Before I get going on my spiel here about the chemical blues, I want to make it clear – I’m not a therapist. I am not a health care professional. I have no formal training in anything other than flinging cats and eating pudding. Anything I spout is from personal experience only. Others may tell you a different story about their struggles with depression and they’re no less valid. Okay? Okay. Onward
Last week, after a particularly harrowing few days where we almost lost old dog to a bevy of ailments that were, in the long run, easy to treat separately but NOT easy to treat when the symptoms looked like one GIANT SUPER PROBLEM, someone asked me if I was okay. People’d been doing that a lot lately because I’d become withdrawn. As I’m not a withdrawn person in general, or at least I’m not when I’m happy, they probably figured they needed to poke me with a stick to make sure I was still upright. Or had a pulse. Anyway, when I was asked, “You okay, Hill?” I answered in the negative because, right then, I wasn’t okay. I was worried about the dog. I was worried about books that had JUST gone out on submission. I was worried about money. I was worried about a whole heck of a lot of things that felt like a looming mountain of I CAN’T HANDLE YOU SO I’LL JUST NOT THINK ABOUT YOU.
Something about that question at that moment made me eyeball the mountain, though. I don’t know what, precisely. Maybe it was who asked it or maybe the stars were aligned just right. In either case, I thought about my answer and realized it wasn’t just an indicator of a single bad day. I was officially In A Funk. Not in the aweseometastic Parliament way, but in the, “Holy crap I am in a full downward swing of depression and I need help” sort of way.
Everyone gets overwhelmed by life. Everyone gets sad sometimes. I am an over-achiever on sad. Like, I take normal sad and I give it gold stars and roid it up so by the time I’m through with it? The sad that started out as a housefly is now the size of Mothra and I have no idea what to do about it other than beseech a giant lizard to wrestle it into submission. And by giant lizard, I mean a therapist and mainlining head meds. It’s a crappy realization that I’m at that point. No matter how many times I tell myself, “This isn’t a reflection on your strength, on your worth as a human” I always feel like I should just TRY HARDER TO COPE. Because I’m FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF. Because IF I WAS JUST A LITTLE MORE ADULT, THIS DEPRESSION WOULD GO AWAY. Yeah, no. No, it doesn’t work like that. Why? Because of the four horsemen of Hillary’s Depression Apocalypse.
Worthlessness. When I’m in the middle of a depression downswing, I feel I contribute nothing to everything. I’m a giant vacuum of energy that tars the lives of those unfortunate enough to be around me. I TAKE TAKE TAKE and never GIVE GIVE GIVE. I’m never good enough or matter enough no matter what I do, so what’s the point of trying? Failure is the inevitable outcome of everything I touch because I’m a goddess of entropy. I feel that, while I have good qualities, they’re not remarkable. I feel that there is a crack in the floor and I could easily slip through the crack and no one would give a damn. I feel that – I – wouldn’t give a damn if I slipped through the crack, and that’s the scariest realization of all. To not actually care if I just Went Away.
Helplessness. “I’m too weak to take care of my problems. Other people have lives much, much worse than mine and yet I can’t do anything to feel better about my own when I know logically this is managable. And I can’t.” That’s the mantra – I can’t. I can’t cope, I can’t do, I can’t I can’t.
Anger. This one happens because of the helplessness. I get pissed at myself that not only did I succumb to a poisonous headspace in the first place, “allowing” myself to get so low, but I didn’t “Put on my big girl pants.” I didn’t pull myself up and out of it by my bootstraps. STRONG people would do that. STRONGER people than me do it every day. I should be like them and I’m a loser because I’m not. Because I need some stupid chemical to do what should be a very basic human function. I become a writhing ball of vitriol because of what I cannot see as anything other than an enormous personal failure.
Confusion. Why? Why does it have to be like this? Why does X thing send me into a funk and Y thing doesn’t? Why don’t I know my own mind enough at this point in my life to be able to avoid trigger situations? Will this ever go away? How can I make it less likely to happen? Why? Why? Why?
Those four elements up there, when combined, are like Voltron from Hell and result in one absolutely MISERABLE Hillary. It’s a conglomerate of Wicked Bad Stuff. The good news is, I’ve ridden this ride at Six Flags before (no wonder it’s got the shortest line – no one wants this coaster) and I know how to get on a path for better. I pick up the phone, I call a person who can help me untangle my feelings and handle them one by one instead of tackling them all at once. And then, if necessary, I get on some medication that helps the chemicals in my brain STOP HURTING ME. It takes time. EVERY time it takes time, and that’s frustrating, but at least I can see that the road leads to a better place. It’s the one piece of logic that will permeate and I am VERY lucky that I have it. Others don’t and that’s when you get into the self-harm head space. I’ve been there, done that before. I never want to go back there. Ever.
I talk about my struggles today because I know a lot of people don’t understand what it’s like to live with depression. They think it’s a condition for people without fortitude. They see this as some reflection of low willpower or weakness. If you’re one of those people? Piss off. You’re wrong. You’re wrong on every possible count. This is not a case of “comfortable with self-pity” or some victim complex. No one in their right mind would choose to live this way. No one wants to hate themselves as much as I do when I wake up in the morning for the simple sin OF waking up in the morning. “But if you just . . . ” No. If you don’t have depression or aren’t well-versed in depression, stop giving advice of how YOU would cope in my shoes. Because you’re speaking from the privileged position of someone NOT dealing with my condition. Logicking at me, telling me how I should act if I had normal chemicals in my brains is . . . pretty callous.
Listening, however, when I need an ear? That helps tons. So do hugs and cookies and reassurances that you love me and that I’ll be okay.
So here’s where I venture off into the land of doctors and self care. I’m going to walk more, to take more long baths. I’m going to breathe more. Then I’ll hug a basset hound. I’m going to take my medicine and carefully choose who and what I’m surrounded by until this storm passes. Hopefully by sharing my personal stuff, someone else can nod and go, YEAH, THAT. WHAT SHE SAID. I know when I’m at my worst I feel terrible and gross and so-very-isolated, but the reality is a lot of people know this pain. We suffer from crippling self-loathing and worthlessness. It is okay to talk about it despite your inner gremlin saying it’s not. You’re not less of a person for admitting it, and contrary to what the crazy brain says? People do understand. Well, maybe not people, but I understand and that’s a start.
And we all gotta start somewhere, eh?