Depression: Don’t listen to ‘the Big D’

Editor’s note: This series portrays one woman’s personal experience of depression, with a bit of advice thrown in.

By Liza Porter
Illustration by Isabel Cardenas

My shrink told me a few weeks ago: “Do anything, anything at all, except listen to the Big D.”

Well, he doesn’t use the term “Big D.” He calls it depression or, sometimes, a mood disorder.

But I do listen to the Big D. It is a voice that is so familiar it is like family. It is family. It is my voice at its worst.

Take yesterday, my first day off after three full days of classes. I didn’t wake up until 8 o’clock because I was up in the night for no rational reason.

This is one thing the Big D does to lots of people, one of the symptoms of depression. Insomnia.

It’s not my fault I have insomnia and it’s only 8 a.m. and the voice is already jabbering. “You slept too late. The day is wasted.”

Now, come on, 8 a.m. and the day is wasted? What normal brain would believe that? Or would even think it to begin with? I don’t have a normal brain. I probably have never had a normal brain.

How do I counteract that “wasted day at 8 a.m.” crap? By telling my husband what I’m thinking. That is one thing I have learned to do to counteract the Big D.

This is so very important. Don’t hang out alone with the Big D. Talk to someone.

If I leave myself to myself, if I let the voice make its stupid pronouncements without counteracting them, it’s Tilt-o-Whirl time—self-destructive thoughts, confusion, the inability to make decisions.

I have believed the Big D voices so long, so much longer than the helpful ones—which on a good day sound gentle and caring like this: you have plenty of time, you have three more days after this to get things done before going back to class—it is a modern-day miracle when I can short circuit the negativity.

Speaking of circuits, it is almost all about the circuits in the brain. Brain chemistry.

It took me decades to believe there was something wrong with me. It was my fault. I should be able to fix myself, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

It took decades for me to admit my powerlessness over my own brain. I had to let go and get help. I had to start taking medication.

For a recovering addict/alcoholic, letting go was a lot. When I first got sober, the word was “no drugs, no drugs at all.” At least the way I interpreted it.

God, I was so stubborn. But I let go.

Eight years ago I gave up and went to a psychiatrist. I have a treatment-resistant depression, he said. Some medication works for a while, then doesn’t. New ones are added, then taken away. I feel like a guinea pig sometimes.

But there are more good days than bad. When I take the medication and do other things such as take walks, eat right and talk back to the Big D, there are many good days.

When the shrink told me to do anything except listen to the Big D, I had to ask him this: “Does that mean, like, even, watching ‘Law & Order, C.I.’?”

I love Vincent D’Onofrio. He’s a hunk, he’s a little crazy like me, and he always solves the mystery.

“Yes, even Law & Order, C.I.,” my doc said, with that twinkle in his eye that I love.

How many doctors prescribe television as a way to fight a disease? God bless him.

Next: Talking about rape and depression.

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