Thursday, November 29, 2012

There Is No Logic in Depression

Let me say first that I appreciate feedback. There is a certain amount of relief in writing to an invisible audience that I cannot see; that is mostly silent, that simply takes what I have to say and holds it in infinite thought and wisdom; to release my thoughts into the universe and know that it doesn’t matter what happens to them, as long as they are no longer stuck inside me.

As much as I appreciate the invisible audience, I am always surprised and pleased when I discover that someone I know has been reading what I have to say; even more so when they tell me that what I had to say has helped them in some way. While it always feels important to write – and I write every day, regardless of whether I share it – it is often lost on me how my writing is projecting me forward. Sometimes, it seems like the only thing it’s doing is keeping me from sliding backward into an abyss.

Very, very often, the people who read my blog posts tell me that they are impressed and moved by my courage and my ability to share such private thoughts. In this day and age of social network profiles, when everyone is privy to a lot of information about friends and acquaintances alike, it seems that there is a layer to many of us that we are unable to share. While it may seem that my admissions are courageous and deep, I always feel guilty when people tell me they’re impressed with what I reveal, and though I mean no disrespect, here is my deep down honest response: you have no fucking idea how much deeper I could go.

So here’s something that I should have written about a long time ago; something many people have come out to me about; something that should be shared much more often: depression.

I have only dabbled with this disease myself. By this, I mean that I am acquainted with people who suffer much more severely and often than I do. I mean that my depression is usually situational, and the cure for me is fairly simple: do everything in my power to get unstuck. For all of you who have ever wondered why I move around so much, why I can’t seem to stay in one place, why I can’t seem to endure certain situations: it is because I see a storm coming on the horizon, and the easiest way to ensure it doesn’t overtake me and leave me suffocating to death under a blackness that will not go away is to get out of the way before the hurricane arrives.

Before I get too carried away, let me say that there are many people who suffer depression. We are a hidden demographic; we fake it on our Facebook pages, we lie to our friends, we isolate ourselves so that we do not seem needy. Each time I have admitted my depression to someone, I have been told that I am not alone; that either this person has suffered as well, or someone they know has. All this, and yet each depressed person fights their own battle; they lie in the dark, staring at the ceiling, wondering why the world is closing in on them and no one else. We choose not to share because it shows weakness; we choose not to share because we don’t want to burden others with a pain that, deep down, we feel we deserve.

This is has come up again for me lately because I find myself feeling the beginning stages of depression setting in. They are like icy cold fingers that brush at my back: I can’t see this creature, but it has begun to silently follow me. I have desperately begun the sandbagging measures to keep depression at bay: more exercise, better food, talks with friends who understand and can tell me I’m not crazy; that it’s ok to choose my own survival at the risk of looking stupid, flaky, unhinged. I am afraid, and not so much of change, but of the monotony that allows this beast to catch up to me. It drags me backwards, whipping away all positive thoughts of my future, tearing the flesh of optimism off of me, dragging me down into a pit of despair, clawing at the edges of a bottomless hole, willing myself to hold on; to not give in; to conquer this unseen evil that lays waste to the best intentions and feeds on my worst nightmares.

And as I said, I only dabble in this disease. My depression is not constant; I feel better today than I did yesterday. I can still get up and work; I still have motivation to help myself before it’s too late. I am lucky enough to recognize the symptoms and I hold the key to my own release. It doesn’t look pretty, it scares me sometimes, and yet I have a way out. Not everyone is as lucky.

For anyone who has never felt depression’s icy grip, let me try to explain. Depression is like a vacuum. It is not feeling sad; it is not feeling. The things that used to delight me become meaningless; the words that would anger me leave me at a loss for words, and the idea that I should care more than I do. Depression tells me that logically, there is no way out of my situation, because good things happen to others, not to me. Depression steals my desire, my passion, my belief in a greater good, and a belief in myself. It sucks at my laughter and washes out my ability to put things in perspective. Everyone else is right; I am wrong. Nothing I say is worthwhile. I cannot hold my own truth, or answers.

Depression is like a wet blanket that covers me, making it hard to breathe, dampening all my emotions. It makes it hard to get out of bed; it makes me feel disappointed when I wake up, because the oblivion of sleep is the only thing saving me from the pain of inaction.

So there it is for those who have never suffered from depression. Now, to everyone else: you are not alone. I have heard you, and I understand. I have been where you are. It’s a shitty, shitty place to be, and yet there are more people with you than you would have ever imagined. Depression is not something to be ashamed of. It is something you can get help with. It can end. There is no use in asking “why me?” but there is a lot to be said for “I deserve help.” For me, depression is kept at bay by following my bliss: even if it’s terrifying at times, I know that it is possible to feel alive. Exercise, good food, conversations with understanding friends help dissipate the illusion of inadequacy. So does not arguing with yourself when your heart tells you what you need. It may not always make sense, but then again, neither does depression. Depression can turn any situation into one filled with its own logic, and yet there is much in the world that is illogical. Optimism is one example. Even more importantly, so is love. 

This is not a cry for help. It is a cry for understanding. Before you decide what I need or what someone else needs to help them feel better, realize that some of their decisions that may not make any sense to you could be their attempt to stave off a personal black hole. After fighting with depression myself, it’s easier for me to notice the battle in others. Some people throw themselves into their work, some into helping others or exercise. Some people may look like they’ve lost their minds, and yet whatever they’re doing is allowing them to live another day and keep the depression at bay.
So here’s to a little understanding, and a lot of encouragement: here’s to letting each of us follow our own path, and trusting that deep down, there’s some part of us that remembers that we deserve the best, and we’re worth seeking it out.

Love and not-so-depressed kisses,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Time: All We Have; All It Takes

Hello invisible audience,

I’ve been meaning to write, but the things I want to write about are all the same, and I don’t want to be accused (even by myself) of beating a dead horse. Nevertheless, you are invisible and I have been pondering quite a bit lately, and I find that there are a couple things that I need to get off my chest – again.

One: time. That precious little gem that is really all we have. The one thing that we bargain for, that we trade money for; that we use to buy possessions. How many hours of work is my car worth? How much of a day am I working to pay for my phone bill? How much of my precious commodity am I trading in now in the hopes that the money I make will support my leisure time in the future?

That leads me to pondering number two: why do I worry so much about what others think about how I spend my time, or where? Even more important, why do I think others are even interested in how I spend my time? Yesterday I told my mom that I felt pressure to conform: pressure to want the things so many people seem to want, or already have: stability, 9-5 jobs, company-paid health insurance, houses, kids. “But, you don’t want that,” she said, looking at me with a puzzled frown.

It’s true! I don’t! So why the heck am I constantly berating myself for not wanting these things? It is related to another one of Mom’s statements. “I hope someday you find somewhere that you really like and want to settle down and stay there.” I wanted to hang my head in shame, not because she said it, but because I constantly catch myself thinking the same thing. Yes, that would be great. It would be great if I wanted to stay in one place. It would be great if I wanted a life that was readily accessible to me without any sort of social clash. If I could convince myself despite what my soul is shouting at me, what I am yearning for, that my happiness is found in a house with a yard and a job with x amount of weeks of vacation a year and a benefits package, I WOULD HAVE IT ALREADY. I can’t. Each time I get settled into that groove, I feel more unstable than when I have no idea where I’m going next. I feel hemmed in, fenced in, terrified and depressed. I feel less alive.

I’ve been reading a book that makes me feel guilty about this. You can change, it tells me. Any time that you say you can’t do something, you’re subscribing to your own limited behavior. Except I’m not. I’m trying to buck a deep trend, and move on. I’m trying to let go of a lifetime’s worth of shoulds and have to’s and live authentically, just for me. And God damn it, it’s harder than it looks.

In the soul searching I did this summer, I realized first that I had been listening to a lot of what I thought other people wanted or expected of me. Not even what they said out loud, but what I thought they wanted me to be. This was a big step, but the bigger and scarier one was when I realized that I had been welcoming these impressions, because I could use them as excuses. I kept trying to fit myself in the box because it was easier to complain about how I felt different from inside of it. I have tried to live a life of responsibility and fun based on other peoples’ definitions because it was easier than having to admit that I found nothing they did fun or rewarding. And that leads me to horse-beaten point number three: I got myself here.

And just like I got myself here, I am the one that can get myself out. Over-stated point four: I have to choose to be authentically me, not just once, but over and over (and over and over) again. No one can do this for me. No one else is going to come to my rescue and tell others what I want and need. The only way to meet like-minded people is to continue living and know that my lifestyle will lead me to them. They’re not in the box, so why do I keep looking for them there?  Not only that, but why am I focusing on people in the box when I have so many more friends that are bucking the trend in their own way?

There’s really only one answer: time. I am going over the same things in my head and revisiting the same mental real estate because these realizations are still new and they haven’t quite sunk in yet. I am still in the phase where I am unsure about what I’m saying, no matter how good it feels. At one time I didn’t know anything about writing a recipe; now I could teach a class about it if I wanted to. In between then and now, however, time passed, I learned some things, and I gained the necessary experience to feel confident that I know what I’m talking about. I’ll get there with these poor dead-horse points, too, invisible audience. All it takes is time.

Love and time-filled kisses,


P.S. No horses -- dead or alive -- were beaten in the writing of this post.