How does one even begin to discuss depression? Do I lay claim to it as mine, as if it were a possession I acquired with the curbside bookshelf and freecycle air conditioner? Do I call it sickness, a phase, craziness in my brain? Is it mine at all, or is it something that flits in and out of the lives of humanoids, a honey bee sapping the sweet out of the day? It films my view and all I can do is curl up in a ball, inverted on myself and drained of desire and intent. Depression refuses to be ignored, worked away, set aside or pretended. It consumes. It stimmies.
I’ve spent the past few months in a depressive funk. The last few weeks being the hardest thus far. I couldn’t get thrilled about life for more than a minute, couldn’t sustain hobbies or this blog. I couldn’t trust the people I loved who loved me, and I couldn’t find joy. I used to call that adolescent angst held over from a turbulent early adulthood. I’ve had others say the same thing. Ever been accused of ‘emo’ behavior? Ever had to then look up ‘emo’ online to figure out whether or not you were, still confused because emo should be emotional and depression generally involves the lack of emotion and/or siphoning life down to a few choice unwanted emotions?
As I’ve worked to find solutions to the hole i’ve been hanging out in, I’ve also been challenigng myself on how I embrace myself during the times when my brain chemistry and psycho-social needs don’t feel chirpy and culturally appropriate. Where once I would force social interaction to try and ignore depression away, I’ve avoided or canceled plans. I’ve treated my brain as a sick thing needing rest and healing rather than an annoying thing needing a jumpstart. I took my concerns to my doctor, I talked about them with my partner. I was honest for the first time in years of depressive bouts, admitting first to me and then to others that I’m sick. And when my medicine doesn’t work for me I need help getting better.
What started my aversion to acknowledging the impact of mental health in my life? Television! Those stupid bouncing blob Zoloft commercials, the ‘depression hurts’ commercial sagas and the constant talk of depression in the news. Instead of normalizing depression so that I felt it wasn’t an isolating, singular thing it turned depression into something common and fixable; so if my current medications or meditations weren’t working there was something wrong with me. What else? Popular culture! The ‘everybody’s on something’ I keep hearing. My own grandmother’s on them because she’s sad! If everyone’s on an anti-depressant is depression really as bad as it seems? Is the drug industry lubing us up for political corruption (further or otherwise)? Is it a hoax? Am I just a sucker giving in? Fight the man, fight faux-depression!
I fear I’m overmedicated, undermedicated, not really depressed, too depressed, wrongly diagnosed, anxious, sedate, suicidal. I fear I’m believing a cultural narrative, just fine. I fear I’m just messed up. That’s half the battle – depression takes your whole self and makes it feel wrong, makes you feel wrong. Instead of depression being the culprit it becomes the right and you are simply misaligned. You backtrack and doubletalk to fix your thoughts with what depression pumps out.
But, you say – don’t we need cultural messages normalizing disability to help folks with disabilities exist in this world? Sure! Yes! Indeed! And maybe bouncing blobs of medicated pencil lines on television are helping someone. But not me – I see bouncing blobs and hate my body. Why not? Depression gets me hating myself fairly well as it is, I’m prime for further body hate messages. I see ‘depression hurts’ commercials full of dreary humans who get the right drug and are suddenly water rafting and playing with kids (also meaningfully smiling). So I’m on some drug, where’s my meaningful smile and water rafting? It….doesn’t come with the prescription. Because those messages aren’t actually about people working with depression and living in spite of it, those messages don’t normalize the person with depression. They just normalize taking medications. So I won’t turn heads if I’m on Celexa but I *will* confuse folks if I’m not better and taking Celexa.
And maybe, just maybe – I want to have a conversation that doesn’t start with “oh everyone’s on some form of pill” and ends with “you’re fine.” Maybe I’m not. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe you support me, I support you and we get through life together?