06 Feb


When I first began thinking of writing about clinical depression, I stopped thinking. I put it to rest. Why would I consider doing what I was considering? What would I do in the face of my family and friends when they found out? I felt so shameful. So inadequate. So inferior. And I felt so alone. Especially as a male. Men aren’t supposed to talk about our feelings. We’re not supposed to cry. Not show weakness. Not show emotion.

specter_003This…thing I had, made me do all those things. And it wouldn’t leave. It just lingered there for years. It reared its ugly head more than I could handle. I saw its sinister teeth glistening in the shadows. Its chipped, stiletto nails sliding around the corner and scratching on the walls of my soul.

Later, through years of counseling and medicine, doctors help me put a name to this thing and they called it depression. I’ve come to call it, Specter.

A big step to my living with depression and being haunted by Specter was the realization of what I was going through was real. It was not imagined. I was not a freak or different because I was going through it. I was normal. The Lord just dealt me a hand that was different from other folks in my life. That’s a-whole-‘nother talk which I imagine I’ll address in the future. The biggest help to me was decoding the codex. Once I discovered the following four items, I could live with my depression. Yours may be different my friend. You may have less. You may have more. There’s no standard here. And that’s perfectly fine.

Here are four truths I’ve learned from my years of living with depression:

1. I had no happiness. Life was bleak. A grey filter descended across my life. It could be clear and sunny out and I just couldn’t find the sunshine. Happiness was lost beyond the horizon. And I wondered if it would ever come back. I had given up hope that it ever would. I was on a rotating cornucopia of pills that never seemed to bring me away from zombie state. If a medicine “worked” I didn’t usually experience the extreme lows that are characteristic of Specter’s grip. On the other hand, periods of happiness, true happiness – uncontrollable hysterical laughing, energy, and enthusiasm – was as hard to get as that first high from some mood altering drug. Dang if I didn’t fight for it and want it. Dang if it rarely came. Depression was the cause of this. HOW REFRESHING TO DISCOVER THIS.

2. I had no shame. When it gets bad enough, you don’t care about the things I mentioned in the opening paragraph. When you’re collapsed…no broken on the kitchen floor and clawing at the cabinets, you don’t care. You don’t care how long you sob. You don’t care if your upstairs neighbors can hear your hysterical crying through the floor. You don’t care because the pain and torture you are dealing with is far, far greater than the repercussions and embarrassment of others finding out.

3. I had no drive; I had no energy. At one particular point within the past few years I’ve had an exorbitant amount of Red Box movie marathon love affairs. [red flag] I would come home from work each night, plop myself on the couch, and feed my brain with empty, non-caloric, fast food for the brain in the form of Criminal Minds. [red flag] I didn’t want to go out when my friends asked me. It was always so draining I thought. My introvertedness exacerbated that. [red flag] Compounded it. I did things at home by myself. I justified it. “That’s how I recharge my batteries.” If you can identify with that, please know that’s okay. But please try to balance that with going out with your friends when they invite you. They are your safety net. The conversation may be different in public in a group than it is behind closed doors on a couch while you’re bearing your soul. But they are still your safety net. Trust them. Aim for once a month if it’s a struggle for you to say yes to their offer. This next payday, make it a point to do so. And go from there. Don’t worry, I have to practice what I preach here so I’m in the struggle with you.

4. My relationships suffered. It takes a strong person to live with someone who is depressed. We have mood swings. We’re utterly exhausted. Tiredness leads to irritability. Irritability leads to sleeping. Sleeping leads to resentment from your partner. Resentment and anger lead to breakups, or in my case divorce. It’s not a fun, nor hopeful circle of life. Unfortunately. If you find that one person who accepts that part of you (yes, they are out there), you must open yourself to them. Believe them. Strive to be transparent with them. They are real.

Here’s three things that have helped me the most:

1. My medicine. While I was in the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center the doctor made a slight change to my medicine. It was medicine I had taken before (Lexapro) but he did one thing no other doctor has ever done. He added a smaller dose (2mg) of Abilify. Abilify enhances the effects of the Lexapro. And that magical concoction worked! Am I wary that one day this thin blanket of peace will end and Specter will break out of the rusty cage he torments me from? You’re dang right I am. So I try to be as proactive and honest with the doctors as I can. I bring my medicine bottles so they can count out the pills. I never leave it to chance or to my memory. I log my dosages into Evernote on my phone. Some folks like to record it in a journal. It’s a personal preference but you need to strive to be proactive and deliberate with this. I consider it a Best practice. I have another issue that compounds my depression. An ally of Specter. Sleep Apnea. At my last sleep study I stopped breathing 83 times in 60 minutes. If you have sleep apnea, men especially, you need to get a C-PAP/B-PAP machine to help you breathe at night. Men have a higher rate than women since we have a thicker neck circumference.  This is a growing killer of men and we need to support each other to take it seriously. It is believed that 1 in every 15 Americans have sleep apnea. 1 in 50 individuals have an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea. (SOURCE: An enhanced quality of sleep will help alleviate our incessant daily fatigue and irritability.

2. My faith. Faith enables hope. And it defeats hopelessness. My faith has taught me grace and humility in my times of affliction. Through my valley. It has taught me kindness and empathy towards others. It has tempered my judgmentalism and matured me. It wasn’t always like this until within the past five years. I need this in my life. We need an anchor in our lives to help us weather this tempest. If your anchor is firmly planted, whatever that may be, your boat may drift but will always come back to that focal point. Make sure you have a focal point. Make sure it is firmly planted.

3. My friends. We are not alone. We have people in our lives that will comfort us. When you’re in Specter’s grip, you lose all sense of this. That’s his power. It’s the first thing he leeches out of you – hope. He flashes a slide show of loneliness in front of you until you crack and break. In reality, all we need to do is reach out. If you don’t have a system in place you. don’t. want. to. talk. to. anyone. By then it is too late. You can’t pick up the phone and talk to someone because your hope has been stolen. You don’t have it anymore. While I was in the psychiatric center, I realized I had to have a system in place on the outside, for when Specter got hungry for my soul and crept out of the shadows. I never did until after I attempted to exit the world. My angel – Chelise – the guardian who pulled the noose off my neck after hanging from the doorknob for 45 minutes, she knew what I was willing to carry out that night. From a text! “Why do you want sleeping pills?” – “I want to die tonight.” She dropped everything without question and sped from a usual 50 minute ride away and made it to me in 20 minutes. She called three times on her way and three times it went to voicemail. That’s what friends do. When I was released, we (myself and the angels who were there from the beginning that night) agreed that we would keep our phones on throughout the night with the volumes set high. We know that if I have an episode, I call, and they answer. No questions. No judgment. That’s my system. Think preventive maintenance over damage control. We put oil in our cars before the engine seizes don’t we? There’s little that can be done once the engine seizes. There’s little will left once our hope is taken. Outsmart Specter.

In moving forward through our valleys, I’m interested in your comments on the following curiosities…

What truths have you learned about your depression? What has helped you the most along your journey?


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33 responses to “Specter

  1. Harry P. X. Frost

    02/06/2015 at 15:50

    Another candid and heartening post, Chris. It’s clarifying to have your own word for your personal condition, as from my undergraduate studies in psychology I often find clinical labels/diagnoses not sufficient to encompass each person’s idiosyncratic complexities. I call mine Melancholia. It’s a multifaceted scope through which I look at the world and at myself, devastating yet inspiring at times, yielding a perception gloomy yet sharp. I also don’t look desperately for the goal of life in happiness, but simply in experiencing life with its ups and downs in the most meaningful way. Having reliable friendships is also essential in protecting myself from derailment, but maintaining them is difficult if my mood swings cripple me from socializing; your friends ultimately don’t owe you anything (which is a great thing btw), you need to spend time with them regularly, but also don’t want to overwhelming them with egocentric negative energy if you don’t feel you have any positivity to contribute. So the balancing act between “having fun” and “being real” is challenging for me, to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • survivingthespecter

      02/08/2015 at 15:50

      I like your thoughts, Harry. Thank you for taking the time to share these things for me to think about. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Surviving the Specter

      02/19/2015 at 08:33

      Hope things are going well my friend. That’s a great name you came up with for your condition – Melancholia. You have such a powerful command with your words in your posts. I understand what you say about reliable friendships and the difficulty of maintaining them. That’s why things went sour in my marriage. It takes a special breed, Harry. A kind, understanding, unselfish person. I did not have that then. Keep home my friend. All we need is one or two. I had dramatic mood swings as well, to the point that I asked my doctor about being bipolar. I am unipolar because my mood swings went only one way – DOWN. Fun stuff, lol. I feel the same way about the negativity. True friends will be there for you through those times. I’d suggest joining a group. You could unload on them however often their meetings are held. AND, you will probably make some great friends. I just attended my local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) meeting and will push myself to keep attending and participating. Chin up my fellow warrior. Looking forward to hearing from you.


      • Harry P. X. Frost

        02/19/2015 at 18:56

        Hey, Chris, great to hear from you again man! I have enjoyed your recent posts and your regular efforts to share helpful information. Thanks for the compliments on my writing (blushing lol)! I truly write for myself; it takes me days, even weeks, and a lot of working in my head to publish a poem, but when it comes out right, the cathartic feeling is comparable to giving birth.

        Life has been smooth sailing so far this year. I’ve been living at my parents’ for a couple of months (who are travelling at the moment) since the torrential isolation and mental decay of last year, which, you could say, was prophesied by my waking up in the emergency room on New Year’s Day 2014. :p I will be moving back to Toronto, back on my own, soon in early March – I feel ready after this sojourn. You never know though, when one of these mornings will crash down and keep you from getting up (my mood swings also prompted me to suspect bipolar in the past). I’ve been reconnecting with a few close friends, and I think I will take your advice on joining a mental health group once I’m back; I’m not particularly a “group person” but I have tried them before with some success. All in all, the more anchors I have, of which having this blog is an important one, the less chance there will be for me to slip back into shadows.

        Hope all is well with the light in your life! Please feel free to also email me in the future, if you prefer it to commenting, at

        Cheers, H


        • Surviving the Specter

          02/20/2015 at 11:10

          Thank you for your humbling comments, Harry. Glad to hear that you’ve been sailing smoothly! Have you written about your situation on NYD, 2014? I may have missed it. Hope you find a good group to get in with. I’m hesitant in the group setting but think that wears off over the long haul – things become closer knit in a sense. Walls decrease. Trust increases. Sometimes we just need to be the spark in that! I’ll touch base with you via email as well my fellow warrior!


          • Harry P. X. Frost

            02/20/2015 at 18:10

            Thanks for the support and the advice! I’ll keep you posted – got a test email from you (with no content) so feel free to write to me whenever about whatever. I haven’t written about New Year’s last year, or on any concrete life stories – my poetry has been less narrative in that sense, but I may try more narrative poems in the future. Or start another blog based more on sharing frank life stories – who knows. I started this blog as more of a serious exercise to becoming a published literary author some day, while I’m gradually planning/writing my first novel. I know, it’s long journey!



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