I have a confession to make. Once it is expressed, some might think that I’ve been living a lie of omission; some might understand my need to not string up my dirty laundry, either out of compassion or the opinion that people like me should keep their shit to themselves. I’m hoping that still more people will comprehend the stigma behind making this information known, and understand why I have kept it to myself.
I’m living with depression. I feel the word choice is important; I could say I am suffering from depression, which would be accurate, but I want to phrase this struggle in a hopeful way. My life shouldn’t revolve around this one aspect of my existence, as I am just as complex an individual as everyone else. Although I haven’t seen a doctor to verify my condition (more on that later), depression is a constant part of my life. I want to expand on how it affects me specifically, and note that it is different for everyone who experiences it.
In my first draft of these notes, I felt a vulnerability so intense at the above words that I sidestepped the issue for a moment, and babbled from a removed, academic, scientific standpoint. The rest of this paragraph is the garbage I created as a way to deflect: From an evolutionary standpoint, this chemical imbalance makes no sense to me. If my brain were going to give me the impulse to make an end to my genetic line, why wouldn’t it have just been miscarried in the womb. That seems more efficient, Evolution; however, I know evolution cannot be to blame, because I haven’t always felt this way. It is hard not to parallel this situations with contracting an illness; I just picked it up somewhere and cannot seem to figure out how to get rid of the virus.
Marshall Rosenberg once wrote, “Depression is the reward we get for being good”. Out of the entire weekend course I took in Non-Violent Communication, that was the point that stuck with me. I try really hard to do my best, but fear of my own inadequacies, real or imagined, keep me from feeling success. They keep me from feeling worthy of the time of others.
It is important to note that my depression’s grip is ever-changing; some days I don’t feel it at all, while other days it inhibits my will and ability to get out of bed. I want to make it very clear that the prospect of people dissecting past or future conversations with me to see if they can detect this defect makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t want to be treated in an alienating way. This prospect is one of the aspects that makes it difficult to share my battle.
My depression manifests as an unjust punishment; I just want to be a good person, do great things, and connect with amazing people. I feel punished for trying; I feel that all dreams of doing great things need to be suppressed during times of depression because it takes extra energy to run my day-to-day life. I constantly have to sacrifice energy to the voice in my head that, among other things, brings up the notion of suicide.
Mind: So, suicide is a thing.
Me: Yes, so you’ve said. I don’t know why you keep bringing this up, as I have expressed I have no interest in it.
Mind: Just saying, it is an option.
Me: No, it’s not. Settling aside the obvious reality that I couldn’t follow through with the physical actions one would have to take to complete suicide –
Mind: Should we talk methods?
Me: No, shut up and listen, for once. Setting aside that I couldn’t take the action, I would also never do it because my death would hurt others.
Mind: They’d get over it.
Me: That is likely true, but ultimately their ability to do so should not be tested because my brain is an asshole.
Mind: Fine, go out there and do something to prove that you deserve to exist. I can wait. I’ll just be here, bleeding away all your mental energy, but if you are so great, you should be able to create and participate regardless…
Being at war with my own brain is fascinating, infuriating, and vehemently lonely.
I told my closest confidant about these types of thoughts for the first time today. I delayed this confession because I didn’t want to cause worry. I am guilty of having conversations in my head instead of out loud, and that isn’t fair to those with whom I share a connection. I didn’t want to be thought of as lesser than I once was, but it would be unfair to assume that people would think less of me. I didn’t want pity. My depression is a part of myself in which I find no attractive qualities, and sharing this inner dialogue makes me fear losing connections that are important to me, or blocking future connections from forming. I don’t want to make this even more awkward than is my default.
My depression takes away the things I like to do. When I am alone, time required by introverts, my mind won’t let me focus on reading a novel or putting my full attention toward writing. I am either forced to watch something (which, to be far, is a pastime I enjoy, but I would rather that to be enjoyed on my own terms instead of being used as a way to silence my asshole brain) or sink into a restless nap. All of my usable mental energy is purchased via the time I spend being employed, and there seems to be no life left for me.
My depression tricks me into believing that I don’t already positively impact others. My depression makes it easy to forget the good, and impossible to ignore the bad. It intensifies my feeling of invisibility, and magnifies the successes and attributes of others. I find myself doing things I want to do, but since I lack the energy to do them in a positive mindset, I don’t received the same joy those activities once brought. I do them out of duty, and flip-flop between believing my half-assed approach is ruining everyone else’s experience, and believing that it would be more inconvenient for others if I drop out. Regardless, I always do my part when I make a commitment, so they might not even notice if invisible me takes a slight misstep from time to time.
Lie of Omission: I don’t wander around telling people this is my personal struggle. It doesn’t feel like an easy way to connect with others; it feels like a way in which I can be painted as negatively different, not good enough, and deficient. A few weeks ago, someone was discussing something (I can’t remember the exact topic) and offhandedly mentioned that people who weren’t like us, people with depression, would have a different reaction. That fleeting comment cemented my knowledge that I’ve been hiding my depression successfully. Keeping my darkest secret hidden is something attractive to me; people can’t look down on me or look at me differently if they don’t know that I am “other” to them.
My depression is cruel. I crave companionship, but depression makes me feel incapable of having it. I feel incredibly drained, and don’t have the right amount of energy to contribute to getting to know anyone else. My brain is operating really poorly these days, and it is often difficult for me to tease out morsels of interesting information, let alone remember social protocol. I don’t want to make connections just so people will have to listen to how sad I feel. I want to get to know people better, and to make more connections with people I find interesting, but this process is near impossible while I feel incapable of meaningful contributions. I don’t want to waste other people’s time; I want our companionship to have a positive impact on both of us.
We live in a culture where we are taught to telegraph our triumphs and successes, and try to diminish the blows of defeat. It feels very counter-intuitive to tell the world my faults. I already operate under the assumption that, if people want to, they can find most of my faults themselves, or even unjustly create exaggerated faults. Why give them more ammunition? Thanks, leftover damage from being bullied.
When I recognize a person I would like to befriend, their intelligence, energy, creativity, and even appearance can become intimidating to me. My default is to see all of their positive points as being higher than my own on each respective trait scale, and I feel unable to catch up or “play at their level”. How could someone like me be of interest to someone like them? My depression deepens my social anxiety; I feel completely inept when it comes to keeping up my end of a conversation. The upside is I am a great listener. The downside is no one has a chance to get to know me. The only way I am currently able to get all these words out is to write them down, and despite the act of vulnerability it will take to post them, I’m more focused on the flaws in my writing style. If I have to come clean about this, I at least want to do it eloquently; this would serve as self proof that I am capable of intellectual conversations, albeit in a non-verbal medium. I’m trying to be at peace with the fact that this piece won’t be perfectly written, but it is the content – full exposed – that is the most important aspect.
I also understand that being honest with people is, in itself, a way to build connection with those who aren’t loading up an arsenal against me. I am intellectually aware that “the cool kids” aren’t ganging up against me, but fear that disconnection, nonetheless.
I promised to touch on why I haven’t been to a doctor regarding this condition. I fear the closure/legitimacy that such a visit would bring. I fear being told that I am just looking for attention and if I think happy thoughts, I’ll be fine. I feared other people learning about my mental incapability by witnessing my trip to a doctor. I don’t want to be labelled as deficient. I don’t feel it is fair to have to use my limited energy on paying someone to listen to me talk, or try to prescribe me pills. I don’t like having to pay for being different, both figuratively and monetarily. I work hard, have little energy for myself and don’t want to sacrifice my earnings because my brain is an asshole. I am stubborn and really do believe I should be able to do things on my own. I am fully aware that some of these thoughts are foolish, but I fear all the stigmas that have been placed upon people with mental illnesses. I want to be treated as a complex human being, not as a person with a problem.
I have always been independent, and my depression is a huge threat to that. I feel I should be able to function just as well as the next person (especially since I have often excelled in areas requiring efficiency and organization), but seemingly simple tasks cause me more mental energy than I deem necessary under normal circumstances. Feeding myself seems to be a huge challenge. This horrifies me, as feeding myself is one of the earliest skills I obtained. If I cannot do basic human functions without fighting my mind, how am I going to be able to positively contribute to the lives of others? I have been incapable of asking other people to help me, because I don’t want them to feel an advantage is being taken. I don’t want to inspire the thought, “She’s so lazy, why can’t she make her own dinner?” I want to be able to take care of myself, and don’t want to be reminded more often than I already am that I’m not very good at self-care. Failure is one of my biggest fears. Being perceived as stupid may as well be the same thing as being perceived as unworthy. My mind is on a constant loop:
I want to be great at this thing.
I’m not great at this thing and if I keep doing it badly, people will know how bad I am.
I need to work harder, as this is important to me. I can learn.
I’m tired, and I’m physically sick again, and I just won’t be able to do it.
I’m a failure. I didn’t even give it a real shot, because that’s how much I suck.
I want to be great at this thing.
I don’t know how to ask for help, and I don’t know how to accept it. I don’t know how to describe what would give me the greatest/most efficient support.
My academic training is screaming that this confession is not properly formatted; my critical side says it is more of a wild rant than a document that will help people connect with me. I constantly ask this voice to shut up. I could honestly go through this document thousand more times, and not be satisfied that it would be read in the exact way that I intend it. Through that process, I might find slight ways to tweak my run on sentences. I might make it more cohesive. I fear that putting too much time between beginning this discussion and posting it will decrease my available bravery to let it out into the world. One final read through, and then I have to take this leap of faith, or this will be a substantial side of myself that I continue to hide from the world.
I hope, if you know me, you’ll treat this as an opening to a respectful and supportive conversation. I’ll be shy at first, even with compassionate responses I receive, but know that I will appreciate that you reached out.