I have manic-depression.
(left open because hey, it’s the Web, and there’s others out there with this problem)
Depression is something I’ve just lived with most of my life.
There’s days when it’s extreme, when it affects my entire brain. That’s when my mental map ability short-circuits, when I can’t visualize the streets of L.A., when I can barely go on autopilot to my next destination.
There’s days when it saps my energy, and my hope, and I start binge eating in a desperate attempt to gain a temporary high or temporary energy from food. Or even just to have the comfort of eating something like ice cream. This is how I gained that fifteen pounds this fall.
On top of all this, I seem to have a blood sugar condition – not hypoglycemia, but close – where I just have a whacked out insulin production monitor. I shake if I put too much insulin inducing food into my system. Wheat is a big one – white flour and bread. But processed sugars, the kind found in commercial food, also jack my blood sugar, leave me queasy and grumpy and unable to focus.
I’ve learned in the last couple years to tie in what I’m eating with the chemicals in my brain. That’s put me well ahead of where I was a few years ago, when depression would run and ruin my life. But I’m not yet to the point where I have both sides of the system conquered. So when something bad happens, I eat, and then my blood sugar chemistry shifts, and it’s almost impossible for me to get back out from under the circle, to get the strength and energy to stop eating, adjust, and get my energy back to the point where I can deal with the mental side of things.
The flip side of all this is, of course, mania. I run in extreme manic a few times a year, times when I get stuff done. Like last week’s room decoration. I won’t need to eat, so I’ll go on diets to take advantage of it. I’ll hit the gym like crazy. I’ll bounce off walls and refuse to sleep. I’ll write like crazy, pounding out chapters of novels, short stories, journal entries.
But mania’s far less prevalent in me than depression. Mania, after all, is pure chemicals, but depression has to do with my soul. Depression is tied to my spirit, my beliefs, my hope. Mania is just a surge of energy.
I guess the point of all this is – I ran in manic last weekend. I redid my room, shopped like crazy, partied, and danced cold sober at LaDiDah.
I crashed on Thursday. Wall, crash. So I went for food – for malitol sweetened chocolate. Which, apparently, still has bad effects on me. So when I had a bad day at work, it compounded, and by the end of Thursday night, I was devouring a pint of faux-ice cream.
Friday was better – until there was pizza and sugar involved. By then, I wanted the temporary fix of the white flour in the pizza, of the sugar in the cookies and chocolate lying around my office. I wanted the quick energy boost and comfort – and of course, that made everything ten times worse.
I’m still bad because I haven’t really stopped yet. I know what’s wrong, and intellectually, I know it’s self-defeating to continue the pattern. But I keep telling myself, I’ll stop. Soon. I’ll detox, I’ll get back on it, I’ll get my strength and energy back as soon as I finish this cheese or this bread or this organic chocolate. Extra apples, cheese popcorn – none of it junk food, exactly, but none of it conducive to the idea of ever losing weight.
Happiness is self-perpetuating. I’m happiest when I’m on a diet that keeps my brain chemistry in order, my insulin levels down, and gives me hope that someday, I’ll have enough fat off to be able to take full advantage of the looks I was born with.
Sadness, however, despair and low energy, is also hard to stop.
I suppose the bright side is that now I can make these connections. Now I know what’s wrong, and I can force myself to stop the patterns, break the habits, end the circles. I’m not ever going to hit depths again like I did in Dallas or Seattle, lows during which I wouldn’t leave the house, except to get food.
And that’s why I’ve been quiet lately: this is what’s happened this week, and I can’t write when I crash.
I think sometimes about going back on medications, on antidepressants, but what would that do to my spirit? To me, it’s an insult to G-d to use chemicals to change who I am. I was born with this for a reason, I believe, so that I could learn to get past it. I was made with this flaw so that I could use it to develop the spirituality and hope that will pull me through the depression. If I have to teach myself the strength and the self-discipline to control my internal chemical processes, and I have to develop the faith to keep my brain in balance, then that is what makes me a stronger person, and that is what I’m meant to do. To go on medication to survive this would be the easy way out.
Then again, I do have to exist in America in 2004, and when these things affect my work, my job, my life, it’s hard to have the time and energy to NOT think seriously about drugs as a way to get past conditions that are not only not going away, but are taking New and Interesting Forms as I get older.
I guess this is what I’m going through right now, and it’s why I’m planning to take next weekend off in the wilderness to think about it. I’ll go camping, recalibrate my brain, and hopefully be able to cope a little better when I come back. I can’t fix everything in a weekend, but by removing myself from everything around me, I might be able to get a jump start.