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Health and Wellness

Black Dog and Me – Life With Depression

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I’ve spent over 23 years dealing with soul crushing depression. It started in 1994, and has now been affecting me for nearly 2/3rds of my life. It sucks. There have been major advances in pharmaceuticals, and yet there is no cure. Only long term treatment. Combined with undiagnosed Obstructed Sleep Apnea, and I tended to be a right jackass most of the time. My proper diagnosis is “Major Depressive Disorder” but I prefer to call it “the Black Dog.”¬† It is not a pleasant life, but its the only one I get, so I have to make the best of out running the hell-hound that is constantly on my heels.

The Black Dog and Me

I hate this stupid black dog
The Black Dog

Looking back, through photos of my youth, you can see the shift from a happy-go-lucky preteen to a constantly bummed out teenager. I guess at the time I figured it was normal, cause it was hormones and what not. My hair-trigger temper developed along that time, and I never put the two together. There are reasons why it happened, but I’m really not ready to get into that at this point in my life. The Black Dog started chasing me sometime around the summer of ’94. It’s been there as a constant boon companion ever sense. I was first diagnosed when I was in college. This being after the first time I sat in a bathroom with my dad’s .45 and debated committing suicide for the better part of three hours. In the end, I decided against it, and put the gun away.

Self-Medicating (1998-2014)

One night early in my freshman year, I had my first beer. If I recall, it was a Natural Ice. I didn’t like the taste, but the affect dulled the pain in my head. It didn’t take long until I wanted that feeling again. By my sophomore year, I was the definition of “functional alcoholic.” Bourbon was my drink of choice, and lord could I put it away. Three fines from campus public safety for Public Intoxication did not teach me a lesson, because it was a small price to pay for getting to feel normal. When I got out of college, I learned to not drink during the day. I made up for it by drinking massive quantities at night.

I would not allow myself to drink and drive. Never. It was one thing for me to try to self-harm, but I couldn’t put others in danger. I spent 11 of those years working at a Boy Scout camp. Again, when I was on the clock, I was sober as a bird. But I would let loose anytime I could. I was an angry man in those days. I treated the kids well, but I tended towards being an ass to adults and staff members. The rage was constantly bubbling inside me. That black dog was constantly at my heels, and since I couldn’t self-medicate, it made life worse.

Getting Sober and Getting Help

In 2014, my wife and I decided we wanted to have a baby. I knew, in my heart, that I could not continue the path I was on with a pregnant wife. I also knew that I didn’t want my son to see the black dog that hunted his dad as an ever present entity. So, I talked to my doctor. Experimenting with medications is the suck. Because everyone’s brain is different, there is no way to know exactly how you’re going to react to an anti-depressant. I started calling it the “science experiment stage” because frankly, there was no way to know what was going to happen. Luckily, we found a winner early on.¬† Because it is proceeded by the liver, my doctor warned me that drinking would be bad. When pressed to define bad, liver failure was brought up. I quit drinking that day, September 20, 2014.

Black Dog with Medication

Now, the black dog is still there. She hunts me all the time, always nipping at my heels. I try to ignore her most of the time, and the mood stabilizers help. But it’s also exhausting. When people ask me what it’s like to have this disease, I tend to reference a couple scenes from Fight Club.

Some mornings, I wake up, and I’m like “okay, let’s do this!” only to find that I’m actually Jack’s Inflated Sense of Self-Loathing, and beat myself up. Sometimes, literally, like Ed Norton here:

It’s not a fun life, to constantly be punching yourself, but hey, it’s better than dying I guess. On the other side of the coin, I’ve still got a nasty temper on occasion and sometimes I forget how to react to stuff and things. On those days, I wind up being Jack’s Raging Temper:

It’s a process. And I’m working on getting through it one day at a time.

The Year of Self-Maintenance (2017)

This year I took a lot of time to work on fixing things that I had neglected personally. I was nearly 300 pounds late last year. My teeth were rotting in my mouth. I could not sleep uninterrupted through the night. So I started fixing things. First and foremost, I found a dentist that would take my insurance. Lots of deep cleanings and x-rays later, and my mouth is nearly finished fixed. One extraction in the front and all four wisdom teeth and I’m in much better shape.

I started therapy on the regular trying to find a way to get better. I dislike having to take medications to have a somewhat normal life. Partly because if I forget to take them, it turns out bad.

I also started focusing on fitness and diet. So far 2017 has been mostly better. Hopefully 2018 will continue to improve. Stay well friends, I hope that you continue to try to make the best you that you can make.

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David Mitchner

Dave loves sports. He discusses sports and religion all the time. He’s also collected autographs since the early ’90s when he wrote to a couple of baseball players. He loves Historical Fencing, Mixed Martial Arts, and trying to raise his 2 year old on the family farm.

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