Thursday, October 4, 2007

Depression: Divorce

I've been through two divorces. I haven't written about this much. But, they are always on my mind.

I've tried, maybe too hard, all my life to be a good guy: I try to listen, be responsive, be honest, and I try to help others.

The thing is, I am a pretty good guy.

But, I've been plagued for years with insecurity, phases of paranoia, intermittent irritability, a bent toward exaggerating small things into huge ones, temper outbursts; I've pounded on walls, punched a spider web in a windshield, slugged pillows and mattresses and couches, jumped high off the ground in frustration, and spent mornings over the toilet with nerve wracked dry heaves.

These dark, too often physical outbursts, taken out on inanimate objects, belied my usually benevolent nature. I hate these outbursts. They make me feel possessed, as if a second person lives inside me, takes me over, and sabotages all my efforts to be the good person I naturally am.

It also wears me out. Being one person is demanding enough, but when a second person asserts himself, too, and wants attention, it drives me to bed for long naps, drives me to want to escape into sleep.

From childhood, and with a more pronounced effort in my teens and on into my adulthood, I've tried to eliminate that possessed person inside me by will power and it never worked. Unable to overpower this demonic other inside me, I not only felt defeated, I regarded myself as weak, and the women in my life who witnessed my erratic behavior accused me of being controlling or of not wanting to change.

What none of us knew was that I suffered from depression. How could we know? We all regarded depression as sadness, not madness, so because I was more mad than sad, when these outbursts occurred, it seemed like I was just ill-willed and difficult.

These marked contrasts in my personality were especially hard on my wives, including the Deke. It just didn't make sense. How could this man who had such capacity for service, compassion, understanding, patience, and good will, be so frightening and so erupt so unpredictably over small things like a window being opened or a cookie in the car or a perceived slight?

Because I perceived myself as a good guy, I would plead after one of these outbursts that it wasn't me, that that behavior wasn't what I was about and I would apologize and want to be held and forgiven. These outburst eroded my confidence, obliterated my sense of security, and frightened me to believe, in time, that I could never have a long lasting relationship with a woman.

I promised and promised and promised it wouldn't happen again. I thought I could stop this behavior by trying harder and I would try harder, but then I would snap, often for the smallest of reasons, and each of my wives would pull back and the distance between us grew.

Now I know that depression is the word used to describe my condition. Something is haywire in me that manifests itself in periods of ecstatic excitement and high energy answered by brooding and self-loathing.

I think I'd still be married to my first wife, Eileen, if I'd been a whole person, if the goodness in me, that I still believe Eileen loved, had been driving my behavior and my speech consistently.

Instead, I was a source of confusion, a person who put Eileen and my second wife, Anette, on pins and needles.

I haven't had an outburst of temper or exaggerated a small thing or been obsessive about things that hardly matter for almost two years, thanks to medication. It is a great relief. I trust myself more. I don't second guess myself so much and I don't miss that second person taking over and making me, by all appearances, a person possessed.

The Deke and I have been through a lot of difficult times thanks to this plague of depression. We have not fully recovered, but we've grow more comfortable with each other as the medication continues to work and as I become more emotionally predictable and reliable.

William Styron, in his memoir narrating his life of depression, "A Dark Visible" concludes that depression has it roots in some experience of loss. If this is true, one of the insidious facts about depression is that the manifestations of depression compound the experience of loss. The depression sufferer is always losing something: self-confidence, confidence, intimate relationships, the understanding of others, and, in my case, marriages.

I'm grateful the medicine is working. I'm grateful that my life does not have the kinds of excitement and moments of unbridled passion and grateful that I do not feel like a man darkly possessed.

When I said, "That's not who I am", I was wrong. All of that possessed behavior was who I was and if it comes back it will be who I am.

Until I could see this, I couldn't be helped.


John in Tennessee said...

Good post, takes courage to talk about things that aren't always pleasant.

MarmiteToasty said...

Thankyou for this post....


Grey Like Sunday said...

I wish I didn't relate so much to this.

Thank you.

Hope said...

I'm still surprised when I hear my mother's voice coming from my mouth. Some emotional traits we learn.

Desert Diva said...

What a difficult process to go through. However, I have to say that in relationships I feel it's never the "fault" of one person. The old adage "It takes two to tango" rings true. No matter what role one "plays" in a marriage, the blame can never be attributed to one person only.

While I'd like to think in a "Pollyanna-ish" sort of way that we're meant for one person, I know that we're not. There are a number of people we can be compatible with and love. It's not so much "finding" the right person as "being" the right person. Many of us have much to overcome as we strive for wholeness.

So many times the road is bumpy and subsequently the vehicle gets battered as we make our journeys. I'm sure in your prior relationships you've learned important lessons and in your marriage now have the tools to grow in love. (Thank God for "better living through pharmaceuticals!")

Thank you for honestly sharing your pain in your journey. Directly and indirectly, what you say helps more than you realize.

Blessings as you continue on your journey...

alisonwonderland said...

what a beautiful post - so sad but so real! thank you for sharing it!

one thing i've been trying to do for a while now is to embrace the bad days, the down times, as part of me, as part of the experience of my life. it's still hard on those i love - but at least it feels more authentic to me.

Pinehurst in my Dreams said...

You said it best: "The depression sufferer is always losing something: self-confidence, confidence, intimate relationships, the understanding of others, and, in my case, marriages." Depression breeds loss, and loss breeds depression. Thank God for those around us who love us despite our struggles and see us through to wholeness and gain.