Depression is common in people with Asperger syndrome. Part of it can be due to social issues and loneliness, and part of it could result from the way our brain is wired. I’ve always suffered from social anhedonia, but there are other kinds of anhedonia, and depression can take many forms. Here’s my story.
Until I was nine, everything was magical. Watching the green leaves on trees after the rain or watching palms swaying would fill me with an emotion I thought was euphoria. The fascination and joy I had from petting dogs and feral cats was an intense feeling. Happiness was an everyday thing, a lasting sensation that came easily.
However, even then I’d get a melancholy feeling at the sight of the sun slipping toward the horizon. Sometimes I’d feel sadness without a reason, even when the sun was still high in the sky. I felt longing for something, but I didn’t know what it was, and slight emptiness.
When the sunshine turns gray
When I was about nine, I started losing interest in things I used to love: animals, nature, and music. Everything seemed dull, flat.
I used to feed stray cats in the yard, and one of them had two kittens that had run away when I was ten and a half. One of them was my favorite kitten, orange and cute. I had grieved for half a year.
To compensate myself, I overate cinnamon rolls until my stomach hurt sometimes. From a skinny kid, I turned chubby. I needed to find joy in something.
The inability to find joy in anything persisted for many years. Even if I liked doing something, I’d get bored with it very quickly, as if my brain couldn’t hold on to the good feeling. I don’t know if it was anhedonia or not because I didn’t seek treatment.
Taking risks because of depression
When I was in my twenties, I was depressed without a reason most of the time, and still couldn’t find things I liked to do. I was low on money at the time and living in a dangerous neighborhood where the sound of gunshots was a rather familiar event.
I started seeking danger because it gave me the excitement I craved. I deliberately took night-shift jobs in fast food restaurants so I could come home at midnight, walking past drunks sleeping on the stairs that led from the train stop to the street, to the apartment building I was living in.
It gave me a rush of adrenaline that I’d craved. The streets were so dark and quiet, and the danger made them mysterious and exciting. I had enrolled in martial arts classes and had carried a knife in my pocket.
There were situations where I was circled by a bunch of guys who looked like gangsters, my back against the wall of a building. I snatched the knife out of my pocket and held it to the nearest guy’s throat. It always worked. They’d walked away. It never occurred to me someone could’ve just pulled a gun on my and shot me. I was just lucky.
I went on like this for a few years. I barely felt fear. It was like watching a horror movie, that feeling of detachment and unreality. Finally, I got over my danger phase.
I live in a better and safer neighborhood now, found a better job, and have learned to regain some of the feelings I used to have before I turned nine. I take long walks in the streets, the park, and on the beach. Everything’s so beautiful. I have three cats living in my house, and they’re my best companions.
Depression can be dangerous because it can make people do dangerous things. It can make people commit suicide. It can be genetic or situation-based, or both. When a person suffers from depression, it’s important to seek help and not just put up with it.
There are great books on depression. ‘Maniac’ a memorial by Terri Cheney, a successful Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer, describes her roller coaster journey with a huge amount of pills. ‘The Dark Side of Innocence’, also by Terri Cheney, about growing up bipolar, and ‘Touched With Fire’ by Redfield Jamison, about the connection between mania depression and the artistic temperament.