Tuesday, July 03, 2007

4 Kilorats; On the Infantilization of Depression

Do you ever feel invisible?

I mentioned that at my men's group no one asked me to "check in" and it wasn't noticed, though only four men were there.

Last night at a preparatory meeting for our yearly retreat, this year focused on the Jungian archetype of the King, many made suggestions. At first I decided not to speak, as it was my first visit to this meeting. But after a while I joined in, offering the idea that the King could not abdicate, as in King Lear's mistake; I pointed out the idea of the wounded King in the idea of the Fisher King; that a king could never really take a vacation from his responsibilities; that a king needs the humility to repent, and that we should first concentrate on the barriers that kept us from envisioning "the King within." All well and fine. But when the leader summed up the meeting, though he included some of my ideas, he curiously credited everyone for their ideas except me. As if I hadn't been there. As if mine were a disembodied voice without a person attached.

I know I tend to be overly intellectual; I mentioned some literary sources, like Nathan's famous upbraiding King David for the Bathsheba affair, the Grail legend, King Lear, and I hope none beyond that. Perhaps what makes people forget me is that I always feel the need to cite a reference for an opinion; maybe I know nothing except references; maybe I don't exist and have no opinion, substituting references and the opinions of others to shore up my own lack of identity. How do I come across to others? It's nearly impossible to say, but I fear I come across as cold and intellectual, separate, someone not involved in the social flow, someone who doesn't get the "hints" from other people about the social process, someone who throws red herrings on a pile of sardines.

Strangely I brought a notebook to the meeting, and it was the same notebook I brought to last year's retreat when I was seriously depressed-- as I am again now. And it contained notes on the very same problems I still experience, mainly regarding narcissism. Why must I be critical of others in my mind? Why do I suffer from jealousy? What infantile psychology lives in me to make me feel as if I ought to be up on the stage, the center of attention, instead of that person with the microphone?

Naturally depression causes psychological regression. (I'm crying as I write this.) I'm so tired of this journey. I feel like a raw nerve. Friendless. Worthless. Obviously too self-involved, but not knowing how to escape the bell jar.

I have had one good thought in this relapse of ten day's duration; I have prayed for a teacher. I guess that's another way of saying I want more than medications, I want "therapy" as well. But it's not psychodynamic therapy I seek; it's just a wise man to help guide me. All my life I've resisted trusting most authorities or teachers, to avoid the disappointment of overidealization and the subsequent devaluation, but I don't fear that now. What I fear is getting stuck here longer.

It's good to write because that gives me a brief respite from talking to myself inside my head, a habit I can rarely shake. Was I so lonely as an infant and toddler that I had to create all this noise in my mind? Ah to be cooking and not think about cooking, just to cook... the Zen of being wedded to the action without thinking, just doing... I went fishing yesterday and caught nothing from the rocks, I never do... but I couldn't just fish. I did think about making a catalogue of all my fears so that I could look at them and tackle them as best I could. Maybe I'll do that. But not on this blog.

Meanwhile I've been learning many new wildflowers here in my wanderings. Here's the coast onion, Allium dichlamydeum:

Here's sky lupine, Lupinus nanus:

Come July 27 it will be the two-year anniversary of my blog. I don't know how many have visited it as I've only had a tracker since October '06. Since then a little over 11,000 have, more than a thousand a month. Most are, no doubt, recurrent visitors, the rest find me, sometimes serendipitously while looking for something else, by searches.

Why do I persist in blogging? Mainly because it's therapeutic. I never believed in diaries; this is my first.

Since I sank into a depression on April 1, 2006, I've probably had less than two months relief--not of feeling happy but feeling normal. I most regret the burden my illness has placed on Kathleen. She is wonderful. No doubt if I were utterly home alone I would be much worse.

The problem with the psychological infantilization of depression is that one cannot receive the very praise and recognition one craves; it is suspect. Only when my chemicals are righted can I receive such things, but when my chemicals are righted the problem seems to disappear. So it's not worth thinking about. But I can't help it!

Depression is not a choice--why would anyone choose it? It is a curse, and in my case a familial, genetic curse. I got the bad genes. End of story. And I'm weak besides, while depressed; I don't always act in my own best interest because of the underlying hopelessness always whispering: "What's the use of doing this or that?" Yet I continue doing. Without doing I would go utterly under.

Thanks for listening.

At 4 Kilorats,



  1. I long for invisibility.

    And some days, I almost achieve it.

    Which is no mean feat for a too tall too thin too pale woman.

    What is that word, what is that called when you remove yourself from the situation directly in front of you by burrowing deep within the self?


    I tend to remove myself from the present moment more often than I should. It was originally a defense mechanism I happened upon during my adolesence. Disassociation (if that's the correct term) is a real, literal life saver when one is being brutalized by one's peers.

    So, yes, I often feel invisible. But it's by choice.

    Is the sense of worthlessness a result of the depression or vice versa? I've felt it, struggled with it and a sense of unworthieness for as long as I can remember. Which is the chicken and which is the egg in that equation?

    Have you ever watched The Sopranos? The scenes with Tony and his therapist make me almost sort of kind of want to go back and give it another go. Unlike you, I sing therapy's praises even though my only experience with was a brief nine months when I was 19.

    There's something incredibly liberating on an emotional and spiritual level to open like that, if you're willing to tell the real truth (lying is so tempting....) to a complete stranger, an objective listener. Reminds me of that title of that excellent book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

    I always felt like I weighed nothing after a session.

  2. What I love about your comments, LKD, is that you respond at length with your entire being. Without judging any, as I am happy to hear from any, many drop brief notes without engagement as evidence they were here. Carl Bryant told me: "It's essential to track your referrals and go back and leave brief comments there to increase your traffic."

    To hell with that. Better to be authentic. Better not to care about statistical promotion. So I admire that, though there's nothing wrong with checking in briefly at a blog to let the blogger know you've been by--yet the superficiality of some comments makes me suspect some are following Carl's advice for their own promotion.

    Hiding within yourself? If you still feel like yourself while doing it, there is no psychiatric term I know for that defense; if you feel not yourself, it's called "depersonalization." Dissociation involves a dissolving of the ego into a false self, a self you don't remember and can't claim, as in fugue states or multiple personality disorders.

    So your possum strategy sounds healthy to me, as long as you remain LKD.

    I've been eating healthier, by the way. At the July 4th parade today I was not as abstemious, but I'll get back on the horse. How can I display my six-pack until I withdraw the veil of fat?

    Hee hee.

    Glad you found therapy helpful. It's never really helped me.

    Which brings me to my answer to your question: If you have a genetically inherited biological disorder, like manic-depression or unipolar major recurrent depression, therapy only works if the chemistry is returned to normal. Sadly, the longer you are depressed, the more grooves are worn in your brain for treatment resistance, so it is imperative to get back to normal ASAP. It is a terrible thing for depression to become your default setting.

    A depressed friend of mine recently said to me, "Why does it matter to not be depressed? It's all pointless in any case."

    To which I said, "But if you feel better you'll feel much better about the pointlessness--you'll feel as if there's a point even if, existentially, you don't believe it."

    As I like to tell myself, which does no good in depression, but helps me when I come out of it, "Life's a wonderful adventure and I'm lucky to have a ticket!"

    Pure hooey when you're clinically depressed.

    I'm better today. But I got some meds in the mail from Canada, thus was able to increase one medication to my former dose taken for severe depression.

    Chicken or egg? The chicken is genetic; the egg is born seemingly unrelated to stress, indeed at the strangest times. As in, when I got to the NorCal coast and the quiet of the redwoods after three years of misadventures, I immediately slipped into a serious depression which I'm still battling.

    If one identical twin, separated at birth from his counterpart, experiences manic-depression, the other twin, despite a different environment, has a 75% chance of becoming equally symptomatic. There stands the chicken. The egg is secondary. That's my answer. If it makes no sense to you, you are likely not similarly afflicted.

  3. I must be really depressed. I'd have to cut my wrists if I wrote that much on a blog. It's all I can do to read any or post on my own, for that matter. Perhaps it's narcissism? Or perhaps it's just that there is so much to do and I seem to do none of it. I am of the belief that we are all mentally ill, and the rest is maintenance. Doting on my self is one form of maintenance, I guess. Not to make light of chronic depression or any of that, you understand. I just think we all have different symptoms and nobody knows the walls of our private craniums but us.

    BTW, your daughters are gorgeous.
    I have no children, so you can see how much more pathological I am.

  4. All very true, Bev. When I speak of clinical depression I do not mean psychological depression, reactive depression, appropriate grief, chronic dissatisfaction from an unrewarding job or relationship, or simply lack of energy. In these we must all maintain ourselves the best we can, sometimes seeking help, and if this were mental illness we would all be ill.

    Clinical depression I view as mainly a physical disease with psychological effects, but I think those psychological effects a result more than a cause of depression.

    That aside, the physical symptoms of depression are well known, at least in the classic kind: loss of appetite, weight loss, hypervigilance, sleep disturbance, loss of libido, recurrent negative thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, a desire for life to end even if not actually suicidal, and these symptoms must go on for at least one week according to recent opinion, though I think I more agree with the old standard of one month.

    We know manic-depression is a physical, inherited disease. It responds best to medication, period. True major clinical depression needs medications as well; for all the grayer subtypes some debate is justifiable.

    When depressed, although I'm 6'6" and somewhat muscular, I have dropped to 170 lbs. My bipolar daughter recently went through an episode that knocked off fifty pounds. She's 6' and looks great now, but it's a hell of way to lose weight. Probably the only good thing about it.

    Depression is not "the blues."

    It's a life-threatening illness.

    Untreated bipolar illness has a lifetime mortality of 30%. That's a lot worse than childhood leukemia, for instance.

    As for the length of my blog, I compose at a rate of 1000 words, with one edit, per hour. While depressed it goes a little slower, but once I get on the horse I can still ride. While writing, as I've said, I get some temporary relief, as it requires I pay attention to what I write--something I cannot do at the same time as dwelling on myself.

  5. Masale.Wallah9:35 PM PDT

    many drop brief notes without engagement as evidence they were here.

    I suspect that might be the case because a significant number of your readers could be dealing with mental illness themselves and thus might themselves lack the energy or motivation to write more than a few words.

  6. No, no, of course you're right. I just have this keen empathy for it all (and not quite sure why), so I identify, I guess. Not minimizing or misconstruing! Sorry!

  7. Good point, Masale.

    Bev, thank you for your empathy.

    Believe me, having children is not sign of health. Two were, btw, mistakes! (Though not after they were born, naturally.)

    Always glad for your comments. If you're truly concerned about your state, no harm in talking to a professional about it (if you can afford it these days).


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