When your mind defects (leaving you without your biggest asset)
Genetics have been generally kind to me. I have no major physical or health defects, my appearance doesn’t usually repulse (despite my lifestyle choices which have led to being overweight, but I’m dealing with that), and I’m generally average at most things, which is a bigger gift than many realise. My greatest genetic inheritance however is my mind. It’s the tool which has allowed me to become fairly successful in my area of expertise, and to generally negotiate a path through my life’s experiences with mostly favourable outcomes.
My brain’s genetic plan and the subsequent synapse-building experiences of my early years have particulary favoured communication skills and empathy, which I view as intrinsically linked, and the ability to bring to bear a sharp, intense focus: a mix which has been perhaps my greatest strength throughout life. As a consultant, my communication skills and empathy result in rapid rapport and understanding of my client’s pains, motivations and expectations, and my focus allows me to absorb, collate and analyse these inputs very quickly. I can generally turn out resultant work pieces must faster than many of my contemporaries, subsequently allowing me to churn out a high volume of quality work.
Recently however, my ever reliable, identity-defining toolkit has faltered. My mind and body colluded to crush my confidence, destroy my focus and undermine everything which makes me… me. The anxiety attacks I wrote of recently were just the beginning (or at least the first signs obvious to me), of what I now believe will be a long journey of self-discovery, emotional upheaval, and change.
I never understood depression. I sympathised with its victims, no doubt, but I didn’t understand what it really meant. I thought it a cognitive process – a ‘state of mind’ thing, which suffers needed to conquer through determination, counseling and support. I had no idea. I had no concept of how rapidly one’s mind can defect – how quickly your greatest gift can desert you and turn you into a direction-less, hollowed-out zombie, wading through a cesspool of overpowering emotions, pointless thought-loops, and self-doubt.
It wasn’t until I spoke with my GP that some pieces of my puzzle finally fell into place – pieces which the ‘normal’ me would have identified, catalogued, analysed and linked together rapidly. For several years I’ve felt unfulfilled at work, thinking what I do delivers no benefit to mankind and is therefore pointless. For most of this year I’ve generally avoided social situations – usually appealing to me, as I thrive on exchanging ideas and learning new things from other people’s experiences. I’ve avoided emotional entanglements – effectively shutting out emotional stimuli. I’ve been numb. More recently I’ve awoken most mornings before dawn, almost overwhelmed by a deep sorrow, seemingly disconnected with events, easing as the day progresses. Criticisms which I’d normally take on board or reject, depending upon the source and the relevance, have devastated me. I’ve avoided reading, for absorbing information has become very difficult, when usually I read constantly. I’ve cried – sobbed – usually in my car, at the slightest provocation. Songs will do it. Lyrics I’ve heard thousands of times suddenly mean something deep and profound. Reading or hearing about suffering does it too, or the thought that I may have hurt someone I care about.
I’ve never suffered from anxiety. My recent panic attacks were the first I’ve had. Although I’m just beginning the process of working through this, my GP said many things I’ve said are indicative of depression, not anxiety, which suffers tend to battle much of their adult lives. We’re doing some blood tests to eliminate some various things, and we’ll start the process on counseling and so-forth, so we’ll see.
Despite my sympathy for sufferers of depression, the thought that maybe I may yet be described as such is rather horrifying. I know there should be no shame, not guilt, but it’s there. It feels so self-indulgent, so selfish. Yet I wouldn’t think the same of anyone else in this position. It’s chemical. I’m still in here somewhere – I’m just going to need a little help finding myself again.