Doug Westberg is a musician, composer, recording artist, author, poet, and Scrabble? junkie. After dropping out of college in 1976 because of depression and alcoholism, in 1995, at the age of 40, he completed his Bachelor of Music degree at Marylhurst University in Oregon.
Westberg has spent a lifetime battling depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and the repercussions of a violent childhood. Severe mental illness has run up and down both sides of his children?s family tree. Thanks to a community-based program, he has remained free of alcohol since 1977. After 12 years and four children, Westberg?s marriage was destroyed by both partners? mental illness. He lost his home and his children, and then mere months later was awarded sole custody of his 3 daughters, who were then 5, 7, and 10. The staggering changes in circumstances and indeed his basic life paradigm brought his lifelong depression to a crisis, and he was hospitalized for several months. For the last 14 years, he has managed his depression and anxiety with therapy and medication, with steadily increasing success.
While struggling with mental illness as a victim and parent and husband, he has served for many years in non-profit institutions as a program director, computer systems manager, and development professional, and he is proud to have raised four beautiful, independent-minded, activist, service-oriented children. He lives in the Pacific Northwest United States with his partner Carol.
Welcome to an Interview with… Doug Westberg.
Author of The Depressed Guys book of Wisdom.
A brief synopsis.
My writing (poetry, songs, humor) draws heavily and unflinchingly on my experiences with depression as well as other topics (including recovery from child abuse and Catholicism?but I repeat myself). Depressed Guy?s Book Of Wisdom began when I decided to try my hand at writing a humor book. I already employ a great deal of sharply satirical humor in my lyrics and poetry. My battle with depression seemed like good fodder and a relatively original angle. The end result is a unique collection of personal anecdotes, gags, twisted sayings, lyrics, poems, and quotations. The punchline being of primary importance, the anecdotes may be completely true or largely nonsense, but are always rooted in personal experience. My intent is to use humor and irony to explore my experiences, exercise my perspective, and focus a spotlight on the difficulties and unfair perceptions of dealing with and recovering from depression.
What made you decide to write this book?
In the end, at the deepest level, I think I wrote this because if you can laugh at something, it robs that something of much of its power over you. I hope the book?s readers enjoy the same benefit.
( On this occasion I think the readers will enjoy every minute. Laughter does help depression, unless of course you’re caught laughing alone).David
From the Foreword:
If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.
This book is an audacious experiment for me. And not just because I?m a depressed person trying to write humorously on the topic of depression. It?s audacious because nobody told me to do this. It?s a product of who I dare to think I am, not what somebody else thinks I am.
I?m still a musician and composer, have been all my life. A big part of my journey has been to discover how to do that for myself, not because my domineering father gave me 12 years of piano lessons. But this book is Michael Jordan trying to make it with the Chicago White Sox.
Humor and irony, like poetry, are at once penetrating and immediate, yet cryptic and oblique, ways of talking about things. There?s a lot of truth in between these lines, I hope. But a lot of it is pure nonsense. And maybe that?s the point. In the movie A Shot In The Dark, Peter Sellers? Inspector Clouseau, having just fallen into a fountain, resolutely maintains his dignity and tries to impress the beautiful Elke Sommer. When she points out that he?s dripping wet, he observes dryly, ?Well, yes, it?s all part of life?s rich pageant, you know.?
Where did the title come from?
The title is a tongue-in-cheek parodizing of the sort of thing you?d find at a bookstore check-out counter.
( And hopefully the kind of book that would be noticed).
Do you always write in this genre?
I employ a great deal of humor and irony in my poetry, lyrics, and stories. My poetry book, The Caterpillar, forthcoming from Chipmunka, is more dark, confessional, and personal, but has a number of humorous pieces as well. My songs are similarly a mixed bag, and I?m at work on a collection of humorous stories and essays.
Despite the Humorous Title, are there serious overtones you want to display?
This book is mostly about the humor, but it springs from personal experience and often has serious points to make underneath the humor. How religious ideological agendas can twist a disease into a stigma, for example.
What was your inspiration to write and when did you start?
I’ve employed a great deal of humor in my lyrics and poetry and wanted to try my hand at writing humor per se. The subject of depression was a natural??write what you know? is the old adage; it?s a frequent theme in my poetry, which itself is a form of therapy for me. I started this project only this year, and it only took two or three months to write. It was just a whole lot of fun to do.
What was your destination to publishing? ie are you self published.
When the book was done, I found Chipmunka Mental Health Publishing on the web. They accepted this and the aforementioned poetry volume. They are a non-profit publisher who advocates for mental health by publishing the work of mental illness sufferers and survivors: first-hand accounts, self-help titles, and creative work.
Do you have a website(s) to share?
Any links to the book/books
If you prefer Kindle:
The paperback version will come out in 6 months or so.
Please feel free to share an excerpt.
Here?s an exclusive excerpt for your readers. There?s another excerpt at the Chipmunka page, and the Amazon (Kindle) page lets you download a sample.
There are three important red flag symptoms of depression. One is not being able to make a decision. The second is not being able to get started. And the third is not being able to decide where to start?
My therapist calls it ?paralysis of the will.? I call it ?hitting the doldrums,? especially when it comes out of nowhere. Years ago, early in my recovery from alcoholism, I got off work and hit the doldrums. For the life of me, I could not decide where to go. I walked around in circles–almost literally–in the park in front of the Federal Building, for almost two hours. Ultimately, I sort of dazedly got on a bus and ended up at a recovery meeting in another city 20 miles away.
Thank God it was a city bus. I know a guy who got in the same sort of space and ended up in Oakland.
The word doldrums has lost most of its punch today, which is too bad. ?Hitting the doldrums? is a powerful metaphor for the way depression can immobilize you without warning. The Doldrums is the part of the ocean where prevailing winds from the northern and southern hemispheres meet and cancel each other out. Finding yourself dead in the water in this region could mean death in an era when the wind was the only way to propel ships across the ocean. When you?re struggling with depression, ?hitting the doldrums? is serious stuff. If you want to know what it feels like, imagine you?re Wile E. Coyote realizing you?ve just overrun the edge of a cliff by 10 feet.
A neurotic builds castles in the air. A psychotic lives in them. I knock on the door and try to sell them encyclopedias.
DEPRESSED GUY?S ALMANAC
When the going gets tough, the tough get going and leave you all by yourself.
?Suicide was against the law. Johnny had wondered why. It meant that if you missed, or the gas ran out, or the rope broke, you could get locked up in prison to show you that life was really very jolly and thoroughly worth living.?