I have spoken about depression, addiction, drugs and alcohol abuse, prison, and my mainstream writing tends to shy away from all of that. Still, there are non-fiction books I have authored that do address the realities of life for me. This isn’t a book plug however, but a descriptive explanation of my depression, person to person.
In the book Addiction, I think I started out by saying that suicide was an option I tried more than once, and it was. And having lived on the streets, met other kids and adults that have lived on the streets I found my experiences were not unique.
I have had relationships with men and women who have suffered from depression as well, some who fought it with drugs, Cocaine, Speed, Meth and any number of other things and of course alcohol of all sorts and quantities: And others who went the prescription route.
I always nodded my head in the old days and said stupid things like ‘To each his own‘ when speaking about depression and how to deal with it, or ‘Hey, that is your business, not mine.‘ And I believed that: Really though, it is pushing someone away who may be asking for help. I mean when someone actually brings up depression or drug, or alcohol addictions they aren’t doing it to keep you informed. They are doing it because they are afraid of it. They know it is destructive. They know it will eventually get them, kill them, cause destruction in their lives or those around them and, maybe not even knowing they are asking, they are asking for help, because if they weren’t you would never hear about: One day they would die, overdose, wind up in prison, and you would say to yourself: Never had a clue.
I don’t do that any longer. I listen. My circle is small but I care about the people in it. I’m not afraid to offer encouragement, pray, ask how things are going, and if asked offer advice and or direction based on my own life experience. And, I had to admit a few years ago, do the things for myself that I should do, and that meant possibly take something to help if need be.
When I came home from prison, life was not ideal. My last six months inside were spent flat on my stomach after some bad spine surgeries to remove spinal growths that went bad. So, all the years of workouts were gone and heart disease that had been there all along stepped in and I had to deal with a less than ideal return home.
I also came home to my mother, uncle and aunt and a house I had purchased to put them in that had had no work done for all those years I had been gone. And my Uncle had cancer and was dying.
You think you have troubles and you step out of prison to responsibilities you didn’t have to deal with for years. The things I had planned were gone just like that. I jumped into home repairs and taking care of my uncle, a man who had got me off the streets and most likely saved my life as a kid by doing that.
Time passed, the depression I had battled my whole life with came back, but the pace of my life kept it at bay well enough that I could deal with it without being afraid I would go back to drinking or drugging.
Time passed, my uncle grew worse, required constant care and then died one evening with several of us around him. Shortly after that my aunt got sick, also cancer: She passed too, and then life slowed down and I found I could not get my strength back. Then I suffered a heart attack and had two more stents put in, then six months later another heart attack, and yet another, and a stroke, and life changed dramatically. I found myself having a triple bypass, seven hours of surgery where they actually removed my heart, worked on it, put it back in, and Frankensteined me.
The heart surgery went bad and the depression came home to roost. So I spoke to my GP and my Cardiologist, and they suggested Prozac, to which I replied, ‘No, that stuff doesn’t work and everyone knows it.’
I was surprised at my own prejudice of it. I have a sister who is convinced it causes more harm than good, and an ex-wife who tried it, seemed to me to get much better, but felt it changed her into someone else. I don’t know who, but I have to say I liked that other person more than the one that went off the rails now and then, cried for no reason, seemed always depressed, you know, the same things I found myself doing during my life that led me to be so callous and suicidal and anti-social, and fond of speed and alcohol.
It is funny how much better we can get and how we can still judge others for the same things we fail, or failed at. That was me. So, I went back to the GP and said ‘Okay, I’ll try it, and I’m sorry if I sounded like an asshole.’ He’s a doctor, he has met other addicts (Yes, he knows I’m an addict, and about my time in prison: If you want real help you better be honest with your doc.). So he was gracious in accepting my apology and moving forward with a prescription.
So I began and it did nothing I could feel. After a month, he doubled the dose, and for that next month things seemed to get a little better. I didn’t think about drinking every day as I had been, but I still had some terrible days, so he upped the dosage once again.
The next month was one of the best in my drug-free-life. No, it wasn’t all happiness, but the depression lifted a long way, and I was able to deal with life, and most importantly I hadn’t felt as though I needed a drink or a bump to be okay. Then I had a few dreams in a row that were really realistic, and within a week or so those types of dreams, dreams that actually seemed so real that in the dream you thought they were, moved in to stay. Every night I had those dreams, and they began to bug me.
Back to the GP who said, ‘Yes, that is a side effect, and so if it really bothers you we can lower the dose or stop it completely, and try something else.’
I opted to lower the dosage to the minimum, but within a few weeks I found myself slipping back into a dark hole. I don’t know about your experience with depression, and drugs or alcohol, but mine was just like that: Steep climbs to happiness with enough alcohol or speed, and then a sharp fall to very deep depression when I couldn’t stay medicated or bury enough pain. The scariest feeling I had ever felt was not living on the streets, not fights in alleys as a kid, not rides in cars, not 10 years of prison, but that slide down into depression and wondering what the hell I was going to have to do to get back up, or if this might be the time I couldn’t get up.
So I decided I could live with the dreams. After all, they weren’t nightmares, they were just vivid realistic, oddball dreams, and apparently happened to some Prozac users, nothing else weird was happening, so I went back to the previous higher dosage.
It’s been about three years now and the depression is under control still. Do I get depressed? Sure, everyone does, but that is the key. It is normal stuff. Stuff I can handle. Stuff I can deal with without drugs or alcohol. The dreams are still there, they are not life threatening, or too off the hook. Never had voices in my head and still don’t.
My health is leveled out. My heart is bad, and I often joke they must have put it back in upside down. I declined further heart surgery, and later tests precluded anymore heart surgeries anyway. I deal with stuff everyone else deals with, and the depression that has been with me forever is still there, but it doesn’t rule my life. Am I me? Is it doing something to alter my brain? Brain chemistry? Yes for sure on the last, I doubt it for the rest.
I’m alive, I’m not drugging or drinking, and I’m not locked up, and I’m dealing with life. If this helped you at all then it was worth writing. Treat yourself well, make time for you, take care of yourself, Dell…