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’m not good at feelings. Or talking. Or much of anything, really.
That’s not true.
I have an excellent memory.
Eidetic, to be exact. You’d probably know it as photographic. Like a camera, you know?
Which is, coincidentally, exactly why I have not got up from my seat yet to introduce myself.
Because since I am not skilled at talking or feelings or talking about my feelings for that matter, I will inevitably make an idiot of myself. And then remember all of it again and again in excruciating detail. I will have an entire mental scrapbook dedicated to it. My excellent memory will keep every moment on instant replay.
Click! Click! Click!
…How do you introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met, anyway?
Don’t be ridiculous. No one just says “hi” to strangers they see in a coffee shop. You need an “in”. Or at least something clever. Something witty. Something…
Something more than a great memory.
I mean, you could order her favorite drink and have it sent over, or ask her how she liked the book she was reading last week since she didn’t have it with her this week–but then she’s more likely to think that you’re a stalker.
I’m not a stalker. I just don’t forget things. And she’s hard to not notice. But I’m not sure you can tell people that you’re not a stalker without them then irrevocably labeling you as a stalker.
Oh my god, what if I am a stalker? What if I have been stalking her subconsciously?
No. Stop it. Don’t be weird.
I can’t not be weird.
I can’t even look at her without thinking that based solely on the books I’ve seen her read every week, I want to make out with her brain.
You can’t tell a person you want to make out with their brain. I’m pretty sure that can get you a restraining order. And I don’t know if I could be more restrained than I already am, even if I was ordered.
Oh my god, Katie, just go say something. Anything. Maybe you’ll hit it off, maybe you’ll make a fool of yourself and never see each other again, anything is better than this in-between.
Limbo is a stupid place to be in. I’m glad the Catholic Church got rid of it. I do feel sorry for the babies though. And the people who were good but not Catholic. And me. Oh crap, limbo was my in!
I’m getting off topic.
I clicked my fingernails against the small cafe table and my stomach shuddered.
Just go do it.
I managed to stand and grabbed my book bag, giving myself an easy way to chicken out or bolt for it if it went horribly wrong.
This is going to go horribly wrong.
Isn’t it better to remember how you tried and fell on your face then recalling how you sat in the corner and mulled over the ways you COULD have screwed up but never actually did?
I took a deep breath and made my way over. Cafes are surprisingly larger than you think once they turn into your own personal gauntlet. She looked up from her drink. White chocolate, two shots, no whipped cream. Same as always. She raised a dark eyebrow and her lips almost smiled.
I finally exhaled. “Hi.”
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.
Writing, it’s this thing I do–this thing I will be doing a lot more of in the next coming weeks. However, I wanted to share a tidbit of something that I wrote a little bit ago in response to one of Nika’s writing prompts. (If you have never checked out her in Word Play, you should hop to that… like now).
The assignment, as it were, was to write a dialogue heavy scene and out of the given prompts I chose, “Why you just don’t GET it.”I’m not sure if the actual words were meant to go in there, I worked off of the feeling/impression that sentence gave me and came up with the scene you can read below.
And then last night I recorded a song to go along with it. I’ve mentioned before that I like to put soundtracks to everything… and I would like to start trying to marry my singing to my writing more… so here we go:
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.
So… by now you probably know I have a Dragon Age obsession. I don’t know what it is. I honestly couldn’t tell you–I just like it. And I feel absolutely no urge to excavate any further.
At one point they had a writing contest, which I wrote something for and didn’t even make the top 20–honestly I probably made a semi fatal mistake by blurring the lines of what’s ‘canon’, or there were simply 20 stories told better than I told mine. Whatever the case may be.
But failing that I realized I now have essentially what is fan fiction and literally nothing I can do with it–not in the traditional sense, anyway.
So I decided to share it with you:
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.
So this piece was originally submitted to the Great American Short Screen Play Contest on June 17th, 2012. It was very well received and I even won second place but had to decline the scholarship since it still was not enough to pay for classes (especially since I would have had to cut my hours down at work extremely in order to take them).
Still, I had a lot of fun writing it, it was a great experiment and experience and one day it will likely find itself in a full length script. Enjoy!
Reality Not Withstanding
by Kiri Callaghan
EXT. A PARK – EVENING
FADE IN ON A COUPLE WALKING BESIDE THE LAKE, WE JOIN THEM IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR CONVERSATION.
MARK, a charming young public defense attorney, is walking side by side with a young tangerine orange-haired woman (ELLE). They are both dressed to the nines.
…It’s certainly nothing like television. You almost never end up defending someone who’s actually innocent. I’m not saying I don’t agree everyone deserves the right to representation… I just wish it wasn’t me that had to provide it half the time.
So why do you do it?
Paycheck is a paycheck.
I bet that’s what hookers tell themselves.
ELLE nudges his arm with her own.
Thank you, again, for dinner.
Was it too much?
Are you kidding? I cleaned my plate. It was like making up for all those months in college when all I had was cup o’ noodles.
No, I mean, was the restaurant too much? I’m never sure if a place is too fancy for a first date.
ELLE crosses her arms subconsciously as the night chill starts to set in.
Nah, it was nice. I liked it. I don’t get to be fancy too often. Gave me an excuse to try out my new dress.
You mean HAILEY COMET: SPACE DETECTIVE doesn’t have a cocktail hour?
Surprisingly, no. Well, not officially, anyway. For a few of my co-stars, I think it’s the last five minutes before we’re needed on set.
MARK laughs and removes his coat, draping it over her shoulders.
You’re not what I expected, though.
What were you expecting?
I don’t know… A weirdo?
I don’t know a lot of grown men who’d recognize me out of costume!
You have very distinctive hair.
It’s not natural.
Plus, my daughter’s crazy about your show, so your face is sort of all over her room.
ELLE stops walking abruptly.
Just her room. I promise I’m not a creepy stalker.
You have a kid.
I do have a kid.
Is that a problem?
…Yeah. It’s a problem.
You don’t like kids?
I love kids.
Then where’s the problem?
Because I’m going to have to meet her eventually.
That’s a problem?
Yeah, that’s big fucking problem.
She’s going to love you–she already loves you.
No, she already loves Hailey.
What’s her name?
And how old is Amanda?
She just turned five.
ELLE nods and looks out toward the lake.
Did you ever have a hero when you were a kid? Someone you idolized?
Spider-man, I guess.
When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with The Little Mermaid. I knew the songs by heart before I knew what even half the words meant. My mom made me an Ariel costume for Halloween and I wore that stupid red wig until it was ratty. My room was covered in shells and fish and every damn piece of merchandise you could think of. So when my seventh birthday rolled around and my mother announced we were going to Disneyland, I was… ecstatic.
Yeah, of course…
And we went and it was wonderful and I got to meet Ariel and I felt like my little heart was going to burst. I’d never been so happy.
But then later I saw Ariel after a parade and I snuck away from my parents to follow her back into the cast area. Do you have any idea what happens backstage at Disneyland?
Things a seven-year-old should never see.
…are you saying you’ll do unspeakable things in front of my daughter?
No, I mean–I lost my hero that day. Ariel wasn’t Ariel–she was just some horny college kid trying to make ends meet between semesters. It was like realizing Santa wasn’t real all over again.
ELLE turns back to face MARK.
Mark, I’m not an intergalactic pop star.
I know that.
Amanda doesn’t. …And I can’t be the one who breaks that to her. She deserves that suspension of disbelief. And she finds out you’re dating her hero…
…then I’m banging the mermaid.
We really can’t do this, can we?
We really can’t.
But… Can’t we just see if this even had a chance before we write it off?
And do what? Sneak around hoping she’s going to grow out of me? She’s five, my viewer base ranges four to fourteen.
And I’m pretty sure you don’t want to lie to your own kid.
MARK sighs, feeling defeated.
No… I really don’t. Wow. This… Really sucks.
No, you’re right. My daughter comes first.
You’re a good dad.
I don’t know if I’d say that. I am still imagining doing unspeakable things to her hero. Reality not withstanding.
ELLE smiles and removes his coat from her shoulders. She holds it out to him.
So what now?
Now you head back to your car and I call my friend to come pick me up and we go back to our lives pretending tonight never happened.
…No, I don’t like that. What are my other options?
ELLE pointedly looks at the coat in her hand which MARK finally takes.
Good night, Mark. It would have been great to meet you.
ELLE starts off down one path towards what looks like the main street.
(calling after her) I would have had a great time tonight.
ELLE turns around and smiles softly.
Best date I never had.
CAMERA ZOOMS UNTIL BOTH OF THEM ARE AT THE EDGE OF EITHER SIDE OF THE FRAME, HIGHLIGHTING THE EMPTY SPACE BETWEEN THEM.
ELLE and MARK share a look before ELLE breaks the tension and walks out of frame.
MARK lingers and then turns back to walk the way they came, shoulders hunched, hands shoved in his suit jacket pockets, coat tucked under one arm.