Hello Everyone, Welcome to the podcast “Close to the Bone.” I’m Carl Vreeland, your host.
This is episode #28, entitled, Depression
I listened to a radio program on depression about week or two ago, and the guest was talking about himself and a few others he interviewed who overcame depression. They spoke about how their lives had changed dramatically one day, whereas they were once productive, social, optimistic, hopeful, and happy, but suddenly found themselves to be quite the contrary. They fell into a dark depression, and turned uninspired, lethargic, and isolated. Overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, their view of the world and people grew melancholic.
This description, this experience struck me. It wasn’t my experience. There was no dramatic change in my life. Nothing I that can remember anyway. I never fell into a depression to know I was in one. I was never optimistic, happy, and hopeful, so there was no contrast. Depression was all I knew I suppose. I thought life was this way. No doubt, my somber state progressed over the years though, but my starting point was depression.
See, I always felt alienated, alone, and deeply uneasy. I was like a camera eye viewing the world from a distance, separate from the world and people; on the outside looking in, uncomfortable in my skin. I had nothing to compare my depression to, I didn’t know any different. My life was always cloudy and skewed. And, as I said, over the years it grew darker.
It’s not like I didn’t seek help at some point. I did discover an elixir that quieted my mind and numbed my body. Yes, alcohol and its magically qualities became my medicine. Although it didn’t cure me of my ills, I still adopted a negative view of the world, I turned cynical, pessimistic, and sarcastic. I developed a doom and gloom attitude. Life turned absurd. And I was convinced that I could never be happy. I mean, knowing that life is meaningless, how could I be happy. Happiness was a foolish, unrealistic notion that only blissfully, lighthearted people feigned. These good fakers, with phony smiles, weren’t really happy anyway, they were pretending they were, they were whistling in the dark, as I saw it, they had a dark side that they kept locked up in the basement that would reveal itself now and again. Yes, I had it all figured out. I knew it all. I knew that peace and happiness was unattainable, in fact, it didn’t exist. It’s just that most people were unwilling to admit to it, they wouldn’t dare consider it, they didn’t have the nerve to acknowledge it. It was a harsh reality that was too brutal to accept, as I saw it.
I suppose one could say I turned nihilistic. And I explored this state of being, whereas I dwelled on suicidal scenarios, and stepped into sexcapades such as S&M and bondage. On top of that, I experimented with harder drugs; cocaine, heroin, and morphine, and I became a heavy drinker. In truth though, I felt better when I drank and drugged. Life was at least tolerable when I was intoxicated and high. A state of oblivion was what I was after, it was where I was most comfortable. Looking back, I suppose I was unknowingly trying to transcend the self and my emotional and psychological suffering.
For me, life wasn’t worth living. It had no meaning. It was a joke, it was cruel, painful, filled with suffering; a cosmic farce. In the end, nothing really mattered. My suicidal thoughts grew stronger and more frequent. I even started openly talking about them. It was all quite natural. Of course, I didn’t realize the harm I was doing to my friends and loved ones. And my dear mother, I can’t believe I shared my thoughts and suicidal tendencies with her. Her only son sitting there by her side expressing his most darkest, dismal desires. My poor mother, may you rest in peace.
Little did I know, this was my depression speaking, distorting my perception and my thinking, swaying my actions and behaviors. In hindsight, it was somewhat understandable as to why I was the way I was, I was broken at a young age. At three-years old, I witnessed both my parents having heart attacks three months apart from one another. As a result, I suffered from debilitating fear and anxiety. I experienced panic attacks and hallucinations from heat stroke and high fevers. And although both my parents survived, life would never be the same.
Still, it took a divorce in my late twenties to finally seek professional help. I saw a talk-therapist weekly and eventually a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with having anxiety disorder, chronic depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I was prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. Nevertheless, my dismal view and experience of life and the world never changed. Nothing seemed to help. Of course, I couldn’t yet see that my excessive alcohol consumption had anything to do with my dark viewpoint.
All that said, as much as I accepted this state of being I lived in, and as much as I even took pride in being this, cynical, sardonic persona at times, something deep down within me desired a better life. There was something inside me, some drive, an energy, perhaps even a minute sense of hopefulness, that I couldn’t quite ignore entirely, that I couldn’t destroy. It was something beyond me, and it showed itself clearly now and again. It showed up in my body, viscerally. Like the time the words involuntarily blurted out of my mouth, “I want a divorce.” Like the time a voice deep within me suggested to my father that we have another cup of coffee before we part ways, not knowing that I would never see him again. Like when the speaker at my first AA meeting told his story, and I shook, as the tears rolled down my face, realizing that I was an alcoholic after all. Like when I surprisingly began weeping at the end of my first Yoga class, realizing that my body was telling me to start paying attention. Yes, there was something beyond me, sending me signals, sending me messages from an unfamiliar inner-place. Why I pushed them away and tried to deny them for so many years is still a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it was simply because I was broken. And perhaps it was because I was angry, resentful, bitter, stubborn, selfish, and immature.
Well, I had emotional breakdown, it was right around the time I became a father. And it was then that I sought spiritual help. Believe it or not, my therapist suggested I do so. Yes, I was sober at that time, attending AA meetings, but I never did the Twelve Step Program. So, I got a sponsor, and he took me through them. It was an awakening experience. But life had to beat me up a few more times, before I would go through the Twelve Steps again. This time they took. My life started to change in a significant way, a profound way. And one day my depression lifted. It didn’t suddenly go away, it was a gradually process. So much so, that I didn’t realize it right away. It took some time for me to notice, “Hey, I’m not depressed any longer. I’m not craving alcohol or drugs any longer. My anxiety and OCD symptoms have diminished greatly.” Feelings of gratitude came my way. And soon after, a curiosity came; when and how did this happen? Was it all the spiritual work? The Twelve Steps, my Yoga and Buddhist practice, my willingness, my sobriety? Was it the help of others, The AA Fellowship and my sponsor? Was it the talk-therapy? Was it my Higher Power, God? Was it Grace? I don’t know for sure, likely it was all of the above. I do know this for sure; I’m not the man I used to be.
If you’re suffering, I suggest you get help. If there’s a glimmer of hope in you, go with that. Listen to the voice deep within you, not the thoughts in your head. Reach out to me if you like, just go to my website, carltvreeland.com. Leave a comment or question. I have a blog and a link to my YouTube channel. All my content is related to this message of hope.
Thank you for listening everyone. I wish you well. If you’d like to support me there’s a donation page on my website, and a great way to help the podcast grow is to leave a Review and or Rate it on Apple, it only takes a couple of minutes and it helps immensely. You can also subscribe to it, and Share it with others. Again, thank you everyone.