Thursday, July 24, 2014

Not alone

I had plans for tonight's post, plans which got sidelined when I wandered across this post on Rachel Hartman's blog. After Sheena's lovely, brave post on Tuesday, I'd been thinking a lot about depression anyway. In any case, reading Rachel's blog And that lead me to this post from Libba Bray. I started to read, and then I started to cry.

Seriously, go read the post (unless you're in a sensitive spot - then, save it for later). This post is seriously so very, very important for everyone to read, for those of you who struggle with depression, and even more so for those of you who do not.

I don't like to talk about my personal struggles with depression and anxiety. They're really not that bad, not at the point where I'm "white-knuckling it," to borrow Libba Bray's phrase. My depression is more of the slow grind, the low-grade weight in the background that is pulling me down every day with the constant whisper of, "Why try? You've screwed up before, and you'll just do it again. There is no hope. There is nothing you can do."

I've been working a lot lately to find the right words for what depression is. It's still so firmly entrenched in my brain that my depression is a weakness, that if I were just stronger or cleverer that I would have thought my way out of this whole mess a long time ago. That if I were somehow a better person, that I wouldn't hurt so much every day.

But that's sort of like saying, "If only I had more lemons, I would be smarter at math!" The two things - innate quality of character and depression - are not in the least bit related. Depression is a chemical error in your brain. It's not quite a disease; if anything, it's closer to something like having a weak knee. Okay, so maybe that's a terrible metaphor too. The point I'm trying to make is that depression doesn't come because we're weak. And if depression makes you feel weak, it's just that you've likely been using all your strength to present that normal facade that society demands.

Libba Bray's post better articulates what I'm trying to convey:
If depression were as physically evident as, say, a broken limb or cancer, it would be easier to talk about. The pain could be marked, quantified, obvious to the observer. You would feel justified in saying, “I’m sorry that I haven’t returned your email but you can see the huge hole in the center of me, and I’m afraid it has made such dialogue impossible.” But the stigma of depression is that it comes with the sense that you shouldn’t have it to begin with. That it is self-indulgence or emotional incompetence rather than actual illness. This brings on attendant feelings of shame and self-loathing, which only exacerbate the pain, isolation, and hopelessness of the condition. “I cannot share this,” the depressed person thinks. “It is too embarrassing, too shameful.” And so, you swallow it down, until it feels that your heart is a trapped bird beating frantic wings against the pain you’ve shoved up against it.  Depression isn’t like being sad or blue or wistful. It is crippling. It is a constant whine in your head, making it hard to hear yourself think.
I'm not posting about my depression to get sympathy. I'm doing well. I'm learning how to fight back effectively, thanks to my awesome therapist. I'm posting this because there are so many others out there struggling with depression, who have that awful beliefs about self worth that I do, and who maybe are afraid to talk about it because of society's stupid bullcrap view that depression is indeed some sort condition created just to garner sympathy and attention.

So to all my fellow combatants of depression: fight on. Ask for help, if you need it. Offer help, if you can. And never, ever give up.

1 comment:

  1. I love Libba Bray's article. I think it is so great that so many people are attempting to describe what depression feels like to them, because although it is different for each of us, there are common threads running throughout, and reading these stories will hopefully keep us from the crippling despair and shame that you've described so well. Sabrina. You are awesome. Thank you for this beautiful post.


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