Monday, February 21, 2005

Back from the Dead

I know the title's melodramatic, but it was a really good song back in the eighties.

And I'm quite depressed.

I checked and I had something like seven of the nine clinical signs of a major depressive episode.

Depressed mood - check. This manifests as alternating irritability (bipolar disorder - the disease the whole family can share!) and what I have to call fear. And not a focal, directed fear either, not something that arises out of some imagined ghastly event in the future, something explicable and limited. Instead it's this generalised, diffuse, protean fear that spread itself like mist across everything, making the chooks getting out of their pen seem a major catastophe, and convincing me that every time the phone rang it was someone wanting me to identify the body.

Feelings of inappropriate guilt. I didn't get these, although everyone else thought I did. I got feelings of appropriate guilt.

Alteration in diet - depression means comfort food, which in my case is carbohydrates and sugar. On normal days it's five veg and three bits of fruit a day and watch the saturated fats and so on. When I'm depressed it's tubs of icecream and kilogrammes of pasta.

Disturbed sleep. It's not me that disturbs my sleep, it's the noise around here. A few nights back it was a kitten breathing, and before that some leaves rubbing together on the tree outside. I lie awake at three am. One day I am going to write a story about the great silent community of the insomniacs, a numberless nation of people lying in the dark, staring at the ceiling or getting up in desparation as the sun rises to play computer games or surf for porn.

Disturbed concentration - I had something to say about this, but it's gone.

Psychomotor retardation - that thing where you walk around with all the energy of an elderly lobster - check.

And so on.

The problem with a lot of this is - well, there's lots of problems. It's humiliating, it's inconvenient, it's mind-meltingly boring.

I have this thing about bipolar and work - I have never made a poor clinical decision because of my illness. I've made a few I can think of because of inexperience and a few due ot tiredness and there's doubtless a lot more that come down to basic bare-bones stupidity, but I've never been able to convince even myself I did anything wrong because of working when I should have gone home. I make sure my immediate superiors know about it, and between me and my wife and my psychiatrist and them that's a hell of a lot of doctor's opinions that I'm fine to work.

But what this means is at the first sign of illness I take time off. I don't take holidays unless I really have to because I want to keep them up my sleeve for sick leave.

Anyhow, I've had two weeks off work, and a fairly crap fortnight it's been.

I think I said at the start of this that it'd be about the bipolar, but I can tell you there's nothing I like less than talking about it. Especially the depression side of it just after it's happened. I find the whole thing deeply humiliating, if the truth be told. It disgusts me, and since it's me who gets it, when I get it I disgust me - the lying around getting fat and useless. The rich white male with all limbs intact whining about his terrible problems. The bottomless pit of insecurity I expect others to tend. The misery that permeates into my bones. I loathe it and I loathe me.

And another thing. I have a theory about this (along with my "for every mental illness there is a corresponding drug that will really fuck you up" theory*). From an evolutionary point of view, depression doesn't have to serve a purpose. It could be a "side-effect" of something that serves a purpose, like some really useful neurotransmitter, or some brain thing I don't understand. It could be something that served a purpose back in the day but is now obsolete, something to get you through the long winter months. It could be any number of things. But I wonder if it hasn't evolved as some kind of psychic parasitism, some mechanism for getting others to do things for you while you lie around on your billowing arse.

Because there is some primitive behavioural thing going on here. Some part of you gets something it needs out of it, there is something in you being rewarded. I tell you what makes the difference with me, what is one determinant of how often I get depressed. As long as I have sympathetic people to whom I can disclose my deepest needs, and who will reassure me I am not a human worm by complimenting me, and who will take up the responsibilities I shuck off, the depression is working for me. And if it's working I'm not going to change.

Well, this is all deeply heretical. It probably won't make sense later on. By "I" I mean something otehr than the fully conscious mind.

I can see why I didn't keep on with psych. I almost did specialise in psychiatry, actuall, but I was put off by aversion therapy. Small joke there.

And I can see that the mood isn't quite up to where it should be yet.

Anyhow, back soon with a bit of normalcy.


*Here is the list:

Depression - alcohol
Schizophrenia, schizoaffective, schizoid personality type - marijuana
Bipolar - amphetamines
Anxiety disorders - caffeine, cigarettes, etc.
Whatever mental condition causes you to want to steal your relative's stuff, screw everyone over and make a complete pile of batshit of your life - heroin, cocaine, amphetamines
and so on.


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