It’s been a rough week.
Two high-profile celebrity deaths, plus the ongoing situation in Ferguson, plus the horror in the middle east, it’s difficult to know how to feel about anything. Social media is blaring information and outrage at me from all sides, and people are, understandably, justifiably, wound right up about shit. I tend to stay out of the conversation about current events until I actually have something to add (for example, with Ferguson, I don’t have any solid opinions on what is going on, only that I know it’s illegal to arrest journalists for being journalists). Same goes with ALL THE TALK ABOUT DEPRESSION. And how, if you have it, you should seek help, because depression aint nothing to take lightly, right?
Depression is a disease. I think it’s one of the scariest diseases, because it’s your MIND. Your OWN MIND attacks you. Depression is a chemical imbalance, that, through therapy and medication, can be curbed, but probably never full cured. However, one thing that has really bothered me this week is the discussion about what “real depression” is. Stephen Fry, British National Treasure + comedian, is very outspoken about the struggles of the mentally ill, having manic depression himself. He tweeted a link, praising it as a true, accurate account about what depression is. I clicked on it because I love Stephen Fry, I trust him, and I feel a kinship to him, as I have struggled with depression all my life. But one part of it alienated me:
Real depression is something so serious, so life-threatening, so heavy, that it is more than disingenuous to bandy the word around lightly – it is dangerous. Robin Williams was depressed. He was so depressed he killed himself.
“Real depression.” Look, I know that not everybody who is sad sometimes is depressed. I know it’s more serious, and darker than that. But it does seem to diminish my own struggles. Granted, I’ve never tried to kill myself (though I have thought about it many, many times), but does that mean that I wasted all those years at the therapist because I didn’t have real depression? Just recently, I’ve gone through spells where I felt absolutely useless, hopeless, totally, irreparably fucked up, and unworthy of love. Granted, I was going through some shit at work, but my personal life was going great. I got married! And had a tropical paradise honeymoon! Who cares about anything else? You can be totally happy and at the same time, feeling absolutely low, like “I want to kill myself” low.
Example of something I have thought about: my bank account is nearly empty until Friday. Fuck, I’m so fucking worthless, my life is so shit, I’ll never be able to turn it around EVER. I should kill myself. All my problems would be over. I’d have no responsibilities if I were dead.
Just because I manage to get past these spells, doesn’t mean I don’t have real depression. I appreciate this post comedian Rob Delaney posted after Robin Williams’ death about his own depression. However:
My mind played one thought over and over, which was “Kill yourself.” It was also accompanied by a constant, thrumming pain that I felt through my whole body. I describe the physical symptoms because it helps to understand that real depression isn’t just a “mood.”
While I empathize with him, I’m again alienated by this talk of “real depression.”
Maybe I don’t actually know what depression is?
I was diagnosed a few years ago, and went on medication, which I didn’t like, but I valued my time spent in therapy. And I haven’t been to therapy in a long time, but I’ve been thinking more and more that I should go back, which I’ve been dawdling on. Sometimes, I just love being miserable, and feeling like my life is meaningless. It’s a comfortable and familiar, albeit isolating, feeling. When I’m really depressed, it makes me feel special and unique, like, nobody else in the world is feeling what I’m feeling right now. I’m so depressed, and you couldn’t possibly understand. Just let me be fucking miserable. That’s such a warm place to be sometimes. Scary, right?
Here’s what I really want to know: is it productive to try and qualify depression? There is a different between feeling down, and having a chemical imbalance. And I know it’s hard to tell the difference. If you think you might be depressed, actually go see a doctor. There is help that can be had even for mild cases. I hate to think that there might be a person out there who thinks “well, what they’re describing is not actually what I’m feeling, so it must not be depression.” You must take your feelings seriously. You must.