Friday, June 3, 2016

Depression. Also: Love.

Disclaimer: Firstly, understand that I have struggled with depression, several major times in my life, and still do from time to time. Secondly, understand that as a "sufferer" or "victim" of depression, I do not subscribe to the popular culture of depression.

I search Google with a word that terrorizes millions (approx. 15mil, according to Psychology Today), and what do I find? Headlines such as "Symptoms of Depression - Depression is not a choice" or "Major Depression" or "Learn how to cope with depression." Psychology Today says that it is "an illness that comes in many forms—from major depression and seasonal affective disorder, to dysthymia and bipolar disorder. Depression is an illness that increasingly afflicts people worldwide, interfering with concentration, motivation and many other aspects of everyday functioning. It is a complex disorder, involving many systems of the body, including the immune system, either as cause or effect. It disrupts sleep, and it interferes with appetite, in some cases causing weight loss, in others weight gain. Because of its complexity, a full understanding of depression has been elusive."

There is also some scientific evidence that links depression to certain nutritional deficiencies.

I can attest to the truth of the claim that "depression is not a choice" because there are times when I feel there should be no reason whatsoever for me to be depressed. The choice comes in when we choose how to deal with it. But more on that later.

This is an open letter to someone I care for very deeply, who has recently deemed they are suffering from depression (note that there is no official diagnosis). Know I love you very much. Know that I DO know what you are going through. I have had plenty of reasons to be depressed over my life. My parents divorced when I was thirteen (in point of fact, a counselor diagnosed me with depression and was treating me with St. John's Wort until I got sick of having to rely on the pills just to feel like a person), I got pregnant at 17, married at 18 to a man many years older than I, and divorced myself 8 years after that. That same man claimed my children from me, by simple virtue of the fact that I couldn't afford to care for them (my father and stepmother supported and assisted him, and no one assisted and supported me at the time), and now I live 645 miles away from them. So, yes, I know depression. We are old enemies.

But you should understand about enemies. Depression is an enemy, a bully, a trial, a hardship... but all these things have one very important commonality, and one very important weakness. Depression, like an enemy, or a trial, or a hardship, is nothing more than a challenge to be met. Enemies and bullies can be defeated, trials and hardships overcome.  Metal must be torn from the earth, subjected to flame and hammer, and finally quenched in oil and water, to become strong and useful, to become something more than inert material. Metal becomes a sword. In some stories, dragons must breathe fire over their eggs or they won't hatch. Heroes don't become heroes until they've walked through the fire... but they had to choose. Frodo was depressed as hell, but he carried the Ring anyway. And at the end, someone who cared for Frodo came along and helped him do what was necessary. Sam and Dean, who lost their father and family and others along the way, keep hunting and fighting regardless, and not only have each other but Castiel as well. The Doctor, over 900 years old and lost his whole planet as well as said goodbye to dozens of people he cared about (think about Rose, or Amy!), has his companions, and continues to save the universe.

You, my dear, have me. You have family and friends who love you.  But we can't help you unless you let us.

Depression has a secret weakness.

It has no real power.

All it has is a voice, that it likes to pretend is your own, telling you all the horrible things - you're worthless, incapable, pathetic, can't do anything right, what's the point of even trying - until you believe it. You either let it convince you, or you spit in its eye and keep going just to spite the bastard. As a friend once said, "drag the monsters under the bed into the light, kicking and screaming." Monsters can't live in the light. Depression will hide under your bed and sneak out when it's dark to try to drag you back down. It -will- happen. The rest of your life, probably. Be stronger than it. Get up off the couch, spit in its eye, and DO something. Some days I have to wrap myself around the pain and keep going, because otherwise I really am useless, and I refuse to be useless. I have family. I have kids who need me. I am an artist, goddammit, and I will shoot myself in the foot before I allow depression to keep me from doing and being what I need and want to be and do.

In the end, my dear, it's your choice. But you have to choose. And every day that you don't get out of bed in the morning, every day you sit on the couch wrapped in your blanket, is a day you choose to allow it to defeat you. And yes, it really is that easy. There will be days when it feels harder than you can handle, but it's a lie. You can do it. Don't listen to those idiots who tell you that you can't help it, that it's ok to sit and mope. Fuck them. Sitting and moping only makes it stronger. You're better than it and you're better than them. Just because they can't handle it, doesn't mean you have to be like them. It's not something you just hunker down and sit through until it's over... because if you do that, it will NEVER end. The only way to beat it, to stop hurting, is to get up and walk it off, get up and Be.

Believe me, I know.