I’ve been intending to write this blog for several months, but I keep abandoning it in favour of easier topics. My original working title was “Me Vs. My Brain: Depression”.
When I finalized and published “Me Vs. My Brain & Me Vs. My Body? What is Me?” I realized that the categorization was part of the problem. See, the way I’ve defined it here, My Brain is not Me but it is still mine — and depression is neither me nor mine. I don’t even want to capitalize it when it’s not starting a sentence, and maybe not even then. That feels like I’m giving it respect, or power.
Some people think that depression is just being really sad. And it’s true that sadness is part of depression, but it’s not the worst part, because there are things that I can do about sadness — I can listen to sad music because it’s cathartic (or happy music because it tricks me). I can write. I can go rock climbing or for a bike ride to get some endorphins. I can talk to a friend. I can cry. I can experience the sadness, and work through it, and it passes.
For me, the worst thing about depression is feeling numb. It’s when I get to the stage where everything seems pointless, because the things that used to make me happy just leave me feeling nothing. I know that no one is happy all the time, but sometimes is nice.
I think the hardest part about feeling numb to everything is that I can remember that I used to be content, even though I can’t exactly remember what contentment feels like. I know it’s something that exists. I see other people doing it. I know that I used to feel it. But I can’t really remember it. It’s like knowing that your parents took you to some theme park when you were a little kid, and they can tell you about it and you can look at the pictures, but you were too young, and you just don’t remember.
When you’ve been numb for an extended period of time the need to feel things again becomes urgent, and you don’t really care whether what you feel is happiness or sadness or anger or fear or pain. And being desperate to feel something — anything — is dangerous.
I don’t believe in monsters. I definitely don’t believe in demons, which tend to carry a great number of religious connotations from a great many different religions. But if I can strip away the mystical connotations for a few minutes, and define a demon as something that takes control of a person’s body and their thoughts, that acts in their place and does things they would never choose to do, then depression is certainly that.
And if it’s something from outside, then perhaps it’s something that I can rid myself of someday.
It is often said that depression lies, and not to believe it when it tells you that you’re not good enough, or that you’ll never be happy again. The problem is that when I’m depressed I don’t believe that. When I’m depressed I think that content me is the illusion, and it’s the depression that’s real.
Allie at Hyperbole and a Half did a really good job a few years ago when she explained depression for people who’ve never experienced it. Or at least I think she did. I guess I should ask someone who has never experienced depression to read it and see if it makes sense to them. It definitely makes sense to me.
I don’t really know how to end this. I usually end Gwendle posts with with a funny twist, or a solution, or a plan — but I don’t really have those in this situation.
I almost didn’t want to tackle this topic because it seemed too dark for the Gwendle style, and now I feel like I’ve really glossed over it and written the kind of thing that I don’t usually like, because it makes depression seem trivial when it’s not. But something that really describes the darkness of depression accurately isn’t something a lot of people want to read — and it might not be something that I want to write, because for me writing about things makes them more real.
But talking about depression is important. And it’s important to fight against the stigma and shame surrounding it by being willing to talk about it subjectively rather than objectively.
So: Hi. My name is Gwendle, and I suffer from depression. I try to fight it. I feel like I’m failing a lot of the time, but I still try.