Dear friends, I have not written in a long time because I’ve only recently crawled out of my own miserable hole. My last post must have come around shortly after my birthday in which I admitted to feeling very scared about things like my career and my love life. I’m less terrified now but still marinating in a hefty amount of concern.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since I’ve slowly crawled away from my blankets to greet the world outside. I was becoming quite a professional in the exploration of the Great Indoors, but things had to be taken care of such as oil changes and exchanging my American currency for beauty products at the CVS. I was on winter break for about three weeks and it’s a bad combination to have a lot of time off on top of feeling depressed. All that time gives me the luxury of exploring my own misery instead of suppressing it the way normal people do. Once I got back to work, it saved my life, I think, because it forced me to interact with other human beings again on a more consistent basis. And since I am blessed to have really caring and considering coworkers (who really are now my friends), I forgot how much I needed to be there for the sake of my own mental health.
For a long time in my life it was inappropriate to discuss depression. What I grew up knowing was that if you had a problem, you kept it to yourself and locked it up in your room along with your crying. My mom was always better about crying in front of others without restraint, but I absolutely could not. I honestly don’t remember which friend last saw me cry, though I’ve certainly cried in front of asshole boyfriends for the sake of getting it across to them that they are assholes. But an actually vulnerable display of emotion almost terrifies me and has been reserved for therapists because for what they cost, they can afford to hand over their boxes of tissues.
I read my Twitter timeline and my Tumblr dashboard and often see posts from people who aren’t afraid to share that they are in a bad place. Their depression happens for different reasons, it seems, though they don’t all specify what causes it. Still, it’s there, and it’s a huge drain on human energy but what shits me is that it can’t be treated the way you can medicate a cold. A hot cup of Theraflu really got me through work back in December when I started getting sick, but when I woke up crying in bed several days later, there were no tabs or syrups to ease that pain. I know that there are several medications available to help, but when I tried them again, I actually ended up feeling worse. I became extremely fatigued and my head felt very fuzzy.
Back when I was first put on medication in 2006, it was great! I started it shortly after my first serious “emotional breakdown” and at the time had the good fortune of a career that gave me great health benefits. I immediately saw a therapist and a psychiatrist who prescribed Prozac and after a month, I felt a little less fragile. I started a workout routine every morning and even dropped a couple of dress sizes. Still, there were moments of vulnerability where I’d wake up and find that I had tried to hurt myself, so clearly there was no miracle cure and there was a lot of work still ahead of me.
There isn’t going to be one miracle cure for depression. We won’t all respond the same way to our prescriptions or homeopathic remedies. I think that what can help at least a little is the act of becoming involved in a supportive community where these feelings can be expressed without judgment and without fear. We should be able to tell each other that we are depressed because of our family problems, our job issues, or our romantic failures. We should be able to speak freely on our insecurities and what we hate about ourselves because I think that the more these feelings go unspoken, the more they build upon their power to bring us down.
However, the sadness doesn’t have to go away forever. Some of the most brilliant comedic minds are driven by their demons. The best writers reach us because they are motivated by their understanding of human frailty and can articulate the experiences so the rest of us can sigh in relief that someone understands.
Working in education, you see a side of people that has nothing to do with textbooks and homework. When you’re working with students every day, they eventually open up and talk to you about the dark side of things and if they trust you, they let you in because they want someone to hear them out. More often than we realize, people as young as ten or eleven years of age are already thinking about how much better things would be if they didn’t exist. Granted, sometimes these are just thoughts that never lead to actual suicidal behavior, but they are expressions that demand attention anyway because they point to self doubt and low self esteem. Pretty often, those feelings are never outgrown and continue to haunt the person well into their adult years, which is where some of us find ourselves today.
We sure do have plenty of choices when it comes to how we can help ourselves. We could become lab rats and see if some new over-priced pill will ease the malady and make a few bucks while we’re at it. We can seek out therapy and find out where we can get it for free if we currently don’t have health benefits. We can speak with our friends, we can blog, we can tweet it all out, and we can force our bodies to move us out of bed every now and then and get outside for short walks. We can somehow convince our near catatonic selves to go out and run some errands with the reward of soon coming back to the comfort of bed. I’ve had to do that several times and it gets a little bit better when the phase passes.
Whatever it is you need, please don’t be afraid to ask.
Featured Image via Deviant Art by ~lolipopek