If You Haven’t Met My Depression You Haven’t Met Me
Ever since I decided to start a blog I’ve struggled with what my message should be and who my audience is. My interests are pretty varied and I have a healthy curiosity about the world, but there are several issues that really hold my attention and feel important to me. Politics. Women’s issues. Photography. Writing. I read a great deal about these subjects and feel passionately about them. It seems, though, that a subject has chosen me: depression.
You never want depression to choose you. It’s not like in middle school gym class when the captain picks you for her volleyball team, sparing you the embarrassment of being left alone against the cinderblock wall when the teams are complete. Depression isn’t a team sport. It’s a solitary and somber marathon that you have to run alone. There are points along the route where you’re dying of thirst or you have soiled your pants or your knees are buckling and people try to come to your aid, but their assistance, while appreciated, feels puny in comparison to what you have ahead of you. You plod along, feet encased in lead, toward a finish line that is constantly being moved further ahead. It feels like that. People are telling you that you have to keep going and you tell yourself you have to keep going but all you want to do is sit on the grass and let everyone pass you by.
In writing about something as intensely personal as my own mental health I always battle myself over how much to say, how descriptive to get, and to what end. I am always cognizant that I have children and that admitting to my darkest thoughts means that I am turning the parent/child dynamic on its head. I become the one who needs to be looked after and that is a profoundly painful, humiliating situation to find myself in, especially when my role as a mother is the most important aspect of my life. On the other hand I believe that writing the truth about my depression is the only way that I can allow people to see me without the mask of silliness or sarcasm and self-deprecation that I habitually wear. If you don’t meet my depression you haven’t really met me.
Depression is my oldest friend and my worst enemy. Depression has stuck with me through all the stages of my life and after awhile I had to admit that I have a weird relationship with it. I blame it for so many of my failures, but part of me loves the continuity of it and the way it never lets me down. Depression is a shape-shifter, adjusting itself to thwart me regardless of how my circumstances change. When I was a young wife and mother it was lethargy and impatience, anxiety, isolation and self-doubt. Now that my children are gone and I am alone and struggling to support myself, it is indecision, self-loathing, weariness, shame, and tears. So, so many tears. Without the sense of purpose that caring for children provided, my thoughts are in many ways the darkest they’ve ever been. My deceitful brain convinces me I’m useless and pathetic and people would be better off without me. It tells me that the best parts of my life are behind me and there is really no reason to stick around. My old companion has never really told me that before, so this is new. Oh, depression. I thought I knew everything about you and there you go surprising me.
And here we come full circle because writing that sounds a lot scarier to the reader than it does to me. “Me” knows that I will indeed stick around. I’m too curious to see how things work out to ever intentionally take myself out of the picture. So writing about it feels self-indulgent, but at the same time I feel like I owe it to everyone else who suffers from depression to do my best to describe it. Depression is not a team sport, but having a tribe definitely helps.