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rollinsk (@rollinsk)

Is depression permanent?

Depression & Anxiety | Last Active: Sep 8, 2021 | Replies (84)

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@jimhd Hi Jim, thanks for fleshing out what your history has been with depression. Since I mostly only participate in the neuropathy discussions, where you have mentioned only tangentially that you live with it, I didn't have a full picture. I lived with a form of depression from about age 9 or 10 until about 35 (I am 68 now), but I don't feel I have depression any longer so obviously yours is very different than mine. Mine was what I would call a personality issue or disorder. I am not certain there was not some physical component to it, but I think I did not have clinical depression. Let me say right here that I do not know anything about depression other than my own experience, never talked about it at length with anyone who had it, and am coming at it here as only a wide-eyed novice.

My question about your situation, which developed from a post you wrote the other day is how your depression developed? When did you first become aware of something being wrong? Were your childhood, youth and early adulthood okay? Did this seem to happen to you suddenly, or at least over some sort of time frame, where you were "okay" and then eventually you were not anymore? From this I would just like to understand whether there was a physical change in your makeup that brought this on, or whether it all started as a purely psychological problem, and when you think it all began, and what may have triggered it (if there is such a thing as a trigger for depression). I don't know why my personality was so screwed up early in life, it just was. I do know what I did to get rid of it, and it was not drugs at all, and no therapist except my wife, who could have been a therapist, she is pretty talented that way, a natural counselor. It also involved a lot of self introspection, what my wife called "The Work". Maybe I can talk about that another time.

So that is what I wonder about you Jim, i.e. did you have an identifiable depresion-free period in your earlier life and then the Big "D" started, or did you always deal with it in some form, and how much is physical only, etc. I understand that you may or may not have answers to these questions. You always seem pretty open to talking about yourself but I only ask for whatever you feel comfortable revealing. I have never looked back at my own situation much in recent years and I guess I would like to understand better just what did really happen to me and how did I get depressed and then get undepressed. Okay, I will leave it there for now. Best, Hank

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Replies to "@jimhd Hi Jim, thanks for fleshing out what your history has been with depression. Since I..."

@jesfactsmon Good morning, Hank. I would love to also provide my thoughts to what @jimhd has so eloquently put down. Right now a beautiful dawn is breaking in our state, the rocks are calling to me, so I must tend to that task, with a promise to return later today.

@jesfactsmon Wow, Hank. You're asking a lot of me, actually more than I've ever considered seriously.

I remember reading Bradshaw's book "Healing the Shame…" quite a few years ago.

I mentioned that I addressed the idea of depression to my doctor 18 years ago. It's the first time I'd ever considered the possibility that I was depressed. But, therapists have suggested to me that I'd lived with it for a long time. But when did it start?

I'm just now turned 70, so childhood was aeons ago, but with what I've learned over the past 18 years is that I was tormented by multiple demons since pre-adolescence. (I'm writing this on my laptop tonight, but usually use my phone, and I'm assisted on the phone by spell check. So please forgive any misspelled words, as I haven't figured out yet how to find that feature. Not sure I want to because it too often miscorrects me.) I don't mean I was demon possessed. Other kind of demons.

I was painfully shy, but compensated by being the class clown. My father was a minister all of his adult life – more than 50 years – and was seriously underpaid. To support the 8 of us, he always had a second job, which meant we didn't see a lot of him. Being poor meant that new clothes were out of the question, so we took hand me downs from people in the church. That meant to me, old man clothes. I hated it. I desperately wanted to wear the tight jeans everyone else wore. I started my first job when I was 12, doing a paper route. When I had saved enough, I bought myself a pair of black, very tight, jeans, which I'm sure my parents didn't approve, but I don't remember ever hearing a negative comment from them about my selection of stylish clothing. Tight jeans are back, and I still like to wear them. I'm glad the baggy pants phase is history.

I was always skinny. By the 7th grade I was 6' 3", less than 150 pounds, with a 28" waist. In college I tried various things to gain weight, but never did until I was around 50. One day at the doctor's office, I weighed in at 208, and I was facing yet another size of pants up, to 38". I decided I wasn't going to do that, and in 2015 I went from 208 to 155 in six months without a diet. I just ate smaller portions, didn't take seconds except for vegetables and fruit, and stopped compulsive snacking. Last year I regained around 15 pounds, which was ok, but I wanted to wear the same sizes I did as a college student. I've reached that goal, but seem to be losing weight still.

All of that to say that I hated my body, hated my old man secondhand clothes, hated that my father always kept his 3 sons' hair cut to a butch cut. Self-esteem? What's that? I didn't have it, but if I did, it was way low, and has never gotten much better. I felt different because of clothes and hair and shyness. I went steady we several girls in high school, but I'd never kissed a girl until after my wife and I were engaged. And have never kissed any other girl, except my daughter and granddaughters, of course, but that's different.

The words depression, anxiety, OCD, etc., weren't part of our working vocabulary, so I never learned to recognize signs. I should insert that our family was, and always has been, close knit and loving. To my knowledge, none of us ever experienced any kind of abuse at home. (I thought having to wear passed down clothes was abusive.)

Our family was musically oriented. All six kids learned at least one instrument, and my mother was a gifted violinist. Dad met her in college, where they played their violins together in the orchestra. Dad gave up violin soon after he was married, but he was a very good singer. I started piano lessons in the 3rd grade, and because I was aware of the sacrifice it was for my parents to pay for lessons, I always practiced a lot. Music was my college degree, with a focus on piano, and I worked for 35 years as music director of churches in California and Oregon, playing piano, keyboards, organ and vibes (my parents got a vibraharp when I was in high school, and I became pretty good at it. I still have it, but stored in a corner of the garage). After 35 years, I took 2 years off and painted houses, and then I became the pastor of a church in a small town (247 population), where I served for 10 years, until I had to retire at 55 on SS disability because of mental health issues. I'm still ordained, but only volunteer at our church, playing the piano.

Abuse came later in life. I suppose that the teasing and bullying was abuse when I was a child. Much of it was doled out by bosses who were controlling, verbally demeaning and just unkind. Some of my bosses were great men, and I still respect them. But others made up for their greatness. Since I've said that I was a church music director for 35 years, you have probably figured out that the men I refer to as bosses were the head pastors. I stayed in a couple of abusive situations longer than I should have, because they were the foundations of my PTSD. The 2 years spent painting houses, a trade my father taught me, were primarily recovery time, from my last and worst music position.

After those 2 years we were asked to pastor a church in that remote village, after a previous pastor had run nearly all of the parishioners off. The town was a genuine community. The first 5 or 6 years were a pleasure, until I began to recognize in myself the signs of depression. I was gradually becoming less and less able to function. A year or so into depression, a small group of women in the church decided I had to go, and started spreading false accusations. At the same time, they wanted me to permit the use of the church building by a group of fringe Christians. By fringe, I mean they taught and did things that I thought were completely inappropriate, and were in direct opposition to the beliefs of our church and denomination. They were incensed when I said no, after visiting one of their meetings and discussing it with several ministers around the state whose wisdom I greatly respected. One day they came to my home to talk about it, and I was sitting in my leather chair, curled up under a blanket, nearly catatonic. It meant nothing to them that I was suffering. In fact, when asked, they told me that I had Satan working in me, and various other equally helpful things.

I stayed through that for almost a year. I guess I'm a bit stubborn, and hate to quit.

I hesitated to mention any of that stuff because I don't want to paint the whole Christian church in that one broad stroke. Thankfully, it's uncommon in my experience. But people are people, whether in church or school boards or Masons or Lions or wherever. But what happened to me was brutal, and ramped up my depression, drowned the little self esteem I had, and piled on trauma that pushed me into a PTSD nightmare, and over the edge of a deep, dark, bottomless hole of depression, where the only way out that I could see was suicide. I was in that hole for more than 6 years. It was an experience I won't forget, that I don't want to repeat. It was really hard to get out into the light of sanity and safety. I stopped the suicide attempts, though that's not to say that the suicidal ideation stopped.

Traumatic events and injury can be addressed and dealt with by moving forward, but they, for me, at least, never totally disappear because they were part of what shaped me. I've long since done the work of forgiving, but in some way, I think that I don't want ever to forget. The meanness thrust on me makes me more aware of my own attitudes, and makes me want to be better than that. I've always been a steady, consistent, gentle, patient, considerate person, and I'm not demonstrating pride in saying that. It's just been my nature. Perhaps that's one reason unkindness, meanness, slander, vitriol have been so hard for me to deal with. I deactivated my Facebook account for the same reasons.

So, Hank, I hope I've covered a few of your questions. Some people find relief when they find or return to faith. My faith is something that has been a constant. During my stay in the post suicide place, I woke one morning to the word abandonment. I mentioned it to one off the counselors, and she or he suggested I consider it for the day. My first thought was that I was certain God had not and would not abanon me. Some people would turn from their faith faced by some of my life experiences, but that hasn't been true for me. God didn't do any of that stuff to me. Imperfect (normal) humans did it. So I don't direct any of my negative thoughts toward Him. Without God, I'd have checked out long ago. And without my faith, I know I'd have made some foolish choices, a subject for a bound set of 20 books. My wife is tired of this man she didn't marry. Not tired of me, but tired of living with what I've become. And I get tired of fighting the various battles that I face daily. That's not a very upbeat way to end an essay, but it's pretty close to the life I live now, with 6 being my new 9.

I choose not to address other life battles in a public setting, but save that for my therapist. Perhaps the day will come when I can "feel comfortable revealing", as you put it, Hank. I probably have plenty to share publicly without exploring those other pieces of who I am.