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Depression is worthless. You're valuable.
February 18, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
I’m not going to question your motivation for returning to today’s followup to part 1 of Pablo’s Depression. Maybe it’s to watch a train wreck. Maybe it’s to learn something. I hope it’s the latter. But part of recovering from the depths of life for me was to realize that I don’t care if it’s the former. There was a time when I would have worried you think I’m a train wreck. Now, my attitude is, so what?
Because my purpose today is about finding the light when nothing, not family, not friends, not faith, not work, not entertainment seems able to lead you there.
For me, the light started getting a little brighter when I recognized, after four years of therapy and antidepressants that I should never be the focus of my own thoughts for too long. There’s a whole big world of people and things and issues and stuff beyond my 94 (give or take) cubic inches of skull. And anytime that I get refocused too much on what’s inside those 94 cubic inches (it’s the average, roughly of human skull capacity, in case you’re wondering), it’s when the darkness starts to try to triumph again.
I continue to read and discover. I was amazed to learn that actor Joey Pantoliano (“The Matrix,” “The Fugitive,” “U.S. Marshals” and more) has recurrent bouts of depression. One of my childhood Steelers heroes, Terry Bradshaw, has them. And, they, and reporter Mike Wallace, whom I mentioned Monday, all suffered from that “you’ve done nothing worth anything, ever” feeling. I know that feeling.
What was therapy like?
Not entirely pleasant, but not horrible, either. I had a great therapist. For me, it was like opening a mental closet door and discovering it was full of out-of-style clothing, junk that should have been thrown away and a pile of books full of antiquated and just wrong philosophies and thought processes. Therapists use the “peeling away the layers of the onion” thing. Took me years to get to the center of the onion.
I had to figure out why I led the first half of my life thinking that for playing by the rules, the world owed me. The world owes none of us.
I found I was waking up every day wasting a lot of energy fighting the urge not to contribute, fighting the thought that nobody wants to hear what I have to say, write, think or do, that I have no value at work or at home. Not so good for a guy who is supposed to be some kind of experienced local pundit. That was the clear message I heard at rock bottom emotionally, but I found I actually had been thinking that way for years. And it was, for me, the result of thinking I am more important than I am. Once that dawned on me, it got easy to look in the mirror and laugh. Which was the key and still is, for me, to a good day.
Which meant I still had to wonder where, after all of that learning, the urge to tell myself how worthless I was kept coming in every morning.
For me, it turned out that after their initial good work, the antidepressants did two things: 1. Made me fat, and lazy and dependent on being fat and lazy as an excuse to do nothing outside the normal day. I was physically sick. 2. Fight a daily battle with feelings of worthlessness that intellectually, thanks to the talk therapy, I knew weren’t real anymore.
I’m not saying I am Tom Cruise railing against the work of modern pharmaceuticals. He is apparently still a self-absorbed idiot. I actually went through hitting bottom and looking in the mirror. The pills apparently did their work in righting the chemical imbalance in my head doctors and therapists say are part of depression. I am saying that, for me, getting off them (only with a physician’s help, or you could really end up in a very bad place) was the best thing that could happen.
Fat (and diabetic) and sick but no longer depressed or convinced that I mattered too much (or not at all), I was able to delve into getting physically healthy, which led to the gym, which eventually led me to leave the newspaper, my way of life for nearly three decades, for a 19-month period. Sometimes, you have to leave home to figure out what you had there. All part of the recovery process.
Tomorrow, I intend to finish this “depressing” series with tales of help from a St. Bernard and a sister, a restoration of faith and a few more signs that you might use to determine if it’s just the winter blues or something far worse.
Don’t worry. Despite my brother’s commentary about my St. Bernard lessons, I haven’t gone “Son of Sam.”
Son of Samie, maybe.
Ah, now you’re interested.
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