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Depression and Feedback Loops.

20 September 2012

I know I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from occasional bouts of depression. They’ve never been excessively severe, though I have been diagnosed with “Major Depression” in the past. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, depression was an essentially constant companion. I remember, when I was 14, coming to the conclusion that in a conversation, it took someone four minutes to decide they didn’t like me. In a new group endeavor, four days. I don’t remember how I chose those numbers, but the concept has followed me in the back of my mind ever since. Whenever it seems like people are not appreciating my contributions, I return to this.

Depression seems to exhibit itself in me as a strong desire to isolate myself. Fantasies of leaving things behind without telling anyone. Anger. Resentment. Petulance. And a powerful compulsion towards self-destruction. I fantasize about cutting, mostly. And I’ll catch morbid mantras in my head. The latest has been, “My life would be much better if I weren’t in it.” Back when I used to cut, I used to tell myself, over and again: “Love the pain.” In fact, I still use that one. I just use it when I’m running. Long ago, it was: “Death is faster.” Faster than what? It was never clear.

I did, like so many do, treat my depression with alcohol. Because I’m an addict, that didn’t work so well for me. And alcohol is a depressant. Treating depression with alcohol is like treating drowning with lead. I suspect one of the reasons for the incredible renaissance of aspect that occurs for so many in early sobriety, which is often called the “pink cloud”, is that we have stopped flooding our brains with a depressant chemical. But of course, I don’t know the science of it.

I see a psychiatrist every other month for management of my depression. I’m not taking any medicine at the moment. From time to time I’ve taken an SSRI, and they seem to work well enough. But I don’t like how they make me feel. It’s very difficult to describe. Everything becomes memory-foam soft and moss-covered. It’s true that I don’t feel as depressed when I take them. Nor am I creative, or insightful. But I will take them intermittently if things get too bad. I feel like I’m currently approaching that point. I may need to run a course of anti-depressants to unwind the loop I’m in.

There are a lot of feedback loops in mental illness. Consuming a substance, for an addict, triggers a craving for the substance. This leads to dependency, desolation, and eventually death. In depression, I will recruit anything I have handy into the fantasies I have about being unwanted, useless, and unwelcome. My blog traffic is down. Clearly, I’m not writing interesting things. Whether I write about sobriety or science, people just don’t seem to read this as much. I have never generated the traffic that so many other places seem to.

I’ve recently been violating some of my own rules about political interactions on twitter. My rules are simple, when it comes to political and controversial interactions. I have to be able answer yes three times to the question: “Does this need to be said, right now, by me?” If I can’t answer yes three times, I’m supposed to let it pass. I haven’t been doing that. And as a result, I’ve been getting into situations where I come off as a jerk, because I don’t keep my commentary properly circumspect. I’ve been advised by friends that although it’s obvious I’m not being malicious, I’m coming off as an ass. And I appreciate that warning. Because I suck enough at social situations when I’m actually present. On twitter, where I can’t judge tone and facial expression, I’m nearly hopeless.

Isolation is a feedback loop for my depression. The more time I spend alone, the more I feel unworthy of spending time with others. I’ve been doing things that are actually a little more social; I see a trainer in a gym instead of just running. I’ve been going out with friends for dinners and to coffee shops to work on weekends. This weekend there’s a potluck AA meeting at a friend’s house. But these paltry gestures as sociality are insufficient, at the moment, to salvage my overbearing sense of uselessness and separateness.

At parties, I always end up sitting alone, watching people talk. I don’t know how to do it. That’s what the AA potluck is going to be like too. And then, the party is recruited into confirmation of my sense of otherness. Even though I’ve tried to be social, I’ve failed again. It’s lonelier to be in a room full of people who don’t give a shit I’m there (or who wish I weren’t) than it is to be in a house by myself. I’m feeling similarly about twitter at the moment. It’s lonelier than not being there.

I’m mostly sure this is all internal. But I’m not certain.

One of the stable structures in dynamical systems is the periodic orbit. If you have a weight on a spring, and set it bouncing, and plot the position of the weight against its speed, you get a perfect circle. This is a periodic orbit. In the real world, with each bounce, some energy is lost. The circle contracts. And as a contracting circle is plotted against time, it forms a spiral.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Mona permalink
    20 September 2012 09:13

    When you’re not socializing online in your usual way, your absence is immediately noticeable, and we miss you! I hope you can get through this tough period soon.

  2. 20 September 2012 10:08

    Keep talking. You are loved.

  3. 20 September 2012 12:42

    sorry, bro. This will pass, it always does.

  4. 20 September 2012 13:02

    With deadlines looming I haven’t had as much time to be on Twitter lately but when I have been I have noticed a lack of @dr24hours. It’s easy to isolate and ruminate, not easy to talk about it. This time of year I have to increase my vitamin D intake, sleep a little more, and use my sun lamp in the mornings to keep me from falling down that hole. Talk to your doc, take the pills if you need to, and know we’re all here for you. *hugs*

  5. eddiered permalink
    20 September 2012 17:41

    Thanks a lot for your post. I can definitely identify with for words about loneliness. I have 8 years of sobriety and can still at times be uncomfortable in my skin and feel out of place around people who are supposed to be my peers. The difference today is that I do have quality friends and I am able to go places in which I would normally not be comfortable and still feel okay. I try not to take things personally and try not to expect people to treat me a certain way…because they generally don’t and when I do set expectations I am setting myself up to be hurt. My perception also changed when I realized that I am not alone and that almost everybody else has had feelings just like mine. We can be so selfish at times. I got help from a place called New Life House. Check out their site if you are looking for help. New Life House – A Structured Sober Living

  6. sydlaughs permalink
    21 September 2012 19:29

    I hope that the feeling of loneliness will abate. I understand being in a room full of people and not fitting in. But I’m taking the plunge now and have done that in the past. I’ve also learned that those feelings are not necessarily factual or real. It’s my perception of what others might be thinking. I’ve found that blog traffic increases when there is reciprocation.

  7. DrLizzyMoore permalink
    24 September 2012 17:44

    Your blog traffic might be down because school started back and your peeps are busy….also some of us had offspring followed by complications and we haven’t been reading much of anything for a while (for example).

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