About two months ago I finally accepted that I was in a prolonged funk. I was not profoundly depressed. I could laugh and have fun. I wasn’t hopelessly bogged down, but I was mentally and physically sluggish. Television was my primary recreation. I looked forward to weekends, yet I barely got out of the house. Exercise was a chore. Many mornings I dreaded leaving for work. My interest in intimacy was a memory. I often woke up at 3:00 a.m. wallowing in a soup of futility. I relied on my wife Risa more than I wanted to just get through.
I described my feelings, probably too often, and she frequently asked me “if I wanted to see somebody,” a euphemism for getting help from a therapist.
Risa and I took a vacation in June to Palo Alto, California, where my daughter Sarah lives with her husband Scott and three children. At the time, Scott was struggling with his own miseries at work. Risa and Sarah left for a retreat weekend during our stay, leaving Scott and I home to watch the kids. We talked about our dissatisfaction about the status quo over a wonderful Saturday meal of California fruit, cheese, hummus and carrots. Scott asked me if there was anything I felt like doing and I told him I really wanted to sing.
Scott, the computer professional from Google, set up a program to play just about any song in the world and display the lyrics in print big enough for even me to read. And he and I sang and sang. It was a beautiful mood elevator and gave me a glimpse of the way I used to feel much of the time.
Around the same time, I reluctantly started taking a small dose of an antidepressant called Cymbalta, made by Eli Lilly. I also started scrubbing my underarms everyday with testosterone, which my body was producing only in minuscule amounts after treatment for prostate cancer in 2008.
In a confluence of misery, smart medicine, and my own reality check, I finally was in a place to shift out of funkdom.
After my heart attack and prostate cancer diagnosis eight years ago I had lived in a state of sad gratitude – grateful to be alive, but chronically short of fun and fearful of the next health debacle.
I’m writing this piece today because I know I am not alone in experiencing these kinds of feelings. It is also the 8th anniversary of what we now call the “Heart Miracle,” a blocked left anterior descending artery, which kills 98% of the people who have it, that I survived.
On August 29, 2016, I am in a happy place. I rarely feel that awful sense of futility that soaked me in sadness almost every morning. I have a bounce in my step and I think I am capable of actually making smart business decisions. I think there is a good chance I’m going to live for a while. Before, I often wondered if I’d get through the week.
Perhaps you find this article surprising because I’ve been able to “bring it” consistently in this blog. I’ve found that with my writing I have the ability to tap into the happier more intuitive parts of my unconscious to blog with energy and insight, even when I was living most of the time in the Blah.
I know I am not alone in my feelings. Inertia and stuckness is a suffocating enemy that I know well. For many of us those imposters deposit their viruses in our bodies. We may have indolent serotonin, stunted sex hormones, or a wacky thyroid. Our internal juices have a mind of their own. A good therapist or internist can be a godsend when life just stinks.
Things actually can get better. These days I’m actually believing it.
Question: What do you do to get rid of the blues?