Back at Christmastime, I had a chance to play “Pie Face” with two of my nephews.
The game borrows a concept from other games of my childhood like “Don’t Break the Ice” and “Don’t Spill the Beans.”
If you are not familiar with “Pie Face,” here is how it works:
You stick your face into an oval cardboard cutout and rest your chin on a plastic stand. Facing you is a plastic hand that can hold a glob of whipped cream.
On either side of your face are two knobs that you crank.
You turn the knobs a designated number of times depending on what number comes up on a spinner.
With each turn of the knob, the catapult of cream may or may not be released into your kisser. It’s like Russian Roulette but without the potentially fatal consequences.
Playing the game struck me as a good metaphor for coping with anxiety and depression.
Before you accuse of me of being a party pooper for equating a kids’ game with mental illnesses, hear me out.
Anxiety, like the game, fills you with a certain dread of anticipation, a rising sense that with every crank (or turn in life) something bad could happen.
More than a year ago I wrote of my trials with depression and after having thought I had it “under control,” found myself in a trough of it starting in December.
Maybe it was the buildup to the holidays.
Maybe because it was the start of the darker days, with less sunlight.
Maybe it was because I was overextended on a project for work.
Whatever the cause(s), my wife saw signs of my disconnect from the world.
I cannot speak for others, but when I am like this, everything is turned inward and I’m fixated on my “gottas” and “shouldas.”
It reaches a point where I am not easily accessible to others.
My wife had to “knock” to make sure I was still around.
Which brings me to my doctor’s visit:
I finally resolved to get some kind of pharmaceutical treatment because December, right up to Christmas Day, was just a bouillabaisse of darkness and anxiety.
For 15 years (at least) I had been trying to beat this on my own. I figured through regular exercise and just powering through it that it would subside.
All of December proved me wrong.
I appreciate her so much heart of darkness essay IL
— Kels ❤️'s Carrie (@Carries_Angel) July 9, 2016
I have never tried mood-altering drugs of any kind. While I am quick to applaud those who have sought medical treatment, I was reluctant to seek “better living through chemistry.”
But I am glad that I did. From the very first dose, I could feel an immediate difference. I also attended regular talk therapy sessions.
It has been several months since I started the drugs, and I feel like the medicine, a low dosage antidepressant, has “evened” me out.
I am not prone to anxious thoughts and feel more clear-headed.
For those of you who seem to be enveloped in sadness, or feel on the brink of crying often or who cannot find joy in things that have in the past brought you happiness, go to your doctor.
Get help. Seriously. You will be glad you did.