My Brain Is Gunsmoke

Hi there. I’ve been absent from the blog for far too long, going about my everyday life, and thinking that I deserved a little break after doing a bunch of work in September. I decided I could afford to put the camera away for a bit, chill out, relax. But things didn’t quite work out that way.

Lesson for October: Depression and Anxiety Suck

It’s like your entire brain explodes with worrying about things, most of which don’t actually need worrying about.

Depression is a hell of a thing. Sometimes, it can hit you like a truck, barreling down on you like a deer who’s wandered onto the highway looking for whatever deer are looking for when they wander onto highways. What’s that in the distance? What’s up with those lights? It’s moving so- Splat. Too late. If you had just recognized it for what it was, you could have gotten out of the way, but now you’re twitching on the side of the road wondering what in the world you expected to find there. But most of the time, that’s not what it does. The pernicious reprobate of an emotional condition will sneak into life, little by little, constantly reassuring you that it’s supposed to be there, that what you are thinking is perfectly natural. It’s okay. You definitely deserve a break. You’ve been working so hard.

Whichever way it arrives, depression moves swiftly from shopping for apartments to buying new carpets and wallpaper. It doesn’t take long before he’s practically getting mail there, and it’s time for a housewarming with his good buddy, Anxiety. If we go back to that first analogy, where depression is like getting hit by a truck, an anxiety attack is like having bad hallucinations while your shirt is actually on fire. You’re wrong. They’re wrong. All the things are wrong why can’t anybody else see this am I the only one who knows we’re all doomed? It’s like your entire brain explodes with worrying about things, most of which don’t actually need worrying about. And logic? Reason. Pfft. Screw those guys. Why do you need logic and reason when you’ve got your good buddies Depression and Anxiety right here? Embrace the madness. It’ll be fun!

So, why even let these guys into the brain-party, right? Kick ’em out, don’t let ’em ever come back. Only, well, there’s a third, more silent partner to this whole arrangement, and one I’m stuck with whether I like it or not. It’s the inside job of emotional issues: attention deficit. There’s a high correlation of depression and anxiety among those who have been diagnosed with ADHD, though the reason why that is seems to be as mysterious as ADHD itself. See, while you’re busy setting up new fences and locking things down to make it really hard for depression and anxiety to sweep into town and wreak havoc, ADHD is sitting back in the saloon making copies of the security codes.

So, apparently, when I imagine my emotional well-being as a town, it’s a small midwestern town complete with a saloon. No, not a bar.saloon. Swinging door. Small round tables. Dude playing raucous ditties on a piano that desperately needs tuning. This is my life, folks.

If Hindsight is 20/20, Foresight Must Be Blind20161027_021351_0036

Anxiety is easy to spot. If I’m crying because nobody likes me and my shoes are tied the wrong way, that’s anxiety. It’s great that I can see it, but even knowing what’s going on is quite useless once I’m in its grasp. The only thing I can do is find a hole in the ground to hunker down in until it’s passed. Depression is not so easy. Depression has the ability to make me think that this is all completely normal. Once depression settles in, it’s all fun and drinking and twenty paces at noon and all of this is still completely normal, everybody’s emotional state is like Hollywood’s version of the wild west.

The unfortunate way of figuring out what’s going on is to suffer a particularly bad anxiety attack. Once the smoke clears and all of the stragglers clear out of the brain-saloon and you can see that all of the little round tables are knocked over and some jerk set fire to the piano, it’s familiar ground. Oh, Anxiety was here. And if anxiety is here, Depression is probably hanging around back at the hideout. It’s actually much easier to figure out that I’ve been depressed completely by accident. In our western analog, this is like tripping over their base of operations when all you were doing is trying to find a good spot for fishing. Suddenly, I’m looking at Depression and he’s saying “Well, this is awkward. Tell you what, I’ll just show myself out. See you later.”

20161025_183604_0020And that’s more or less precisely what’s happened to me this last week. My workplace is having their annual spirit week, which also means they want somebody to run around with a camera and get pictures of people dressing up in the theme of the day, and since I’m a dude with a big nice-looking camera… Well, it’s just assumed that I’ll be taking pictures. This isn’t exactly commercial photography. They’re more what I would call snapshots, and that’s exactly what’s expected: a four-hour turnaround between shots and final presentation. And me, I decided that since I’m bringing my own camera in here to do this and nobody is actually asking me to do it (hence, it is not a job function), I’m going to go all Emeril on this. Bam! Kick it up a notch. So I’ve been playing with angles and light, taking the photos home, pouring some of that special sauce action to make the photos something I’d actually be proud of taking.

Suddenly, there I am with my camera, and I feel good. I feel really good, in fact. I haven’t felt this good since… Since… Since last time I was behind the camera. Hold up just a second here. I take a peek into the old brain-saloon and there my old nemesis Depression sits, whiskey glass lifted halfway up to his lips, staring back at me like I’m the last person he expected to be running into. “Well,” he says, penetrating the sudden silence. “This is awkward.”

Riding Into The Sunset

This is where we deviate from the the cookie-cutter Spaghetti Western ending. I can ride out into the sunset, sure. But it’s my brain. I’ll be back. There is no “the end,” no happy ending where the bad guys will never bother anybody again. I’ll eventually get comfortable, slide my boots off, tip the brim of my hat over my eyes and take a nap, and it’ll all start over again. That’s just a fact. But the thing is, I know where most of his hideouts are. We’ve been playing this cat-and-mouse game for my entire life, and now I’m the sheriff of this here town. Or something. See, photography is more than a passion, and a way I can create a side business for myself while doing something I enjoy. It’s become a divining rod, sussing out depression from whatever holes it wants to hide in. I fear the day when the little demons living in the shadowy bits of my grey matter figure out how to subvert this currently very effective deterrent.

For now, this is the best tool that I have. I need to remember that. I need to keep an eye on the last time I went out, took photos, and really enjoyed myself. And when I spend two weeks or more without picking up the camera, it’s time to look back at those two weeks, take a careful inventory, and check to see if the door to the saloon is swinging.