I haven’t been to class in two weeks. I haven’t sent out a Love Letter in months. I haven’t eaten a piece of fruit since December. I haven’t written a blog post since October. For the past 9 months, I’ve been suffering from what my doctor calls a “major depressive episode”. Some people call it the “blues” which is a much gentler term for a complete and total lack of ability to function despite your best efforts.
I’d wake up every day and just turn over and sleep for another four hours. Back in early December, I started taking anti-depressants. They helped a lot, and I stopped getting panic attacks. Every once in a while, I’d even feel excited about life. At the end of the day though, the most I can say about anti-depressants is that for me, they’ve an odd kind of flotation device for the drowning as opposed to a genuine life boat to shore. I’m not getting water in my lungs anymore, and I can breathe again, but I’m still out at sea and using all my energy to tread water.
Depression is a funny illness. It happens quite often I’ve heard, but few people ever talk about it. I hope that this little effort here, a few hundred words on my blog, can help spurr some modicum of conversation. Most of all, I hope that I’ll help shake off a little of the shame.
For me, that’s been the worst part of the depression. There is an overwhelming sense of shame that comes with not having the ability to just make yourself better. It’s as though you’re expected to feel guilty for being imperfect at taking care of yourself, like you’re given an instruction manual the day you turned 18 and you somehow failed to study it thoroughly enough. For everything out there, we think that there is supposed to be some sort of 5 step program, and if you do numbers 1-5 properly, then you just “get better”. I’m calling bullshit. There is no prescription to life, and I’m tired of listening to a rhetoric that’s contributing to my anguish.
Treating diabetes is more than just taking insulin each day. When our bodies get sick, we take that seriously and understand that there is a complex web of contributing factors that lead to both illness and health. But when our minds get sick, we’re told to “just” do this, and try a little of that, and it’s all quite simple if you just snap out of it and cheer up. I want to cheer up more than anybody else out there. If it was a matter of just putting a smile on my face, I’d have hooks permanently installed in the corners of my mouth to keep my lips curved upwards forever.
The best way that I can describe everything I’ve been feeling over the past 9 months is that I’ve been grieving over my own death. I grieve over some part of me that I’ve lost, and I haven’t the faintest clue about where I dropped it. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I’m awake, because it’s odd to me that life could possibly feel so empty. I’m hoping that by taking ownership of my grief, I can start to move through this pain, or at least learn how to live in this space while still functioning.
By sharing this current state of existence with all those who’ve e-mailed me saying how wonderful it is to know they weren’t alone in what they’ve been going through, you too can remember that you’re awake and you’re here. It feels shitty sometimes, but you’re allowed to feel whatever you need to feel.
There is nothing in this space that is a life line. There is nothing in this space that I can make sense of. So I’m breaking out of it. I have found neither sustenance nor growth in this space of grief, anxiety and self-loathing and I’m craving forward motion. It’s not an overnight kind of thing. This may be my last blog post for another 5 months. This may be the beginning of daily blogging for the next 5 years. I don’t know, and I’m trying to not force myself to make it be anything. What I do know though, is that there is a joy in creating. My own ability to make something from nothing and put a force out into the world is a lifeline, and it originates from outside the space of sleeping for 14 hours a day.
I’ve always hated the idea of being an expert in something- that someone would take your word to be more important the all the empirical evidence they’ve gathered from their own experience of this world. What I do think is important to consider though, is that sometimes, your own interpretations of the world don’t actually help you go anywhere or do anything, and the smartest things you can do with some of your thoughts is to reject them. It has been my experience that this grief has brought nothing to my life. But the process of moving past it has given me a profound compassion for humanity.
If nothing else, just know that there are some compassionate people out there. Maybe they’re your barista at Starbucks. Or maybe they’re the person who looked up when you got on the bus. Or maybe you just haven’t met them yet. But I guarantee that they’re out there, and they’re looking for you too, and you won’t find them until you get out of bed and go looking for eye contact and moments of connection. At the very least, I’m here- young, ambitious, broken and being honest about this funny little thing called life.