Ghost in the machine

I make it no secret I suffer from chronic depression. Some days are better than others. Some days are a bear to deal with. In all honesty, I have been going through a “spell” for the past couple of months. I don’t keep track anymore, so let’s just say it was probably in May that the downward trend started.

I’ve been to therapy, which is a great thing for seeing things with new eyes, getting an outside perspective, or getting tools to add to the toolbox for coping with such things. Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped much in the long run for my issues because mine is more internal-chemistry based than situational depression. I don’t get triggered by events: everything can be going just splendid and marvey, and I’ll still feel like the universe is weighing me down. Meditation has helped lift some of that gravity, but that is a skill that I learned on my own doing the Tao/Zen thing for 20 years, not something therapy has guided me towards or taught me. The main takeaway I’ve gotten from therapy is that I can talk with someone who doesn’t really understand the emotions and essentially vent, but I don’t feel much compulsion to vent because that doesn’t lift the heavy feeling I have on my shoulders — so it is basically a useless exercise and a waste of everyone’s time. Multiple therapists, multiple approaches. All same effect.

Being an internal-chemical thing, then, made me an excellent candidate for medication. I’ve tried that, too. I have had a few different treatments and a cocktail of things over the years, all of which eventually quash my ability to do creative activities — inspiration and creativity is decimated for music, art, writing… anything creative. I get zombified. And… all it does is shave off the worst. It doesn’t stop the depression, it is more like a pillow smothering the Eeyore inside (yeah, I can relate to Eeyore all too well), but not quite killing him. So I sit there, bummed that I can’t be creative on top of being smother-depressed and it just doesn’t seem worth it. So I stopped. I’d rather be depressed and feel like me than be mildly less depressed and unable to be me. The last medication also started losing its effectiveness and I got worse after about 2 years of using it. The solution was to increase the dosage, which made me really depressed. And weaning myself off of that shit was worse than going sober — I was all migraine headaches and brain-zapping (yes, it’s really like you feel and hear sparks in your head and you lose track of time when those happen). And I weaned myself off over a six-week period, not cold turkey. I’m done with medication. It makes me feel all wrong in the head and crazy. Alcohol had fewer negative impacts on me when I was self-medicating and, if I am done with drinking, I think I can be done with medication that messes up my brain chemistry to no real purpose.

Why am I going on about this today?

Well, I was thinking (always a dangerous thing) about the past week and I realized that the only time I wasn’t battling with my chronic depression was when I was cuddling Ghost or watching him acclimate to the household (e.g., guarding him from the older cats and from tasty-looking wires). I adore all of our cats, even the couple of jerkwads, but I’ve gotten extremely attached to Ghost in the short time he’s been here because, dammit, I just feel not-depressed when we’re hanging out. It doesn’t hurt that he body-slams me more than head-butts me when he sees me outside of his interim cage, but this little guys is just so full of love it’s hard not to feel good when he foists it on you. None of the other cats have ever been like this guy; the last one to be so affectionate was my cat Buddha back in the 90s/00s, and it’s been six cats since (Stillwater was a seventh that left us too soon; we adopted him not knowing he’d have kidney failure within a few months and he was pretty close to this level of affection). The other cats we have are affectionate, but ultimately more interested in each other than in the humans. Ghost is the opposite — he is okay with cats, but prefers human interaction.

This got me to thinking about emotional support animals (ESA), which is all the rage these days — mostly misrepresented and quite a few pets are not officially ESAs. I’d guess more than 75% are not official ESAs, but people just abusing the system (which MN has now made illegal to do because of that level of abuse — misrepresenting your pet as a service animal or a ESA). No one should abuse such things.

Seeing how Ghost has the ability to improve my mood significantly, I wonder about such things — especially as there is a quiet drive to try and encourage more people to return to the office to work at my company. Believe it or not, the idea terrifies me. I’ve gotten so introverted during the pandemic when I’m face-to-face with people that I might as well be a supporting wall in a room. I can write, but talking to and being around non-regular people has gotten to be terrifying on occasion — another added distraction to my chronic depression. Part of me wants to see, once I get my new friend better trained, if having Ghost with me will be allowable in the office if they make me go back. Not for meetings, obviously, or wandering around, but just in my closed-door office.

We’ll see if he continues to have a positive impact on my anxiety and depression. It might be a passing thing. But his presence has actually been helpful over the past week for both and I have to wonder if I shouldn’t try that over drugs or therapy. If it continues to help, I may make a query with HR about the matter. They are under no obligation to accommodate my weirdness, but my company has largely been receptive to inclusion and understanding mental health issues.

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