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The eternal optimist cries uncle

I hate to admit it, but I seem to have sunk into a bit of a depression.

I’ve been feeling kind of down since January, so I took an online depression test, which said I was moderately depressed. (Not that I totally trust these things. Apparently the depression test was sponsored by Eli-Lilly, manufacturer of an anti-depressant, and was rigged to say that everyone was either depressed or “at risk” for major depression.)

But my doctor and counselor think the events of the past year have finally caught up with me, and have combined with some deeply disturbing unbloggable stuff going on in my family to create depression and anxiety.

I’m not naturally prone to depression, and I’ve had no personal experience with it, at least not since I got out of my teens. But I just seem to have bottomed out in the last few months. I’ve temporarily run out of happy.

I started taking anti-depressants about two weeks ago. I haven’t noticed any change yet, so my doctor increased my dosage yesterday.

I know this is irrational, and I would never suspect anyone else of this, but part of me feels like I’m caving in to the depression by taking anti-depressants. Like…maybe I’m using it as an excuse to do nothing.

Unless watching webcams of owls and hummingbirds sitting on eggs is something. (By the way, it was so sad yesterday – Phoebe the hummingbird had laid two fresh eggs, and all was well in the world again, until a crow came along and ate both eggs. I love crows, but this just seemed so wrong – hummingbird eggs are the size of tic-tacs….they meant so much more to Phoebe than they did to the crow.)

When I get tired of watching owls and hummingbirds, I go for a walk around the Experimental Farm, or I play Bejewelled or Farkle or Scramble.

Ho hum.

I still want to live forever. I have lots of people and things in my life that I care about and love. I’m just down. Lethargic. Preoccupied with unhappy memories. I have a creepy feeling in my stomach, and I spend the wee hours of the morning lying in bed feeling anxious.

I’m surprised by how physical depression is. Sometimes I can literally feel it spreading through my body. When I wake up at 4:00 a.m., it’s lying in ambush, ready to pounce. My own brain feels like a minefield, so I try not to think about anything. (Which never works, by the way. It just inspires the gleeful demons.)

Anyway, I’m still an optimist, so I believe absolutely that I’m going to be okay. I’m just not sure when.

20 comments to The eternal optimist cries uncle

  • grace

    I won’t let go of the skipping rope either.

    My thyroid condition (why can’t I just be constipated and sleep a lot like any normal person with hypothyroidism), a touch of seasonal affective and some lingering issues from a strange childhood all contribute to depression. And you are right, 4 a.m. is the worst. I wake with my heart pounding out of my chest and the sense that I will never be unfrightened again.

    And yet I’m an optimist too. I believe in people, hummingbirds with Tic Tac sized eggs,the future and my skills at Bejewelled Blitz and growing plants and wonderful daughters.

    Hang in there Z.

  • In 1993, when I first went on anti-depressants during a MAJOR depressive episode. I curled up under the table in our kitchen and cried with shame.
    And then the fog lifted.
    You are not caving in by choosing to take care of yourself. And just because some drugs are over-prescribed, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons for some of us to take them sometimes.
    And meanwhile, be good to yourself and do what you need to in order to get better. xo

  • I also found walking helped. Or biking – any forward motion. Hang in there! You are not alone.

  • Chin up! Don’t EVER feel bad about taking anti-depressants. Instead, be grateful that depression is recognized as an illness and treated accordingly. It wasn’t that long ago that many doctors considered it to be “all in your head”.

    You’ve been through a poop-storm of crap this past year – and frankly its amazing anyone could deal with it as you have.

    As a reader I am constantly inspired by your strength and intelligence. While I may not always agree with your views and opinions (though usually I do) I can say you always have something intelligent and insightful on the topics you choose to speak about. You are a one-in-a-million kind of woman and I think the world would be a lot better place if more people were like you.

    That said, have you considered using your art or writing as a way of getting some of that negativity out while you’re waiting for the meds to kick in? Both have always helped me immensely.

    When I was 19, I went through a very painful break-up of a long-term relationship. It wasn’t just heartbreak because not only was he my first love, but he left me for my best friend, who he’d been cheating on me with – a double betrayal. I did a lot of writing at the time – it’s absolutely tripe and will never be published, but it gave me something other than the break-up to focus on and pour my energy in to. And face it, writing a sex-and-violence filled fantasy novel is a great way to release pent up emotion with out hurting yourself or anyone around you. :)

    Now that I write for a living, writing doesn’t give me the same release, but art still works – spending an hour or two a day focused on the shape of an eye in a portrait, or the colour of the sky in a misty landscape keeps the mind from dwelling on things you can’t change.

    My David is the same, except he uses his music. He writes songs and melodies and gets it all out of his system – he often says his music keeps him sane.

    So not only are we able to release, sometimes we come out with a great piece of art we can cherish, and who knows, may become part of our legacy.

  • Thanks for writing, Zoom. Not just about this, but everything. That you’re out there makes me happy.

  • “You’ve been through a poop-storm of crap this past year.” I couldn’t possibly say it better than Valerie!

    Take the drugs, they might help. If they do, and even if they don’t, remember that your belief that you will be better is true. Absolutely right. Hang in there, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, do any little thing that gets you through the hard parts, and remember that the little things are really lovely. Not exciting, maybe not “meaningful” to some people, but good, all the same. That’s what will get you through this.

    We’re all with you.

  • Arden

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking the meds. It’s better to take them now, rather than sink deeper and deeper into the depression. Hopefully your first med works, if after a while it doesn’t, don’t give up, different drugs work for different people. Soon enough, with the return of daylight and nice weather, and the return to more “normal” brain chemistry, you’ll start to see a change, I’m sure of it. Plus you’ve got yourself a great little web of support both in person and online! Best of wishes from one dog-cat lover to another!

  • Grasswren

    Zoom, I feel for you. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been on anti-depressants. I have an inherited form of it and will have to watch out for it for the rest of my life. I’m not ashamed of that, and I’m grateful to the scientists who developed the modern, non-addictive medications.

    It can take time to find what works for you. That’s normal, don’t let it worry you. Personally, without the anti-depressants I did not have the capability to do the other, non-medication things that combat depression. With the anti-depressants I was able to get back into exercise, work on my ways of thinking, do all the things I needed to do to get my life back. I needed the short term medication to take up the long term solutions. They may, or may not, be the thing that will help you, either way, all that matters is that you be all right.

    Depression is irrational, and it’s sneaky, too. When you’re depressed, you often feel like all the real effects of this genuine illness are malingering, or your own fault. Or like doing something that will help is caving. That’s very familiar to me. And it’s not true. You are, from what I read here, not a person who makes up excuses not to live life. It’s the depression talking, and it’s lying to you.

    Zoom, you are worthy of being helped. You are doing your best. It is all right to feel like this, and it is all right to accept help that works. And yes, you will be fine.

  • Hey there Zoom,

    In my experience, anti-depressants can take up to 5 weeks to kick in, and the first few days on them, particularly if you´ve never taken them before,might feel quite weird. Probably your doctor has told you about all this already anyways.

    Acknowledging that you are going through depression and taking medication for it can be very tough. Like you yourself say, you wouldn´t blame anyone for taking meds, and yet you don´t feel completely comfortable in doing it yourself. I mean, it is your very depression that makes you feel this way. It is hard to see this clearly when your energy is gone. However, no matter how you feel right now, you know it´s perfectly ok to be depressed, to take the pills and to not move much if that´s what you feel like till you´re ready to do it. Watch your hummingbirds, take the pills, whatever works and for however long you need to until you feel your energy and happy back. Don´t care about anything else, there is no need. Your happy and energy will be back, since that´s who you are, no doubt. Give yourself a little time and soon enough you´ll find yourself enjoying things again. In the meantime, big hugs, lots of us out here know what you´re going through, walk it with you, and also know how much you rock, depressed or not :)

  • Payton

    I can’t say anything better than the other commenters. I just wanted you to know how many of us read you because of the clarity and insight you bring to your writing. You don’t always have to sound happy for us. Be kind to yourself as you adjust, and know how many of us will lend you an ear (or a pair of eyeballs).

  • Connie

    I have been depressed since my 30’s and been on and off antidepressants. Now I am staying on one for the rest of my life. Depression is a chemical change, and takes at least six months to resolve. With all the assaults your poor body and mind have been thru this past year, it’s no wonder you have gotten depressed. As you start to feel better you will have more interest in doing more. Hang in there!!!! You are an amazing woman!

  • You are the wisest and kindest friends a blogger could ask for. Thank you so much.

  • Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy

    BIG hugs to you and Duncan!

    It will get better; your natural optimism will return. You are Very Smart to accept medical help with the depression!

  • lisa in toronto

    Thanks for sharing your worries and thoughts with your readers, as usual.
    Maybe your well-chosen words will help someone else as well.
    I hope you are feeling up to going for a walk these days, as the weather seems to have really become spring. Flowers are coming up in Toronto at any rate. I am really ready for those.
    best wishes

  • Nat

    Nothing really to add… there is nothing wrong with taking meds if you need them. Hugs.

  • Hey you …

    If you ever need an uplifting, personal gig played in your living room or in a park, contact me and we can set something up. I’d love to play for you and I think live music is very theraputic. And I would LOVE to teach you how to play something — it lets everything out. I would have given in to my dangerous thoughts in my teen years without it.


  • Good for you, Zoom. You’re not giving in. You’re seeking and accepting help, and that is an important life skill. Take care.

  • Hang in there. You’ve had a tough year. There’s nothing wrong with getting the help you need. It will get better.

  • Gillian

    Treating depression is better than letting it run you. It’s not something you do by willpower. All the best to you.

  • Depression shows up in many ways, not just mental but physical. Aches and pains are common. And yes, the meds can take a few weeks to make a difference so if you can have a little patience (I know it’s hard when you’re already feeling like shit) they might make you feel lighter. I am a psychiatric social worker and I see people in all states of mental health. Depression is something you can deal with as long as you DEAL with it. Be kind to yourself. It’s been a rough year.