Another Christmas Season, Another Depression Diagnosis

by Bill Brenner on December 3, 2012

Though I’ve made peace with the demons that left me hating Christmas for many years, I’m still easy prey for winter depression. Last week, after asking me lots of questions and taking lots of notes, my shrink told me what I already knew: I’m once again clinically depressed.

Mood music:

[spotify:track:0feXvJJWws7RDvC0kHfbLr]

When most people hear the word depression, they immediately think of someone who is sad, anguished and afraid to leave the house. In the more extreme cases, death becomes an appealing option for ending the pain. I’ve never been suicidal, but I have experienced the other things in my day.

This depression isn’t like that at all, however.

I’m not sad. I’m not anguished. I’m not even in a bad mood (as I write this, anyway). I feel incredibly blessed every day. I’m in love with my wife, kids and extended family. I immensely enjoyed decorating the Christmas tree yesterday. I recently described this state of mind as happy depression.

In my case, being clinically depressed means three things:

  • I’m tired a lot.
  • I’m forgetful to the point where my wife wants to club me at least once a day.
  • I’m experiencing fluctuations in appetite. That used to result in days and weeks of binge eating. This time it’s a lack of appetite. Frequently at meal time, I’m simply not interested.

For some species, seasonal depression isn’t even considered depression. If you’re a bear, for example, it’s simply time to hibernate for the winter. I guess that makes me part bear, because that’s essentially how I am these days. My body says it’s time to hibernate. But humans don’t get to curl up in a warm cave until spring.

I still have parenting to do, a job to do, family to attend to. And so I do. I just do it in a messy, disorganized fashion this time of year.

To some extent, this is something I have to accept. My family has to accept it to. It’s a medical condition, and you can’t just flip a switch and turn the light back on. I can, however, minimize it. I’m going to get my meds adjusted now instead of halfway through winter. I’m also going to build a routine to use all the new present-awareness tools I acquired during my recent mindfulness-based stress-reduction class.

I meditated this morning for the first time in a couple weeks, and it did make a difference. At the least I started the work day in a calm enough mental state to plow ahead with work.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Christmas Lights

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn Hoff December 3, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Bill,

I discovered your blog a few weeks ago and I look forward to your new posts. So much of what you say resonates with me and makes me feel less alone. Thanks for putting all this out there. It takes courage and I admire you for it.

Lynn

Fred December 5, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thanks. I appreciate your insight. After a few years of study and internship I am embarking on a career in clinical counseling. I have been diagnosed with dysthymia, and appreciate your first-hand account of this (and OCD, which is how I first found your blog). I imagine the writing is therapeutic, no?
Thanks for your desire to share.

Penny December 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Hang tight my friend. I’ve been absent (health issues, a stroke, two surgeries, and just trying to cope). It’s good to be on what I perceive as the upswing and I hope time and circumstances will be kind and gentle, and that you will be as well as you can be.

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