After the Thanksgiving break and resettling back into work routine, I spent some time today outside the office smoking a cigar and taking stock. I wasn't too happy with the results. I've mostly been thinking about my depression, which is back in full force - I'm minimum functional due to the drugs, but they in no way make me less depressed. They seem to simply provide...no, wait, that's not it.
A while back I was on different drugs, and posted about their effectiveness. Well, that effectiveness faded after I spent some time off of them to see how I was doing. Mistake. Apparently David Foster Wallace went through something similar, where (in his case) a forced cessation of the only compound that helped him ended up reducing its effectiveness when he went back on it. I hadn't realized, until reading the story about his final year or so, that this was a known problem with these drugs.
Anyway, I spent some time thinking about my current sitiuation, as opposed to my depression from a few years ago. I had a good Thanksgiving week - I saw my Dad, and he and I are getting along much, much better than we were during the whole awfulness with Mom's final couple years. I think, in retrospect, that one of the reasons I had so much anger towards my parents during that time was because I knew Mom wasn't getting any better, and I desperately wanted to be able to say good-bye properly, but their refusal to admit that anything might be 'really wrong' right up until the end made it impossible. Once she died, the overwhelmingly present feeling was one of relief. I left their house, where I'd spent three months with them, the day after her funeral and didn't go back until Thanksgiving, nearly ten months later. On the plus side, that visit, as I said, was pleasant. My brother and his family were there, as were several cousins, and everything went remarkably smoothly for our family. No tension at all, just relaxing, drinking, and in some cases trying to convince my nephews not to make roughly as much noise as an airstrike (schyeah, g'luck with that).
So anyhow, I thought about how I felt. The best I could describe it, earlier today, was that I am disconnected from reality in a fundamental way. My reasoning and my emotional response are performing very differently right now. Emotionally, I consider myself a worthless failure, with no real reason to continue existing. There's nothing in my life at the moment that makes me happy, and an awful lot that stresses me out or makes me feel awful about myself. The overriding summation of my daily 'feelings' are to wonder why on earth I haven't eaten a shotgun yet, because it surely would have to be easier.
The other side of me, on the other hand, the logical side, is fighting. I remind myself that there are people in the world who are important to me, and whom I am important to in turn, and that I can't be that selfish. I'm not worthless because I've been told so, by people who I trust not to lie to me. I have friends and family whom I have had tight connections to for my whole life in some cases, nearly my whole life in other cases. I held a friend's child while visiting on the way to Thanksgiving, and I think that the four or five hours I spent that day holding her, walking around to try to lull her to sleep, singing Pink Floyd to her, and generally watching her just exist, were probably the closest I'd come to feeling like there was a point to it all.
Driving away from their house, everything crashed in again.
Anyway, my point is that I'm in a strange place. Friends have asked me, with concern, if I'm suicidal. I don't think I am. I think about it a lot, but not in the planning sense or in the fearful sense, or even in the expectant sense. I mostly feel annoyed it's not an option. However, it does frighten me that, as far as I can tell, my own brain is suffering under what I think is a large enough disconnect from reality that it is pulling my emotional state far over to the side of self-deprecation in the 'bad' sense. I know it's hard for those not depressed to comprehend this, but I feel compelled to try to explain it anyway. In essence, all the positive things about my life that I "know" I know because I am rationally aware that they are true. There is no emotional content to them (none positive, at any rate). Friends, for example, will tell me that my life is not worthless or pointless, and that there are people that love me - that they, indeed, love me and want me around. I acknowledge this with a feeling of deep discomfort and embarrassment. I used to wonder why. I realize now (although who knows, this might just be temporary belief that I understand) that these statements are completely disconnected from my own experience. They are not things of reason or evidence, they are statements of emotional truths, and my own emotional state is such that they flatly contradict what my own psyche is telling me - so to me, they are not real. They're like someone telling me that somewhere in Tierra del Fuego, right now, someone is thinking about me. First, it doesn't affect me. It's just a datum. Furthermore, it's something that I rationally think is very unlikely, since I'm not well known, and don't know anyone in TdF. So I feel it's either a polite lie, or a white lie made up to prove a point.
It's only when I think hard about who is saying it and what they're saying that I can recognize, rationally, that they're not lying. These are people that have spent years in my company; people who hand me their premature baby to rock to sleep; people who call and ask me how I'm doing because they know I'm not doing all that well. Those facts point to them telling the truth when they tell me these things about myself and my life.
So it's left to me, not instinctively but as a matter of reason and effort, to believe them. But not just believe them; accept what they say as true, and try to base my day-to-day existence on what they say, when every. Single. Fragment. of my emotional self tells me that I know they're wrong or they're lying politely. And because it's an emotional response, I know it until I convince myself differently.
I keep making the effort. I keep ending the day thinking "you're fucked in the head, and the world isn't as you see it right now." But holding these two drastically different versions of the world in my head is tiring as all fuck, and I have to consciously remember that the one that doesn't feel real is the one I need to accept as real - so none of my reflexes work properly; none of my automatic behaviors come out right. Because they're tied to emotion and self-image as a 'shortcut', and those are not just incorrect but dangerously wrong.
At least, I keep telling myself they are, because at some level I'm a stubborn rationalist, and that's the answer reason gives me.
The drugs I'm on now don't insulate me from these feelings like the sertraline did. They don't make me happy. What they do, as far as I can explain, is to make the balancing act of holding those two different and diametrically opposite world states in my head easier. They do this because they damp the power that the emotional world has on my instinctive knowledge of the world - sort of a prophylactic schizophrenia, I guess. While this doesn't make me any happier, it makes the balancing act less crushingly exhausting, and makes the constant choice of 'which world to believe' one that isn't steeply default tilted the wrong way, but a relatively even choice between options. I still have to make the choice, but I don't have to fight my limbic system to do it. Of course, they don't differentiate between types of emotional connection they damp out, so even if I was having 'happy' experiences right now, I wouldn't know. But based on the months where I wasn't taking drugs, those experiences were dangerously few and far between when compared to experiences which just reinforced my crappy self-image.