take it, but it is by no means the only solution. Seek counselling or just talk to a trusted friend. Whatever it takes. My point is that there is light at the end, but in all likelihood, it isn’t easily available to the people who need it. They have to reach for it.
As for the friends of a depressed person, I would tell you that it is unimaginably important that you stick by your friend. My friends were what kept me going through my darkest times, and I don’t know what I would have done without them. Depressed people might be tough to be around, and they may push people away, but they need those people, more than they could ever realize.
Depression sucks. There is no better way to put it. It quite literally sucks the joy right out of a person. But things don’t have to stay like that. It won’t always be dark and terrible. Things get better.