Wednesday, May 05, 2010

By: William I. Perry, Ph.D.

Good Morning, Heartache.

You wake up in the morning and take another pill so you can sleep until noon. You think that maybe if you can manage to miss half the day the other half won’t hurt so much. Getting out of bed is like trying to walk right out of surgery. On good days come the dreaded rituals: Brushing teeth, showering; on a great day shaving.

Coffee just stimulates the pain, not the mood, but you drink it anyway. You sit and stare at the walls, too tired to move, go out, stay in, or even look around. You don’t care, and you don’t care that you don’t care. You’re falling, and you’re just too exhausted to try holding on any longer. Imagine spiraling down a hole, ever so slowly – A hole with no end, no destination, just a general direction downward.

Do you know what I mean? Because if you don’t I am just not going be able to tell it to you so that you understand. And those people at the edge, up top, they look down and shake their heads and tell you to just get up and just go for a run and just do this and just do that and it hurts so much more because they all remind you how alone you are because they just don’t know what you’re feeling because if they did they wouldn’t say those things and so it must be me and I’m the only crazy one in this sea of stuff and….and….

Then after a few moments there’s the daily Council meeting in your head. It meets while you wait in an interrogation room for what seems like forever. Each day it forms a consensus, comes back in the room and declares the results, over and over, louder and louder. “Mr. Secretary, please read the minutes of today’s meeting: ‘You are worthless, you are nothing; you are nobody. You never have and never will make a damn bit of difference in this world. In fact your very presence makes it worse. You don’t deserve to be here. You are a pathetic loser – Just look at yourself.’ This meeting is adjourned.”

If anyone else said these things to you you would promptly show him/her the door, wouldn’t you? Or you’d hit him/her or yell or find some way to defend yourself. But here, when it comes from your own head, your own brain, you just sit down, pour another cup of coffee, and listen. You listen and nod and you have nothing to say in your own defense. You believe they are right. And then when they are done reading you today’s minutes, you’re supposed to go out and be in the world. “Don’t worry – be happy;” “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be;” “Think positive;” “Be grateful for what you have.” And so on.

Welcome to the club. Totally non-exclusive, open to anybody with a genetic predisposition and half a bad reason. Open to members of all creeds, races, nationalities and religions. And contrary to popular Western belief, membership is not only involuntary but also not at all correlated with material possessions. It doesn’t care if you’re rich, poor, sick, well, married, single, homeless or in a palace. You may not believe me, I know – But I have examples. I have the list. I can prove it to you. It’s so hard to believe because we have been trained to think with the template “If only I …” Fill in the blank – Had a love, had a better job, were single, were married, had a family, had more money, didn’t have this disease, weren’t so fat, weren’t so thin, had hair, ad nauseum…

Then, THEN, and here’s where it gets tricky – THEN you become attached to the depression itself. It becomes part of you. After awhile it almost feels like an old friend, or the spouse that you can’t divorce just because you can’t fathom life without them. It blinds us to our choices, makes us attach ourselves to it. Resistance only feeds it and makes it worse. It forces us to feed it, and the more we feed it the more powerful it gets. And then of all things we invite it to sit down and join us for our morning coffee and to accompany us throughout the day.

Maybe you come from a Ward and June family (If you’re under 40 look it up). There was more than enough love to go around. No alcoholism. No violence. Family vacations, help with homework, kindness, compassion and understanding almost all the time. And yet you still can’t remember how many times you wished you were dead, or at least thought about it;  or that you were someone else. A five year-old hides under his bed, thinking about death. He seeks comfort in his parents, and they gave it. But the effects were so short-lived.

As you get older you try therapy, exercise, hobbies, travel, self-help books, medication, you name it. But always the effects were short-lived. The closest thing that came to helping, that actually made the blues go away, even for just a little while, were drugs and booze. But it will eventually make things worse, it will eventually feed the depression and it will eventually get you a first class ticket into a mental hospital, prison, or dead. 

What we think of as “Love” is the biggest scapegoat of all. We attribute our depression to not having someone, or someone leaving us by going away or dying. Or by finding out that s/he was never really there in the first place. Most people I meet seem to get that “money won’t buy happiness.” What they don’t get is that neither will “love.” Sorry folks, I hate to break it to you, but finding that Mr./Ms. Right is not going to make you happy if you ain’t happy now. True happiness – I mean serenity, not ha-ha-happiness – is inversely proportional to expectations. The word for “expectation” and “hope” is the same in some languages.
If you know depression, not just sadness but the bleak darkness of true depression, then you know what I mean. If you don’t you don’t. If you know depression you know why you grasp at anything, anything – a person, a drug, sport, a job, a thrill – just to not feel it for a few minutes. But the minutes end. Always too soon. And so it goes…

Author : Dr. William I. Perry Ph.D.
William I. Perry, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco, California, with over twenty years experience providing psychotherapy, assessment and consultation. Dr. Perry is also a staff psychologist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, where he provides supervision to psychology interns and psychiatry residents and consultation to other psychologists. Dr. Perry provides consultation and psychological services for local courts and other psychotherapists in the San Francisco Bay Area on depression, chemical dependency, alcoholism and other addictions. You can learn more about Dr. Perry here on the Directory.