Five weeks. That’s how long my latest depressive episode lasted … 37 days in total, with my birthday (October 3) being the pivot point. It was, by far, the shortest on record in my life. Because I have been documenting and measuring my entire life since before the age of 5, I can run you through the list of every depressive episode since. Here is that list:
- July 1987 — May 1988
- August 1993 — May 1995
- November 1998 — August 1999
- January 2001 — April 2002
- October 2003 — March 2004
- January 2005 — December 2005
- January 2011 — January 2014
- August 2016 — September 2017
- September 2018 — October 2018 (current)
How do I know this one’s gone? I’ll tell you.
After a glitchy morning, the clouds parted in the afternoon: some Mexican food, a reasonably productive workday, some rainy-day afternoon snuggles with a woman, and a delicious dinner and storytelling with a client/friend. I went to bed peacefully. I woke up leisurely. The negative inner monologue receded back into the distance — a far-off rumble rather than an all-consuming funnel cloud. I felt calm. Light. And I realized the measures I put in place were beginning to work. And quickly. What was so different about this time?
Upon realizing I was cratering, I did two things I’d never done before.
- I told people (through writing and conversation) what was happening in real time.
- I had a playbook to rely on.
12 Common Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Mood And Your Life (Stop Doing These)
I mean, come on … you deserve better than this.
Yes, the very listicle I wrote earlier this year wasn’t just some pop-psychology self-help piece. It’s quite literally what I do to keep my mind from tumbling into total darkness. I didn’t do these in Europe, or even immediately upon returning. That facilitated the fall.
As an added measure, I started taking Lexapro. The maximum dosage. I’m told I won’t see the full benefits for another 4–6 weeks, but I’ve already noticed one big change:
I’m sleeping. Over eight hours a night. To give you some kind of indicator has to just how extraordinary that is, I’ve been tracking my sleep with my Fitbit since December 22, 2015. I average five hours of sleep per night, and have had exactly zero sober 8+ hour sleeps since I began tracking. Since October 5, I’ve topped that figure nine times. That’s a huge deal. Perhaps chronic fatigue and burnout played an unseen role in blowing me off the mountain top.
The fight for my happiness, I’m afraid, will be a lifelong battle, with very few days off allowable. I took three weeks off and it thrust me into the most intense period of darkness in my life. Thankfully, that period was short. I’m not sure what it cost me, it may take weeks to step outside and survey the damage done (I get very needy, angry, bitter, flaky and sad in times like these, generally costing me things like opportunities and relationships, although I think the impact at this time should be minimal), but I think with the full-court press I’ve deployed, I’ll be back scaling the heights I’d never reached before by the end of the year — which would be poetic and perfect, since this year has, even with the five-week blip, been by far the happiest, most rewarding, and most successful of my lifetime. Second place (2015) isn’t even particularly close. But I want to tell you about one final weapon I’ve been brandishing in the fight for my happiness. Something you’re familiar with.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve been writing about my fight for happiness. Why? Because I wanted to:
- Name my feelings.
- Process them.
- Candidly, wonder how weird I was for feeling them.
Naming my feelings helped me process them. Processing them helped me find ways to treat the negative and maladaptive ones. But I want to talk about the third thing for one second.
As this blog-space has grown, and more of you around the world began to read me (which, it’s fucking weird to think about, still) I began to realize: I’m not that weird. These thoughts and feelings I have seem to have struck a chord with you, and they seem to be common, relatable and worth exploring.
On the day I admitted to the world I was going through my depression, I was overwhelmed and overcome by the outpouring of support and love from friends and strangers alike. Some of you quoted my own lines back to me in comments and DMs and texts. Some of you bravely shared your own stories of depression with me. Some of you just checked in to see how I felt. I was in awe. I still am.
Writing on Medium started as a way to name, process and find my way out of a very dark period in my life. All that work ended up literally being one of the ways out of the next one. I’m grateful for that. And for you.
We’ll be back at this again soon. There are new stories to tell. New feelings to feel. And a brighter sun looming on the horizon.