Hi Guys, I want to talk about something super personal to me and I have a lot of fear around it: fear of judgment, fear of people worrying about me, and most of all, fear of vulnerability. I debated whether or not I should post the following because, though I consider myself an advocate for greater awareness around these issues and fighting the stigma associated with them, it's something I have yet to discuss in a first-person kinda way, in so much detail, and so publicly.
But truth is, I've been going through a hard time lately and what's helped me the most has been reading the first-hand accounts of others' experiences with this topic. I admire their bravery in talking about these issues, and their willingness to be so vulnerable. So, I'm going to talk about this super personal thing and if just one of you finds it helpful, finds some solace in it, then I will have paid it forward.
Thanks for reading.
Lately, I've been going through a Depression (capital D for much respect). And I think one of the hardest parts about it has been that oh-so-common question from others (and often myself) of...“Why?”
You see, people often associate Depression with something situational. Something must have happened, must have gone wrong. And when nothing has happened, nothing has gone wrong, when I have nothing outside me to blame, I feel like there is something just fundamentally wrong with me.
That feeling is judgement, rearing its ugly head, as it often likes to do. This compounding of a negative feeling with a negative judgement is what Buddhists call the “second arrow,” the not-so-helpful criticism and blame we tack on to an unfortunate unpleasant situation or feeling. It’s such a crazy (albeit human) thing that we all engage in this kind of judgement, as it’s counter-productive, it doesn’t ever help anybody, and well, arrows– they’re pointy and made to hurt.
However, as many who experience Depression know, it can often be a biological thing with no one cause to point to or bad situation to blame it on. Trust me, I wish there was because then I could just fix it.
But truth is, my life (situationally) is pretty damn good: I have a hot smart husband who loves me and treats me well; I have amazing friends who I can call up and cry to when I feel like shit; I have a job that pays me well, keeps a roof over my head, food in my mouth; I have art and creativity and a strong healthy body and a really cute cat and an adorable dog and... Really, I could keep going with the gratitudes and the positive thinking and sometimes that's all I need to get by on any given non-Depressed day. Positive thinking on a daily basis keeps my mood in check. (Note: I am a big fan of daily positivity by the way... proof here).
Yet still I can’t help but ask: “Why? Why is Depression consuming my life right now?”
Why is one of the hardest questions in the world, because, oftentimes, in so many aspects of my life, I just can’t answer it. It's hard not having the answers. And honestly, I don't want to keep dissecting this very uncontrollable thing that's just happening in my brain right now.
But I will show you a picture:
See, a lot of my yellow lights just aren't shining. There's no point in asking why because it just IS.
So, I've decided to stop with the WHY and just accept what is. And what is right now... is that I feel like poop.
I've been going through this Depression for a over a month now. The first week was crazy rough: crying till I was numb, lying on my floor (my dog Zelda joined me-- see right), oversleeping, loss of appetite, unable to leave the apartment, not reaching out (feeling like no one could help so why bother) and just that overall sense of hopelessness.
If I were to characterize Depression in one feeling, it'd be that one: hopeless.
Nothing helped. I did all the things I'd been told by others to do, all the things I've read in books:
- Meditation - check
- Offering help to someone else, a.k.a service - check
- Running - check
- Talking about it - check
- Affirmations - check
- Journaling - check
And then there was the ever popular reminder that this too shall pass. A lot of well-intentioned people said that to me: "Rebecca, this too shall pass." And I love each and every one of them for trying to help but I did not want to hear nor could I believe that this too shall pass.
I can believe it now. But Week 1 of Depression? I was not hearing it. You know what else I wasn’t hearing? You are responsible for your own happiness. No one actually said this to me because, thankfully, I have friends that know better. But I heard it in TV shows, read it in books, and heard it on podcasts.
You guys, just a tip -- don’t tell people who are Depressed that they are responsible for their own happiness. You are essentially telling them that it is all their fault, and they are already feeling shitty enough. Let’s not add a layer of judgement to it (remember that pointy arrow and how it hurts?).
However, hearing that phrase often enough did help me to enter Phase 2 of Depression: Anger, a.k.a. a general Fuck You attitude. And I was pretty cool with that because at least I was feeling something.
And then something wonderful happened.
After about a week of mostly isolation...I don’t think I even bathed most days because when I feel awful the first thing to go is hygiene…I finally left the apartment.
I had to go to therapy.
I totally wanted to cancel but inner adult Rebecca, who really wants what’s best for me, convinced me to just put one foot in front of the other and take a shower. It was my first small victory in seven days.
I made it to therapy. It wasn't so bad. I'm not going to go into the benefits of therapy (many need it and the world would be a better place if they just accepted that) because that's not what this story is about. But after therapy, I was hungry-- my second tiny victory, seeing as eating is second to bathing in the things that go out the window with Depression.
I went to a Pret-A-Manger and grabbed myself the most comforting thing I could think of, chicken soup. As I went to pay, I got a call from a friend. I picked up. In hindsight, that may not have been the best place to for a conversation but in that moment, I really needed to talk to someone.
I put my headphones in to free my hands and pay for the chicken soup. My friend started asking me how I was feeling. I was on the verge of tears as I spoke because that’s just my general state these days.
I got up to the cashier and I was not at all paying attention to her because I was on the phone. In the back of my mind, I was also very busy judging myself for being so rude as to not acknowledge the person right in front of me helping me. My self-judgment knows no bounds.
I got my wallet out only to find that I had no cash, no debit card, and no credit card. Score.
I looked frantically through my bag. The cashier said something to me. I assumed it was the price. I said, “One moment,” and continued looking. My friend on the phone asked if I was okay. I said, “I can’t find my card!” The cashier said something to me again. I didn’t understand. Suddenly, a crowd of about 8 or 9 tourists swarmed in and up to the counter. I continued to frantically search. I felt a thousand eyes on me in that moment. I looked helplessly at the cashier and said, “I’m sorry. I can’t find my card. I need a moment.” I stepped aside.
I continued to look and my friend said “Are you okay?” and I said “No, I think I was robbed, I will call you back.” I hung up. I looked at the cashier who still had my soup in front of her and was assisting what now seemed like 800 tourists. I called to her, “I can’t take the soup. I’m sorry,” and began to walk out.
On my way towards the door, I called my husband. He was at home so I asked if he saw my card anywhere. I stopped by a table before I left and continued to rifle through my bag. My husband looked for the card and asked me if I was okay. I said, “No, I’m hungry.”
If you guys can't tell by now, I'm about to lose my shit in the middle of Pret-A-Manger.
I said again to my husband on the phone, on the verge of tears, “I’m really, really hungry.” My face got all hot and I felt barely able to keep myself from blowing up into a billion pieces.
Suddenly there was a tap on my back. I turned around. The cashier was standing in front of me, holding a tray with the chicken noodle soup on it. I reminded her, "I'm sorry. I can't pay."
She tapped the table next to me and said, "That's okay. Sit. Eat."
And that is when I proceeded to lose my shit but in a totally different way. I cried (okay maybe you could see that coming) and then I hugged her. I said to her "Thank-you-I'm-having-such-a-hard-time-and-you're-so-kind-thank-you." She laughed and did this adorable little bow of her head that indicated, "You're welcome."
My husband, still on the phone, heard it all. I could hear him smiling. I smile cried and got off the phone. I sat and began to eat the soup.
A moment later, one of the tourists came up to me and said, "Oh, good, you got the soup. I was going to get one for you."
I cried again and said to her, "Why is everyone being so nice to me?!" She gave an awkward laugh and walked away.
But that question was rhetorical. I didn't need to know why. All I needed to do was eat the chicken soup.
Recent Developments: The chicken soup story occurred on November 13th and I didn't know it at the time but this small kindness from an absolute stranger would be the beginning of an upswing. I started writing this post about a week after I ate that soup and still had quite a bit to work through but writing this all out for the past month and a half has been super helpful for me.
If you're reading and you relate, then know that there are plenty of others who struggle with a myriad of mental illnesses. It's super hard to talk about but when you do, you feel wayyy better. We are not alone.
If you don't quite feel like you struggle with a mental illness, you may know a few people who do. Offer to be a kind ear and try to leave the judgment out of it. These things shouldn't be hard to talk about, especially when the number of people suffering is staggeringly high. You can help just by being there and making it OK for your friends to talk about it.
Little by little, we can all make this a whole lot easier.
And since my blog is about the Things I'm Diggin', here are just a few of the many things out there that I found helpful during my Depression:
- Wil Wheaten talks to Project UROK in this video about his struggles with anxiety and depression, and "learning how to human."
- The always funny Allie Brosh writes about her Adventures in Depression in her blog Hyperbole and a Half here.
- Combatting depression with endorphins, using the Couch to 5K running program. This particular program helps you to ease into running, and when you're not feeling so great ease is a must. I ran my first 5K during my latest struggle with the big D, thanks to these wonderful people:
You. I don't know how many people are reading (I'm not looking at stats really) but I am super grateful for those that do. Each time someone says, "I read your post and I relate!" I feel less alone.
So yeah, thanks for that.