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And finally, putting depression to rest

February 19, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
And finally….to steal a lead-in from longtime Herald-Star reporter and friend Matz Malone, today is the last in this series about my battle with depression, which I am holding up to everyone amid this interminably long winter, when everyone seems to have varying degrees of the blues.

In parts one and two, on Monday and Tuesday, I detailed how I fell into depression and a bit of what it took to climb out of the depths.

Today, I just have to sew up a few loose ends.

First off, I had a great support system in the form of my big sister and her husband, the Home Office in Aurora, Colo. A couple of trips to their house, which they paid for, helped. So did observing her St. Bernard and its joyous way of just being herself. My dog, P.J., does the same thing. My brother, the Home Office in Wichita, often reminds me when I say these things that Son of Sam, the New York serial killer, used to get messages from a St. Bernard. Nothing like that here. Really.

Dogs just know what they’re thinking and are happy to just be a dog. It doesn’t matter what anyone else’s day is like. They are going to be themselves.

That’s perspective, and humans, unfortunately, are flexible in their perspective. Either you don’t want to know what others think of you or you do, but never, ever assume you already know what they’re thinking. You’re lucky on any given day if you know what YOU are thinking, let alone someone else. (Your dog only knows what she’s thinking, thus has that inner peace.)

I actually was off from work, at my choice, for several weeks when the initial breakdown occurred. I needed permission to return and got it, from the doctors and the newspaper, but there had been a change in publishers while I was off. The new publisher at the time simply listened, said everything was going to be OK and it was up to me to conduct myself accordingly and sent me upstairs to the newsroom.

Where it felt a lot like that last episode of “M*A*S*H*” where Hawkeye returns to the 4077th after some time in a mental hospital with Sidney Friedman treating him. Everybody was wary. In time, either they got over it or I did, but it got better.

And I have to interject something about faith here. When I was falling without seeing a bottom to the emotional pit, I prayed a lot. I was reassured that everything would be all right, I believe, by God. But that didn’t make day-to-day living any easier. I think the whole process was part of God’s plan, and he never, ever, promised perfection to anyone. I also don’t believe that God wanted me to continue to wallow without seeking the assistance of therapy, because that’s what would have happened. And now, faith can keep the blues to a minimum, when I choose to let it. I suppose for those who don’t believe, that whole issue simply isn’t there.

I think depression must be like alcoholism, though, in that you are always recovering from it.

Oh, I still get bummed out, blue, have a dark day here and there. This winter and the lousy weather and the ever-gray skies and the constant battle with driving on ice and snow has worn my good-attitude generator down. A lot. Probably has for most people.

But I know it’s going to get better. When I had absolute depression, I was interested in nothing. Not the Steelers. Not the Penguins. Not the Pirates, nor the Indy 500. Not art nor music nor TV, nor politics. That was the surest sign. No interest. Life had lost all its salt.

That isn’t happening this winter. I still went nuts at the Pittsburgh Auto Show over the weekend and I still wait at the mailbox like a little kid when Motor Trend is overdue. The Pirates are practicing. The Pens are in the thick of stuff. The Olympics are wonderful. And I actually know that, maybe in spite of myself, people care about me. And yesterday, when the temperature was 41, I put on some Jimmy Buffet and cracked the sunroof just a little. Felt really, really good.

In summary, if you’ve lost interest in things you usually love, if you feel angry or sad literally all the time, if you feel there’s no hope for ever feeling like yourself again, it might not just be the winter blues and you might want to talk to someone.

I’ll return to happier stuff, or at least the stuff that makes you and me think, when we meet again.


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