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Sunday, Nov. 07, 2004
I read an article in, of all places the sports section of the local rag last Sunday. And Iíve spent a week wrestling with it. A week filled with elections and the like (and no, I wonít spend one minute commenting on the pointlessness of worrying about things beyond my control, other than to say yes I voted and no, Iím not going any farther than that).

The article concerned the disappearance of, and troubles concerning a certain female athlete, one whom the Eldest daughter and I followed enthusiastically from her college days (saw her play locally, even) into the world of professional sports. She was a graceful and pure example of what the human body can achieve in sport, a joy to watch. Additionally, she was a reserved, even shy person. Well spoken, obviously mature, but reserved in a guarded sort of way.

And she dropped a very lucrative career, avoided her closest friends, dropped out of the whole national scene that she was so much a part of. Alienated. Undisclosed medical reasons. Why?


It was a sad sort of an article. There was a glimmer here and there, a little hope, something that made you want to root for this very lovely, very talented girl. But there it was, she was depressed.

And there was a sidebar, a little medical factoid accompanying the article itself, one of those things that I routinely avert my eyes from because I donít need to know the reasons for the suffering of others, non of my business.

But I read this one. About depression.

And if you, my dear reader, wish to avoid falling down a rabbit hole here on this particular forum, you may want to avert your eyes as well. Because Iím writing for my own sake today. So that I can remember. And I donít know where itís taking me, I seldom know where, exactly, the typing of words on screen is going to take me. But Iím going there. Right now. Sorry.

The Sidebar Article, in italics.

Depression. What are the symptoms?

1. Persistent sad, anxious or empty moods.
Yeah. Sad and empty, and for no apparent reason other than it just feels like the thing to do. I donít dare allow myself to feel anxious. That might indicate, even to an empty soul, that thereís some real problems going on here . . .

2. Feeling of hopelessness, pessimism.
Pessimism, for sure. Hopelessness hasnít quite entered into the fray.

3. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness.
I donít know. Loss of worth probably. Guilt over having screwed things up for myself and others. Helplessness is like anxiety, a bad indicator, and Iíve never felt truly helpless since finding out that people would pay me money to efficiently shape things out of wood for them.

4. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex.
Iíve not had many hobbies as an adult, itís always been about the work thing, maybe making furniture for or improvements on the house, which I havenít done in a long time. If you count writing in this journal, consistently, ditto. My main activity is regular missions to the Watering Hole and that hasnít slowed down at all. Sex? Still enjoy it.

5. Decreased energy, fatigue, being ďslowed downĒ.
Oh yeah. Whether itís from advancing age, lousy diet, or any one of a number of reasons, this one is spot on for sure.

6. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.
Another clear winner. On all three items. I have such a hard time moving on things that require decisions since itís wonderfully easier to just say screw it.

7. Insomnia, early morning awakening, or oversleeping.
This was the one that really got me to thinking. I come home, often fall asleep at 5 pm before anyone else has arrived, and awake at 11 at night having not eaten, spoken with anyone. And being damned confused about it. Then I eat some leftovers or load up on goat chow for an hour before climbing aboard the internet express for the next 6 hours. Wide awake. In a dark and silent house. Itís not pretty. And when that sleep cycle gets in your veins, in damnably hard to break, I can tell you that.

8. Appetite and / or weight loss or overeating and weight gain.
The goat chow comment above? While it hasnít actually led to weight gain or loss, itís hard not to throw a diet of chips and dip under any other category. If anything, Iím undereating.

9. Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts.
No. No and no. Not even at the worst moments.

10. Restlessness, irritability.
If the negatives above wouldnít throw me into a state of irritability, I probably wouldnít be writing this out at all. Yes to both.

11. Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
Lots of farting, does that count? Seriously, not in the sense that you could make a medical diagnosis, no, there arenít any physical symptoms. Headaches after mixing two variant strains of beer, and doing so in a frequent and enthusiastic way. Thereís that. Oh and I think both of my index fingers are either fractured or severely sprained due to some over aggression with a power drill and a 3Ē hole saw a few weeks ago. They hurt like hell all the time in any case.

So if you were making a scorecard out of all this (and naturally this is the point, you have a list and you pick winners and losers like the Sunday football pool) and if your were looking for Yeas or Nays, you could say that Iíve got around 8 out of 11 as either partial yeses or definite Yeas.

Iíve spent much of my adult life being dismissive of the mental health community. Iíve seen entirely too much of elitism, the mental gymnastics employed there, the pigeonholing of human behavior into neat compartments. Spousal abuse? Clearly, a reflection of the patientís upbringing, dig for past parental malfunctions and a history of the noble scarred childhood. Drug abuse? Simple cause and effect, donít you know. Treatable by administering equal doses of methadone cheerfully dispensed by my cousin, the pharmacist over at the Rite-Aid. Set you right up. Depression? Ditto. Only we take you down the happy trail of oh so many happy pills, trails where squirrels chirp and dogs smile and whatever last vestige of a fighting spirit is snuffed, sighed over, and made hollow in the name of good psychiatry.

I know the argument. ďBut Outfoxed, if medical science has taken us to the point where depression is treatable, why oh why wouldnít a pill or 50 be objectionable?Ē

Itís complicated, and it isnít. I grew up in a world where getting a shot for the flu (after being damned sick for a week and missing a lot of school) was a good thing. Cough syrup for the cough, of course. Treat the disease. There was very little conversation of mental health during the 60ís and 70ís. Mental instability was acknowledged if you ran naked in front of a school bus flinging dog feces and having a portrait of George McGovern emblazoned on your chest. That probably would have done it. There would have been a quick reckoning and an even quicker internment in the loony bin. The little things, depression included, were temporary. ďOh, heís just depressed Ďcause the Yankees lost the SeriesĒ sort of thing, to be chuckled over and dismissed. Life on the ethereal level was a non-sequitor, if not a completely glossed over arena in the land of adulthood at the time. Reality was enough, and nose to grindstone the norm.

I learned, and changed some, of course. Writing was a big help. You canít live on the flat surface of suppressed yearnings forever when you write, it wants you and grabs your time and takes you aloft to hover over your days, make dreams possible, make the far away something that can be touched. You grow, you read others, you find out that there are many and varied opinions of the world. Itís standard issue.

But I donít know. Iím not one to scream about problems. Or to voice them at all. My wife is routinely (if a couple of times a year can be considered routine) after me to ďLet it out! Donít keep your problems bottled up inside. Rant it out, write it out!Ē, which, of course, is what I am attempting to do right this second.

Itís a terrible thing to not be able to rant out loud, I suppose. Some of the people who I find most detestable in this world are those who are forever on an emotional, whine filled quest to let all their problems out to a thoroughly disinterested general public.

Iím a quiet person, and that has been pointed out to me for the past 40-odd years.

More tomorrow. Or, you know. The next time.

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