Depression by Derek Lewis

A year ago, I wrote a post about my depression.

I had an overwhelming response. A year later, I still run into people who tell me how much my post helped them and others they knew. I am grateful and humbled.

If you missed it, the short version is that in December of 2017, I was involuntarily committed by a doctor and put on suicide watch in the ER, almost spending Christmas in a psychiatric facility. This was the result of years of untreated and under-treated depression that I’ve suffered with all of my adult life. Only in the last six years have I begun being treated, and only effectively in the last two years by Dr. Enrique Flechas at Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge. Thank God for that man.

That post was a year ago. The following eight months of 2019 were wonderful. I felt like myself. My business was thriving, my family was thriving, we fell deeper in love with God and our church…things were all-around lovely.

But things started to slide downhill in September. After realizing it—and that’s the insidious thing about depression, you don’t always recognize it for what it is—I told Dr. Flechas and we added a new medication (Buspar). My anxiety quietened down and things leveled out. I thought.

It’s like my body responds well to a new medication for a little while, and then things start sliding backwards again. We increased the dosage. It helped.

But then, as the days got shorter and gloomier, my mood began to match the weather. My mother could tell whether I was having a good day or an “off day” just by how I answered her phone calls. That is, when I answered her phone calls. Apparently, my coping mechanism for dealing with depression is withdrawal. I withdraw from my work, my family, and even myself. When I had good days, I’d go into panic mode, trying to do as much damage control as possible. It was an exhausting cycle.

Do you know what the opposite of love is? It’s not hate. Love and hate are two sides of the same coin. The opposite of love is indifference. When you don’t love someone, it doesn’t matter what happens to them or not. We’re indifferent to strangers because we don’t know them. It doesn’t matter how great or how awful of a day they had—we’re indifferent to their plight in life.

That’s what depression is. Indifference. It’s not being sad. It’s not feeling bad. It’s not feeling at all. As I wrote last year: “It’s not that I wanted to die. I just didn’t want to live.”

Now, to be clear, this depressive period is nowhere near what I used to experience. Weird as it is to say, this is the “best depressed” I’ve ever been. I still function, though at severely reduced capacity. I‘m drained physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Not as quickly, as severely, and as deadly as I used to, but all the same, it’s still there. Right before Christmas, I was finally honest with myself about how bad it was.

That’s not true. It took me losing my biggest client and realizing my remaining projects were in jeopardy for me to get honest about how not okay I still was. I’ve never lost a client before because of something I did or didn’t do. I’ve always rallied. I’ve always pulled through. Especially with how comparatively better I was, I thought this episode would be no different. That was my wake-up call that I still had miles to go.

Back to Dr. Flechas.

He kept my Buspar, along with the Cymbalta and Xanax, but switched my Inderal for 2mg of Abilify. For about four weeks, it was wonderful. I had one of the best Christmases ever.

Two weeks ago, I started sliding again.

What does “sliding” look like these days? Well, maybe it’s easier to think about a good day. On an “on” day, I’m amazing. I write for hours at a time, then hop on phone calls and mop up all the details that come with running your own business. I’m responsive, responsible, and proactive. I see what needs to be done, then put my nose to the grindstone and get it done. My productivity is amazing. I engage with my kids after school. I clean the kitchen. I pick up all the miscellaneous stuff that accumulates over the course of a day. I give my full attention to Amanda. I do honey-dos that have been lingering for months (or years). When I’m on, I’m on.

“Sliding” is when it’s an effort to do any of that. I have to force myself to make the effort. It’s not as hard to force myself these days, but it’s still not easy.

Back to Dr. Flechas.

Like I told him, this is the “best depressed” I’ve ever been. It’s definitely two steps forward, although one step back. I could live like this…but I don’t have to. I don’t want to. I want to be myself. I want to be the goofy, awesome, fun-loving, impressive man God created me to be. Anything less is living on a lesser plane of existence—and I refuse to accept that. I want to be whole.

Dr. Flechas is conservative and always wants to start me out on a low dose of anything to gauge its effectiveness as well as the potential side effects. With this visit, we increased my Abilify to 5mg.

This morning, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. At five o’clock, I realized I wasn’t going back to sleep, so I hopped out of bed, made myself some tea (I’m fasting coffee—the days of miracles are not over), read my Bible, prayed, and then went to work at six o’clock. I took care of a number of little household details, then jumped into ghostwriting. On a Saturday morning. Knocked out the rest of an author’s chapter. By 8:30, I was looking for what to do next. So I sat down and wrote this.

What’s the takeaway from all this? Depression is a journey. Like any path, it’s not straight. There are twists and turns. Sometimes it doubles back on itself. But sometimes you come over the top of a hill and glimpse a glorious sunrise, the promise of healing and wholeness.

I’m being more honest with myself. I’m being more transparent with my clients. I’m being more forgiving and understanding with myself.

Thank you all for your love, understanding, and patience. I truly hope this post helps you understand me. More importantly, I hope it helps you understand yourself and your loved ones going through something like I have.

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