I’ve rolled up my sleeves, ready to fight this darned depression. I’ve even got a fancy diagnosis, now, which just so happens to be Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s kind of particular, but remember, adults with ADHD have trouble with organization, concentration and time management, and we’re impulsively drawn to potentially risky experiences (i.e. random hookups sourced off Grindr), which fuels that depression.  So what’s the prognosis, doc?

Turns out the first line of defense in dealing with the persistent symptoms of ADHD – not unlike treating clinical depression – is medication.

Now unlike most antidepressants, which tend to target serotonin in an effort to directly affect mood, most ADHD stimulants targets dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with motivation and reward. I’ll dive much deeper into the exciting and still largely uncharted world of brain chemicals later, but the gist is this. By releasing a controlled stream of dopamine throughout the day, these meds would supposedly keep me focused on the task at hand, regardless how boring it might seem. They’d also help nip impulsivity in the butt, in case I had any temptation (to go back on Grindr).

I’ll admit I was reticent. What if they took weeks to start working? What if they didn’t, or they gave me migraine headaches, explosive diarrhea, suicidal thoughts or brain cancer? My psychiatrist promised she would monitor any unforeseen side effects during our weekly therapy sessions. The best part of all: I’d know if my pills worked within days, which was good, because I was just going into production on my new Vitamins documentary and I didn’t have time for a meltdown.

Depression.Prognosis.1.Pills.April4

I felt just like Bradley Cooper in Limitless. Until the other shoe dropped. 

Almost instantly – within fifteen minutes of taking my meds it seemed – I was doing highly technical (RE: boring) microbiology research to prep interview questions, in between cleaning my apartment, and without an ounce of procrastination. By evening, I felt mentally exhausted, sure, but the fulfilling kind. A part of me thought, maybe this was just a placebo boost, I do thrive on novel experiences. But the next day, and the next one after that, I transformed again from listless procrastinator into artistic machine.

On my super-meds, nothing could stop me. I didn’t just conduct weeklong location shoots in San Francisco, New England and Toronto, without missing a day at the gym, I also found myself juggling a half-dozen projects in various states of development, while catching up on a few years of overdue taxes. I even penned a feature length flick in less than a week, on spec! Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but a year prior, a task like this (i.e. motivated without concrete external rewards like pay or hard deadlines) would likely take me months; if procrastination didn’t stave it off completely.

This must be what Bradley Cooper felt after he took his Limitless pills. In my state of maximum productivity, I even attracted new men into my life, no doubt enraptured by my newfound confidence. Somehow, I learned how to manage these romantic prospects, while realizing my full potential. That’s when I clocked it. I hadn’t felt depressed in half a year. Could I even be cured!?

I was away in Winnipeg for a month of post – and away from those weekly therapy sessions when I got notes on that brilliant script – remember that one I’d penned in a week? Turns out, not so brilliant. When I sought validation from my new (but commitment-phobic) squeeze, he retreated. No big deal. To avoid seeming needy, and with extra time on my hands, I found myself back on Grindr, cruising for men like the good old days. Within a couple weeks, I managed to hook up with at least a dozen guys, as I careened in a familiar downward spiral.

I felt weak and especially pathetic for having lost control and so quickly. At first I blamed the meds, which were supposed to increase my concentration and impulse control, prevent me from using my sexual crack to fill the void. But depression knew better, making me accept responsibility. If prescription medicine couldn’t help me conquer these demons, it’s because I’m a lost cause. I will be alone forever. I will never find love and a life without love isn’t worth living. My old depressive thoughts had returned with a much grimmer and hopeless vengeance.

In fear, I raced home to see my psychiatrist for guidance. She stubbornly maintained her original diagnosis and this particular treatment plan. That said, she also acknowledged that my depression (and addictive tendencies) likely aren’t singularly caused by ADHD, nor is any med a panacea. They might help me focus, but they can’t control what I decide to focus on. Nor can they avoid life-disrupting triggers, such as a series of rejections, I can’t predict coming.

If I wanted to become more resilient in face of such triggers, I’d have to work. And by work, I mean the frustrating kind of deep digging introspection that requires patience, mindfulness and willpower, skills I happen to lack.

Finding a therapeutic that works for you requires major trial and error.

Finding the therapy that works for you requires Olympic level patience and willpower.

Luckily these are skills you can train with the help of various therapeutic techniques. To help rewrite the patterns of negative rumination that fuels self-destructive behaviour, I’d learn all about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). I would learn how the tactical breathing of Mindfulness Meditation, helps one become able to withstand life’s more nasty and unpredictable challenges.

Incorporating these new therapies into my lifestyle – while maintaining healthy exercise and nutrition – has been incredibly tough, but that’s where the meds could come in. I found the right medication for my unique neurochemistry, which helped give me the clarity of mind I’ve needed to better start figuring out my shit and dealing with life’s challenges. It’s been hard, but eventually it became less hard. I even thought I was making some real headway (again).

Of course depression has a secret weapon called The Stigma.

All comic art credit to Joey Matthews. 

 

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