Brace yourself, complete and unvarnished honesty is coming: I have depression. *gasp* I fully admitted it! I put it out there in print – in this day and age when there’s this huge taboo against mental health! What am I thinking?! Well, frankly, I’m thinking that the stigma against depression and other mental health disorders is unfair and one of the reasons that we have a high suicide rate in this country. I’m thinking of the injustice of people battling horrendous demons, frequently on their own, without a voice. I’m thinking of the too-familiar phrases uttered of, “I never knew there was anything wrong with him/her.” I’m thinking that’s what happens when a blind eye is turned to people like me when we don’t speak up and admit that we spend most of our lives tumbling around in this black void of our minds.
Ah, but there are so many answers for us in this day and age! We have come so far from the horrors of electroshock therapy – a veritable cornucopia of solutions! Let’s see, there’s the always popular psychological sessions where your every thought (however mundane) is scooped out and examined from every angle until you can’t remember what your original feelings might have been in the first place. Psychologists inevitably lead to psychotropic medications with their endless lists of side effects and titrations…usually followed by recalls when someone figures out that one of those side effects isn’t so benign. We can’t forget the neutraceutical industry, either (coconut oil fixes everything…or is it CBD oil now?) with herbs, tinctures, soaks, and even prescriptions for sunshine. Depression frequently locks you into a world of immobility, which is why people like to remind you to exercise, to boost your endorphins to “feel better.” Nothing cures feelings of worthlessness and doubt like squeezing into Spandex and venturing into the public eye, after all. And then there’s my personal favorite: the circulating memes of people insisting that they will always be there to listen, regardless of circumstance…until you hit that really bad day, or your stretch of bad days turns into a bad week, or they realize that depression doesn’t go away after a couple of sessions of sitting on the couch with chamomile, or they realize you’re not going to stop crying regardless of what they say, or…well, you get the picture. Plenty of options, plenty of answers to “fix” us and allow us to join society.
So do I have the answer?
Yes! And for the low, low price of just $19.99 and a subscription fee of only $7.99… Please, come on! No, of course I don’t have an answer because I don’t think there is one. I spend every single day battling against those demons in my head that tell my I’m a failure, I’m worthless, I’m ugly, I’m incompetent, and I’m better off dead, and there isn’t a single item on those lists that I haven’t tried. They never worked, not even a lingering placebo effect. The closest I’ve come to effective therapy are those four “kids” in the picture above (I’d like to say they’re free, but the costs of caring for them is actually kind of ridiculous…and I’m not even allowed to claim them on my taxes!). They let me cry on them as much as I need, they sit with me no matter how long the darkness pushes down on me, and regardless of what I might think of myself on a given day, they think I’m amazing and wonderful.
The battle is daily, though. Sure, some days are easier than others; not every day is the battle of Helm’s Deep. This is a reality that I and a lot of other people cope with, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. We perform some of the best acting in the world, finer than any actor in Hollywood could dream because most of those around us have no earthly idea there is anything wrong. We smile, we complete our daily routines (often with a perfectionist streak), we laugh, we engage in conversations we have zero interest in, and we appear functional and ordinary. While inside our heads we’re dying a little bit more with every grin, with every forced giggle, with every completed project. We realized a long time back how uncomfortable people are when we show our “depression side;” they want to cross to the other side of the street and put up warding signs! So we hide the tears, hide the grimaces, hide the downcast eyes, hide the slumped shoulders and put on a fantastic performance.
Meanwhile, inside our heads, we’re screaming at demons most people could never imagine in their worst nightmares. We’re sitting inside of swirling voids that would swallow entire cities whole if they escaped the confines of our brains. We’re sinking slowly into the coldest, thickest murk that never seems to have a bottom, clutching at rungs of a ladder that continually snap apart in our hands. We’re curling up into balls and wedging ourselves into corners of pitch black rooms, clutching our hands around the tiniest slivers of light that shrink every time we breathe. We’re suffering self-flagellation at the hands of someone who knows every tiny detail of our lives – every mistake, every regret, every flaw. We are tearing ourselves apart, piece by piece, while also frantically trying to save the scraps and put them back together, praying we haven’t lost any of the pieces.
That is what the silence sounds like in our minds.
I don’t have an answer. I fight my battle every day – same as many, many others. I’m not sure there is an answer, to be honest. All I can do is provide an insight into the battle and share one of the voices. If the taboo is broken, maybe more will be done. I don’t mean these sweep-it-under-the-rug “cures” they champion today, but actual in-depth research and understanding. Or maybe it’s as simple as opening a few more minds, creating a little more reality in the world.