I have been a close observer of depression and its effects on the people I love since before I could remember. Despite that I’m not personally struggling with it, it’s been a prevalent antagonist in my life. It has terrorized my father, my sister, my partner, and some of my dearest friends. It took my brother’s life. It’s the monster I have never found a strong enough epithet to properly describe.
The most accurate comparison I have found is that depression is a lot like the Dementors from Harry Potter. Depression doesn’t just make you feel unhappy; you feel like you’ll never be happy ever again, and despite that it might have been just yesterday, you can’t remember the last time you were happy.
Depression lies to you. And it’s the best liar you will ever encounter. It will tell you that you were just faking it yesterday until you are convinced you weren’t actually happy. And what they really don’t tell you, is that the people who fight that battle at your side will start to feel it too.
And so I overshare on social media. I take selfies, or pictures of my food, or where I am, or something that made us laugh. I vlog, I make ridiculous videos, I write tweets of conversations we had, or things we heard. It’s why I spend so much time making sure to record those moments.
I do this so the next time someone I love can’t remember the last time they felt like themselves, I have something to remind them depression is a liar. Some kind of dated proof that, “No, you will be happy again, you were really happy and feeling like yourself just the other day. We will get through this moment together and soon those days where you don’t feel like yourself will lessen. Soon you won’t have to be reminded quite so much.”
And maybe when we get there, I won’t feel the need to capture every moment on film. Maybe I’ll be able to just “live in the moment”, though the idea that recording that moment means I’m somehow ruining it seems rather ridiculous to me.
But until then, I’m going to keep filming or taking pictures, or even bragging about how blessed I am to have those people in my life.
It’s how I keep both of us grounded in reality, even when the Nightmares feel like they’re creeping in.
I don’t have clinical depression, but I grew up around it. My brother, my sister, my father all have–had–varying degrees and diagnosis.
I am certainly not an expert. I’m a compassionate outsider looking in.
But I hope as someone who has witnessed its aftermath, I can help bring some more understanding around it, especially to those with no experience.
First, I’d want to direct you to someone who not only has experienced it first hand, but who can say it far more eloquently than I can, Mr. Stephen Fry.
Secondly, I really need you to understand this seemingly simple concept: Depression is a disease.
I’m going to pull a page from the article I referenced earlier and I want you to imagine that we’re talking about cancer. And think about all the amazing strides we’ve made in medical science to curing it. Think of all that work and how regrettably in some cases all of that work is still not enough to save a person.
Now imagine that we didn’t take cancer seriously. Imagine for a moment that it didn’t resonate that small little ache with almost anyone who hears it. Imagine that people judged you rather than embraced you when you told them you had cancer. Imagine feeling embarrassed for just visiting your doctor or taking your medication. That people told you that you just needed to “snap out of it”, that you weren’t trying hard enough and that’s why your tumors were growing.
Gut-wrenchingly horrible, isn’t it?
This is how our society treats depression. This is also, perhaps, why the suicide rate is nearly double that of homicide.
Yesterday I talked about my brother and how important it was to take care of yourself.
I was approached by an acquaintance who, despite their good intentions, said perhaps one of the most ignorant response I’ve ever heard in reaction to suicide. “I don’t agree with his decision but I respect that it was his decision.”
First, never tell anyone that you respect their loved one’s choice to end their own life–you don’t know the situation. You also do not know THAT person’s mental state and were I far less stable in my mourning process, his words could have caused a whole new set of problems.
Please, understand that suicide is not a ‘do-not-resuscitate’ request.
Second, it was not his decision. And that is the most important thing of all to remember. My brother struggled with mental illness. When we were younger it manifested in violent fits of rage, as we grew, he turned more inward and while those fits were less common, they were more often turned on himself.
He was sick. And because he was ashamed of that, he didn’t get help–he didn’t want help. And eventually that disease ate enough of him that he became convinced he did not deserve help.
Joel was right when he said there was nothing any of us could have done to stop him. However, it would be a lie to say that means what happened could not have been prevented. And that’s why this cause is so important to me.
He wasn’t taking his medication and he refused to talk to anyone about it–friends or professionals. He had long let the disease rule him.
People deserve to have control over their lives, to be able to think clearly.
Depression doesn’t allow that. You can try to down-talk its impact on people’s lives all you want but it will not change the fact that it is a mental illness. It is a disease, a sickness, a literal imbalance of chemicals in your body. It needs to be treated with respect and above all it needs to be treated.
A person is not weak for needing medication to get through day-to-day. To feel normal.
People take medication every day for their heart, for diabetes, to keep things like HIV and cancer at bay. Why have we got it in our brains that depression is any different?
Maybe it’s that word. The fact that we use it interchangeably for simply feeling sad–for being upset by external causes.
But as someone who has watched it tear at my family for as long as I can remember, please believe me, it’s a very real disease. And it’s one I intend to fight with all my strength.
If you think you may have clinical depression, please see someone. Do not be ashamed of something you have absolutely no control of. There is no just “snapping out” of a chemical imbalance, just like you can’t snap out of having a blood disease or a brain tumor.
It’s a hard process, and it will take time to find what’s right for you. But it can and will get better. And you deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin. That voice that says you aren’t worth it? It’s a damn liar. And it could not be more wrong about you.
You, my wonderful friends, are independently awesome.
This seemed like an appropriate day as any to try to start up a more regular schedule again. After all, one of the things I am very thankful for today would definitely being getting back to a 40-hour work week. While I know everyone was understanding, I missed being able to write here regularly.
50 hours at work, plus videos on my personal channel on top of my Geek & Sundry vlogs, working on Terra Mirum… it gets a tad exhausting. So while I think taking a bit a break from writing here was probably the best thing for me at the time, I’m really excited that I’m going to be able to get back to a more regular schedule.
If you’re in the United States, today you’ll possibly be celebrating Thanksgiving with your family or loved ones.
Either way, it’s fairly likely you’re getting those warm fuzzy feelings you get around the holidays when we remember those things we’re grateful for.
Yes, it’s going to be one of those cliche kinds of Thanksgiving posts.
But you know what? Thursdays are for Happy Thoughts and this is definitely what I’m vibing on today.
I’m an expert bottler.
You know the sci-fi channel movie of Alice in Wonderland? Where they’re taking human emotions and distilling them into ‘teas’?
It’s like that.
Only my bottles would look something a great deal more like, “Stress”, “Heartache” and “Depression”.
I grew up in a culture that believed in sweeping problems under a rug and not talking about them. There are matters to this day that my family–my extended family–will not talk about or pretend doesn’t exist.
Of course back then I was young enough to go along with it without knowing what exactly was happening. And despite some truly horrible things/experiences–I was an exceptionally happy child. I was perhaps a bit lonely at times–but I had my family and my imagination and while neither were perfect, I was relatively content with both.
And then puberty hit.
Both of my siblings suffered from bi-polar, manic depression which struck, as it tends to, around high school.
So when I also rolled around to that age, all eyes were on me. Waiting. And then proceeded a 4-year long lesson in tough love. And I learned about emotional manipulation, I learned about what people will say or do to get what they want, I learned what it meant to have someone you love not respect you and vice versa. I learned there was a great difference between my beliefs, my friends beliefs and definitely my parents beliefs. I felt different and alone. When I brought up this concern to a church official–oh back when I still went to church every Sunday with my parents–I was quietly accused of “trying to not fit in”. And so I grew depressed and sunk inward.
And my parents started asking questions. But not the questions I had answers for. They started asking if I was tired all the time, they started prodding about all the usual symptoms, it was never a “Did something happen at school?” or “Is something going on you need to talk about?”. And at some point during my routine denial, I decided something incredibly stupid. Instead of sitting down with them, having a heart-to-heart about what was troubling me–the many things that they were–I bottled it.
My parents were (rightly so) concerned that I had depression like my other siblings–they wanted to make sure I got the help I needed, if that was the case since I had always been such a happy person. My mother especially would have always been open to hear me talk, so to this day I’m a little bewildered why I chose to clam up. Maybe I just didn’t want to add weight to her shoulders.
My mother’s a damn rock. I don’t think we’d have much of anything if she wasn’t the foundation. But she also doesn’t get a lot of time for her as a result and I guess… I don’t know.
The point is, bottling is stupid. Pretending to be okay when you aren’t, is stupid and extremely damaging. My brother bottled–he didn’t want to talk to a therapist, he didn’t want to get help and he’s gone because of that.
So I’m attempting to get a little better. I’m attempting to reach out and open up and be a bit more honest about when I’m having trouble. And as a result I occasionally post something vague on my social media. Usually facebook.
So really I think the weird tie-up of this odd ramble is to simply say, before you make fun of someone for that trend of behavior–give it a little thought first. You’ll know them better than I do, so I’ll leave the final judgement of how to respond up to you–but from my own experience… it’s an attempt to reach out… without really knowing how to go about it. Or it’s something I actually can’t talk about–but need to vent out the emotion so it doesn’t linger and percolate.
Yes, there are people who may just be looking for attention. But I think most of the time someone just needs to talk and isn’t sure how to start the conversation.