It’s not easy to effectively communicate depression, even to myself.
Under the gun, I can spot things that are bothering me, but it’s not really the core of what’s wrong. I can tell you that I’m feeling isolated and lonely, or that I’m concerned about money or aging or that I’ve become increasingly nihilistic in my future thinking… but none of that is right (though not necessarily wrong). Those tend to spring from the depression, becoming amplified by whatever wondrous tricks my brain is playing, turning into outlets through which the depression can be explained.
The problem with that lies in that the tendency for people — myself included — is to offer advice, or a positive word. Those things are nice, but ultimately useless. It’s like treating a virus that manifests itself in any painful way that it can; treat the feverish ache, and the virus will simply reveal itself in vomiting or a sore throat.
It’s a lot like living your life through molasses, or slowly drying amber. Everything is tiring; the act of getting up from bed is exhausting in and of itself, and motivating beyond that can seem pointless. When I was younger, I would sleep entire weekends just to avoid the thoughts and feelings that come with depression. It was just easier that way.
I’m fortunate, in that I’m usually very quickly aware that my depression is not caused by any real stimulus, and don’t dwell on things too much. I’ve spent years reading and re-reading a lot of inspirational words, and can lean on those to remind me that, after a sense, this isn’t real, that this, too, will pass. A lot of my ink serves to remind me of these things on a daily basis – that was the reason for getting those pieces, and for their placement.
But even this takes a lot of work, a lot of energy that could be better spent on things above and beyond my daily embedded and instinctive routine. Decisions become mired in apathy, and so don’t get made. What do I feel like eating? Well, honestly, nothing – and so another hour or three or twenty four passes before I do.
It’s hard to talk about, for a number of reasons beyond the difficulty communicating what’s happening in my head, these intangible things I experience. I know what sorts of responses I am apt to get, and I don’t want those. I don’t deal well with sympathy (particularly the uncomfortable kind that can come out when dealing with these subjects), and that sympathy can actually make the depression worse — my brain will twist your concern for me into a burden that I’ve placed on you, and like all the other unpleasant thoughts, that little carpenter bee with burrow itself down into a nice cozy little home where it can grow and thrive and make little baby unpleasant thoughts.
It’s not that the sympathetic thoughts and the notes of solidarity and the hugs aren’t appreciated, at least on some level. They are. But often times, shining the spotlight on my depression just feeds it and gives it more power.
So… why are you writing all this down?
Good question, me. I guess for a number of reasons. To record the storm in the midst of it, rather than after the fact and colored by memory and a readiness to move beyond, so that I don’t forget. To let the people that know me and are curious or concerned what’s been going on with me the past few days (or longer — sometimes, it’s an insidious little ninja that I don’t notice until way later than someone looking in from the outside).
But maybe more than anything else to let people who go through this — and I know more than a few that do — know publicly that they’re not alone. With everything happening in the world lately, you see more and more mention of encouraging people to reach out, to let people know that they’re hurting for seemingly no reason — but from my perspective, it all feels cold and impersonal. Maybe seeing it expressed by someone they know, an everyman, might make a difference.
Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. If nothing else, it helps to remind me that these manifestations are just that. Writing it all down helps me remember that I can choose to be sad about not having something, or to be hopeful and excited that one day I will have those things. I can be sad about loss, or I can be happy that I experienced that person/place/thing and am better for it.
I can push through the amber, lean into the wind, knowing that the tides will cycle again, or I can lay down and give up.
“We endure and pass the moment.”
-Devin Townsend, ‘Ki’