Category Archives: treatment

Daddy issues

Digging into the depths of your psyche sometimes brings up things you’d long since forgotten, long since tossed aside as no longer meaningful, no longer relevant, no longer affecting your life. I’ve been doing a lot digging lately. With a backhoe. It was bound that I’d dig up some forgotten parts of my psyche eventually.

As my friend Travis noted, treating a mental illness is an all-encompassing process. Treatment has to be holistic, and I don’t mean in a woo-y, new age-y kind of way. Rather I mean that you have to treat yourself from multiple angles. In my case, those angles are chemical (bupropion), physical (good exercise and diet), and psychological. The first two parts are easy, relatively speaking. The third is really fucking hard. You have to examine yourself with such intensity and so deeply that the ugly parts are bound to rear their ugly heads. Only by confronting the ugly parts can I really proceed further in my continual journey of self-actualization. And that journey of self-actualization recently took me down the “you have repressed issues about your father” road.

My father, Dan, has never been a significant part of my life. Or really any part of my life, for that matter. He was simply … not there. You’ll notice that I refer to him primarily as Dan. I don’t really consider him a father in anything other than the genetic sense because, quite frankly, he wasn’t my father. That role, to the degree that anyone did it, was filled by my mother and grandfather. I’m a little unclear on the timing, but my father started using cocaine either slightly before or while my mom was pregnant. It changed him, she said. He was not the man with whom she had fallen in love. Initially when I was born, a tiny thing, under six pounds, with a mop of strawberry blonde hair, he claimed that I couldn’t be his. “Red hair doesn’t run in my family” he said. Later, he admitted that I was indeed his; my mom thought that his denial was the result of a crazy girlfriend he had at the time. The courts ordered him to pay child support. He was in arrears by tens of thousands of dollars by the time I went to college. He may still be, for all I know.

So Dan was never really in my life. My mother didn’t prevent him from seeing me or vice versa. He just never really seemed to want to be a part of my life. Years passed. I never met him, even though he lived in the same tiny town of 300 people where I grew up. I saw him a couple of times growing up; my mother would point him out when we were in a store or something. Still, I never actually met him in person until I was 18, shortly after I graduated from high school. He came to the library where I worked and asked if he could speak with me. I barely recognized him, as I’d only seen the man a handful of times, and only in passing at that. He spoke to me a bit in his car, something about meeting my grandparents and how I should read Zorba The Greek. Honestly, I had a hard time understanding what he was saying. The conversation was disjointed, as if there were leaps of logic happening in his head that I just couldn’t follow. I suppose the conversation was as one might expect from a mind addled by years of cocaine use.

I spoke with Dan a few other times in my life. For a few years after college, I worked in my hometown library. There were a couple of times when he’d come in, chat a bit. Talking with him was similarly difficult to follow, kind of like trying to follow the logic of a 9-11 truther or a birther: “logic” really didn’t apply. When I finished graduate school and got my first professional job near my hometown, he visited me there a couple of times, too. It was awkward, to say the least. By that time, he had moved to a community about fifty miles south of my hometown and worked with the local animal shelter.

Perhaps I should tell you a bit about Dan, the pre-cocaine Dan, that is. Much like Dan’s conversations with me, my description will sound disjointed. All that I have are snippets that I’ve heard, mostly from my mother, but from other people sometimes as well. Dan was a gifted man, a chiropractor of amazing talent. In fact, aside from when she described what he was like while snorting coke, my mother had nothing but good things to say about him; even in my youth, I could sense the love she had for the man my father was. He was fiendishly smart, funny, a free spirit who enjoyed animals, surfing, and Chinese checkers. He was the only person who could beat my mother at Chinese checkers, so she said. Others who found out Dan was my father had similar praise to heap upon him. I often heard, “He was the best chiropractor I’ve ever had”. What a nice guy he was. How fun he was. And always an emphasis on how intelligent he was, how sharp his mind was. I was often told that I inherited that mind, most often by my mom. That was why I seemed so different from the rest of my small family, she said.

For most of my adult life, I denied how much Dan’s absence affected me. After all, I was successful. Valedictorian of my high school class. Graduated summa cum laude from college. Received two masters degrees at the top of my classes. Built a strong track record and earned respect in my chosen field. I achieved these things despite his absence, I told myself and others. I would brush off suggestions that my lack of a father affected me. When my ex-wife and I went to counseling and we each spoke separately with a psychiatrist, I dodged the issue by saying it wasn’t relevant. I said the same thing to the therapist I went to shortly after I was diagnosed with dysthymia. And I once again professed my father’s irrelevance to my current therapist fewer than three months ago.

But I was just being obstinate, as you’ve no doubt surmised. It took yet another amazing conversation with my partner, whom I’ll refer to as “S”, and a lot of soul-searching to realize that. The truth is that Dan’s absence loomed large in my youth, adolescence, and into the rest of my life, although I told no one this. In my last post I mentioned that the first “adult” album I bought was Paul Simon’s Graceland. The second was Genesis’s We Can’t Dance. I bought it initially for the delightful “I Can’t Dance”, but it ultimately was this song that spoke to me the most, despite not being an exact match to my own situation:

How could I not feel like my father was saying I was no son of his, after all? I mean, he actually explicitly said it shortly after I was born. And even after he admitted that he fathered me, his absence spoke volumes. Even though we lived in the same tiny town, he never tried to contact me before I graduated high school, and my mom made no attempt to stop him. As a young child and adolescent, I mainly just heard about how friendly, smart, and generally awesome Dan was. It didn’t take much for my young mind to put two and two together: that seemingly cool person I envisioned wanted nothing to do with me. That thought was primary on my mind during my first suicidal episode, laying in that bathtub as a fifteen-year-old, contemplating grabbing that temptingly-close razor blade.

Thoughts like that drill themselves deep into your subconscious. They poison the well. They develop into shame. And eventually, those thoughts get buried so deep that you don’t even remember they’re a source of your shame and insecurities in the first place, hence my deflection. “My lack of a father didn’t adversely affect me”, I insisted. <snort> Right, of course it didn’t. How ever could it negatively impact your life to think that you’re so terrible that your own father didn’t want to be around you? But there I go being uncharitable to myself again. I had to think that it didn’t affect me, really, to protect myself. Otherwise I would have collapsed from its weight years ago.

But back to that conversation with S I mentioned. I don’t recall now how he came up, but I was speaking about Dan with her, telling her all of these things I knew about him, the small snippets. I told her a few more, too, ones I haven’t yet mentioned in this post. The time shortly after I graduated when a high school acquaintance told me that Dan was at my graduation but left before it ended. When the same acquaintance told me that Dan maintained a scrapbook of newspaper clippings mentioning me. His efforts to reach out to me. The last time I spoke with him when he said he was proud of me, and I pushed it aside as if I’d just been told that by a complete stranger. He basically was at that point. While telling S this, I hadn’t really acknowledged Dan at that point as a source of my shame.

Partway through the conversation, S started crying, and I didn’t know why. I tried to get her to tell me, but she refused, instead encouraging me to continue talking. Finally, after another few minutes, she said, “Don’t you see, Buzzy? He stayed away because he loved you so much.”

Cliché though it may be, I felt like I’d been hit by a ton of bricks. Three monumental things hit my brain all at once. First, the ultimate source of many of my thoughts of inadequacy came racing back up from the deep pits where I’d buried them. Second, I finally understood why I held so much shame in my heart. And third, I was just given a completely different, and far more plausible, explanation of a critical part of my life. S really should be billing me hourly.

Those details I hadn’t mentioned earlier in this post, about the scrapbook, his profession of being proud, his presence at my graduation? Those didn’t fit the hypothesis in my head, so I’d essentially relegated them to the “irrelevant data” part of my brain. Now those data points fit together into a different, stronger hypothesis. Perhaps Dan thought that he’d simply have made my life worse by being a part of it. He’d ruined his own life, after all. How could he allow himself potentially to do the same thing to his son? Or maybe he was just so ashamed of how he’d abandoned me early in my life that he simply never could muster the courage to see me until he knew I was heading off to a successful life. My mind raced with possibilities. What if Dan had chosen otherwise? How different would my life be?

After gnawing on these revelations for days with no progress, I finally decided that I would give myself dedicated quiet time to think about this and only this. It was during my drive home and then back to work. I removed all distractions to my brain, aside from driving itself. Yeah, yeah, maybe a ton of metal hurtling down the freeway at 65 miles per hour isn’t the safest place to dig into the depths of your soul, but I’m a busy man!

While running through these what-ifs, I came to a realization: none of it mattered. Now that I was on the road to recovery, I understood that I liked my life. I have great friends, a nice house, a dream job, live in a beautiful area, and have the bestest partner one could ever hope to have. More than that, though, I like who I am. I turned out okay. And the reason I turned out okay is at least in part because of Dan. As my mother often said, I inherited his agile mind. My mind is one of the few things in which I (mostly) retain confidence even in my worst moments (and despite the fact that it sometimes leads me astray). I’m able to make connections quickly, to assess and create complex arguments, and generally to understand the world around me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no genius, but I can hold my own in the world, for the most part. That mental acuity comes from Dan.

However, there’s more to it than that. Dan’s absence, and my feelings of inadequacy resulting from it, gave me a reason to strive. Maybe I could prove myself  worthy  of attention, of love, of respect, if I worked hard enough. Got good enough grades. Accomplished great things. Left a mark on the world. That six- or seven-year-old is still in me, that child who saw all of those other kids’ fathers and wondered why mine wasn’t around. That part of me strove to prove myself a worthy son. But I don’t need to prove myself a worthy to a man who was never a father to me in the first place. He had his own reasons for not being a part of my life, and those are his own battle. And in realizing that, now I can proceed to confront the shame deep within me and thereby prove myself worthy to myself, despite all my imperfections and despite my disease. I’m the person now who needs to accept me for who I am. And so my healing proceeds.

Perfect the way I am

So I’ve been telling myself that the first post I would write after making this blog public would be about how that decision affects my career prospects. I still plan to write that post, but a lot has happened since the blog became public last week. First off, thank you to all of you amazing people who reached out to me, thanked me, and told me your own stories. Your support is heartening, and admittedly a bit overwhelming for reasons you’ll hopefully see later in this post. Your stories were heartfelt and vulnerable. I plan to respond to each of you when I can. However, the “a lot that happened” to which I referred actually only peripherally has to do with making this blog public.

The treatment for my illness is multi-faceted, involving pharmaceuticals, decent sleep habits, good nutrition and exercise, and therapy. I see a fantastic therapist based here in the Gorge. Initially, when I started seeing him, I wasn’t sure why I was there. I didn’t really have any goals for therapy, as I was feeling pretty damn good when I decided to start seeing him. Really, I was just going to a therapist because I thought that I “should”, given my condition. I was pretty close to deciding not to see him, actually. But as I started opening up, I saw how truly insightful he is and how helpful his perspective can be. He gave me some great advice recently that I’d like to share, though it requires a bit of backstory first.

I’ve referenced my assholish observer several times, that somewhat removed part of myself that constantly criticizes what I do and who I am. He feels a little like he’s the personification of my disease, belittling me so as to make me weak to dysthymia’s ravages. But I had an extremely difficult revelation last week: that part of myself isn’t really a separate “diseased” part of myself that I thought he was. He’s me. The actual me. You know, that person I’ve been trying to discover now that I’m healing.

This revelation came as a result of some things in my personal life that sapped my confidence. I constantly feel inadequate. My colleagues in my community and the library profession seem to have a fairly high opinion of me and what I do. I do not. I’m always thinking that I’m not getting enough done, that I’m doing substandard work, that I don’t keep up enough, that I’m letting people down. There’s a fear that lives with me continually that people will find out these things and realize me for the fraud that I am.

Last week, those feelings of inadequacy were brought to the fore of my personal life in a way that I’m not sure they ever had before. I’ve pretty much always felt inadequate socially. But I’ve never really confronted those feelings head on and stared at them so directly in the face as I did last week. This confrontation made me feel like there was no way that I could be a decent human being, a loving romantic partner, a good role model or parental figure in a child’s life, or even a halfway decent friend. That was the “real” me thinking those thoughts, not my companion asshole.

The culmination of this came when my partner and I were talking through some things. We decided to stop at a restaurant and sat in a quiet corner to chat. In the course of our discussion, when I realized just how inadequate I truly felt, I broke down crying in her arms. I’m not sure I can adequately express how shocking this event is for me. In my adult life, I cry very rarely. I cry around other people even less than that. And I literally had never cried in a public place before during my adult life. Ever. And there were people at the restaurant aside from my partner whom I knew, and who likely could see me. I probably could have stopped the tears, but I didn’t care. For some reason, I didn’t feel ashamed about it. I needed to cry at the feeling of my own inadequacy.

So that was part of my realization: that I had a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy. The rest of it came one night while laying with my partner. We were discussing some of what had happened and what we’d been thinking. Because she’s truly the most caring person in the universe, she said that I was “perfect the way you are”, which caused yet another breakdown. But hey, at least it wasn’t in a public restaurant this time, right? That was the moment when it donned on me that that person who hated me so much, who constantly criticized me, wasn’t some removed, diseased part of myself. It was me.

Which brings me back to therapy. I talked through all of these things with my therapist. He said several amazing things. When I told him about my breakdown in the restaurant, his first word after I told him was “congratulations!” That affirmation meant so much to me. But after he heard everything, he told me the issue: a deep underlying shame that I let control me. And once he said it, I instantly recognized its truth. He recommended that I look into a research professor in social work named Brené Brown. He suggested that I read her latest book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. He also suggested that I check out her two TED talks, in particular her first talk from 2010 called “The Power of Vulnerability”.

This talk was a revelation. I have done so many things over the last several months that have made me extremely vulnerable: admitting the extent of my illness, tackling planning a large work-related conference that I have no experience doing, entering a new relationship with an intense emotional connection and acceptance the likes of which I’ve never experienced before, potentially becoming a larger part of a child’s life in a way that’s foreign to me, writing this blog, seeing a therapist, making the blog public. All that vulnerability digs up my shame, and it’s overwhelming, though in a good way, I think. Brown’s talk, together with all of these recent life events, made me see just how weak I thought vulnerability was.

I don’t know from whence this shame comes. Perhaps it’s from my childhood. Perhaps it relates to my failed relationships. Perhaps it’s me internalizing all of the self-hatred that dysthymia levels at me, because that assholish observer is still there (even if I now know that he’s not really my harshest critic). More likely, it’s some combination of all of these things and more. As Brown mentions in her second TED talk, I have plenty of well-deserved guilt for my actions, guilt meaning that “I did something bad”, according to Brown. But for years I’ve considered those actions as meaning “I’m bad”. That’s shame. It’s going to take me a while to accept that my mistakes don’t make me a terrible human being, but I’m going to try. I may not be perfect, but as a very dear woman told me recently, maybe, just maybe, I’m perfect the way I am.

Better living through chemistry

Bupropion and trazodone pills

Walgreen’s is my dealer.

These are the pills that keep me sane, or at least keep me in the world of the emotionally-vibrant. They consist of 300mg of bupropion (brand name: Wellbutrin) taken in two pills daily and 50mg of trazodone (brand name: Oleptro) taken at night about an hour before bed. Bupropion treats the symptoms of my dysthymia, the emotional dullness and tendency to lapse into major depression. The trazodone, while technically a very weak antidepressant, helps me sleep.

I was diagnosed with dysthymia by my primary care physician in 2012. It seems like people who receive disease diagnoses fall into one of two categories: glass half empty or half full. The former see the diagnosis as a tragedy, yet another misfortune they must tackle. You’d think, as someone with a depressive disorder, that I would fit squarely into that category. Strangely, I did not, nor do I now. Despite my condition, I’m relatively optimistic. Thus, my reaction was a half full one: now I know what the hell’s been wrong with me all of these years and can take steps to fix it. The diagnosis explained why felt like an emotionless golem. It explained why I often felt intensely sad for no apparent reason. It explained why my mood could be completely divorced from the wonderful things happening in my life. It explained that my emotional distance from the world was not a personality trait, but rather a disease.

Bupropion was the first antidepressant the doctor wanted me to try. There are various reasons for this. Most common depression drugs fit into one of two categories: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). SSRIs include drugs such as Lexapro, Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac, and SNRIs include drugs such as Cymbalta, Effexor, and Pristiq. The Mayo Clinic pages to which I link explain them far better, but briefly, these drugs work by adjusting the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Both SSRIs and SNRIs have many common side effects: nausea, decreased libido, insomnia, and more.

My antidepressant of choice fits into neither category. In fact, to make things more fun, researchers don’t really fully understand exactly how bupropion works, though they have a general idea. But before I get into bupropion and how it helped me, I should probably explain how I got to the point of getting the prescription in the first place. My doctor’s visit was precipitated by a terrible bout of major depression, one where I got the closest I ever had before to committing suicide. My friend encouraged me to go, and I am so glad that she did. The doctor said that my symptoms are consistent with dysthymia, a word I’d never heard before. She also said, because of the disconnect between my mood and what was happening in my life, that I was a good candidate for medication. She prescribed bupropion.

Before I started the bupropion, I had hardly any energy. After work, I’d come home, collapse, and just read random things on my phone until I gave in and decided to attempt to fall asleep, usually unsuccessfully. When I first started taking bupropion, I felt amazing. It was like I’d been seeing the world in greyscale and suddenly could see in color. These emotions that I’d experienced in full only periodically in my life came flooding in. I don’t think that I really understood the stunning beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, where I live, until I started taking medication. The vibrant green forests, sheer sculpture-like rock faces, and shining river hit me with a wave of emotion. I never really thought of beauty as an emotional attribute before, but that experience changed my view of it.

Most importantly, I had my energy back. Within three days of starting the drug, I not only had enough energy to mow the lawn of the house of was renting, but also the one of the house I was buying and my neighbor’s lawn. In one day. This was unheard of for me. I cleaned the house. Work tasks were dispensed with efficiently and effectively. I felt like a person again, with emotions, motivations, and energy. My initial experience with bupropion made me realize that so much of who I thought I was – that person I hated and criticized – was not actually a part of my personality, but rather an illness.

The honeymoon lasted a few months with bupropion. The first couple of weeks, it ran me through a cycle of side effects. Initially it was the nausea. Then it was the insomnia. Last it was the irritability. Little things would annoy me, things I’d brush off before. Once those few weeks past, it was pretty smooth sailing. Weirdly, though, after a few months, I started getting panic attacks. I would lie on the couch, shaking. They had no apparent cause, and it scared the shit out of me.

Given that strange side effect, my doctor thought it best to try me on other antidepressants. Initially it was escitalopram, an SSRI. Honestly, it didn’t really do much for me. I went back to my emotional dullness within weeks of starting it. Next up was venlafaxine, an SNRI. It seemed to do a reasonable job at elevating my mood, but I was tired constantly. I slept long stretches in an almost coma-like state, nine to ten hours a night, and woke up feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. I took three hour naps on my days off. So despite that my mood was decent, it was hard to notice due to constant exhaustion.

That’s when I decided to go back to the bupropion. This might seem like an odd decision, given the panic attacks, but I thought that 1) now that I knew they were coming, maybe I could predict and control the attacks better and 2) the bupropion’s side effects overall seemed better than the other two drugs. And the bupropion did work better when I began taking it again. The panic attacks never came back; I still don’t know ultimately why they happened. Eventually, the bupropion settled into giving me mild insomnia, for which the doctor prescribed trazodone. However, I didn’t pair my medications with other self-treatment measures. That lack of self-care, and my increasing forgetfulness at taking my medications, led me into major depression, the effects of which were brutal.

After I broke, I got more serious about my treatment. My doctor gave me the option to double my bupropion intake, to 300mg/day, which I decided to try. It made an amazing difference. This time, though, I took on other measures. I started eating better. I bought a rowing machine to exercise indoors during the cold, wet winter months. I improved my sleep habits. After doing some research and consulting with my doctor, I limited myself to one drink per day (bupropion interacts with alcohol even more poorly than other antidepressants), although I was never really a heavy drinker.

Probably my most interesting self-imposed treatment, though, is I require myself to have at least one in-person social interaction per day. Sometimes that interaction involves going out to listen to music or hanging out at the brewery. Sometimes it might just involve interacting with a clerk in a store. As an introvert, I can easily go through an entire day without interacting with anyone, thus further isolating me and exacerbating my issues. My social interaction rule, however, helps keep me connected. Already, that rule has brought some amazing new people into my life

Now that I’m on a positive path of treatment, it’s like I’m discovering the real me. I’m not sure that I’ve ever met him in his entirety, only glances. He’s optimistic. His mind is agile. He loves to hike. He enjoys musicals. He’s a devoted Whovian. Now, all of these things – and more – are coming to the fore. It’s pretty exciting to get a chance to revisit who you really are in adulthood. Chemistry is helping make that happen for me.

The work face

Back in October, I read a Slate article about an amazing photography series called Dualities by Portland-based artist and instructor Liz Obert. The series explores how people with mental illness mask what they’re thinking and feeling from the outside world. To do this, she took two photos of each participant, one of how they present themselves to the world and the other as they are alone when in the throes of their illness. The images depict people in their homes, showing a concept likely very familiar to those with mental illness: our very different private and public personas, or “faces”, as I like to call them. The results are poignant and stunning.

Images of Jason from Liz Obert's series Dualities

Funny, my feline roommates are filthy and unemployed, too.

Obert’s project presents incredible visuals showing the different faces we show the world. In my experience, I have far more than just two faces. Like Obert’s subjects, I have a private face. I also have a social face, a work face, and the face I show only my dearest friends (which is probably the closest anyone will ever see to my private face). If I think about it longer, I could probably come up with even more. I’ve got a whole kabuki drama worth of faces.

My work face is probably the one I wear more than any other than my private face. It is wholly unlike any of the other faces that I wear. The work face is confident, even arrogant. It’s talkative, eager, and full of initiative. With my work face on, I present at conferences, I participate in tongue twister tournaments, and I even get interviewed for local television programs. These are things there’s not a ghost chance in hell you’d catch me doing in any other context. In social situations, I don’t even particularly enjoy being in photographs or hearing the sound of my own voice, let alone getting up in front of other people and doing things.

I’m a classic introvert. My batteries only recharge when I’m alone or with a small group of friends. The work face therefore requires a lot of energy for me to wear, kind of like Ryu’s dragon form in Breath of Fire. (Why yes, I am a nerd. Why do you ask?) This isn’t so much a function of my dysthymia as it my personality.

Everyone, not just those of us with mental illness, has multiple faces they present to the world. If you’ve ever worked a customer service job, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Still, the work face makes me wonder: how can I have exude such confidence and competence in one setting and completely lack them in another? In my worse moments, the very existence of the work face makes me question whether I have a mental illness at all. Part of the perniciousness of mental illness for many is that the illness, combined with the still-present social stigma about mental health, sometimes makes you question whether you’re truly sick. “You’re trying to pass off your deep character flaws as mental illness”, I sometimes think to myself. After all, the very existence of the work face shows that I’m clearly capable of being the things my mind tells me that I’m not. With the work face on, it seems like I can do anything.

To borrow from Dr. Seuss, though, except when I don’t, because sometimes I won’t. When I fall into a major depressive episode as I did recently, even the almighty work face loses its strength. It takes incidents like that to remind me that my different faces are just roles that I play, consuming my stockpiles of introvert energy as I wear them. One of dysthymia’s common symptoms is lack of energy. If I’ve been managing my dysthymia poorly, I lack the energy to do much of anything. When I have limited energy, I end up putting a lot of it into my work because my identity is so tied up in it. But that’s a discussion for another time.

The challenge I’ve set for my treatment is how do I get those faces to converge a bit? How can I get some of that initiative and eagerness when I’m not at work? As an introvert, I realize that my different faces will never completely converge, nor, quite frankly, should they. But some equalization surely would help me both privately and publicly.

Why blog?

Now that I’ve introduced myself, however verbosely, I suppose I should discuss why I’m writing this blog. The honest answer is, I’m not really sure. I don’t know if I’ll ever make this blog public beyond a few friends, although it might be nice. But then, I also have to consider if that would be detrimental to my social and professional lives. It also depends on if I have the steam to keep it going. In the meanwhile, I’m going to write it as if it was a public blog. Sorry, dear hypothetical reader, I won’t be giving you too many of the grisly details.

I’m mostly hoping that the act of writing might be a part of my treatment process. I am seeking treatment beyond just writing this blog, of course. I take the antidepressant bupropion. Sometimes I use trazodone to help me sleep (Insomnia is a common side effect of antidepressants. Trazodone is also an antidepressant, although that’s not why I use it.). I take vitamin D3 supplements (despite being a ginger). I see a therapist. Not always successfully, I try to  watch my diet, exercise, and sleep habits.

Sometimes it seems like treating my dysthymia is like playing whack-a-mole. You feel really good about yourself for all that animal abuse you’ve just inflicted because damnit, you knocked them down! Then, in a moment of weakness or inattention, you let one slip. This gets you down. Then, all those other moles you thought you’d shoved sufficiently back into their holes come rushing back out. Anyway, my analogy is wearing thin. Just think of this blog as one of my mallets.

The inspiration to start this blog actually came from a post from the great Coping with Depression blog by Erin Schulthies and Jennifer Tazzi. The post discusses coping with depression while you’re unemployed. I’m fortunate to have never been unemployed, but the post got me thinking how much I’ve relied on my employment to distract me from my underlying mental illness. I’ll go into that further in a future post, but I thought it might be interesting to start a blog exploring the interaction between dysthymia and employment. My identity is almost inextricably linked to my job in a not terribly healthy way. I’m not sure I fully know who I am independent of the job I’m doing at any particular time. There’s an interplay between my job and my mental illness that I think is worth exploring, and I’d imagine I’m not the only person for whom that’s true.

There are so many good depression blogs out there. The aforementioned Coping with Depression. Erin Schulthies’ other blog Daises and Bruises. Douglas Cootey’s A Splintered Mind about overcoming depression and ADHD. The sadly silent-of-late Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Many more that I’m failing to mention. Hopefully, I can contribute a few new ideas to the mix, or at least think through some ideas for my own treatment process. In future posts, I hope to explore a lot of things: the work versus home persona, jobs and identity, who and how to tell about your illness, the dangers of “natural” remedies, the interplay of depression and atheism, how workplace leave and health insurance policies affect mental health treatment, and more. We’ll see how far I get.