I said Iíd make the next piece a little easier going (Iíll be returning to the ďWhat is DepressionĒ theme soon, since I havenít completely covered it yet). So hereís one of my methods of dealing with my depression.
I grew up with computers. One of the earliest memories I actually have is of a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K - the one with the rubber keys - that my father bought before I was 10 (to be honest, I think I was around 5 or 6, but I donít 100% trust my memories on points like that). Although there were a number of uses for the Speccy, itís primary use was games.
For the rest of my life, up until today, and hopefully continuing for the remainder to come, I have been a computer gamer. From the Speccy, through the Amiga 500 (and itís upgrades), the Commodore PC10, and on through the early 286, 386 and 486 PCs, I have bought, downloaded, even written a couple, and played, computer games.
How does this work as a coping mechanism? Well, itís escapism, pure and simple. Whether the game is a text based roleplaying game on the Spectrum, or a Massively Multiplayer Online game on my current dual core box, or a driving game on the X-Box, it takes my mind off everything around me for the time I spend playing. This keeps me relatively sane.
Itís not a foolproof mechanism; to be honest I donít believe there actually is a single coping method for depression that will work for every situation, and there are times that the depressed state just cannot be dealt with by any coping method (these are my darkest days). It has its drawbacks; if itís a single player game, it can be seen as anti-social (locking yourself away for four or more hours a night to play with yourself), if itís an MMO, then although you can play solo or as part of a group with other human players, using voice-over-IP apps to communicate, even though you might see it as a social activity for those reasons, you still run the risk of alienating real-world friends, relatives, and partners (assuming theyíre not in the same game). Additionally, itís a sedentary activity, you spend hours of free time sitting in one position (sort of like office work, but not being paid for it); this can affect weight gain, which in turn can affect self esteem, which can lead to (guess what) more depression, needing more escapism... A potential vicious circle.
And yet I still spend a large proportion of my free time in computer based activities. Why? Well, Iím good at them, and I enjoy them. They do take my mind off the rest of my problems for a while. And they do keep me sane.
More recently, Iíve started to come ďout of my shellĒ a little; Iím developing more of a real world social life, going out for drinks (occasionally), spending a little more time away from the computer. Iím managing my depression with other means as well as computing; Iím also apparently going through an ďupswingĒ of sorts, in as much as over the last few months my bad days actually havenít been quite as bad as the bad days just before. Is it related to my lifestyle changes? Possibly. On the other hand, my depressive cycles go through phases like this from time to time. Weíll see. Iím still going to use this particular method to cope - it is, after all, my hobby, and not something I want to give up completely (after all the things Iíve tried to take up, and all the failures, itís nice to have something I can do well and that I enjoy).
Next up, probably a little more on what Depression actually is - thereís no way you can actually define it in a single web page; psychiatrists have been studying it for over a century, and there is still not enough known about it. Maybe what I write up here will go some way to fixing that, however small my contribution is...