The title of this Large Man tale – this cautionary tale, comes from the epic Bill Murray film, Stripes.It takes place in the beginning of the movie; he makes the comment as his super hot, live in girlfriend walks out the door – she breaks up with him because he has ruined her dry cleaning, and their dinner, and he’s lost his job. “And then depression set in…”
I have seen some sadness on the streets of life lately. I’ve watched friends pour their hearts out on Facebook, and I have listened to them in person, screaming for answers and help for their blues. I have been told by a few people who care about me that I haven’t been myself lately either. After a very frank discussion with a loved one, I see things more clearly.
It’s been a challenging year, but it’s been a good year. My life is good. There have been victories and failures along the way, but nothing outside the normal waxing and waning of the tides of life. There are good days and bad days, and there are good times and bad times within the days. We all experience it; how we react to these things obviously varies from person to person.
“And then depression set in…”
I’m not a doctor (I am typing in a Holiday Inn Express though) so obviously I’m not qualified to write a “white paper” on the subject of depression. I won’t get into all the theories on serotonin and various other chemical levels in our noggins. All I want to do is tell you what it feels like for me. This may not seem like your normal Large Man subject matter, but if I can help just one of the readers of my semi-regionally successful blog that reaches literally dozens of people on a monthly (or so) basis, I’ll be OK with it. Or, if there is a Depression Awareness Society of some kind that picks this up, and they wanted to send me $5,000.00 for writing the piece, well obviously that would be worth it too. Helping someone or getting paid, I’m good with either one.
That’s me, The Large Man. Funny guy, the puller of heartstrings, and the charmer of ladies. I am a loyal friend to bartenders, Hooter’s chefs, craft beer brewers, “dancers”, and whoever happens to need a fourth on a golf course – all across this great land of ours. The Large Man that is all of those things is also a guy who has been left behind by friends who couldn’t handle the volatility anymore, a guy that has been forced into anger management by a former employer and, simply put, and a guy who suffers from depression.
But Large Man, what do you have to be depressed about? You have a beautiful, healthy family, you have a great job, you have friends that stand by you; you have a semi-regionally successful blog that reaches literally dozens of people on a monthly (or so) basis! You have a house, 3 cars, 3 pairs of golf knickers, testicles the size of grapefruits* and a heart the size of Texas. What on Earth could you be depressed about?
Good points all; but when you suffer from depression, it’s different. Good things seem undeserved, the tiniest inconvenience seems monumental, true hardship becomes unbearable. It’s different for everyone, for me the overriding emotion is the feeling of wanting to take a sharp pencil and jab it into the eye of my adversary…and that adversary could be someone who simply left a grocery cart in the middle of a parking lot.
I am not chronically depressed. Even though Tom Cruise emphatically suggested I should not be, I have been on medication for this condition. I will remember forever the words of my doctor when I first discussed the issue (about 9 years ago). She told me that often times “…when men are blue, they behave red. Your depression shows
itself in anger.” I replied to her with something like she was an idiot and a quack, and that her Alma Mater, KU, was a step below the med schools down in Grenada. Then, later that evening, upon reflection of the moment, her point started to make a little sense to me. I called her, apologized, and told her that I would agree to take some medication.
I’m lucky that I had people in my life who were invested in me enough to try and help, and people who loved me enough give a little nudge. I should have been fired by my former employer, but my boss was my friend so he gave me the option of getting some therapy or a pink slip. Reluctantly, I chose counceling. I will say to this day that I’m lucky the counselor was hot, so on visit one, I wanted to stay with her…by visit four, I was learning things, and by visit twelve (my last session) I could see what I had been doing, what I needed to start doing, and how I could tell when I needed to do these things again. It was the best thing I have ever done for my health, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy a prostate exam, but I did find the time well spent. I’m a better husband, father, son and friend because of the time spent with this psychologist. I took the meds (I think it was Paxil) for about 6 months…I had no side effects, but I have heard some horror stories – it’s not for everyone, and I am NOT advocating anything. The medication worked as one part of an overall therapy strategy for me.
That’s an extremely abbreviated history that brings us back to the here and now. Lately, I am red again. Not quite like I was 8 or 9 years ago, but just generally pissed off… waking up angry but not being able to attach the emotion to anything. Then late one night in a hotel room somewhere in America, it hit me like I was Mike Tyson’s bitch – I had a revelation! I sprung out of bed, and wrote a 1,500 word Large Man Chronicle on how the business practices of men and women of the new millennium, from Wall Street and Constitution Avenue, all the way to Main Street in Podunk, was the root of my anger. I solved this case of “unexplainable” rage. Whew! There came a sense of comfort in knowing where all this red anger was rooted.
Later that day, as I was driving home, I was talking to my wife on the phone and telling her about all this…all this knowing. And how having this knowledge was going to at least give me an idea on how to release, or let go of the anger, hostility, and pissed-offness that had plagued me over the last week or so. This was good.
She listened patiently. She said “um-hmm” and “wow” when appropriate. She let me finish. When I asked her what she thought of all this, and when it was her time to say, “Dude, you have it so figured out!” she said, “I think that’s great honey, but have you given any thought at all the fact that it was your mother’s birthday a couple of days ago, and that you are traveling your ass off, and that you are not getting any sleep, and when you get depressed, it shows in anger?” She didn’t add “dipshit” or “dumbass!” at the end of her retort, but either one would have been appropriate.
I just replied with, “Oh… Yeah… I guess that could explain it too.”
When somebody loves you, they see things that you don’t, or can’t. One of the worst things about depression, or an episode of depression, is that sometimes you don’t see it coming, or the direction it’s coming from. As I stated earlier, it doesn’t have to be about anything, but it can be. It can be about losing your job, a bad break up, the loss of a loved one, or it can be about nothing at all.
Now that my “knowledge” is a little clearer, I can go to work on the problem. I make time for some “down time”, this is the best therapy for me. Maybe better to call it “down time with purpose”. Lying on the couch won’t help. Lying on the couch and watching Stripes will help, because laughing helps. Cleaning my garage will help, exercise, writing Large Man Chronicles, and spending time with my kids always helps. As I said earlier: it’s different for everybody, but these are the things that work for me.
“Do what I do, and say what I say…” is another famous line from Stripes. I am NOT advocating that. Just because I have experience, it doesn’t make me an expert. I have a lot of experience drinking beer and chattin’ up babes, it doesn’t mean I should write about…it…well…ok, that’s a bad analogy. What I’m saying is, if you think you are going through something like what I have talked about here, talk to someone else…doctor, minister, family or friend. Don’t be strong and silent, and try to fight your way through it alone; be strong enough to ask for help. Be smart. Be healthy.
We’ll talk about things that are more fun next time… places of refuge, connecting with old friends, or other great movies like Stripes. Until then, thanks for reading.
* This is what is known in the literary world as a metaphor.
I’m not speaking physiologically – that wouldn’t even be comfortable. I’m
speaking in terms of fearlessness, entering the fray chin first, swinging for
the fences and all that sort of stuff.