BAM! The D-word right off the bat.
Let’s sit back and marinate in it for a while , shall we? Go on, get comfortable.
(I know it’s not easy)
You’ve seen me talk a little about my depression (here, to bring new readers up to speed)(oh, also here and here), but I always find it hard to convey what living with depression really feels like. On top of that, it’s icky and uncomfortable and unpleasant to write about this stuff. I’ve actually been in the middle of this post since January, but the links I talk about below convinced me to finish. Still, I wring my hands and stare out the window and do things like scrubbing the bathroom floor instead.
You: So why bother writing this post, Christy?
Because by its very nature, depressions is unpleasant, both to experience and to talk about, and it’s because of that unpleasantness that it’s not talked about enough (hey, awkward sentence!). And nothing is ever made better by not talking about it, least of all depression.
Oddly, what propelled me to write this “Yes! A sense of identification!” depression post was a heartbreaking novel about a woman with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease: Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. The book’s third-person narration is told from Alice’s perspective as she loses her memory and personality. I think I’ve read the whole thing at least four times at this point; it just gets to me. Alice is educated and knowledgeable about the brain, and she tries every trick in the book to stave off her worsening symptoms. In a way, it parallels my struggle with seasonal affective disorder: going into the fall and winter with determination, loading up on Vitamin D and getting up early to soak up the most daylight, making PLANS!, only to find myself defeated and miserable by December (cycle, rinse, repeat).
A section toward the end of “Still Alice”, when Alice has a lucid moment and remembers her life before the Alzheimer’s symptoms began, particularly strikes a chord with me:
I used to be curious and independent and confident. I miss being sure of things. There’s no peace in being unsure of everything all the time. I miss doing things easily. I miss being a part of what’s happening.
What Alice misses encapsulate a lot of how I feel when I’m depressed: like an uncertain, fragile, half person with no conviction or sense of self. There’s the depressed part of me, and then everything else– the meat, the essence, whatever you want to call it– is behind this shroud that I just can’t reach. Of course, someone with Alzheimer’s Disease truly can’t reach it; the glaring difference is that I do come back to myself eventually (yay!).
This week, as I wondered how to finish the two-paragraph draft post that I’d let languish for 4+ months, Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half came back to the Internet. Specifically, she published “Depression Part Two” just yesterday, and in less than a day she received 5,000 comments (which, incidentally, is Blogger’s comment limit). 5,000! On a post about depression! This is marvelous and amazing.
But I get ahead of myself. If you’re not familiar with Hyperbole and a Half, it’s sort of a web comic, a sort of collection of illustrated essays, and definitely all genius. She makes drawings with MS Paint about her life, or her dog, and writes in such a way that fans relate to her as if she’s their best friend. What makes the 5,000 comments (and overall Internet reaction to her return) so remarkable is that until this week, there was nothing new on her site since October 2011. Periodically, I’d check for updates, hoping she was okay, always appreciating how she made me laugh about my own sorrow in the post before her long absence, Adventures in Depression.
I know, I know- I’m writing a blog post about a blog post. But read Allie’s latest update, and you’ll get the best, most accessible depiction of debilitating depression that I’ve ever seen. An excerpt:
I’d try to explain that it’s not really negativity or sadness anymore, it’s more just this detached, meaningless fog where you can’t feel anything about anything — even the things you love, even fun things — and you’re horribly bored and lonely, but since you’ve lost your ability to connect with any of the things that would normally make you feel less bored and lonely, you’re stuck in the boring, lonely, meaningless void without anything to distract you from how boring, lonely, and meaningless it is.
[Yup. All of it.]
That’s enough; go check out Hyperbole and a Half yourself! I’m glad Allie’s okay (or at least, on the road to getting better), and I’m grateful to her for talking so openly about her depression. Did I mention how I started sobbing in the middle of reading her post this afternoon? I cried because it seemed like she was writing about me (though not the suicidal part), and I felt sad and pathetic and silly, but comforted and not so alone, and like my weird out-there feelings were validated.
I’m also grateful to a blogger named Heather Armstrong, the woman behind Dooce. On Monday, she wrote this post about putting a face to depression and mental illness, and invited her readers to share their stories, as she has. People with depression opened up about their battle, and so did friends and loved ones, thanking her for raising awareness and facilitating understanding.
Yes, depression sucks. But it’s pretty damn sweet that there are people like Allie and Heather putting themselves out there so the rest of us don’t feel so alone.
Have you been especially inspired by someone or something lately? What are you grateful for? Would you like to share what gets you out of a funk or low mood?
I must say, three posts into my own return, it’s nice to be back. Thanks for sticking with me.
If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do. –-Stephen Fry