I might be clothed in sin
But I’m more than the sum of the scars upon my skin
I am more than the hurt of the words within my head
I am more than the size of the colours in my mind
I am more than the screams of the shadows in my dreams
I am more than the sum of the scars upon my skin
When I say I’m depressed, I don’t mean I’m sad because my favourite TV show got cancelled. Or upset because I’m having a fight with someone I care about. It doesn’t mean I’m just feeling too lazy to get up and do things.
I’m depressed means I am missing the motivator synapse, the bit of fire in my brain that makes it possible for me to get up and do things. It means that the fights with the ones I love are usually caused by my depression, and are seen as just another thing in the long wave of things I have to deal with. It means I expect my favourite TV shows to get cancelled (well, part of that is that I love sci-fi and fantasy, and we all know the fate of those genres on television).
It means a lot of things — and a lot of different things to different people who also suffer from depression, and I don’t claim to speak for any of them. This post is about me and no one else.
It doesn’t mean some vitamin D will clear everything up.
It doesn’t mean that diet and exercise will fix me. (I can prove that: over a month now on the new hippy-food diet/exercise regime and guess what; still fucking depressed.)
It doesn’t mean that I can just try being happy.
It doesn’t mean that when I smile, the depression is magically over.
It doesn’t mean I’m cutting myself every day, or constantly thinking about suicide. Not anymore, at least. Not for a few years now.
It sure as hell doesn’t mean I want to hear advice from well-meaning folk who don’t suffer from depression and don’t know what the fuck I’m going through.
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit
Father, into your hands — why have you forsaken me?
in your eyes, forsaken me
in your thoughts, forsaken me
in your heart, forsaken me
–Chop Suey, System of a Down
My dad and his girlfriend deny that my depression even exists. When they heard I was on Wellbutrin, shits were flipped. How dare I try to help myself. How dare I find something that works. I’m a hypochondriac; I’m just like my lying mother; or, my favourite: my life isn’t so bad, so what do I have to be sad about?
At some point my dad decided to stop bugging me about it, at which point he sent in his relief soldier — the girlfriend. During a phone conversation that happened right after I had dropped my boyfriend off at the ferry (so, I was crying, understandably, because long distance relationships suck big lizard eggs), she asked if I was “still on the Wellbutrin.” I said yes without shame, because it was working for me. Getting help isn’t shameful; medication isn’t shameful if it’s what works. She blathered on about how I should try taking several thousand mgs of Vitamin D every day, as if the several thousand mgs of it I got in the form of sunlight everyday during my 10 years in Hawaii had helped (it hadn’t; I was worse than ever in Hawaii — to the point where my mom considered a few times putting me into the psych ward*).
Finally, after every tack didn’t work, she brought out what she obviously thought was the trump card: “But you have Nate now. Shouldn’t that mean you’re always happy?”
I had to explain to my dad’s girlfriend that it was unhealthy to be that co-dependant in a relationship.
The age, the weariness you see in my eyes is there because I have to deal with people who made it to physical adulthood without ever actually growing up. Models for healthy relationships? Ha ha.
That said, Nate does make me deliriously happy — but that doesn’t mean the depression is gone.
whenever I’m alone with you
you make me feel like I am fun again
–Lovesong, The Cure (Tori Amos cover)
It’s this big behemoth problem that I have to deal with every day. Every day of my life I fight this beast. Well. Some days I let it win; other days I love it. It’s a long, complicated relationship, and not one I can just throw Vitamin D powder at and banish it. It’s not a demon from some TV show about witches; candles and herbs aren’t going to make me happy again.
Being a practicing witch may fulfill my life in ways that I never thought possible. Being a godslave also. But Morrigan isn’t going to ride in on Her steed and slay the beasties for me; that’s my work. Doing some white light woo woo isn’t going to defeat the big monsters in my dreams.
The monsters are here to stay. I have to learn how to kill them myself. Or I’ll have to learn to live with them.
Depression is a monster I live with. Zie doesn’t pay rent; he makes a mess in my house that I have to clean; she torments me before I can fall asleep. Zie, and hir friend Anxiety, makes the front door seem like the most terrifying thing in my life — I need to arm myself before leaving the house.
How exactly does one arm oneself in the face of the most terrible monster? How does one make it possible to go out into the world with a smile and a laugh, all zie’s friends never the wiser to the monster that lurks within zie’s thoughts?
This is nothing new to me
It takes more than what you’ve got to frighten me
I’m not scared of you; there’s nothing you can do or take from me
There are many different tactics for different people. I’m going to share a few of mine.
- Music. Especially music with lyrics that touch into what I’m feeling. I find upbeat, I’m going to kick your ass music doesn’t always work — sometimes I need to wallow, and the upbeat stuff just pisses me off. You’ll note I shared some lyrics throughout this post. I’m hoping they help make my point.
- Make-up and nail-polish. It helps that I’m femme, and like this stuff in general. But make-up and nail-polish have a deeper meaning to me: I see them as warrior’s armor. When I am feeling like absolute shit, putting on some thick eyeliner and some dark nail polish helps me feel better about myself. It’s also a layer between the real me and the world: a literal mask that I can put on and be safe behind. (To all the people who have been incredibly negative and sanctimonious about me wearing make-up and nail-polish**: bet you’re not feeling so smug now, huh?)
- Have friends that worship the ground you walk on. Everyone needs a friend or two who just love you no matter what. I have a good group that I can go to when I’m feeling especially shitty, and I know that they’ll make me feel a little more like Morag the Goddess again.
- Find a release. These days I write for release, but there was a while when I’d blast rock music and do primal screaming. (I blasted the rock music so my dad and his then-girlfriend wouldn’t hear the screams.) Other releases include, but not limited to: video games, setting fire to things that are not alive, shooting toilets, painting, crochet, knitting, cleaning, cooking, taking a hammer to things that don’t matter.
- Remind yourself of all the awesome stuff you’ve done. When faced with the voice of depression that tells you you’re ugly or worthless or whatever other lies it wants to say, telling it it’s wrong doesn’t always work. Instead, say “So fucking what? I’ve saved a life/starred in a movie/written a book/have an engaging blog/raised a family/make a wicked cup of tea/am an amazing cook/am very clean/have great taste.” Because in the light of all the awesome stuff you’ve done, who fucking cares if your depression/parents/teachers/society think you’re ugly or worthless? You’ve done awesome stuff. Don’t forget that.
- Remember the words of The Doctor:
That’s what I do. I remind myself that I’ve done awesome stuff; I find a release; I listen to music; I have friends who help me feel okay again; I wear make-up; and I know that The Doctor chooses ordinary humans as his companions so he can show them that they’re brilliant. Because there’s no such thing as an ordinary human being. We’re all brilliant.
*When I was 10 I went insane. Completely off the deep end. My mom had no idea what had caused it, nor what to do, and she was at the end of her rope as a single parent. While we now know what the cause of the insanity was, it doesn’t fix what happened in the past. And I’m glad she ended up not putting me into the psych ward at the hospital on Maui, because I later had friends who had gone through that and it sort of sounded like a house of horrors. But who knows; maybe it would have helped. Or not. Regardless, I’m not quite as crazy now, though I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered.
**Not including Nate in this; he has a right to bitch about how much time I take to get ready. 😉
I clap loudly at your post, and I thank you for writing it because it just might be what I needed to read this point of my life. I would bet there are many people out of there that feel the same way.
I can relate to your ‘experience’ with your father – I had one similiar enough with my dad when I announced the family I was going get my doctor to prescribe xanax because I was exausted of how my anxiety/panic attacks were sucking the life out of me.
He gave me this flowerly paternalistic speech about how ‘I could not be what I thought I was because he knew me and I used to be strong and somewhere inside i still was and I just had to *remember* how to be strong again’. And of course, according him I had to absolutely make it on my own, without meds, without anything but my good old will.
At the time, it hurt to know he didn’t get it, even after seeing me going in fits of crying and listening at me when I tried to be open about how I could not control it anymore. It was not a matter of willing or choosing, it was matter of being squashed down like a bug by feelings that seemed so much larger than me at the point that they felt like some external, overpowering force.
And you are absolutely right – remembering that you have done awesome stuff, in those moments your monster tries to convince you are whortless, definitely helps to stay grounded in the reality of our inner, shining star.
I’m glad my post was what you needed to read now.
I’m also really sorry to hear about your experience with your dad. It never stops sucking no matter who’s telling you that crap, but it’s especially painful when it’s family or friends. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me; I honor your words.
Sharp & well-reasoned post. It’s hard to write about depression without the meaning getting lost in, well, depression, but this post is succinct, interesting, and practical. And I agree about the makeup/nails part. I may not be a big supporter of the beauty industry, but making myself feel desirable with eyeliner is a cheap way to show my depression who’s the (sexy) boss.
Thank you. I was worried I might get lost in the grey mists while writing it, but I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. And I had to mention the bit about nails and make-up, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Glad to see I was right. =)
(And yeah, I’m not a supporter of the beauty industry or the ideas for which it stands as a whole, but the products…cheap and easy mood-lifters. Otherwise known as student antidepressants.)
Sometimes I think dealing with people who don’t understand and don’t want to understand mental illness is even harder than dealing with the illness itself. It’s certainly more insidious since we’re supposed to believe our parents at least mean well.
I’m glad you found something that works for you; that’s not easy. It’s great to hear that you’re trending upwards. I hope it keeps working for you.
Sometimes I think dealing with people who don’t understand and don’t want to understand mental illness is even harder than dealing with the illness itself.
Complete agreement here. Part of my hermit-tude is influenced by just not wanting to deal with people who don’t get it.
I know it’s tough to stand up to stupid people and their foolishness without wanting to rip them a new one sometimes and I commend you for not doing that. I’m all for supporting whatever works for a person (in any case, not just for depression) without judgement. The other person’s issue is not mine, and what works for me may not work for them, so I generally don’t offer solutions or suggestions on those kinds of things unless asked.
Yours is an awesome and unfortunately rare attitude. Thank you.
You’re welcome. My attitude may have to do with my experience in dealing with unwanted attention/suggestions. I have Cerebral Palsy so I get all sorts of unwanted advice, and comments. It’s taught me to be wise with my words and only offer them when asked.
I <3 you and your pain and your happiness.
I <3 you too.
I am glad you are still w/ us to write this post. My mother suffered depression. No one ever understood.
I’m sorry about your mother. Depression is often called an invisible disease, and while I’m iffy on the disease part of the label I have no quarrel with the invisible bit. It is invisible, and people often don’t understand things that aren’t obvious. Especially when depressed people have to get so good at coping, just to stem the flood of “Geeze, cheer up already!”.
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