I always knew I had some form of depression. You don’t spend your teen years cutting yourself with razor blades without suspecting something’s a little off. For a long time, I thought it was because of a spiritual deficiency or weakness of character, but that’s a quick way to get swallowed up in guilt and despair, a dangerous combination for someone who already hates himself more than Hitler.
I tried Jesus. Spirituality helps if you can muster the requisite faith, but it can’t cure clinical depression any more than it can cure cancer. I’ve seen a couple of counselors, taken Lexapro and Zoloft, and tried natural methods like eating right and singing “I Feel Pretty” every now and then. I used to think I had a handle on it. I never did.
No one told me what kind of depression it was. In my mind, there was good old fashioned depression and manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder. I never considered myself bipolar. I don’t recall ever being in a manic state. I’ve never been hospitalized. Never stayed up for days on end, never run naked through the streets, never became so enamored with my own scientific prowess that I tried to build a flux capacitor out of a flashlight and some paper clips.
Wait. I might have done that last thing, but not because I thought it would actually work, a subtle, but important distinction.
But I’m not sure I fit the mold of classic depression, either. My episodes seem to be more frequent, but last a shorter period of time. I don’t cry uncontrollably or lie in bed for days on end. When I’m depressed, I’m a hollow shell, a gray winter’s day in the flesh. I gradually fill up with rage and desperate self-loathing that often culminates in self injury. And then, one day, I wake up and I’m just… okay. Not great. Rarely great. But okay.
I think that’s how it goes. Maybe. I’m not sure. Those periods of my life get pretty foggy.
Perhaps diagnosing depression is more art than science. I certainly shouldn’t be diagnosing myself, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
I recently read about bipolar type II and a thing called “hypomania.” My whole life came into focus when I learned about it. I’ve been so focused on the downs, I never even considered the ups. Hypomania is mania’s little brother. Perhaps it’s the difference between believing I’ve written the best book ever, and burning down a library because all other books are now irrelevant. I know, I know. I’m exaggerating. It’s the hypomania talking.
Now let’s see…
- Grandiose thinking. Check.
- Racing thoughts. Check.
- Irritability. Check.
- Reckless spending. Check.
- Delusions. Check.
- An inner river of rage and confusion. Check.
Has hypomania been hiding in plain sight this whole time? Well I like hypomanic me. I’ll call him Dr. Grandiose. He’s wild, wacky, and endlessly creative. He has all the coolest toys, creates blogs called “Writes for Attention,” spends big, and really knows how to speak his mind. However, his lust for attention is unquenchable. When he doesn’t get it, he sulks into shadow, drinks a frothy blue potion, and transforms into Mr. Morbidity.
Mr. Morbidity thinks of nothing but suicide. Living is pointless. He reads Nietzsche and Satre, even if he doesn’t understand them. He listens to Nine Inch Nails. His favorite Bible book is Ecclesiastes: vanity of vanities, there’s nothing new under the sun, etc. etc. Death is peace. No more pain. No fear of the future. No lingering illnesses to look forward to. No nursing homes on the horizon. No financial worries. No debt collectors. No insecurities. No self loathing. No bothersome people.
Sweet, sweet quiet and all the posthumous attention Dr. Grandiose could ever hope for. It’s win-win and the ultimate loss.
There was a time when Mr. Morbidity relented at the thought of my wife and children standing graveside, but lately, he’s been saying that life without me is better than life with depressed me. That’s scary because sometimes I think he might be right. Following the rabbit down that hole leads to the business end of a shotgun.
In my more sober moments, I’d rather not die.
Tomorrow, I’m going to see a psychiatrist. There’s no shame in it. You have cancer, you see an oncologist. You have heart trouble, you see a cardiologist. You have an English pea stuck up your nose, you see mom and tell her to get the tweezers.
You have depression, you see anyone who can help.
Of course, it’s entirely possible the doctor will hear my story, pour herself a shot of whiskey, and say, “You’re not bipolar, you’re just an asshole.”
I hope not.