To say that I had my first episode at 19 will not give you a taste of the flavor of my depression; how my still-developing pre frontal cortex and my thoughts and then my circumstances interacted to have me sitting one day in a chair in front a very young nurse psychiatrist that I had just met at my Student Mental Health Services, and saying, “No, I don’t need those drugs.” Suddenly, feeling better, or good enough not to be taking Prozac.
I was suicidal the day before. Our brains are mysterious; I don’t know how the awful thoughts firing rapidly at me blurred or subsided right in time for that appointment.
To say that I had my first episode at 19 is an attempt to simplify a life.
So I guess for the sake of simplicity: I had my first episode at 19.
I regret that I picked up the bottle instead of a guitar.
I ran a lot until I was 25; I think that helped minimize some symptoms. Art helped; I have a lot of portraits from my twenties. I ran into another photographer at R.E.I. in Santa Monica this year; as soon as I realized who he was, I remembered he used to take pictures of random people in bathtubs filled with milk and fruit loops. I remembered that even when a life is a depressive one, there are still fruit loops in bathtubs.
Visual art is not a spoken art; it doesn’t require an explanation.
I can tell you this; I’m not going to go into great detail in this post about what my depression is like; but I will give you a brief karate speech about its ugliness.
This may seem both goofy and out of place. Clinical Depression sucks. I’ve had episodes and flavors of the disease for the last 14 years. I believe in the bottom of my soul that if I did not have to endure the heartbreaking homophobia that I did that my disease would be less severe; I’m not saying I never would have had a depressive episode. No clue at all; it’s hard to imagine being an entirely different person because acknowledging this disease is also acknowledging the root of my empathy. Tell someone they are not enough over and over again; and they will either survive and make space for others to thrive; or they will die off, and remind us that it’s the cowards that destroy us.
There are prescriptions for this disease which are many and complicated and matter very much so. And are so personal to the individual. I am kinda convinced that as we distance ourselves from nature and from community we are getting cut off from what matters; and more and more people are suffering from depression. This feels kind of basic, and yet the solution feels unclear to me.
Oh, and then there are those prescriptions for an individual’s depression,
The prescription according to Western medicine =
Talk therapy + anti-depressants + exercise
The prescription according to Eastern medicine =
Yoga + acupuncture + massage + herbs + nutrition + exercise
The prescription according to me:
Truth + art + forgiveness + definitely meditation. Oh, and other things too. Wellbutrin right now and Lexapro. I write too, I guess that is art, creatively, and often. I’m teaching myself guitar; I am learning to forage for mushrooms. And staying open to generous, kind people.
I encourage you to try my video for Tonglen; I find that it eases anxiety, stress, and also mild symptoms of depression.
If you are interested in knowing more about the physiology of depression, please check out next Tuesday’s post delivered to your inbox.
Here’s a picture of the dog Mo and my sister. Mo has a long tongue.
This post was originally written for my newsletter, sent out on November 3rd, 2015. My newsletter is sent out once a week on Tuesdays; and you can subscribe easily using the link on the left.