When doing good deeds for others makes you feel even worse...
Part 3 in a 4 part series on Depression. View others in this series:
Part 1: Are Comedians More Depressed?
Part 2: When Depression Visits and Stays
Are we able to control depression?
My readers might have noticed the huge gap between Part 2 and 3 of this series on my “winning the fight against depression.” After all, I had my happy ending totally mapped out when writing about it, which triggered a return visit from Dr. D. Maybe because I live in California, I likened it to the aftershock that inevitably happens shortly after you’ve returned all your tchotchkes to the shelf when you’re convinced an earthquake has ended. Or, as they like to say in Hollywood, I had a sequel.
I thought I was done writing about it, but when I was speaking at a Toastmaster event in Las Vegas, a woman came over and let me know how surprised she was that someone she perceived as being successful and funny dealt with the same condition she had. She thanked me and said, “Because you wrote about yours, I’m stopped being secretive about mine. And that’s helped.”
That made me think I might be on to something. Is this the new “coming out?” It might be harder to
admit to being depressed than being gay. Depression hasn’t acquired any cache. There are gay role models, stars, musicians. Gays get parades. There are no Zoloft-sponsored Depressed Pride Days.
Some of you have suggested I look into childhood trauma to see if there’s a connection. I want to let you know: I have had therapy, EMDR, primal scream, exercised and cut out sugar. I took Landmark training, Quested, did Burning Man, took drugs and stopped taking them. When all that failed, I wondered if I was too self-absorbed and considered doing charity work. Maybe Mr. D would leave me alone if I were more of a do-gooder. I pictured how my new friends would create a ripple effect of happiness in my life as they gushed with gratitude. When my energy returned, I might even be able to write a book titled, “Curing Depression by Giving.”
I rushed to volunteer to deliver meals to those who couldn’t get to 7-Eleven. I got my schedule, loaded up the car with meals that looked like the bottom of a shoe with runny baby poop on top. No matter, these poor, elderly people, living on meager funds in a tiny apartment were pleased to have company, regardless of the quality of the food. I would be the person to change their lives.
On my first delivery I double checked the address as I couldn’t possibly be delivering meals to this luxury high rise, right on the beach in Santa Monica. I buzzed the video intercom and was escorted by a security guard through marble floored hallways, past the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the exercise room with a TV on every treadmill, to the apartment on the 14th floor. When I knocked on the door, I heard a man yell, “God damn it, who is there?”
“It’s your meal delivery,” I said, trying to keep my voice cheery.
“God damn it, just open the door!”
Opening the door, I saw the most exquisite view of the Santa Monica Bay. But that was overshadowed by a ghastly stench and a disturbing amount of clutter, so much that the door opened only part way as it was blocked by stacks of newspapers, magazines, and take-out containers. A disembodied voice from the next room screamed, “Just leave the food in the tray and leave, God damn it.”
Nervous, I put the meal on top of a magazine with Nixon on the cover, and closed the door. OK… no cookies. No WWII stories. The next place would be better. In a Venice home, a long haired, Baby Boomer in tie-dyed screamed at me for not having a plastic bag to put the meal into. As he slammed the door in my face, I was the one apologizing.
My third stop was to a woman also living in squalor, but she seemed nice. There was no yelling. I tried to start a conversation and she said she was about to watch a TV show. On the screen I saw the DirecTV logo bouncing about. “Do you want me to turn it to a program?” I offered.
“No, I like watching this,” she replied.
I returned home even more depressed. From what I saw, getting older is like pouring Miracle Grow on one’s defects. Was this a glimpse into my own future? When does saving stuff turn into hoarding?
I found the answer and it is in the final blog of this series. Stay tuned and please post your dealings with Mr. D in the comments.
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