by Adam Riske
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 17 years old. I’ve lived with it for a long time. I was depressed back when it wasn’t in fashion to be depressed. I was the Rosa Parks of depression at F This Movie!, but now everyone else seems to be depressed just as I got happy. Go figure. That makes me sad but not depressed. There’s a big difference between being sad and depressed. I still get sad all the time, but in the past year I have not fallen into depression despite having plentiful reasons. The “why” I haven’t is because I’ve learned over the past 18 years how to manage it. Depression can’t be cured, but it can be (in my experience) managed. It took me a long ass time to learn how to manage my depression, but nowadays I feel like I’m on the other side of my illness.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was a senior in high school. I was told it was a serotonin deficiency and was put on medication and in therapy. I knew something was wrong for many years but I finally hit a wall. Ever since I was a little kid, I always felt like I was doing something wrong (not morally, more like incorrectly) or that I was a “fuck up”. No one told me these things. I decided it for myself. When I would struggle, not even fail, I would become aggravated and ashamed, which would feed into me being sad and often crying. I cried a lot as a kid. Then I ran out of tears or something (is that possible?) and hardly ever cry anymore as an adult. That year in high school was when I knew I needed to get help. I was barely functional socially for about a month (I felt hollowed out), and when I would come home I would just sit in a room and cry for long stretches of time. The weird thing was that for the first time, I didn’t know why I was crying. I knew I needed help, so I told my parents about how I was feeling and asked if I could see someone to talk about it. The important thing is that I said something and acted on getting help.
Therapy and medication worked for a few years. I’ve joked on the podcast before that Prozac made me into an egotistical monster (I think it was the combination of the serotonin boost and normal high school hormones), but I felt better. I hit a wall in college due to side effects of the Prozac (there’s always a chance of that with any medicine) and had to switch to Zoloft, which didn’t work at all for me. Over the years I’ve mixed and matched this new prescribed depression med with that generic version of the med followed by this Abilify booster, etc., etc. They’re good for getting me up to functional but, with the exception of that first burst of Prozac back in the day, they never made me feel happy. Oh, yes, the elusive happy. The dragon I’m always chasing. It was always if I do this or I do that or join this class or get this promotion or date this person I would be happy. It usually didn’t work out as planned. You can’t plan happiness in a notebook or spreadsheet or calendar. All planning ever got me was just dwelling on deficiencies in my life. It wasn’t helpful. Note: I am not telling you to get off your medicine.
Therapy was ok. If you find a therapist (psychiatrist or psychologist) that works, then keep using them. I didn’t find it helpful in the long run. One psychiatrist told me my problem was that I was “too Jewish,” so I stopped seeing her because I’m not trying to be Schlomo the Quirky Kosher Boy; I want to be fucking happy. She was a quack. Then I went to a male psychologist (I thought a doctor of my own gender would help) who was around my own age and he was super nice, but I realized I was paying him more to hang out and stew than put a plan in place on how I can manage my depression. I challenged him that what we were doing wasn’t working and he didn’t have a good solution, so I stopped going to therapy with that doctor. Eventually I stopped going to doctors because I was in therapy so long I think I became therapy proof. So, for a while, I just waited and was depressed even more because if therapy and medicine weren’t doing it, then what the fuck are my options after that? Note: I am not telling you to stop seeing your therapist.
Star Trek Beyond. It was a movie I had low expectations for (it wasn’t screened for critics, so I figured it would be a dud), but I sat there and watched the first half and it made me feel absolute joy. The projection broke down halfway through, causing a five minute delay, but I sat there just in this heightened happiness I hadn’t felt in a while. The film started again and I watched the second half not wanting it to end. If I had to deduce what was happening (in retrospect), it was that I learned that wonderful things exist everywhere and come out of nowhere. Ever since then, I’ve been, on the whole, pretty happy despite a lot of things in my life or on the world stage that should make me feel otherwise. It’s not that those things don’t bother me and give me moments or hours or a day of sadness, but now they don’t send me into a spiral where I’m so depressed I can’t get out of bed for several days. I know that those things are usually temporary, so I find a coping mechanism and ride it out.
So what have I learned about my depression? It’s that I needed to be on the court for a long time to master the game (sorry for the sports analogy). For me it started as medicine and therapy, but then “the league” (i.e. my depression) figured me out and I couldn’t have success the same way that I did at the start. I had to adjust. I had to modify. Sometimes I was lucky and a life event (falling in love, a vacation, time with friends and family, F This Movie!) would put wind in my sails, and that’s a glorious thing because it not only helps you in the moment but you can put it in your memory bank to recall later on when you feel down. At other times, going crazy with exercising or dieting has helped (e.g. I lost a ton of weight one month when I arbitrarily decided not to eat fast food or drink soda for thirty days). Right now my thing is to Star Trek Beyond it. I don’t mean every time I’m sad, I watch that movie. What I mean is I find something that makes me happy (and happy quickly) and indulge in it. The good news is when you do that for an extended amount of time something great happens and more and more things begin to make you happy.
I hope this helps and if you don’t know where to start, start with these four words:
Go Easy on Yourself.
Thank you all for your support over the years and I wish you nothing but the best.
This is a lovely and well written recounting of your story, Adam. I'm glad your are in a good place at this point, and I really like your City Slickers analogy. One thing, just one thing (your finger?)...If you can figure that out, then hopefully it will be enough to keep you going.ReplyDelete
I love you, man, and I am grateful for your friendship! :)
Love you too bud. You're awesome.Delete
Goddamnit, F This Movie. This is just the best thing on the internet right now. Adam, sir, you are a boon to the world.ReplyDelete
No, you are a boon to the world! Thanks for the comment.Delete
This was great. I found myself smiling a lot and I'm not sure if it's because I'm super demented, able to relate, or happy that you feel better now. I particularly loved what you said about your experience with Star Trek. I know escapism can be kind of dangerous, but I also hate when people reduce it to just that. The way little things, like movies, are able to take us out of it for a few hours is probably a huge part of why I'm still here. Thanks again for this!ReplyDelete
It's so great that you wrote this. I've never struggled with depression myself, but this is still inspiring all the same. Hope this does those struggling some good.ReplyDelete
Thank you both for commenting and for being so cool yourselves :-)Delete
Me too. I've never dealt with it, nor anyone close to me. But I've learnt a lot about it this past year, mostly from fthismovie, and that can only be a good thing.Delete
Great write up, Adam. This is just another reason why FThisMovie is my favorite place on the internet!ReplyDelete
Thanks for this. Going to come back to it for the wisdom shared.ReplyDelete
Awesome glad it could help.Delete
Thank you very much for writing this piece. As someone who also suffers from depression and am still trying to manage it, this was exactly what I needed to read today.ReplyDelete
Thanks for commenting, John. Glad it could help. Hope you're having a good day today.Delete
I have nothing to add here but this was a good read.ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading Ross!Delete
Adam you are great.ReplyDelete
You are too. Source Code rules :-)Delete
I can identify with many things you wrote, Adam. I am no stranger to depression. Getting out of bed and having a somewhat productive day is, at times, a big personal victory.ReplyDelete
Escapism can be effective medicine to get one through a difficult moment. In years past it was reading books, but now I mainly turn to cinema to temporarily get away from myself and life. Maybe escapism is watching Charles Bronson mow down hoodlums in Death Wish 3 or seeing a social worker and mother fight over an infantile grown-up man in The Baby. Or watching Star Trek Beyond. Or listening to a podcast. Maybe life does not feel so lonely, then.
Anything it takes. I got my car washed last night and felt better after a lame work day. Hang in there, yo!Delete
Saw Becky from Rookie of the Year and Mighty Ducks at the farmers market. I said hi for you!ReplyDelete
Oh, I thought you liked her. Or at least rookie of the year. Anyway she and I were in the same edible flowers booth and she looks a little different now (still beautiful) but I had to know if it was her and so said hi and a friend loves rookie of the year. She does voiceovers now and is a chef. :)Delete
I am a fan of both of those movies. I don't think I've thought about her since I was 11, though :) Really cool you met her. Did she look the same?Delete
Speaking as a mental health professional, I am truly sorry you had some bad experiences with therapy. It can be very frustrating struggling with a serious problem and not getting actual help from those who are supposed to provide it. Whenever any of my friends or family decide to try therapy, I always cross my fingers that they get someone good.ReplyDelete
Oh, and that psychiatrist whose sage advice was that you were "too Jewish?" Yeah, she can fuck right off.
Yeah I was spoiled on Good Will Hunting thinking I was going to have a hug breakthrough and be cured.Delete
Just wanted to say that was a terrific and inspiring piece of writing. Thank you, good sir!ReplyDelete
Xtro is my Star trek BeyondReplyDelete
I am not a fighter but I would happily punch the quack that said what they said that does not deserve repeating, bloody idiot,
Your the best Riske
Anyone else got a problem with you send them my way and I'll bury them in my garden, I will be your stranger on the train, you can plead plausable deniability
How do you like them apples
Best of luck Riske, keep riding this rollar coaster that is called life
I found you looking up my own blog. It is depressionyoucanlivewith.blogspot.com I would appreciate your feedback. You are speaking of how it really is. That helps people. I think one of the very worst thing for a depressed person to hear is "go out and help others. Just get out of yourself." Actually I think those words are poison to a depressive - as you say, for whatever reason the person is depressed.
Hi Vickie. Thanks for commenting! I'll check out your blog soon and give some feedback.Delete