Depression is awful. It whispers in your ear. It rattles in your head. It steals your joy. It disrupts your sleep. It brings storm clouds to bright sun-shiny days. And it fucking lies. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad (hurtful) lies. For instance:
- I am not smart enough to do the things that I want to do.
- Because I procrastinate and lack motivation*, I am not a writer.
- I have no talent.
- I should really just give up on that dream and buckle under the weight of a job I don’t love.
- I bring nothing to the table.
- My potential is limited, its limit is low, and I have already hit the ceiling on it.
- I am a disappointment.
- I’m not depressed, I’m just a bit blue/sad/melancholy/angsty/emo.
- I shouldn’t strive for excellence, I’m ordinary and would only be disappointed when I fail.
- I can’t write about depression. I am not real depressed.
- I am not special. Not even a little bit. Not at all.
- At best, I am tolerated.
- I am an old cow.
- I am an awful person.
These are (some of) the lies that my depression tells me. Rationally, I know these things are (probably) not true. (Having said that, I feel it is important to point out that I have been outright told some of these things. By actual people, not just my depression. So there is that.) Unfortunately rationality doesn’t trump depression. Depression is louder than rationality. Depression puts its fingers in your ears and yells while rationality is trying to explain things.
While I have never faced an official diagnosis*** (I do not admit that I am not okay and I do not ask for help. Both of these are huge character flaws and I am working on them), my depression is real. I have suffered lethargy, obscenely increased carbohydrate intake (overeating), intense feelings of guilt, inability to concentrate, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and considerations of suicide. I am (real) depressed.
Allie Brosh, in her articles Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression Part One and Part Two, describes, very well, the way I struggle with depression. I am sad without (a “really good”) reason. I don’t have a terrible disease, I haven’t lost family, friends, or even a beloved pet, I grew up in a good home, I went to a good school, I have great friends, a really good job and my husband and son are amazing beyond measure. Still? I’m depressed. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be, that I have no reason to be, and that makes it worse. I have guilt. I have guilt for so many things that I shouldn’t have guilt for. Guilt makes sadness “for no reason” just really awful.
Sidebar: Do you know what pisses me off the most? This depression isn’t productive. They say that all of the greatest artists are depressed, right? They produce beautiful, amazing things while suffering this awful sadness. I can’t be arsed to pick up a pen. My depression tells me that I’m a shit writer anyway, so why would I bother to practise? …and I listen. I listen to depression.
Oh sure, I have good days. I have days when I am a goddamn badassmotherfucker and I can take on the whole world. I bake muffins while singing showtunes, I sit in the sunshine and drink coffee while writing things (good or bad, I don’t care as long as I’m writing on those days), and I hum. I smile, I laugh, and I love life. And then depression starts to whisper again. I look out the wrong window at the wrong time and I start to cry. I have the wrong memory and I struggle to get out of bed. I think too many crushing thoughts and I want to fall asleep and never wake up. I would like for it to stop. I would, very much, like not to feel this way. I feel like there are a few things I could do to help to combat my depression, things that have helped to make me feel better in the past.
- I need to write.
- I need to journal.
- I need to move. (Walking, inline skating, going to the gym. I need a physical outlet for all of these feelings.)
- I need to start horseback riding again.**
- I need to start target shooting (and possibly take up archery).**
- I need to have more sex.
- I need to eat less garbage.
- I need to talk to my doctor about this.
(I am not interested in the drug treatment route just yet. I usually chalk my depression up to situations and seasons. I need to try these things first and then, if these things don’t help, I need to have a chemical conversation with my doctor.)
I don’t know how to end this. I’ve been sitting on it for weeks, because conclusions are assholes. When I’m happy, I want to be optimistic. I want to say things like “when the clouds have lifted (both mentally and meteorologically), I know that this is something I can combat. When I’m breathing easily, I know that this is something that I need to combat. When I face this depression head on, with confidence, things are better.” Those things are true, but it feels wrong to write that here right now. I feel like I just need to let this be. This isn’t about getting better, this is about the bullshit that depression says. This is about me listening to it. I’m educated, I know what I’m dealing with, I have a support system, I have access to resources, and I fucking listen to these lies. I know you do, too. Not all of you, of course, but there are some of you reading this and nodding. It’s so hard folks, and I’m so sorry that you’re here for this ride.
I wrote this as a “sort of” end when I started down this country path: And if you’re suffering from depression, please know that you’re not alone. I know how difficult it is to look for help, I’m there right now. (I hate asking for help. I hate talking about myself in any way.) Talk to someone. (For a great list of people who would love to help you, go here: Getting Help.) Take care of, and be gentle with, yourself. You’re only human, this is a terrible illness and the people who tell you that you have nothing to be “sad” about and should “buck up” are assholes (some of them mean well, they just don’t understand).
tl;dr: depression lies. It’s bullshit and it’s hard. What I’m feeling is real. There are things I can do to help myself and I need to do them. What you’re feeling is real. There are things you can do to help yourself and you need to do them.
If you’re looking for further reading, these are a few pages that I’ve enjoyed recently:
- depression comix (I love this comic. I also hate it. Clay so beautifully writes depression and I so strongly empathize with so many of these strips, but they are sometimes very difficult to read.)
- 10 Lies Depression Tells You (Yup.)
- More from Wil Wheaton: And I Am Nothing Of A Builder (And it is really fucking hard, Mr. Wheaton. I totally agree.)
- Wil’s lovely wife Anne recently wrote about being married to a man suffering from depression, The Other Side of Depression.
(Image found on Pinterest)
*This is cyclical bullshit. You can’t be motivated when you’re depressed. You just fucking can’t.
**I don’t actually need to do these things, but they would also be great physical outlets with huge mental components, and I’ve been thinking about both for yearsandyears now (time to shit or get off the pot).
***Update: In early 2015 I visited my doctor, because things were getting bad again. I was having terrible thoughts and I knew that something needed to be done. (For me, that is counseling. I want an intervention free depression for as long as possible.) My doctor agrees that my depression, though not trivial by any means, is situational. The aforeparentheticalized counseling idea will be best for me. I have shit to work through, bad shit, but it’s not something that I need medication for. Not yet. Not ever, I hope.