Around this time every year…

Old School Zero

Old School Zero

Ex-Chargers fan in Portland. Sorry about your carpet.
Old School Zero

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Around this time every year, for the past few years, I get this cough. It feels like I get suddenly somewhat congestion, and just start coughing off and on. Sometimes, especially at night, it gets really bad and I get super wheezy and can’t sleep easily until I take something for it. It’s undiagnosed, but it might be allergies and GERD related, and stomach meds seem to take care of it, most of the time. It’s not fun for me, but it’s survivable.

Around this time of year, for the past twenty years or so, I get down. My energy drains more easily, I don’t enjoy the usual pleasures as much, everyday life gets just that much more difficult, and I continually want a day off—and the days I get off are never enough. Some years, it got really bad—especially those years when I was most isolated—and it created unhealthy habits or over-indulgence when self-medicating, and it took a lot to dig my way out again. But I did, and, thankfully, it’s been manageable for quite a few winters now. Much like the cough, though, I never know when it will strike, or when it will be bad or when it will be mild. I do know that while not fun, it’s survivable.

This post isn’t about me, though. It’s more about this time of year, and about the overall reality of mental health so many deal with every day. I was inspired to put this together after sitting in the audience for a book reading from Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. If you haven’t read anything by her, you really should—she’s hilarious, weird in great ways, and fully open and honest about her struggles with serious mental health issues. Her reading and Q&A afterwards were super funny, but also honest and open about what she and her audience dealt with. That was the thing that really got me—the reading room was filled to complete capacity, with fans who not only loved her for her humor, but for the fact that there was someone who understood more of who they were than most people.

She spoke of that multiple times during the reading—how fans would write her to say that what she wrote, and what the commenters on her website wrote, told them that they were not alone in their struggles. That they, too, were hiding in the bathroom at a party full of people, or alone in their room, or unable to get off the couch that day. She talked about a particular post she wrote where, instead of posting the normal funny carefree thing she would when she was having a major depressive day, she wrote, as honestly as possible, about how she was debilitated that day by depression. While she didn’t get the usual few hundred comments about how funny she was and so on, she got thousands of comments saying “Me, too!” That’s powerful.

If you haven’t read Christmas Ape’s “This Week In Fuck You: Depression” in a while, take the time to do so, and read the comments, too. That was a phenomenal KSK moment that really cemented to me what made that site special, especially in the last few years. This is what this post is really about—paying a bit of homage to that post and that moment, and keeping that thread alive, to a certain degree.

It comes back, again, to this time of year—that time when the clouds come back in, the weather gets nasty, and the stresses can build for many suffering from mental illness. Between the end of the year stuff at many work places, to the longer dark hours, to the pressures inherent to many holidays and their associated celebrations, and to, quite often, the flare ups of family dynamics that may or may not be all that holly jolly. This is the time of year when loneliness can feel that much stronger, when it becomes more difficult to stay healthy, and when it can feel hardest to reach out and speak up.

So as we head towards all of that, I wanted to make sure it’s said again so that all who come to DFO can read it: You’re not alone, no matter what it is that gets at you. One thing I did learn over all those years is that it doesn’t matter where you find your community that supports you, just that you find it—even if it’s a football dick joke blog. If you’re suffering and having one of those days where it is winning—reach out, speak up, or do whatever you have to do to make it through. We can get through this together, one open thread at a time.

 

Old School Zero
Old School Zero
Ex-Chargers fan in Portland. Sorry about your carpet.
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Tucson, Ch. 1: Why the Mark Davis of Cities May Not be the Best Choice for Mark Davis – [DOOR FLIES OPEN]

[…] so, in retrospect, I guess I’m glad I didn’t go and rip on everyone in the comments on OSZ’s little diddy ’bout it. I know, I know — I’m sure all you folks carrying clinical/psychotic are just rolling […]

Don T

The first person that got me to therapy was my mother. Which still astounds me; she’s way old school. Her mom, my sourpuss grandma, used to say that a busy mind doesn’t get depressed. There’s a tad of wisdom there, but zero knowledge about mental illness.
I think it was in late December ’08 when I was utterly defeated: no light anywhere, just crushing weight. But an ultra geeky subthread on Giants offensive linemen, back there, made me find some peace. I didn’t recognize more than three names of about 10 mentioned, but that deep dialogue on the NFL’s most boring team gave me peace. I still felt like a worthless piece of shit, and did not lose sight of the truckload of problems inside and out. But I stopped feeling deserted by the world because of people I did not know having a spirited conversation, among themselves, on something I still enjoyed. I still felt like a fucking sorry-ass weirdo, but found solace on some kind of shared interest, even though I did not join in on the conversation.
Others have told me that meds have worked wonders for me, but I can’t vouch for their precise effectiveness. What I remember working is: feeling not being alone in my suffering, allowing myself to experience warmth and understanding from others–which is wholly different from receiving facile advice and GET POSITIVE bromides, no matter how well-intentioned.
Allowing oneself to find common ground with others, in a dynamic that, no matter how trivial or fleeting, is genuine and interested: at its barest, I think that’s as good as life gets. I can’t offer advice, but I will never miss an opportunity celebrate that this exists and that you are here.

Cuntler

My 2 1/2 year old son won’t go to bed and just told me to turn off “baseball” to watch “Frozen” and I did it because it’s less depressing than Bengals v. Texans. Also, it is blizzarding. But the cold never bothered me anyway.

Exercise helps me when I get emotionally sideways. Alcohol and drugs do not. Also, unplugging seems to help a lot with my general well being, too, which is why I’m not around much anymore. You guys are a swell bunch (except for those of you that are Syrian).

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

No matter what is going on watching Frozen with 2 1/2 year old son is >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Bengals v. Texans.

*Syrian terrorists

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Also; it is fucking coming down at my place on the west side of town.

makeitsnowondem

I love you all so much. I couldn’t be more sincere about that. Kommentariat, Commentist Party, whatever; you’ve all had a hand in making this little community what it is. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve never been severely depressed. I’ve had my hard times, though, and this merry band of dick jokers played a bigger role than any of you know in keeping me sane through all of them.

So for whatever it’s worth: I love you. I care about how you’re doing. And I know I’m just an alot avatar to every single one of you, but if any of you ever feel like you have no one else to talk to, track me down. After all you guys have done for me, the least I can do is listen.

SonOfSpam

You only love me because I have beer. But that’s good enough for me.

makeitsnowondem

Me too!

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Very well done, my man!

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Was going to go with the “Well THIS is depressing.” joke, but it’s Monday.

Lothar of the Hill People
Lothar of the Hill People

If you’re suicidal, dress your best and don’t forget your vest!

Too soon?

Too horrible?

Lothar of the Hill People
Lothar of the Hill People

It was only after my wife’s 3rd miscarriage and a fucked-up dental appointment (just a scheduling thing, not a drill thing) that left me curled up in bed wanting the day to end… at 9am, that I realized that there was something wrong in my brain chemistry.

I went to the doc to ask for pills, and as I was telling him why, I started to connect dots, periods in my life where things would start to fall apart, and I’d retreat from dealing with things. Holy shit it was a revelation that not only was I depressed at that particular point in my life, but in previous periods, as well. Then I started thinking about my dad and his behavior, and I realized holy shit, he was depressed a shit-ton of my life, too.

My black dog isn’t blue. I don’t get sad depressed. I get totally wiped out, unmotivated, listless, can’t-conquer-the-world-because-I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed depressed. Little setbacks turn into day-ending defeats.

Talking didn’t help much; atypical depression isn’t something easily talked through, and some talk therapy just feels like “you can feel better if you want to enough” cheerleading. Plus, it just sucks to talk to a therapist about being unmotivated, lethargic, mentally fuzzy, and… what was the fourth thing? Oops.

Meds didn’t help much. Maybe they did help, and miscarriage #4 gutted me too much to notice the meds helping. What really turned me around was getting out of the country for a few months, getting away from the stresses that were grinding me down. But then I came back, and my back flared up after my daughter was born. The doc tried me on cymbalta for my back (off-label at the time), and things improved in my brain, too. My back feeling better motivated me to get back working out again, and that helped more.

Then miscarriages #5-#9 pulled me under again. Luckily, shortly after, I figured out an issue that was likely leading to the bad brain chemistry, and since I got that addressed, I’ve done much better. The black dog still shows up, shits on the rug, chews up the furniture, and leaves hair on everything, but he’s manageable.

Depression sucks for everyone. For men, its suckage is cloaked in the beefy manliness that doesn’t allow us to admit weakness, and further wrapped in the societal prejudice that mental illness isn’t really “illness,” it’s weakness, or laziness, or an undisciplined mind. I’ve read in a few places that we’d treat concussions in football differently if we called them “brain bruises,” and maybe we’d treat depression differently if we just called it “illness” instead of “mental illness.”

We further complicate things by trying to cure this beast with a pill. We want a pill to cure everything–how come no one makes a pill to cure sprained ankles? Pills treat depression the same way NSAIDs treat sprains–not by fixing the underlying issue, but by taking the pain away enough that we can treat the injury with multiple strategies, and let it heal.

I’m rambling. Sorry. Point is, thanks for posting this, OSZ, and thanks to everyone in the comments. This shit is never easy to talk about, even on a pseudonymous internet dick joke haven. You are not alone. I am not alone.

And Patton Oswalt has a good bit on his depression. I don’t agree with how he treats it, but it’s funny to listen to.

Lothar of the Hill People
Lothar of the Hill People

Just read through Ape’s thread. I missed that last year traveling cross-country to visit the in-laws.

Sill has some very relevant advice in that thread. You go to your doc to get pills for depression, make the doc run a thorough panel. Hell, a CBC can reveal some very treatable conditions (and some nightmares) that can cause depression. Hypothyroidism, hypogonadism, Cushing’s, metabolic syndrome, etc., all can cause depression. Popping a 100mcg levothyroxine daily if you’re hypothyroid will do a lot more for you than all the SSRIs in the world.

nomonkeyfun

Holy shit Lothar. I have no interest in having my own kids, but mother of god.

I’m very happy for you and most especially Mrs. Lothar that you have the joy of a daughter of the Hill People.

They may not cure the bad feelings, but they do give one a reason to fight through them, and as far as my issues go that is at least half of the battle.

SonOfSpam

One thing you mentioned about pills and how they help…SSRIs are pretty not-bad for you as far as side effects go. My doctor (or dealer, whatevs) said they were safer than Tylenol. In a sense, that’s true. In another sense (trying to quit them), it’s really fucked up. Stopping SSRIs results in withdrawal. Horrible brain zaps (it’s a thing), sickness, and eventually 3 AM panic attacks. The end result? Gimme the fucking pills again. They can be a great help (they really were at the time when things were…bad), but you gotta know that once you start, you’re probably a lifetime customer.

This should have been the first sentence Lothar: I’m sorry for your pregnancy issues and really hope things have stabilized on that front. Can’t even imagine.

nomonkeyfun

OSZ, and of the the members of of the commentariat. Thank you for baring your hearts.

At this point in my life I only have to worry about the.”Gray Dog”. When I was younger I was a very, very angry young man. Looking back I know that was self loathing turned outwards. I haven’t really dealt with those issues but, I know how to deal with my inner demons enough to at least to function and not wind up in jail.

For a couple of years I was the trite definition of depression, anger turned inwards.
I know now that my issues are why I don’t have any friends from my high school/college period.

I respect my WASPY upringing that one shouldn’t let their feelings out. My uncle, whom I adored more more than any other person at that time in my life, died of AIDS In 1994, when I 15. I did not allow myself to cry at his funeral. I felt at the time I had to be strong for the women in my family. When my Grandfather died a few years ago. My Grandmother who had been married to him for 60 years got a little choked up and had a few tears, when she spoke at his service.

He had a military funeral, with

nomonkeyfun

And M-1 salute. My young cousins who were aroud 12 at the time and my cousins wife, who was 33 or so were handed the shell casing. The three adult Grandchildren who loved and more importantly knew the man, were ignored because we weren’t displaying any obvious emotion.

But, I find that I am rambling. I’ve been to see a couple of shrinks at this point in my life. Unfortunately for me, they were either kindly friendly kid shrinks, or slightly hippy dippy, but still obscenely anti illegal drugs shrinks.

The first I saw when my parents were getting divorced when I was 13. I know admit he was much better than I thought at.the time, at least for my younger sister. As far as Ikm concerened he was a very smart moron.

The second, I my Mother made see as a condition for not kicking me out of the house when I was 19. One of his big things was “hats” a person would wear.

I was done with him.

I’m fortunate that my sister and my mother will both kick me in the ass if they think I’m getting too far into my head.

I apologize for this long rant, statement of mental health, but I felt the need to lay it out in text, at least for myself.

Finally, most basically, at least for me personally. I do believe that depression is anger turned inward. Until I was 18 or so, I had a brutal temper. I started to keep from flailing outwards. The first few years were my greatest period of depression.

I’ve fortunately learned to deal with both the temper and depression for the most part.

The temper can be dealt with ny expedients for a couple of months.

The gray dog, can only be avoided for a couple of weeks unless I see my little nephew.

I apologize for this rant, long, long statemenr.

I did,lt plan on it, obviously I needed to unload on sonebody, and for whatever reason I trust
you fuckers.

Now let’s go(Favorite Team)

nomonkeyfun

BTW , looking at how much I wrote I know I have more problems than I thought at the start, not he least of which is loquacioness. (Sic)

Lothar of the Hill People
Lothar of the Hill People

If writing that helps in any small way, don’t feel the least bit of guilt. Sometimes you gotta bleed.

Other times, you ain’t got time to bleed.

American Pie Story
American Pie Story

This is the best corner of the internet and you guys make it so.

pickettschargeksk

I hear you, OSZ, and I feel you. Also,

THAT’S GREAT HUSTLE

SonOfSpam

Thanks for mentioning all of this, OSZ. Depression is a weight (which is interesting, since many anti-depressants have weight gain as a side effect, but I digress) that feels very real and can keep us from wanting to engage with anything other than a couch and blanket. When those moods strike (this afternoon, for example), it’s a real positive to remember that feeling this way is common, okay, and temporary. At least it’s helpful until beer-thirty.

scotchnaut

Maria Bamford talks about mental illness, depression and her bi-polar disorder quite a bit in her stand up act (even when she is not talking specifically about it). Check her out.

King Hippo

I am also fortunate that Fall is my favourite season (footbaw, the flies and mosquitoes die, the leaves change colour, making it the only time the South is really beautiful) so the seasonal part doesn’t kick me in the stones too hard. Most of my annual triggers are in the summer, though I also get blue once conference championship Sunday is over.

BrettFavresColonoscopy

Much needed reminder. Thanks for reminding all of us why we love our community, and how big of a difference each of us can make for our friends, internet friends, and strangers.

theeWeeBabySeamus

This is a fantastic post, as is the linked.

Despite my generally sour disposition and dislike of humanity in general, I’ve not often suffered depression or any of the related maladies. At least not badly enough to require medication, and for that I’m infinitely thankful.

Those of you who do, have my utmost commiseration, as well as my respect for coping and doing.

entropy

The one thing from that KSK link that has always stuck with me is where Ape rails against the idea that depression is tied to, and in some ways, necessary for, creativity. We all have our dark periods, sure, and some of them are harder to get out of than others, for many, many reasons. You can find any number of ways out, but as you said, OSZ, you should always remember you are not alone.

When I get depressed, or low, or whatever you want to call it, acting on my own creative impulses is the LAST thing I want to do, because it’s the one thing I have that I can truly call mine. It’s a wellspring that is ENTIRELY mine, a gift from my brain, and if that fails while I am depressed… well, what’s left, really?

Sure, creative outlets help people work through things, but I don’t think The Black Dog is required (thank you, JJFozz) to access those outlets, nor do I feel they should be the fuel for your creative engine. That way lies a horrific negative feedback loop, and ultimately madness. Add to that the basic idea that most creative pursuits are essentially solitary ones, and you’ve basically doomed yourself if you believe that pain is required for Art.

I have seen some incredible things come out of people processing their pain into Art, and I have seen some even better things made for the pure joy of creating something, ANYTHING, and then sitting back and sharing it with other people. When I post images I drew, yes, part of it is attention-seeking self promotion, but the other part of it is just being able to share damn near anything with a group of people who are largely like-minded and whose creativity sparks and fuels my own. It’s a way to thank you all for being inspirational, and funny, and welcoming, and generally as level-headed a group of folks as you’re likely to find on the internet.

If DFO were a real place, it would be the best combination bar/confessional/comedy club/therapy center I could imagine, and while the jokes are great, things like this make it a community.

I am rambling.

jjfozz

I’m with you – when I’m bummed I don’t really want to sit and write something out. Journaling has never ever worked for me. Plus, I associate it now with some pussy assed millenial doofus sitting in a coffee shop trying to be the next Rimbaud (who was a pussy assed doofus himself.)

The crazy but good artist stereotype is a load of shit, and the creatives I’ve met who cling to that stereotype need to be hit in the face with a coal shovel.

I’m thinking we need to group source your Boltman comic. holy shit would that be funny.

entropy
Horatio Cornblower

Boltman calls down the thunder and lightning, rushes out to defeat Depression, tweaks his hamstring and spends the rest of the winter morosely pedaling a stationary bike to nowhere.

BOLTMAN!

ballsofsteelandfury

DFO is a real place. Just come to one of our meet ups. A lot of really good quality people around these parts.

I’m proud to call you all invisible Internet friends!

King Hippo

DFO. A real place for imaginary people!

blaxabbath

“I don’t have time for depression when we’re in the middle of a playoff hunt.”

– JJ Watt

comment image

King Hippo

Good point about “feeling understood” – it’s why I tend to seek out depressing music when I get in a particularly low period. I feel less crazy for the thoughts swimming in my head.

Sufjan Stevens’ “Should Have Known Better” and Phosphorescent’s “Wolves” are the best musical depictions of what depression feels like to me. In particular, the trilogy of how Stevens describes “my black shroud” – very apt.

Like Fozz notes, I feel quite blessed to have my chronic illness at a manageable level, and hope it stays that way. I remember one hippie-ish ladyfriend (not to shit on hippies, I actually like new age thought quite a bit, in MOST ways, but one can take anything too far), mildly freaking out about my being on Zoloft, and never planning to not be on it. “But I want to see the whole, true YOU” she insisted.

Now, it’s not as if I was even trying to pass as a normal person for her, and I certainly am not some kind of numbed out “don’t worry be happy” zombie on it. That is most certainly NOT how Zoloft works. I think exactly the same thoughts. I am every bit as fucking weird (quirky if you want to be nice about it) as I have ever been. It just takes enough edge off so I can function and not be overwhelmed. So when I have no choice but to attend a client party (social anxiety is stronger than depression in my happy little brain chemistry stew), I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t ACTUALLY hide in the bathroom. I certainly don’t like myself one bit, but I don’t get so fixated on that to get into a dark spiral where self-destructive behavior takes over. In short, I can COPE and live my fucking life, such that it is.

So…I should just stop being able to cope so I can keep it real for you? Would you fucking say that to me if I had diabetes? Cancer?

Ironically, thanks to the Zoloft, I was much more understanding and diplomatic about how I explained things. Fucking people, amirite? Society has come a long way since mental illness was firmly in the closet. Still has a ways to go, but it is what it is.

Thanks for sharing!

theeWeeBabySeamus

Next time you have one and can’t get out of it, take me as your +1. We’ll hide in the bathroom together and smoke a fatty.

jjfozz

Winston Churchill called it “the black dog”, and when it shows up in my life, it is just plain awful. I can FEEL it coming and when it’s on me. I turn into a horrible, angry, negative person to everyone – wife, children, family.

Thank Christ for medicine. Thank Christ for finding a counselor I can go to and fucking vomit out all that nasty shit to – once it’s on the floor, you can poke through it and figure out how to clean it up.

Depression affects men greatly (and apparently it’s slightly skewed when it comes to those of us descended from Mediterranean bloodlines) – so don’t get hung up on the “I don’t need help” or “I’ll tough it out”.

Asking for help does not mean you will get kicked out of the Man Club. You get kicked out of the Man Club for sharing your scrapbook that’s dedicated to Felix Unger’s Cleaning Tips.

Thanks again for bringing this up.