The Tiger Pits of Depression

One of the greatest challenges I have with the way my brain is hard-wired is that I’m pre-disposed to getting depressed. It’s practically a daily occurrence to a greater or lesser degree. For the most part, I can handle it before it sucks the life out of me. Those are nice quicksand days–I can feel it creeping up and I have plenty of time to deal with it.

Then there are days like today, where it’s a tiger pit that just gives way beneath an otherwise good day. The only thing I generally hope for is that there’s big huge spikes at the bottom, something that I can really react to, get angry about, and thus pull myself out of the pit with that. But that’s rare. Most tiger-pit days, I’m just suddenly DOWN and I can’t do a damned thing to save my life. What’s worse, I have very little motivation to even save my life.

Good thing I’m a sentient and reasonably intelligent person and now have a clue what’s wrong with me, instead of just feeling suicidal without knowing why.

Still, with a tiger-pit day, it’s hard to get back to anything I was doing before. Part of my mind is chewing on why I’m suddenly in the tiger-pit. I look on the happenings: I finished a collaboration for COTV and sent it back for a final look-through before submission. I sat down with June and we charted out the dates for at least three COTV stories, figuring out timelines and how things interrelated. It’s a day off the Money Job, so there wasn’t any stress there. Helped a COTV author figure out how the surnames work in that world. Started playing with myths and legends based in my novel’s world. Starting typing in the handwritten notes for a different COTV story. I’m having some very frustrating problems with the laptop’s touch pad, and frustration I can’t overcome can lead to depression, but I’ve been dealing with that for days now.

Nope. No finding the reason by listing. Either it’s a combination of all kinds of small things or it could be one of those Aspie brain-farts that I hate so much that sent me over the edge. This only really matters so I have a chance of recognizing the trap before stepping in it next time.

Then the question becomes: What to do about it?

First thing is to acknowledge that I’m just not going to be productive anymore until I feel better. Doesn’t matter what needs doing, it’s not getting done. Simple fact. No guilt-tripping allowed. There it is, get on with other stuff.

As long as I can rile just the smallest iota of not being happy in the pit, I’ve got a chance to pull myself out quickly instead of it lingering for days, weeks, or longer. That’s not usually as hard as the next step: I’ve got to find something, anything, to focus on besides feeling down. That’s really the hardest part, ’cause nothing works every time and sometimes nothing seems to work immediately.

Generally, I look to June for help with that. She’s been my best friend for over 25 years now, so we know each other very well. We created COTV together, so there’s all kinds of character plans to get excited about. Sometimes, she wants to talk about the latest physics book she read (she does that for fun–reading Michio Kaku like some people read Harlequin romances) that she thinks is wow-cool! Not that I care that much about physics, but her high energy level helps a lot. It’s hard to be down in a tiger-pit when the person on the other end of your lifeline is heading for the far reaches of the solar system, y’know?

Sometimes I watch political commentary shows to get out of the funk. Politics seems to be so filled with moronic people lately (and as an Aspie, I can get truly judgmental when people are doing things I disagree with), just so I’ll get upset and start yelling at the television. Again–angry and outrage are quick ladders out of an emotional tiger-pit. Hard to stay down when angry boils up.

Sometimes I bury myself in music. I have a playlist called “Happy Tape”. For years, I’ve made collections (first on cassette tapes, then CDs and now playlists) where I collect the songs that make me smile, laugh, tap my toes, and want to sing along. (It seems there’s something about the wiring of the autistic brain — Asperger’s is in the Autism Spectrum — that responds well to music, which I didn’t know back in the day, but used instinctively.) Anyway, my last-ditch effort is to put on headphones and just play the “Happy Tape” until I start singing along. When I’m singing along, I’m feeling better.

Sometimes it takes a combination of all of this. Sometimes all it takes is a really good night’s sleep. Sometimes, it just takes a really good cry. I never really know what’s going to work until I’ve gotten myself up again.

The one important thing I’ve learned in my life, though, is that for all that it’s easy to fall into and sometimes difficult to get out of, depression is something that is part of my life. It’s not a happy thing, but like anything else, the more I know about it, the better I handle it. It’s not as frightening as it has been in the past. I no longer slide down to the suicidal depths.

All that doesn’t negate the fact that depression sucks Gibraltar through a bar straw, though.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Depression. Oy. I have it, too. Most days to some extent. I must say your “Happy Tape” method works nicely for me as well. I just need to sing, like, LOUD SINGING. I go to Amanda Palmer a lot, because she mixes rock tunes with anger. Voila. Escape from the tiger pit. Yet, sometimes we can’t, and I’m not an authority, but I find wallowing can be good sometimes. Wallowing in your own down-ness, curled up on a couch. Because usually, the next day is better, and sometimes, we deserve a wallow. Ya know?

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  2. Yeah, singing LOUD is a very good thing here too. Not that I have a decent voice, but I enjoy it. Lifts the spirits. I have a lot of songs from Broadway soundtracks, personally. Something about having that extra story behind them just really helps.

    I have to be careful about the wallowing part. I’ve found the more that I wallow, the deeper the pit. Too long can be a matter of hours, not days, so it’s not something I can really indulge in. Been there, done that, gave away the t-shirt, y’know? Just the way my mind is wired. Glad it works for you, though.

    Reply
  3. Tiger pit is a really apt metaphor. Some periods of my life have been worse for this than others. My husband helps me the way your friend June helps you. I’ll walk up to him and say, “These are the messages I’m hearing in my head. Help me figure out that they’re lies.” (I don’t mean schizophrenic voices, mind you. Just the negative self-talk we all get.) And sometimes I just curl up with the dog to get a “Smokey hug” for five or ten minutes. Taking a walk, either outside or on the treadmill, helps too.

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