Greetings, ducks, and Happy New Year. It’s been a while, I know. And I’m fine, mostly, now. But I wasn’t before.
We don’t like to talk about depression much as a culture, although to some degree we’ve destigmatized it: I mean, here in the Great American Metropolis, everyone jokes about being in therapy or on antidepressants. Jokes are made; sticom plots revolve around a character’s mental health; and we wonder if Ziggy had some Prozac if his life would improve and he’d finally buy some pants.
But we don’t talk about it, or when we do, when we really sit down and talk about it, all the old stigmas come back. People will whisper about someone being really depressed; there’s an uneasiness around the whole subject, a certain trepidation about approaching them, a certain, well, fear: of driving them to suicide? Of catching it yourself? I don’t know.
What happened to me is that the chronic low-grade depression I’ve carried with me since before puberty flared up, as it does sometimes: but first it just gradually began to increase, helped along, no doubt, by my decision to go off antidepressants over the summer. Sure, I got worse, but gradually, gradually, and I couldn’t tell how badly I was slipping, until I came back from San Francisco without a steady source of income for the first time in something like six years. And even then, I was doing OK, because I had a line on a job that wasn’t ideal but would hold me while I retrenched. And I really thought I was going to get the job. Until I went up and had a horrible series of interviews.
And then I decidedly wasn’t OK anymore.
Some of what happened next you no doubt can glean from my BTB post last week: I went to the psych ER, after a series of humiliations I got some meds that my insurance will actually cover, and if I’m not out of the woods, I can at least see the trees thinning out. And tomorrow I start a gig that while not ideal, will at least hold me while I retrench. (And keep working from home.)
But I was going to talk about my depression…and that’s just it. It’s so hard to talk about: if you don’t have it, it’s hard to understand. It’s nothing like being sad, except when it is; it’s nothing like feeling listless, except when it is; it’s nothing like feeling hopeless, except when it is–and most of the time you feel at least some of those symptoms all at once. William Styron called it a “brain storm” and that comes close, except in my case there isn’t a feeling of storm like violence: just a hopelessness, a feeling that everything I do is futile, that everything is just too hard for me to accomplish and that if I were lucky, I’d just not wake up in the morning. And sometimes, sometimes you just want the pain and hopelessness to go away so badly that you think about making sure you won’t wake up in the morning.
I think until you can contemplate the idea of destroying yourself–of making a permanent end to all your problems–and think it a good thing, a sensible thing, to no longer care about the pain you would inflict on others, just so long as your own would go away–until you’ve hit that point, then no, you don’t know what depression really feels like. I’ve had some sort of suicidal ideation around once a month since I was at least ten years old. And I almost never think seriously about it; when I do, when I get really serious in my own mind, that’s when I know to go down to a doctor and do something about it. And I’m lucky: most of the time, there is something to be done, and something I can access to help me. Not everyone is so lucky.
Yet strangely enough, I don’t want this post itself to be depressing. Dawn is breaking on my battered mental landscape; my Significant Other of Variable and Often Fabulous Gender spent the weekend with me, and cheered me up. I have a source of income again, and believe it or not, a line on some more interviews.
I’m writing again. And that’s a light all of its own.