Friday, June 6, 2014

The D Word

No, not that D word.

Or that one either.  Geez.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that in my last post, I never used the "depression" word.  I alluded to feeling depressed, but in all my bluster and openness I shied away from actually labeling myself as a person who suffers from depression.

Isn't that sort of silly?

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The strangest thing is that I didn't avoid it out of any fear of stigma.  I'm not ashamed to have depression.  It gets a little more complicated than that.

Part the First:

I don't have the right to say I have depression.  Or at least that's what my brain keeps telling me.

In my life I've been privileged to have a lot of friends that are, to put it simply, better than me.  They are smarter, prettier, more talented.  It's as if I subconsciously decided to only befriend people that inspire me, maybe out of some hope that their wondrous abilities would rub off.  Among the raw geniuses I get to call friends are some of the best artists, musicians, writers and philosophers a person could find.  They are individuals who are constantly driven by their work.  While I have many interests and some skills, I don't have the near-compulsive productivity of these people.

But often, talent comes hand in hand with depression and anxiety.  And these people, many of whom have been my boon companions over the years, have struggled with these issues.  I've had a ringside seat to the ravages of these disorders, as I've witnessed people stronger than myself live with depression that has been longer and fiercer than my own paltry experiences.  When faced against those comparisons, it feels wrong to say I have depression.  It almost seems cheap.

It feels like I haven't earned the right to say I'm depressed.

Which is a load of malarkey.  Depression isn't a merit badge.  There's no quota.  It's not like you put in so many hours of lying on the couch feeling like human garbage before you can say you have depression.  It's a condition, with certain markers, not some test of endurance.

Would you like to buy some cookies?  They're baked with the proper level of tears, I swear!

This traces back to a bigger problem in society, this inability to give proper credence to our emotions.  Perhaps it's just my personal baggage, but at least to me there was always this sense of denying my emotions.  I had to be positive.  Or even if I was sad, there was someone who had it worse, so might as well just abandon that sadness and carry on.  Because clearly that's pretty easy and should totally happen.

Except it's not.  And the best way to sort through emotions is to identify them, and to not give them some dark, Voldemort-esque power by refusing to acknowledge their existence.  Emotional honesty is the only way to completely move forward, and sometimes saying you have depression is a part of that process.

But in this case, I'm going to continue to not use the term depression.  Mostly because...

Part the Second:

I don't think its accurate to say I have depression.

I know.  Psych!
Sorry, I don't have any pineapple for you.

In our sessions, my therapistactually my psychiatrist, but I'm going to say therapist because that's the service I'm getting and because the medication side of things makes me nervous in this specific casewell, he doesn't use the term depression.  He calls my situation "tension," brought on by my over-extension of work/school projects and the ridiculous expectations I place on myself.  And when I think of the headaches, gut aches, and heartaches I've experienced these past few months, tension fits the bill.  It's a good descriptor for me right now.

Which isn't to say all that rambling about depression was a misdirect.  Everything I said I believe in wholeheartedly.  I want to stop giving into the negative connotations, or the comparisons, that keep me from being honest.  Depression has no statue of limitations, or whatever the opposite of that term is.   It doesn't have to age into a fine wine of pain.  It starts somewhere, and whether it's lasted three months or three decades it's alright to use the proper name.  Depression.  It's here.  It's an actual thing.  So just say it.

And as for everyone else?  Well, you know what they can do.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bird Watching


My name's Cat, and I've been pretty depressed lately.

I know.  SHOCKER!  It's not like it's been pretty easy to decipher that fact if you've been following my blog, or are friends with me on Facebook, or if you're one of those near-mythical "real life friends" (seriously, do such things exist anymore, or are they just relegated to icons between ads on Facebook?) (I kid, I kid, you know I love you, people I have actually interacted with in the physical world).

But I've been alluding to it as if it's over, or close to over.  You know, I'm "coming out of a funk."  Or, "the last few months have been hard, but it's getting better," or even the more cynical but no less silver lining-ed "it's tough now, but I still have so much good in my life."

Well, I lied.

I'm not coming out of it.  It's not getting better.  And yeah, there's good in my life, but that just makes this pervasive darkness even more oppressive.  Of course there's good in my life, so where do I get off feeling so crummy?  Seriously.  What an ungrateful little turd I am.  Man, I suck.

My life, as depicted by

This comic describes my feelings.  When I talk to people about my sorrow, it turns into a laundry list of why I shouldn't be so sad.

"But Cat, you're so smart!"

"But Cat, look at all you're doing!  You're owning grad school!"

"But Cat, look at the opportunities you're getting!"

"But Cat, you have a loving husband and a really good life!"

"But Cat, there are so many people that love you!"

"But Cat, you are really so blessed!  Look at all you have!"

But, dear friends and family. But, while that is all true and well and good, but.  But that doesn't automatically make me happier.

If anything, it makes me worse.

Because those reminders and encouragements only add to the mental tally, and yes it is a constant tally, of things I'm doing wrong.  It becomes another failure.  That Cat, having all these lovely things and yet somehow, selfishly, brokenly, remaining depressed.

I'm trying to pull myself out of this mire.  I'm chasing that freaking bluebird of happiness with a titanium butterfly net, tricked out with rocket launchers and an army of drones in the handle.  And there are times when that lovely little creature will circle around my head, nearly landing on my shoulder but not quite there yet.  It's there on a sunny afternoon when I sit by the Charles and feel my skin tingle under the sun.  It's there when I dance to The Ballad of Mr. Steak with wild abandon during a Kishi Bashi concert, arms flailing underneath colored lights and layered sounds.  It's there while watching Veronica Mars and having good conversation with fine folk that give me hope in humanity and my place therein.

But for each time the bluebird almost lands, there are tenfold moments where it flies into a thorny hedge and refuses to budge.  These are the times where I stare into the void of a growing inbox of requests and freeze.  When my hands linger over a chapter to be edited, or a writer to be researched, or a TV show that I've watched and taken notes on and elucidated my thoughts in outline format, or even just the thought of moving that dang ol' dishrag off the counter and hanging it on the rack, and yet the next step halts.  

It's times like today, where I lie on the couch watching Party of Five* and eating Cheetos Puffs.  The cheese-spun cylinders make me feel marginally better, right before making me feel exponentially and inevitably worse.  You know how it is.  Curse you, sweet sweet snacks!

Today is extreme.  Usually it's just this heart-squeezing, gut-tearing feeling of misery and loneliness and failure that never really goes away.  

I keep telling myself that fessing up to it is better than gulping it down and pretending it's not there.  You know, saying outright that yep, I'm basically a champ at the whole self-loathing thing.  I recognize this and want to change, and like any good addict admitting I have a problem is the first step to recovery.

And blast it all, I'm trying to recover.  I'm doing the exercises, eating the healthy foods**, seeing the therapist, making the happy lists.  Pushing myself to get out and socialize.  Forcing myself out of the solitary comfort zone my jerkbrain prescribes.  Doing all the maddening suggestions that well-meaning people give me when they try to help.  I mean, I still find myself crumpling on the ground almost every day, but I'm giving it the college try!  Happy face!  Attempts!

I'm still chasing the bird, but I'm running through quicksand, and for all the leverage I get I still am sliding down, sucked into the depths.

So what, right?  What now?  Why write this?  Why talk about this?

Because somehow, it's making me feel better.  Writing is a great way to figure things out.  It's why English teachers assign essays.  Well that, and the feeling of enjoyment we get from hearing the groans.  Sweet music to the ears! 

"The shortest distance between a human being and the truth is a story."  Anthony de Mello.

Right now, my story is sadness.  And anxiety.  And defeat.  And by writing about it, I hope to see the truth in this experience.  I want to be able to figure out what this means, to see patterns in my malaise.  If all goes well, these words will form a ladder to tug me out of the sand.  They will shape into wings where I can catch that damn bluebird in his own turf.

*What a truly terrible TV show, by the by.  Full House on steroids and with an over-inflated sense of importance.  And yet, there's something about Matthew Fox's hair on this show.  I can't look away.  I want to, believe me I want to, but every time I try stupid Jack is there with his stupid 90's mane waving in the non-existent breeze and whispering Caaaat.....loooook at meeee.....Caaaaat....

**Most of the time, all Cheetos cheats aside.