Miserable in San Francisco

ImageHave you ever been to San Francisco?  Have you ever been to San Francisco when you realize that the supposedly comparable generic anti-depressant you’ve just switched to because your insurance company is charging you $100 a month for name brand isn’t cutting it at all?  

It should have been a great trip.  I had joined my husband as he worked a conference for the ideal combination of alone time and time with him.  He left to go staff the booth for the morning.  I tried to figure out what to do with myself.  You would think, So many great options!  But my brain went something like this:  Why don’t you rent a bike?  O, I couldn’t do that – It’s too much money, and you just did that yesterday with Paul.  Why don’t you go for a run?  But I’ve seen the Wharf area already and it would be a waste to go do something I’ve already done.  How about you get an all-day tourist bus pass and check out the Botanical Gardens and go running there?  O but that is too much money just to go to that one place.  But you could ride across the Golden Gate bridge and go running along that coastline.  No, I can’t do that.  That’s too far, and I heard there’s no easy way to get down to the water.  Fine, why don’t you just lay here.  I can’t do that!  What a waste!  How lazy!  Go to a coffee shop and read a book?  NO!  That’s not taking advantage of being in this great city able to do anything I want!!!

Yes, my husband received one of “those” calls, with me in an absolute panic because I could not figure out what to do and every single thing was stupid and I was ridiculous for even thinking it and I was wasting my time and I couldn’t stop spinning my wheels and now I’m crying.  I’m afraid just reading all that doesn’t give you a good enough feel for how painful depression can be.  How much it hurts.  How the demons beat you up for just breathing.  How dare you.  How each thought brings forth a cascade of punishment and humiliation that feel like ice picks being driven into your brain.  And they won’t stop.  Ever.  Yeah.  Maybe that’s a clearer picture.

The other problem with depression?  I lose total sight that it’s depression, and not that I am a worthless stupid waste of a person.  My husband has experience with this, so he said to me, “Amy, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  If you are this miserable trying to figure out what to do and you feel like every option is bad, I’m guessing that generic drug isn’t working.”

My response?  “Really?  You think that’s all it is?  And once we get home I can get the right drug?”   You know they are charging us $100 for it, right?”  “Amy, $100 a month is a pittance compared with your sanity.  It’s totally worth it.  In the meantime, go outside.  Go for a walk.  And when I get back, we’ll figure out what would be fun to do.”

The neuro-scientific research into depression reveals an incredibly complex picture of interacting genes, hormones, synapses, neuro-chemicals.  One branch of research is showing how the neuro-chemicals that keeps our emotions regulated get out of whack, so what should feel good – Like a trip to San Francisco – doesn’t.  But it’s no accident that calling my husband helped me calm down.  Social support is key to triggering the release of “feel good” chemicals.   Jaak Panskepp’s book “The Archeology of the Mind: Neuro-evolutionary Origins of Human Emotions” suggests “the possibility that depression is largely due to deficits of pleasure chemicals in the brain, particularly those that support the security of social bonds.”  It isn’t all that simple, but I’m fortunate to have people in my life who love me; people I trust more than the demons in my head.   Whew!  



2 thoughts on “Miserable in San Francisco

  1. I just cried at your article. It’s my second, actually third time I. The Bay Area and each time I experience exactly what happened to you on your trip. Just that my trips are 3 months long each time, visiting my husband who works here. Last time we stayed right in the Mission, this time in a beautiful part of Oakland. It takes me hours each day to find the momentum to leave the house. Except for the majority of days when on my past 2 trips I didn’t. I think I could do ok managing, but life is so unbelievable unstable and uprooted. I can’t imagine that feeling as I do is even anything but a normal response to this intercontinental love affair that is costing me stable friendships and lands me in a place in life where the longest conversations are found with cafe staff as I order my coffee and ask about the GMO situation in their soya milk. Frustrating. And now I am crying because after reading bell jar’s husbands blog entry and yours I am wondering how much of how the world feels like is actually me needing that oxygen tank – or a good yoga teacher to sooth the soul.

    • O dear, dear birgit – I’m so glad you mentioned a good yoga teacher – If that isn’t a source of oxygen, I don’t know what is. Gentleness and compassion with your heart, and a huge healthy dose of skepticism because your brain may indeed be lying to you – And even on the days when you don’t WANT to leave the house, there is a much higher concentration of oxygen outdoors. There really is. And keep connecting through blog comments, and trusting there is enough oxygen to go around….There is!

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