Living vs Existing

This is not my normal goofy post. Just a warning. This is a personal post, and if you feel squiggy about taking a glimpse into my personal life, flee now.

Like many artsy-fartsy folks, I struggle with clinical depression coupled with crippling anxiety. It might be cool if a creative person battling with inner torments and emotional pain was unique — but let’s face it, it’s so common it’s cliche. If I were like any other self-respecting starving artist, I’d man up and turn to drugs and alcohol. I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re supposed to do. Since I have a family, however, that oh-so-also-cliche option really isn’t on the table. So I opt for the other type of drug: The kind prescribed by a doctor.

Since I also struggle with migraines, and have a severe reaction to most drugs (See! I am super special!), it’s challenging to get a combination of drugs that treats both depression and headaches while not making me gain weight and have other *ahem* embarrassing side effects. BUT, since mid-summer, I’ve been on a combination that seems to be working! Yay!

My moods have been fairly steady. I’ve had very few fits of dark, ominous, soul-crushing depression. I’m still not comfortable in large groups of people, but I haven’t had any anxiety attacks. I haven’t lost weight, but I stopped gaining. Heck, even my insomnia has mostly disappeared. I’m more “normal” than I have been for years. What a happy ending, no? :) But…

I’m boring.

That’s not really a fair thing to say. I’m still me. I’m still the funny guy in most crowds. I’m still smart enough to solve most problems at work. I’m still weird enough that people aren’t quite sure how to take me. I’m still really good at Balderdash. The part of me that I most love, however, seems to be sleeping. I have no motivation to create. Anything. At. All. And that bothers me.

Can you remember the last time I made a silly video of myself? I can’t. Can you remember the last time I did a tech tip video for Linux Journal? I can’t. Heck, even blogging — I’ve averaged one post a month since July. One PER MONTH. Who does that?

It gets worse though. Since I’ve been on this “working” cocktail of medicine, I’ve missed every writing deadline I have. I’ve completely failed to produce web content when I’m supposed to. Heck, I’m in the middle of writing a review now that is so boring, reading it might kill people. My creativity is seemingly gone. And I miss the crap out of it.

So there is my conundrum. I could continue to take my crazy-people pills, and live a perfectly ordinary life. There are many advantages. Heck, I’m even budgeting now — surely a sign of the end times. I could likely exist like this for the rest of my life, and my family would be happy, comfortable, and not worried about me. But it would be just that… existing.

But what is the alternative? Depression? Anxiety? Suicidal thoughts? Pain? Misery? Is it worth facing those things for the chance to truly live? I dunno. I’m happy now, I guess. At least I’m not unhappy. I certainly don’t want to try switching drugs again. It’s been literally years of trying different combinations, and this is the closest to “normal” I’ve ever felt.

Anyway. Wish me luck. Maybe I’ll try a prescription of light therapy, treadmill, and meditation. Maybe I’ll do nothing, it’s hard to say. My blog has the subtitle “The Thinks I Think”, it’s never been more true. :)

19 Comments

  1. Shawn, I’ve been right where you are more times in the past 20 years than I care to recall. I even had to take a break from blogging last year because of it. I was just dead inside. There’s no other way to explain it.

    I haven’t had meds since 2009, by choice. I couldn’t stand the dead feeling 24/7 for years. Now it just comes and goes, generally within a couple of months. But last year was a tough one because I was spending time re-evaluating **everything** in my life, thanks to a serious health scare.

    I don’t have anything important to say here, except maybe the one thing that everyone needs to know: You’re heard. You’re understood. You’re not alone.

  2. LNXGUY says:

    Howdy Shawn,
    You have the miracle of the internet to keep your persona alive and funny_online_. It does not matter to those of us who only know you via email, twitter and those other annoying social media thingies. Just looking at your photos and videos from the past will keep an image of the good ol’ Shawn in our mind. This is all transient and meant to be. Keep your faith in God and trust that you are doing His work here on Earth. This nasty world can only be made better by you being in it. Love your family and enjoy the ride!
    [Do put out more videos, though] ;>)

  3. Bill says:

    I’ve had the same experience. I found that I just needed to cut the dosage down a bit. The ideal dosage varies depending on weight and sensitivity, but the pills only come in discrete sizes so that’s what they start with. There’s a trade-off: too high and I’ve lost creativity, too low and I’m mighty hard to be around, but after a few months I found a dosage that works well.

    Good luck.

  4. That sucks, Shawn. And I have no idea of what I would decide to do if I were in that place. I am a little, lately I’ve been wondering why I don’t do things I used to do, why I don’t have thoughts in certain directions, etc. Part of that is getting older, I think. But part of it is also the welbutrin. Fortunately for me it’s not a drastic change.

  5. Shawn,

    I do, in fact, know precisely what you are saying. As you’ve mentioned before, I’ve been quite open about my struggles with anxiety/depression/ocd and–like you–seem to have come upon the correct pharmaceutical dosage to keep me stable.

    And I also have been unable to write for several years.

    But, I also remember quite clearly what life is like when I’m not being appropriately treated–I’m a self-destructive mess, and almost unbearable to be around.

    It’s easy, when things are going well, to forget past struggles, and think they won’t happen again. But I know that for *me* going off meds is not an option. I might be okay for a year or two, but sooner or later it’ll all come back. With me, it always does.

    So I don’t write. I’m boring.

    But you know what? I’m OK with that.

    This decision is one you have to make for yourself, but you should make it with a significant amount of discussion with your doctor and with Donna as to what the possible repercussions could be. Because right now, at this point in your life, what you do does not affect just you.

    I fear this came off as bitchy, which was not my intent. I hope you know that I love you and will support you whatever you do. Just make sure you fully consider all possible outcomes.

  6. Fred Richards says:

    Are you saying you’re addicted to your own creativity? :oD Not necessarily a bad thing. I think you’ll be fine. I hear your concern, it could be a number of things … change of seasons for example. Like Nirvana said, weather changes moods.

    I’ve been feeling a lot of the same type of things lately (sans medication). I think I’m burned out. Too much work. Not enough being silly. You’re silliness is an inspiration for many of us. I don’t think you’ve lost your mojo, even if you think you have.

    I’m sitting here after midnight, on thanksgiving, watching rocky horror picture show. You can out-goof that. Have fun, you always do.

    Oh, and happy thanksgiving. Or black friday now, I guess.

  7. Erich Timkar says:

    Can I suggest something less dramatic and somewhat depressing, having been where you were about twelve years ago? In the months following, I found that it took some time to figure out who I was if I was “driven” by irresistible drive or sense of self-loathing to follow my passions.

    There were those things that I had previously pursued in my life because I enjoyed them and then there were those things I did because the provided an endorphin boost or a more ineffable sense of self. I finally asked myself, “What do I ‘want’ to do if I don’t ‘have’ to do ‘X.’” For my part, I was music major, composer and a musician. I found that I could, if I wished walked away from music and it would not be the end the world or even my sense of identity and it left me free to actually enjoy what I was doing.

    That said, having found the help needed to level the playing field with other folks in the world, I had to learn to play the same game that they do. Self discipline. Creativity is a discipline, I eventually learned. Those of us who have struggled with intractable depression eventually managed to orient our lives to serve our drive to create. At the point that I was no longer subservient to the creativity, I learned bring it under our own control and make it serve my purposes. In time.

    One thing that doctors will tell addicts is when they go off their drug of choice, is that it will take some time to for the body to start producing endorphins again. I think the same principle apply when adjusting to life without depression. Real creativity took a while to return to me. I think he was bit mad with me.

    So…

    First, give yourself a break and give yourself time. You may also find that, without the ever-present darkness, your passions have… metamorphosized, still the same in essence, though different in expression. You’ve only been leveling out for only, what? Four months? After how many year (decades?) of roller-coasters? It’s going to take time.

    Second, learn the disciplines required to live the new normal. With writing as it was for me with music, for instance, you MAY find that you have to sit down and write a bunch of crap to train your brain chemistry to sit up and take notice. I realized that this sounds a bit like, “suck it up boy,” but there is SOME truth to it, eventually: “Waaah! I can’t be creative because I’m not suffocating a life-threatening/soul-sucking/widow-making brick-load-heavy-wet-wool blanket of self-loathing and despair. :)

    Third, I have good news. With a reasonably stable brain chemistry, you have a whole new set of tools at your disposal – persistence, stability and (I’m guessing here) a new form of patience. These will serve you well in your creative endeavors, young padawan.

    One last note. I still don’t like crowds, either. But that’s just because other people in the world don’t know to sit calmly, talk quietly and only get up from their assigned chairs, one at a time. AND WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE IN MY HOUSE ANYWAY!?!? GO HOME!!! I WANT TO PLAY SKYRIM!!!

    I hope this helps. I just read over it and it sounds like pop-psychology physco-babble. Eeew. Disregard it all.

    • Shawn Powers says:

      Erich,
      That might be the most insightful, helpful comment I’ve ever received on any post I’ve ever written. I can’t thank you enough. It’s a little spooky how much sense everything you wrote made to me.
      Thanks again,
      -Shawn

  8. Erick Tyack says:

    Shawn,

    I wish you well. This is a subject where I have little knowledge, only opinion. As Erich sort of said above — push through and start training/exploring “The New Brain of Shawn”.

    Regards,

    Erick

  9. Mr.Mister says:

    Interesting, I’m having the same problem with depression and drugs. I was on the crazy people pills but they did the same thing to me and I had a lot of side effects beyond that. Sometimes I’d get on a good mix that would work for a month or several but then my body would become tolerant to the drugs and I’d have to increase the dosage and then I’d get sick so I’d reduce the dosage and get off it. For me, it’s not a solution.

  10. Kristen McIntyre says:

    “The new brain of shawn”, it was very fascinating topics. I hope your fine.

  11. Alex says:

    Hi Shawn! I just discovered your existence a few days ago while looking for Linux related stuff. I really admire your brutal honestly in talking about what you’re going through. Good luck, you seem like a real cool dude! :)

  12. jerry says:

    you seem like a real cool dude!

  13. jerry says:

    I hope your fine.

  14. jerry says:

    Interesting, I’m having the same problem with depression and drugs. I was on the crazy people pills but they did the same thing to me and I had a lot of side effects beyond that. Sometimes I’d get on a good mix that would work for a month or several but then my body would become tolerant to the drugs and I’d have to increase the dosage and then I’d get sick so I’d reduce the dosage and get off it. For me, it’s not a solution.

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