Riding the rails with Horowitz…Stages of depression

Warning: this blog post may not be comfortable for you.

I call him Horowitz.
Horowitz is not always a fun guy to be around. He can be extremely dark, even a little twisted. At times his little anecdotes can be amusing but I never really know if he’s serious or not. He has that way of inserting an idea into the day to day thinking, even though I may not realize it at the time. I may be just going through my day and blam…. that little snippet he threw at me a day, a week or even a month ago comes right up into the thought processes like a little voice needling at me. Maybe originally it was taken with a light heart. “Ha ha, very funny you sadistic fuck! Now shut up, Horowitz!” Then a bit later, it starts to become a little less funny, and I find myself thinking that maybe it’s true. And maybe not too long after that, I start hearing him in all my thoughts. It’s not so funny or amusing anymore. It’s like his thoughts become my thoughts, and the world around me gets a little smaller and a little darker. Do you know anyone like that?

So who is Horowitz, and why do I hang out with him? I heard you ask…really I did. Horowitz is the guy who rents valuable space from me. I have not found a way to evict him, but occasionally have been able to keep him quiet enough to not disturb his neighbor. Yet, at times, sometimes months can go in between, he rears his ugly temper and disrupts the peace of everyone around.

So, as you will see, I’m pretty much stuck with him. You see, that space he rents is my brain. He’s been there for a few years now. Occasionally when the season is right, or when he can find any bit of information to get my attention he steps up onto his bloody pulpit and screams at how awful everything really is. And he’ll keep screaming until I stop laughing and start listening. And the more I listen, little by little, things become less enjoyable, and the colors start to gray out, and hope seems to diminish just a little bit, and I start to think…”what’s the fucking point of it all?”.

You may also know Horowitz as depression. I gave him his name, because it helps me realize when he’s talking. Also, I don’t really like the word depression as a condition or as a name. For me, it was important to realize that when he starts yapping (aka when subtle symptoms start creeping up) I can put a finger on it. When Horowitz starts yelling in my ear “boy you really fucked that up, see what a loser you are!” because of something minor, I needed to give it a name.

“Give it a name” That comes from one of my favorite movies. It was a few years after becoming intrigued by that statement, which the character used for everything, and ended a conversation with, that I realized I need to give my depression a name. I am the kind of guy that will just do whatever I can to ignore a symptom, pain, emotional discomfort, stress. Hell with naming it, I’m just going to pretend it doesn’t exist. I taught myself that early on and mastered it when i re-injured my back. I believed that If I don’t talk about it, it won’t become a reality. I’m talking about physical pain here. I was in a great deal of it for a long time, and it seemed that the more I thought about it or talked about it it would manifest itself in further pain. I tested this theory a lot. The more I told myself it wasn’t there, the more I was able to get up and work through it. I fully adapted that into anything uncomfortable!! Horowitz, however, is a whole different beasty.

I would never talk about depression, nor would I ever admit to experiencing it… that is until I did. This all started a few years back. It may be completely unrelated, but at the time I was taking a certain prescription to aid in smoking cessation. It seemed to work because after a few days I was done smoking. Hardly any withdrawal and was feeling really good. I didn’t even want a cigarette at all. Apparently what this drug in part does is block part of the pleasure center in the brain. I’m not sure how long I had been on it but I think it was about 3 weeks when I broke down. There wasn’t a period of time when I just started becoming “sad” or anything like that. For some days I didn’t even realize that I just stopped enjoying things, that I wasn’t really experiencing emotions at all. And then I was just driving to work one morning like I always did and the thought of driving my car into a bridge abutment on the expressway seemed like a really good idea. That thought started to repeat itself every morning. And I started to realize this repetition and I started to listen to it. I finally, after some prodding, talked about it. I was scared. Really scared. And I definitely did not want to talk about it, because I believed something was wrong with me, and that everyone was going to leave; my whole world in a very short period became very, very black.

It was brought to my attention by a friend that called, that it could have been the medication, to call my doctor and stop taking it immediately. I did all of that and filled out a whole lot of FDA paperwork. It turns out that that drug had an incredibly high suicide co-relation here and in the UK. Shortly after I filled out my paperwork they changed all of the warning labels and possible symptoms listed on ads and on TV spots.

So, I’d like to say everything was better as soon as I stopped taking it. It wasn’t I call this period the birth of Horowitz. It took me a long time to start to recover emotionally from that time. I don’t know if it changed something in my brain chemically or if Horowitz was always there and he just got a lot louder. But he still crops up. He’s actually here right now asking me why the hell I am writing about him. Horowitz truly believes that our relationship is one of deep secrecy. Like he’s Black Ops or something. Oh wait, that right there is funny… he is black ops!! He doesn’t like it when I talk about him, I think, because he feels less powerful. And, right now… I really need him to feel less powerful. I need him to be disarmed.

I’ve had a lot of things going on for months; stress, physical pain, extraordinary fatigue and a litany of other stuff, and that is his cue. I heard him whisper a few weeks ago, but because I gave him his name, I knew who it was. I even mentioned in conversation with a couple people that he’s blubbering a bit. That’s the important part, because of him having a name, I can discern his voice from my own. If it was just a nameless thing, I would have much less ability to realize what’s going on. Give it a name!

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to the really dark side. Here it is, I’m going to say it…. are you ready…. SUICIDE! Are you uncomfortable now? No? Well we’re going to talk about it some more. Suicide, to me, is a scary place. It’s complete absence of hope. A place where in my own thinking everything would be better if I weren’t here. That everyone would be happier.

A place where i wouldn’t be a burden to anyone, wouldn’t feel any pain anymore, and it’s a place where Horowitz can get me too if I’m not being vigilante. I’m not going to get into the stigma, or the is it a selfish act etc etc etc. I’m not here to define it I’m just going to talk about it.

Wait!!!! Relax! I’m not making plans here, I’m writing about something because I don’t want to make plans. I have way too much to live for even when I can’t see it immediately. All I’m saying is the thoughts come. And sometimes they come so quickly that I am caught off guard. There has been a depression building softly and slowly for awhile now. I mentioned that.

I knew I need to do something out of the usual to try to help get myself out of it a little. When Horowitz is around, I stop enjoying the things I really love to do. Hiking, riding the motorcycle, gardening, whatever. And when there is a lot of pain present that just works against it even further. So I took the weekend to ride out of town. My bride was working at a convention and there are some friends there. So I thought a long ride to and from will give me that time on the bike where the thinking usually ends and see some beautiful country at the same time. On the ride home yesterday, taking it slow on the back roads and seeing some beautiful PA country, there he was. “You know Paul… you could just not steer into this turn, take that guardrail and it’ll be over quick. Hell you don’t even have your helmet on so…” I knew right then that Horowitz had his teeth into me.

It comes up that quick. There is always a mixture of thoughts involved. Part is the everyone will be better off, I’ll won’t be miserable anymore, but there is also the thoughts of what that will do to my wife, to our kids, to not see our granddaughter grow up. It’s like relief and guilt all at the same time. It’s confusing as hell. But it’s there, and it doesn’t always go away in a hurry. I am Socratic. I always have been. I have a strong dependance on Reason in my normal thinking vs. emotion. Thus far I have always been able to out-reason any suicidal thought with why I need to live thought. Sometimes, I let you in on this little tidbit, I’m pretty damned stubborn, and I think I can suffer through quite a lot of crap to know that at least one life is better because I’m here.

There are a lot of parts of depression that I really don’t like. The idea that it seems to have always been like this and it always will be like this.
The idea that I have no control over my thinking, or how I feel. For me depression is also not a feeling of sadness, it’s nothing at all. I can’t feel anything in the beginning. I think people experience depression differently. Mine starts with nothing. Not sadness, not apathy, not anger, I can’t feel anything. Of course people will take not and maybe some will say why are you sad. I’m not fucking sad, I wish I was sad then it would be something. Teej found a short on depression awhile back, and it really explained the way I experience depression. I’d like to share the link to it because until I read it, i didn’t understand my own “symptoms”. In a nutshell, I start out with nothing. Just shades of grey. Emotion seems to have left the building folks… I was told this weekend I was very stoic. Yeah that’s a word for it! It evolves from me realizing I’m not experiencing emotion to making attempts to convey emotion in conversation because I think I’m supposed to. But I can’t seem to get it right at all. And because that becomes so uncomfortable, I just avoid interacting with people. And then I become angry. Anger is good because it’s a secondary emotion, which as I stated I wasn’t feeling anything just a bit ago. Here’s the problem. I know from doing much work on myself that anger is always driven by fear. So I go from nothing to this intense fear ( fear of what you are going to think of me, well let me just push you away so you don’t have to aka Horowitz setting up the end it all bit). But anger is not always attributed to people, it’s about the expectations I think people have of me as well.
Horowitz tells me things like you don’t need to be around those people anyways. You’re much better off on your own. They expect you to do all of this crap, but you can’t possibly manage it at all. In fact just throw it all in, screw the job and everything else and lets just take on off down the highway!! Just you and me kid, right until the end!!!
And then I realize that I am incredibly lonely. Even in a room full of people, people that are laughing and telling stories, or just shooting the breeze. People that are expressing emotions that I can’t seem to figure out where I left them. So anxiety starts to kick in, and I don’t know how to respond because nothing they are saying evokes any response emotionally. So maybe Horowitz is right… I should just go back to the room. Their conversations are better off without me in them. I have nothing to contribute anyways. But I’m so lonely.
And then the next step is underway. It’s always the experience of this deep loneliness that really evokes the next serious emotion. A profound sadness mixed with a confusing sense of being grateful. That day comes and is usually a day when I find myself in tears over anything. That short story… the writer used a kernel of corn under the fridge. Yep bent down on the floor to pick something up, saw the kernel and just started bawling uncontrollably. That’s the kind of day. This period has just started for me a few hours ago. Funny thing, with the sadness comes a profound sense of the other people around me. A love and a longing that is tremendous. The want for my wife to hold me, looking at a picture or video of our granddaughter or the kids just immediately sends me to tears. The deep desire to not feel lonely, or even be alone for that matter.
Are you with me so far?

1. Nothing: days weeks or even months of NOTHING. no emotions no feeling no nothing. this results in trying to mimic emotions but not very well or accurately

2. Fear/Anger: this can last up to a few weeks…anger at the inability to connect, anger at expectations of others, fear of what you think of me

3. Loneliness: this is a profound sensation. to feel completely alone in everything and with help. this is usually where the suicidal thoughts come screaming in for me.

4. Sadness/Gratitude: finally!! Yep the sadness bit… as much as I don’t want to be sad, at this stage it is welcomed. To go for so long without feeling anything, it is a relief to feel something and always leads me out of the thoughts to end it all. Because the sadness allows me to be grateful to have the love of the people around me, even though I wasn’t sure it was real for a period of time. Grateful to be on the other side of the nothingness. And yet there is some pain, an emotional pain, that it happened again. That Horowitz got my attention for a little too long again. A pain that those thoughts were so easily brought up. To give in, give up the fight.

So that’s where we are. We are talking about depression, and where I’m in it right now. Somewhere in between stage 3 and 4.
The cat’s out of the bag, I may be stoic one day, or maybe I’m just trying to figure out what the right emotion I should convey is. Maybe I’m big and strong one day, but I may just be tremendously weak and scared the next. I can carry the weight of the world but I might crumble over a picture of a little girl. (Thanks Teej). I may appear calm and cool, but inside there may be a world of loneliness and desperation. But if I don’t tell somebody about Horowitz, he’s going to stay in the shadows, and you’ll never know what’s really going on

Give it a name

One thought on “Riding the rails with Horowitz…Stages of depression

  1. Thank you for stepping out of the shadows with your story. Thank you for being willing to share so that others can see that they are not alone, that they can also call their symptoms by name and be empowered to make changes and seek support that may be needed. You may not realize how powerful this is for yourself and others… It is very powerful.

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