Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mood Watch - 42

From October 31 through November 5 I was on the road again, this time for a brief research trip combined with attendance at the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association, which has a deserved reputation as one of the more pleasant conferences in the historical profession. Unlike my previous trips, I had no responsibilities that put me in the public eye, I made sure to rest and relax more often, and I had a thoroughly good time. It was almost like a vacation. I returned to Columbus, still in good spirits, and had exactly three more good days. Then I fell into one of the blackest depressions I can recall.

This particular episode lasted about six days. As usual its onset and departure were abrupt. But it felt existential rather than biochemically based, and the very fact of its occurrence exploded the hypothesis that the connection between travel and follow-on depression was principally a function of adrenalin, stress and fatigue. In fact, it plainly points back to an earlier hypothesis, namely that the travels are good for me, and my return from them necessarily involves returning to an environment I do not like and which both my therapist and psychiatrist have warned me for years is a “toxic” environment that, in their view, is heavily complicit in the depressions. Which is to say it plays a significant role in both their frequency and severity.

This is actually good news, I suppose, because it gives me something external to address, instead of supposing that it’s all biochemical and therefore beyond my reach except through pharmacology. The trick, however, is going to be finding a constructive way to address the problem. But I’ll think of something.

To repeat a point made earlier, isn’t exactly easy to set down these thoughts in a forum that anyone with an Internet connection can read. I would imagine that while some people consider it courageous, others consider it self absorbed or even exhibitionist. I wish I didn’t care what people think, but I do. And so writing these entries is often a matter of just gritting my teeth and doing it. Still, emails like this one underscore the fact that I’m performing a needed service. I received it at the end of October, and am sharing it with the writer’s permission:

I just wanted to take a moment to respond to your most recent posts. I’ve been through two periods of depression / anxiety (about 3-6 days each) since moving out to ______, and I wanted to say that reading your post helped me to feel something — “better” or “more normal,” I guess, for lack of a different word at present.

While I obviously wouldn’t wish depression on you, I’m glad that you shared your thoughts. Additionally, I noted your post from 9/21 and frankly, I hope that you decide not to discontinue the blog. It seems like your decision towards openness, including the blog, has made a difference to a number of people (myself included), and I hope that it has brought you more peace and strength than you’re aware of.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.