Though depression is a serious and debilitating disease, it can become manageable with drug treatment and therapy. In the process, there can be a reckoning of sorts for sufferers, and perhaps a bit of relief on occasion. In this essay, Skip Corsini, a writer who has dealt with depression on a lifelong basis, reveals some unforeseen benefits for the estimated 19 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the disorder, a view from the lighter side.
Come on friends, give it up for depression sufferers everywhere. We need a break from the news about Barret Robbins, some relief from the constant threats of war and terrorism, and a vacation from this lousy economy. We also need new ways to cope with our disease.
For fun, let us look at this logically. If we assume that there is an enjoyable side to almost everything, and since depression is one thing and therefore a small subset of almost everything, by inference via modus ponnens we can say with assurance that there is a fun side to depression, too. As you can see, depressives can reason.
In general, we depression sufferers don’t think our disorder is any fun at all. When the world is one large gray mass of indecision and hopelessness, the last thing you’d say is that you’re having a great time. It isn’t a blast to oversleep, under eat, and be miserable.
But it is also true that there are things associated with depression that can brighten one’s day a little bit and generate some rarely felt notions of good mental health and wholeness. For one thing, we are not alone in the torment department. We are in the same boat as Mike Wallace, William Styron, Halle Berry, Winston Churchill, Ted Turner, Boris Yeltsin, Tipper Gore, and Paul Simon (the musician, not the senator, though they both look the part), creative people and depression sufferers all. That’s not a bad list.
Let’s take a look at medication. I am on a daily dosage of 300mg of Nefazodone (brand name Serzone) and 200mg of Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin). Nefazodone has a few a side effects, like all serotonin enhancers do, such as liver dysfunction, sleepiness, nausea, and constipation. It is suggested that I call my physician if I experience irregular heartbeat, skin rash, and seizures. How to make a coherent phone call during a seizure is a challenge I have not had to face, yet. Plus, you can’t drink alcohol while using the drug, and your sex drive and ability to achieve orgasm are seriously impaired.
Bupropion’s side effects are similarly daunting. There are increased sweating (more laundry), anxiety, blurred vision, fatigue, appetite loss and palpitations with which to contend. Heavy drinkers who suddenly stop using alcohol (or other tranquilizers) while taking this drug have an increased risk for seizures.
For both drugs we have to be careful about any other substances we use, to make sure there are no negative drug interactions.
Now for the good news. Some of these side effects end up balancing out, to the good. I drink no more than a glass of wine per month so there is no need to cut back. Peace of mind achieved in that regard. I now have an excuse for being such an incredible sleepy head. Pressure to get up is off. I have no appetite so my apparent lack of desire to exercise daily is in balance. Middle-aged weight worries are greatly diminished.
With regard to sex, there is a scientific correlation between my lack of desire and my wife’s decreased intake of headache remedies. She has fewer opportunities to reject the advances of a graying, balding, 52-year-old father of four who is, let’s be polite, in between lucrative careers. Some catch.
Having to buy less Tylenol is money in the bank. Incredibly delayed orgasm means I don’t waste so much time masturbating, since it is beyond frustration even to “play” once in a while. This translates to more time to read and write, which I have found are more, ah, stimulating. I make more money as a depressed writer than those who are just normal, frustrated writers, because you know what they turn to, besides heavy drinking, when they have writer’s block.
In addition, the pills I take are brightly colored and easy to distinguish. They are fun to look at, since they are basically saving my life, and there is virtually no danger of missing doses or taking overdoses. I respect my meds and the people who prescribe them for me. This probably benefits the medical profession in general, at a time when its members are under more heat than ever for their various shortcomings.
Once a week I visit a therapist and once a month a psychiatrist, so I have two new friends in my life, whose jobs are to do their best to understand me and help me lead a somewhat regular life, jobs for which anybody else would be impossible. I have outlets for my insanity; I can tell these two people what is really going on in my head. As professionals they are supposed to refrain from laughter or direct expressions of their feelings about my condition. They don’t say, for example, “man, you really are crazy and you should get out of my office,” a remark used strictly by my clients and former employers. So, I feel safe when I visit my new friends.
With depression, all is not lost, though it may seem that way. In fact, I think we treated depressives naturally find ways to recover our true selves. I used to use my sense of humor to cover up the pain of being me. In every job, in almost any situation I can think of, I have taken on the role of cheerleader, morale officer, and head of the Joke Department. It is a heavy burden and it is something we tend to do: accept responsibility for doing the impossible, to fill gaping wholes in our souls.
I don’t take on that role anymore, now that the meds and therapy have kicked in. I can be myself again, though it has been so long that I have forgotten what my real self looks like. The search is on.