This post is about depression. The serious, life threatening kind, not SADD, which I USED to think was debilitating. Not melancholy. Not ennui. Nope. This is the depression that plagued and haunted me for nearly ten months but is now in remission. I’m going to wander a lot as I try to entertain and explain how the demon affected me but rest assured that depression is today’s theme.
My mom’s mom was institutionalized in the 1920’s for depression. She underwent electroconvulsive, or electroshock, therapy back when they REALLY didn’t know what they were doing. Mom was never institutionalized and I certainly wasn’t either. My depression was considered mild. (MILD!? Heaven help us all.)
As a rule I have tended to take pretty good care of myself for the last 55 years. Okay, okay. Mom and Dad took care of me until I got married at 25 and then my wife took over, but I am health conscious and I take steps to keep me on a healthful track. I do things like exercising regularly, eating well, and abstaining from drugs other than caffeine and an ounce or so of alcohol per day.
Five and a half decades of self-care may have helped me minutely in dealing with depression but I can assure you that a whole lot of problems cropped up. The problems cropped up because I really cared about nothing and therefore my activity level went from high to extremely low. Combine inactivity and ennui to the tenth power and you have a volatile cocktail. It is very difficult to motivate a man who isn’t worried about death. Even pain had little affect on me. I knew, and my doctor repeatedly reminded me, that exercise could keep away the arthritis, the back pain, the litany of affliction that languishing led to. Knowledge is not power if one does not act in accordance with what one knows so languish I did.
Depression fueled inactivity led to great things like erectile dysfunction, pain when urinating or ejaculating, arthritis pain in my hands, knees and other joints and- Of course! -the realization that if someone held a gun to my head that I might just help him pull that trigger. Devastating realizations, debilitating consequences.
Are we having fun yet?
Remember, I’m better now so at the end of this post you may find your Lucky Lotto Numbers! But only if you read through and don’t skip to the end.
Where to begin? Let’s just dive in, I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
I reached a milestone about two months back, a new height, shall we say. In the 674 months since I was conceived I have progressed in mass from two little itty bitty gametes that didn’t have a combined wight of .000005 gram and hadn’t even been introduced to one another to my (Thus far!) maximum lifetime weight of 100,000 grams, (That’s 220 pounds for those of you who don’t hablar metric) a twenty BILLION time increase in mass.
I’m going to concentrate on fat for a bit, not because it’s the most important aspect of my decline but rather because it is both a visible consequence and a symbol of the mental and emotional weight that burdened me.
Fat cascading down from my form is testimony to where depression led me. It led me from someone who cared about self and others, who tried to give care and take care, to someone who really didn’t. A terrible transformation inside was nicely illustrated by a heinous metamorphosis outside. BTW- In addition to my roly and poly exterior my cholesterol went up 40% (FORTY PERCENT!?) from a very healthy number to one where the US Surgeon General and Madonna can sing a duet because I’m currently right in the middle of borderline territory. How is cholesterol related to depression? Simple; when you don’t care you don’t move much except your jaws; a terrible, life threatening, vitality sapping combination.
Two hundred-twenty plus pounds on a 185cm (or nearly six-foot-two) frame means that I’m carrying at least an extra 30 pounds, or 13 and a half kilos of blubber. This gross is too gross because with my build I should weigh no more than 185 lbs or, 84 kilos. As I’ve indicated the extra weight is definitely in the form of adipose tissue -aka FAT! -and that at this weight tengo el gut and butt big time which makes me both triste y azul.
This all started, as these things always do, with my parents, and in particular, my mother. Mom was born, as I am so fond of pointing out, the year that women in the USA were first allowed the privilege of exercising their newly won 19th Amendment Right: The Right to Vote! In just four more years the country will celebrate Mom’s one-hundredth birthday and the Centennial of The 19th Amendment! (Not that Mom’s still with us. She passed in 2008.)
FYI- In 1920 Harding beat Cox. There was third-party candidate as well but I’m keeping E.V.D. in my hip pocket for the time being. And again, BTW- the opportunity for inappropriate sexual innuendos concerning the names HARDing and COX will be forgone in the name of moving forward. I shall simply report that Harding received over 60% of the popular vote while Cox got just over 1/3. Fifty percent more Americans voted in 1920 than in 1916 and that additional one third voters- Don’t you love number games and statistics! One half more equals a one third increase? Do the math!- was certainly made up of mostly first time women voters.
Mom was never young. Truly. I don’t mean this in the trite way that we younger generations have of pigeonholing the preceding, that nearly ubiquitous inability or mental block on our part to envision our parents as youngsters. No, I mean it literally. Because, even though Mom grew from a pair of gametes to a zygote, zipped along to blastula, embryo, fetus, infant and ad nauseam, she did not become a mother until 1957 and she didn’t become my mother until she was nearly forty-one. Therefore as a MOTHER she was never young.
Women born in 1920 tended to have their first child at a much earlier age than women do today. In 2016 nearly 1/3 of US women wait until they have reached their 35th birthday before giving birth for the first time. When Mom was 35 that fraction was less than 1 in 50. Just around two percent! So, Mom was, truly, always old by the standards of her contemporaries. (Mom, born in 1920, bore five children and suffered one miscarriage between 1956 and 1966.)
So, while all of this is true and fascinating (At least to me!) what the Billabong does any of this have to do with me being fat?
So, as Eugene Debs, the aforementioned third-party candidate in the 1920 election was famous -though many would put the “in” before that word -for saying, “Let us examine the facts.” And the fact is that when, in the winter of 2004, my boss, a never temperate, think before you speak kind-a-guy, said to me, “Man, you’re getting fat!” he was spot-on. Rude and out of line of course, but spot-on none the less. Bill actually spells his last name, I-M-P-E-R-T-I-N-E-N-T.
Impertinent or not, Billy S. was right and his observation got my aging and deteriorating soon to be 44-year-old chunky-monkey butt training for competition again. Christmas of ’04 represented my up to then maximum weight of 210 pounds and Bill’s rudely truthful declaration got me running, riding and tri-ing; activities I’ve been doing ever since.
From 2005 until 2015 I dropped, and was able to keep off, extraneous adipose of the excessive kind and keep my L B’s below the two-hundred level. An ass ceiling I have been able to stay below until my recent climb to obesity. (Ironically, one year ago I weighed in at a great for me 185.)
One of the things that became obvious to me way back when I was approaching four dozen years rather than five was how much a daily routine of light calisthenics and stretching kept the daily aches and pains that come with aging at bay. My Back pain in particular and joint pain in general bother me far less when I take fifteen minutes at the beginning of the day and exercise.
Even as I suffered I knew stretching was a free tool that would help keep me plumb but instead of using it regularly I threw it into my tool box where it became dusty and rusty. Consequently, I went from plumb, to plump, to a big fat walking dump. Hard on everything physical when we add nineteen plus percent of our body weight in the form of a big jiggly-wiggly belly and caboose.
And depression hurts. It hurts self, significant others, productivity, quality of life and self-worth. With depression I went from a slightly warped view of myself as old, fat and somewhat unattractive to a man with virtually no self-worth. Did I mention that depression hurts?
Holly cow was I in a dark, dark hole! A hole that I began slowly creeping out of in July of this year. Slowly. Step by step. Inch by paunchy inch. My decline, which is a rise, -ain’t life funny? -ended there and I again began to give a good-flying-fudge (Tut-tut! There are children in the audience!) and I steeped on THE SCALE only to read THE WEIGHT. Faced with a desperate situation precipitated by desperation I resolved to exercise and, thus, exorcise my fat little demon. I would, to flip Miss Scarlet on her Tara residing head, “Never go fatty again!”
Now, Grouchy Marx would tell us that depression is no laughing matter and he’d be right. Dead right of course, but right none-the-less. Depression is serious doo-doo and can lead to some fairly serious consequences like suicide, which I hear has life-altering implications. My personal journey to Helen and back (What is it with people pouring aspersions on poor Helen?) has a decidedly upward trend and if you are reading this from a cold, dead place then all I can say is that I do feel you, my brother. And while I feel you, don’t be an Ophelia and go jump in a lake. We only have one chance at life and come Hell or high water we gotta’ do the best we can to swim not sink.
I promised me, myself, and wife that I would lose weight and furthermore that I’d tell the world when I finally fell from my 100 Kg level of gross to my former benchmark of 210 pounds, aka 95.5 kg.
Great news! Today is the day! Upon waking and before exercising in the hot Florida sun I weighed 209 pounds. Hallelujah! Eleven down, nineteen to go. Road to recovery I am on you.
Now where’s that pie and ice-cream with which to celebrate?
(Anything worth celebrating is worth singing about so here’s a little itty bitty ditty celebrating my rise from the bottom:)
100,000 grams of insanity
One hundred thousand grams that’s the size that I now am.
How did I achieve this prize? Bulging butt, gut and thighs?
Where’s the man I used to be? Hidden now inside of me?
Quasimodo had his hump, I eat four breakfasts, dinners, lunch.
What I am is more than gross, unhealthy living with such adipose.
My brain nose-dived and so did I; wondered just how long before I’d die.
Mistress who would kick my ass, could not lift me from morass.
Forty weeks to bake a child, bulging belly drives me wild.
Slowly to my senses came, perched on scale, sad refrain.
Not just flabby but weak as well, good old me now stuck in hell.
Then one day I saw the light, promised self to make things right.
Started to pursue the dude, rid the burden I’d accrued.
Journey of a thousand miles? I start now, may take a while.
But inside this fat old man is a warrior who knows he can!