"Got a head full of echoes
Got a mind full of pills
Do you think you recognize me?
Do you think you ever will?"
I wrote those words in the fall of 1994, shortly after I first started taking psychiatric medication for what I thought was major clinical depression. I was trying to capture what it felt like to feel my life change, to have things that seemed forever broken get fixed. To feel that finally my mind was not my enemy, but my ally.
I was first officially diagnosed with depression when I was 18 years old, even though I'd probably been depressed since the onset of puberty. I also remember a myriad of crying jags, feelings of immense sadness for no reason, and odd behavior as a child. I'd been to a few counselors as a kid as a one-off thing, mainly because I came from a single-parent family and had some self-esteem issues. None of it seemed to satiate the strange, terrible feelings I had, which had little (if anything) to do with my parents' divorce.
When I was 18, I started seeing a pyschologist on a regular basis. Most of the therapy sessions involved me doing "visualizations" of previous traumatic events in my life, only giving them happy endings instead of the bad ones. Needless to say, I thought it was a joke, and didn't take any of it seriously. I just figured that life is miserable, and that's how it's supposed to be. And it was my job to wallow in that miserableness.
I was also just starting college at this time, and socially things seemed to improve a bit. I came out of the shell I'd made in high school, and even became a bit of an extrovert. I went through my glam phase, and started dressing up and wearing eyeliner. I subconsciously cultivated the image of a cynical, dark, mysterious creature who spent his time listening to dark music and chain smoking (oooo scary!).
I was one of a number of guys named Dan on my small college campus, and I soon gained the nickname of "Death Dan" to differentiate me from the others. Even other people saw that I was a bit different, and had a dark attitude. I remember that a woman broke up with me because I told her I thought that people who spent their life trying to be happy were stupid and ignorant, and that life was supposed to be miserable.
Starting in my late teens, it seemed that every autumn, my moods would shift, and my thinking would take on an odd quality. I became even more sarcastic than I normally was. I was angry at everything-- more so than usual. Sometimes, I felt hyper-sexual, and would get involved in relationships I knew were a bad idea, yet still felt compelled to pursue. I would lash out at friends and family, for little more reason than I felt like it. I would also turn more and more often to alcohol, as it was the only thing that seemed to take the edge off the anger, and gave me some relief from the fire in my brain.
Then, like clockwork, I would have an epiphany of sorts, and realize what an ass I was, and crash and burn, and shut myself off for a few days to escape from the mess I'd created. Each year, the sarcasm would get worse, and the corresponding crash would get worse, too. What started out as a few weeks of being an asshole to everyone would turn into a couple months of rage, random outbursts and terrible cases of road rage-- followed by the inevitable retreat to bed, or a walking zombie existence, just barely keeping the tears back.
Eventually, this crash and burn routine got to be too much. I made an appointment with a pyschology clinic. During the initial interview, the social worker diagnosed me as being in a depressive episode. Instead of prescribing more counseling, he made an appointment for me with the pyschiatrist-- a medical doctor.
(To be continued...)