Monday, April 27, 2015

Plodding down the Midnight Path

OK—here’s what I should have done: Taught my class at 8:15, gone for a three-mile walk while listening to Cristobal de Morales, eaten breakfast, written a blog post, taken the modem to Plaza las Américas (the Caribbean’s largest mall!) argued with the lady at the modem place, prevailed, come back home and clean house. Oh, somewhere along the line I would have eaten lunch, checked my email, glanced shudderingly at the news, and played an hour of Bach suites.

What have I done?

Major news—I got out of bed.

If you are saying, “why, Marc, why is getting out of bed a big deal,” then you don’t have what I have, nor do I know what I have. But Andrew Solomon, as you can see below, does a rather wonderful job of writing and describing the travelogue of depression, and his central point—that depression is not just a big sadness, but rather the absence of vitality—is very true.

Perhaps you’ll say, “and so what have you got to be depressed about,” and that’s a logical question, isn’t it? Except we’re not dealing with logic here, or even reality, or maybe we are, since it turns out that there may be something called depressive realism. Why can’t I tell you? The Internet, feeling bored, stepped out for a cigarette.

So depressive realism is the theory, and you know what? Life really does suck, and even if you’re not among the four thousand people in Nepal who are—presumably—buried under ruble, well…guess what? You’re still going to succumb to one of those deadly conditions predicated on your horrible lifestyle, sicken, and then die, leaving sorrow and grief behind you. And normal people get on with their lives and eat breakfast and teach their classes and go about their lives, but Marc? Not today, since I got obsessed with seeing a wailing Nepalese woman keening in front of the rubble that is now her house—and I only had to watch that seven or eight times before it occurred to me: The woman was half a world away, and my watching the video was doing nobody any good. So—either send some money or not, but move on!

Move on, of course, meant the local paper, which is worrying itself about 85 people arrested for prostitution. This, of course, actually proves the point about depressive realism, since what was I, depressed, worrying about? Well, from my warped / non-warped point of view, the sexual peccadilloes of 85 people are relatively unimportant, since we have until the end of the week to cough up some unthinkable sum to our creditors, and the government obviously doesn’t have the money, since it says it’s broke and will have to close in three months. Sorry, guys, but does it take little Marc to point that out?

Right, then it was time for Facebook, which I was dreading, since the marginal possibility that anybody would post anything interesting was completely surpassed by the probability that I would be presented with change of profile pictures, pray for Nepal messages, and—certainly my favorite for someone who had to force feed himself breakfast—pictures of meals relished and devoured.

OK, so then it was on to YouTube, where I looked for—hold onto your chairs, folks—videos of depression. But I had seen the BBC video, and Andrew Solomon as well, but the thing about Solomon is that he’s stiletto-sharp and very funny, and so I went along all very happily until 17:35, when the video stuck and I spent several minutes looking at the little ball spin. In fact, I probably spent a good 17:35 minutes watching the little ball spin when it eventually dawned on me: First of all, great metaphor for depression! Second, hit the refresh button. And guess what? The computer gulped, remembered what it had been saying, and went right back to it!

This, if nothing else, told me: Depression is also a cognitive disorder, since would it have taken that 17 minutes for a non-depressed man to have made that realization? Don’t think so.

So now Solomon is talking about the stigmatization of depression, which is a little crazy, since we’re all taking bucketsful of antidepressants, so it’s sort of like sex: We all do it, but nobody talks about it.

Of course, there’s another stigmatization going on, since my brother—who has failed pretty badly as father, brother and son and feels great about it, thanks!—recommended a book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, by Robert Whittaker, and here, courtesy of Amazon, is a brief summary:

Do psychiatric medications fix “chemical imbalances” in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them? Researchers spent decades studying that question, and by the late 1980s, they had their answer. Readers will be startled—and dismayed—to discover what was reported in the scientific journals.
Do I have to tell you? Simple explanation: Antidepressants change the brain nueroreceptor system radically, and patients who take them for acute episodes experience greater relapses more frequently than patients who don’t take treatment. And eventually, you end up “hooked” on the antidepressants.

Yes—apologies to Dr. Whittaker for the way over-simplification.

Well, I had read this in the months past and gotten annoyed—not with the psychiatrists who had given me these terrible drugs, but with Whittaker, since what was the message I heard? Chin up, take it like a man, stop whining and go on!

Of course, the other message is, “Get angry, get even, and sue that Harvard-educated bastard doctor who gave me the pills that pulled me out of a depression so that—on most days—I could write, teach, and even get out of bed!”

Well, I’m in this state since I announced to that doctor that my libido had flat-lined, which meant that I would have been completely happy living like a Catholic priest, since celibacy was as easy nowadays as singing in the shower. I am, however, married….

So on Saturday I had decreased my dosage of Lexapro 20 mg PO QD to Lexapro 10 mg PO QD. Sunday, I felt OK, though I did have a fight with Montalvo, who suggested that it was anal to object to his:

1. Missing the opera and
2. Arriving an hour and a half late to the dinner he had invited himself to

I had made it, three days—well, two, actually—since I knew what I had to do. So I took the extra 10 mg, waited the hour before it took effect. Then I got out of bed and sat down to write this.

Like Solomon, I have all these questions about depression and treatments and all the rest. Oddly enough, Lady is felled too, and is lying in bed, recuperating from a surgery on her ankle. So we are both sick, right?

I wish I knew. I suspect I will take the Lexapro 20 mg again tomorrow, and that I’ll feel better, and maybe even teach my class. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be strong enough for Plaza las Américas! 

What do I know?

I would ten times rather be Lady at the moment than myself.