It’s been a while.
And, honestly, it’s been pretty hard to get back into the practice of posting. I suppose I could blame the obvious villain–after all, whose life hasn’t been irrevocably affected by the global pandemic? It damn near killed Puckaweekend 2020, after all. But the pandemic hasn’t stopped me from going to Puckaway and working on projects. I just haven’t wanted to write about it anymore.
I’ve dealt with depression to some degree ever since adolescence, but I’d like to think that I have a pretty good handle on it and that I can logically argue it down when I can feel it mounting an assault. I love my family and friends. I live for my boys. I still experience joy, pride, satisfaction, genuine laughter, awe, and real smiles. I feel deeply connected to my closest friends and my family (pets, too, for that matter). When it’s great, it’s really great, and I’m very thankful for that.
The problem is, my depression is atypical with a capital A. Yeah, that’s actually a thing. And it’s a mixed blessing of a (self-)diagnosis. When picturing depression personified, I’d always think of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Someone defined by sadness, unswayable in their gloom by the events around them. So for a long time, I figured I wasn’t dealing with depression. I’m a goofy guy. I use humor to deal with conflict and crises. And it’s pretty easy to cajole me out of a funk with some jokes or just a good hangout. If I can giggle at a stupid pun, how could I be depressed?
I’m a goof, but I’m also a very analytical person. I like to believe I can think my way through (or around) most problems. Luckily for me, I’m usually right. I went down an internet rabbit hole one evening researching mood disorders and I stumbled across an article about Atypical Depression that really resonated with me. It’s a helluva read available at NCBI and originally published by the medical journal Psychiatry MMC that lays out the details of Atypical Depression, particularly how it compares to standard (or “Melancholic”) Depression. One of the defining characteristics of this variant is that sufferers maintain “mood reactivity,” which is to say you can still react favorably and genuinely to positive events.
For years, I dismissed Depression out of hand because I could still be happy, at least sometimes. I would focus my efforts on living in the moment, appreciating the good moments while I was experiencing them. But when my depression was at its strongest, that just felt like running from one fast-burning candle to the next, desperately seeking a source of light and warmth in an otherwise cold and dark expanse.
I bristle at seeking help in just about any aspect of my life. I try to take care of my own problems whenever I can. I’m not sure if that’s nature or nurture, but you can draw a straight line from Richie to me (catching my mom along the way) in either case. So I mostly kept my thoughts and opinions about my broken brain to myself. If I could feel happy–regularly, at that–then how could I be depressed? Why do I default to feeling bad unless something good is happening to distract me?
Those questions haunted me for years. I have a loving, supported partner. My parents have always been there for me. My two boys fill me with light and joy. I couldn’t ask for better friends. My truck is fun. And, of course, I’ve got Puckaway. I loved everything about my life except for me.
A few years ago, it became too much to bear. I’ve never felt suicidal (in fact, it’s a big fear of mine that if I share my depressive tendencies with a professional that they’ll think I’m a risk to myself or others and take away my family), but my depression seemed to manifest itself physically. I was constantly exhausted and just wanted to lie down as soon as I’d come home from work. I looked into our insurance and found a therapist I could afford. I started going once a week.
In the months that followed, things got quite a bit better. I got some fresh perspective on how harshly I appraise myself vs how I treat the people I love. I don’t think I actually started liking myself more, but at least I started to give myself a little credit.
I stopped going after a little under a year of weekly appointments because I was genuinely feeling better and thought CBT had run its course. Fast-forward another year, and I was back to feeling exhausted all the time again. This time it was more frustrating than ever, because I knew I had all the understanding I needed to get past my hang-ups. I just lacked the tools.
For someone who likes getting buzzed, I’m paradoxically paranoid about trusting prescription drugs to regulate my brain chemistry. Based on friends’ experiences with SSRIs, I was afraid to try. I didn’t want to have to bulldoze the peaks of happiness to fill in the pits of despair. I didn’t want to be a zombie. But I had to do something. So I made an appointment with my primary care doc, scored ALARMINGLY on their depression survey, and left with an Rx to Escitalopram.
It could be argued that finally getting over that hurdle and admitting I needed outside help itself was a catalyst for change, but I swear the pills had an immediate and profound effect. I didn’t emotionally flatline. I just gained a new, internal superpower. Suddenly, I could stop feeling shitty on command.
Do any reading on the topic and you’ll see lots of advice for how to frame your depression so you can get a handle on it. A popular suggestion is to personify it, to try to separate your darker thoughts and doubts as something coming from an outside source. I had been doing that for years already, cyclical arguments in my head going back and forth like a very boring form of schizophrenia. But now, thanks to the pills, I could tell my depression to shut up and it would listen!
That was almost two years ago. I still struggle with this shit every day, but at least it’s easier now. Manageable. Ignorable. And I can get back to living my life without being stuck in my head, trying to convince myself I’m doing a piss-poor job of it.
So I’m gonna try. I can’t promise to fill the backlog like I used to when I’d get a post or three behind. I doubt I’ll be able to cover the two year posting gap with backdated log entries passed off as if they were written at the time. But I’ll fill in the blanks and cover the big stuff. And there’s been some BIG stuff. Hank, our new pooch, now roams the Puckalands. The boys have a gas-powered ATV to call their own. Jake’s taken up the mantle of Lawnmower Man at home and at Puckaway. We’ve got a brand-new structure: the Puckaway Antenna Tower. Photo and video options have opened exponentially with my recent purchase of a proper drone. We’ve got ANOTHER brand-new structure, a 20′ shipping container, to help empty out the shack and eventually serve as overflow storage for the pole barn as I clear out the back half to turn it into a bunkhouse.
I’ve had versions of this post bouncing around my skull for a long time. I’ve even started drafting a few times only to discard it later. But I’ll keep this one out here. The internet at large is full of stories about people battling their demons, vanquishing them, telling inspiring stories, and helping others along. My little journey isn’t about to join the best of those, but it’s out there now. It’s honest and genuine, and I can now put this shit to bed. I can spend my mental energy on things I enjoy rather than things that consume me.
I’m heading up to Puckaway tonight to drop off some supplies for a project I’ll start tomorrow. And I’m hoping to have a real post to push this off the front page soon enough.
And I’m ok.
Let’s get some work done, shall we?