Oh hello, Depression. Old pal. (Frenemy, more like). It is so you to swoop in from nowhere and casually drop kick me into the nearest gutter, then sadistically watch as I try to wiggle my way onto my feet.
Depression, you are the most slippery semi-ghost ever. The only thing I’m entirely sure of is that the bouncer that is supposed to guard my brain wants to roughly escort you out the back door. Banish you from the club. Only 17 years of therapy has taught me that even the most muscular, broad-shouldered, bad-ass tattooed and persuasive thoughts can’t force you to leave. No. I have to talk about you. Write about you. Cry about you. Talk and talk and talk some more about you. Until you begin to back up and away from me.
I cherish that moment. When I feel you leaving. Yet I also know you will return. Whenever you’ve accrued enough miles or points or whatever.
My oh my, I nearly forgot! I wrote you a farewell letter. In my dreams, I hand this to you as I fake kiss both of your checks– all classy and European-like.
It’s been a real blast. I mean, just a hoot! Therefore, I thought it only polite to inform you of my schedule. Not a super big fan of your drop-in visits.
Anyway, Depression, I have plans. They don’t include you. Where I currently don’t have plans, I plan to make plans. And the holidays? I’m simply booked! So sorry. You will have to find another brain to crash.
Fuck you very much,
Your former host
p.s. Enjoy your flight. I ordered you the meat and cheese meal, because word on the street is that you are now vegan. Blast! I got that mixed up, didn’t I? I’m usually so organized! I can’t imagine what went wrong. Wait… you came in and messed with my seratonin and stuff. Oh well, smooches!
I have many unhealthy coping mechanisms but I don’t count self-deprecating humor among them. Laughter adds minutes to your life. True story! More minutes than smoking cigarettes takes away, provided you figure out the proper ratio (I totally made that up).
Sincerely though… If I’m laying on the funny real thick, it is because life feels decidedly unfunny. But it’s more than that. I am a bit depressed.
I’ve “officially” battled, beat down and managed depression since the death of my father. I was 21. I put “officially” in quotes, for that’s when I was diagnosed. I now believe I struggled with the mood disorder for the majority of my formative years.
Part of me says whatevs, no biggie. Depression? I got this!
Ha! That is some weak bullshit, plus, my motives are fucked up. I long for you to see me as healthy and evolved and at peace within. But for real? The elephant’s not only in the room, I am riding him. Denial is impossible. And you know what? That is a blessing. An unexpected gift. I hop off the elephant.
So, what happens next? I do what I know and start where I am. Which is where I left off with a friend. I texted him that I was skidding on a rough patch, traction unattainable. His reply– the words he wrote, along with the questions he posed–first prompted, then compelled me, to blog. Another blessing. A kindness, really. Not because he said what I wanted to hear. That isn’t his style. No, I became moved and motivated to blog as soon as I broke the scary seal that silences depression. The fear depression feasts upon. The isolation that sustains depression.
Sure, now my nerve endings are hanging out of my guts, on display for all to see (which reminds me– Happy (belated) Halloween). Nevertheless, I’d rather withstand the discomfort of raw nerves than continue to kick it with Depression.
Humor is my personal Yellow Brick Road (Also, I heart ruby red shoes so much, it hurts). Trying to make others giggle? Belly laughing my own self? Not everyone celebrates, appreciates or even understands this… In turn, I don’t get those people. When I am in it– it being depression–I’m a combo platter of numb, angry, reactive, avoidant, scared, irritable, lonely and sad. Pick any day and it looks a bit different. One thing that’s consistent, however, is the impact of the funny. It wakes me up. It quites down the negative self talk. It knocks unproductive rumination off its endless loop.
The point is, a coping mechanism need not be “bad.” Drugs, booze, sex, sleeep, work? The coping mechanisms of choice for many. They are also avoidance techniques, and while I’ve not tried them all, I have dabbled enough to know that they take whatever’s got you by the nuts and stuff it down and shut it out. Trouble is, the brain’s going to return those files as soon as possible. Just like you can’t easily delete documents from your hard drive, thoughts don’t stay politely tucked away in the folds of your mind for long.
Humor isn’t avoidance and laughter does all sorts of positive things for the body, mind and spirit. It can provide temporary relief and serve as a minor distraction. It can help you reconnect with other human being. But it doesn’t prevent me from feeling my feelings. I feel them. I try to honor them in the absence of judgment. I work hard to correctly identify my feelings. (That might sound inane but I still confuse “hurt” and “anger.”) Then, ideally, there’s the release of feelings, done in such a way so as to minimize collateral damage. Not a fan of roadkill.
It’s one fucking tall order. I do it perfectly imperfectly. Most days, I have to give myself permission to feel. When I am emotionally labile, I struggle with both pinning down my feelings and expressing them honestly, maturely and appropriately. Letting go? I keep a white-knuckle grip on my negative feelings. I am unclear as to whether that’s a defense mechanism or what. (Another mechanism for a future blog post. Neat!)
I don’t have a clever wrap for this piece. What I keep thinking, however, is that I am extraordinarily fortunate. I live in a time and culture where I don’t have to keep this to myself. There’s stigma and discrimination–no doubt–but there’s also education and advocacy. Like-minded peeps. And their stories too. If there’s even the chance that one iota of a teensy drop of good can come from my experience, then the rest can fall behind.
Thank you for reading, hearing and supporting. Always.
And so, with all of the light and love in my heart to yours…