The hardest part about depression is realizing you’re depressed. We all use words to deceive ourselves. It’s not depression, I’m not depressed I’m just like … miserable and I don’t know why. I just know it’s my fault. I’m not depressed, I’m just really tired and cranky. I’m not depressed, I just generally don’t want to live anymore.
I wrote to a friend that I had to train and teach myself to identify all these “flowery”? adjectives and statements as depression. The reason is because I had to learn to stop identifying with and as depression. If I’m like “lost…miserable…suicidal” whatever the adjectives: it seems so personal, so unique, so special. Nobody can understand the dark rivers of my mind, I’m so alone, this island of suffering population 1.
I didn’t want to say depression bc that seems so permanent…crazy…That’s like … a label, a diagnosis, that means it doesn’t go away or that there’s “something wrong with me” as if, somehow, it’s perfectly sane to ponder suicide or generally wish you didn’t have to keep living. It’s perfectly normal to have no joy, to feel like you’re dehydrated in an ocean of happiness, but not a drop to drink. To feel like your watching your life through some kind of screen where you can’t fully connect with others nor can you fully feel emotions.
Depression is like a roller coaster in the dark. You desperately want to get off the ride while simultaneously convinced you’re not on a ride, this is you, this is your fault, and nobody can help you. And that is both the crux of depression and the lies it uses to bind us. This is why clinical terms saved my life. If I am identifying with or as depression, then these thoughts are mine, are me, are true, and are valid. Yet, when I’m not depressed, I would never think suicide is a logical and valid conclusion to anything. Yet depressed, it’s like “why haven’t i done this yet?”
When I finally realized I had a stigma against myself – as in everyone else can struggle and have mental health issues, but this is all me being broken, deficient, whatever, then I started applying clinical terms. Suddenly, it’s not this dark ambiguous misery, it’s depression. It’s a disorder, a disease, and I am one of millions and millions who struggle. I see the artists I obsess over and read their struggles. I see all the people who lost the battle. I stop being on an island and realize that I’m depressed like everyone else.
I have said a million times: there is no such thing as mental illness, because there is no such thing as mental health. Neither of these completely ambiguous, non-measurable, amorphous states can be put into metrics. You can’t say I have 10 mental healths and 3 mental illnesses today. Diagnoses are just guidelines that assist with medications and understanding symptoms but these aren’t anything but words. I firmly believe, using these stupid terms: everyone is mentally ill. It can only be measured to the degree it impacts your life. So, in the case of depression: everyone has depression, it can be measured to the degree it impacts your life. For some, like me, it basically incapacitates me. It’s like life loses its flavor and everything tastes, looks, feels, and seems like shit. And I spend a bunch of time blaming myself for it until I label it as depression. A clinical diagnosis that makes me unique like everyone else. The stigma made me afraid until I realized there was nothing crazier than suffering in silence.
It is nothing to be afraid of. It doesn’t denote a deficiency or a less than status. We, as humans, love to analyze and put things in boxes, so there’s depressed folks in this box and “normal” folks over here. But just because we order and analyze doesn’t make it true or even accurate. We could all label roses as roast pork and put it in the meat category. It doesn’t mean anything, nature doesn’t care what we call it or label it as. But depression is also super smart, and it uses our analytical nature against us. So, it uses our own analysis to put us on an island, separate us, make us less than, deficient, wrong, and the problem.
Depression takes over your personality. You can’t necessarily define the “not depressed” vs “the depressed” part of you bc it is you. Unless you can stop identifying as the problem. Unless you can see that your thoughts are not yours nor do they align with reality. Anyone who has struggled with depression can say that they have thought “people would be better off without me” and believed it. That’s why it chaps my ass when ignorant folks like to say suicide is selfish. Yes, it is selfish to be so alone, so utterly devoid of love that you genuinely come to believe it would be a gift to the world to kill yourself.
And that’s what depression is. It’s a tapeworm in your mind and heart that sucks away the very thing that keeps anyone going: love. Society has given us a really perverse understanding of love, insanely asserting that love is found externally but… love starts in you and depression twists what you have (or don’t have) for yourself. Depression makes you hate yourself, or convinces you that there’s nothing to love in the first place. Nobody else can love you enough to love yourself and depression uses that to convince you that you can’t even love yourself. You’re a burden. Unworthy. Worthless.
And if you’re someone who doesn’t really dig themselves much in the first place – the only constant really is depression and then it’s only natural and normal to feel awful. What can be worse than having a life without love? Words get in the way and confuse so many things. Sin doesn’t mean stealing or having sex out of wedlock. Sin is separation. Love is not a word that can be defined but it is synonymous with God and Life. In depression, there is no love, no god, no life. It is hell. It is the ultimate separation. I don’t believe in heaven or hell as any afterlife destinations bc I found them both in my mind. My life is merely a reflection of that internal state – heaven or hell.
There is a huge disservice being done separating God from mental health. Nowadays, God is becoming a dirty word. In AA, they say “higher power” or “the god of your understanding” because the thing is: whether or not you believe in god, or whatever your concept of god is – your psyche craves connection with god. If you don’t have one, you will make one. An addict knows this well because they know how another force can control their lives. The god of heroin or crack can make them do things they never thought possible.
And how does this relate to depression? Because depression is the ultimate state of separation. It is a literal hell on earth. You are at war with yourself, consciously or unconsciously. Even if you fully identify with depression, and you believe you are shit and should die, etc: there is still the you who is not shit and deserves life and love. There is a complete loss of love for yourself in depression. Yet…you can’t get away from yourself. So there is a depression tapeworm/entity that looks and sounds like you, but it’s not you. And it separates you from everything until you can see depression/thoughts/feelings are not you.
So, what does this all mean? It means: most of us avoid ourselves out of fear of being crazy. On one level we know these thoughts and feelings do not make sense, but it’s easier to hide and tuck them away so no one finds out “who we really are”. We think these horrible things are so unique and personal and they must be hidden away. Which sucks because usually it’s all that crap we try to hide that makes us real, genuine, authentic, loveable, and perfect. We all strive towards some kind of Barbie doll life — especially thanks to social media —that these perceived imperfections are unacceptable. Every time you are real with someone, you give them permission to be real too. It’s like letting people take these stupid masks off, breathe, and be themselves. And most of us stay masked until we suffocate.
The very things we hide are the salt and pepper of the dish we are. Nobody can recreate our recipe. It’s like grandma’s cake or spaghetti sauce or whatever. You can do everything she says and it will never be as good as hers. That’s all of us. Depression manifests when we can’t own and honor our own unique self. When we can’t love. It feeds on all the things we hate ourselves for.
Often, the easiest way to lift depression is to just say, “I’m depressed” to realize in some capacity this is not you, and tell someone else. Somehow, in that simple act, there’s light, there’s an exit sign, there’s something beyond the endless dark. Frustratingly, it’s often the hardest thing to do. Because it’s all your fault, you don’t wanna burden or bother people, etc. it is a journey in and of itself to realize “I am not the problem. I am experiencing a problem” and that little shift, those different words, open up worlds of possibility. But somehow, you have to love yourself enough to see that you don’t deserve to hate yourself. If I were to attempt to define mental health, it would be love. Mental illness would be hate. I believe there’s no greater force of hate than depression. And these roots go so deep, and affect so much. Addicts are addicts bc they’re trying to escape this very feeling. They substitute love and connection with the illusion that drugs, alcohol, sex, etc give them. It all comes back to this: I hate myself. I believe very strongly that if anyone is to “save the world” or really just to teach the true meaning of God/life/love — it is the addicts and mentally ill folks. Bc the other side of that hell is heaven. And you can’t talk about it til you get there. So many don’t realize they’re in a prison of their minds, they don’t see they’re in hell. An addict or mentally ill person just … makes it easier to see and talk about. The extremes are what teaches the truth.
Nobody was born to hate themselves. If you can understand that god/love/life are synonyms, than your very life is proof that you are love. To hate yourself is a shitty gift someone else gave you. Someone taught you. We aren’t who we think we are. You didn’t even pick your own name so really anything you can identify with or as isn’t actually you. If you were made in the image of God/love/life … anything else isn’t part of that, but it is often how we find God/love/life. It’s the absence that makes us find it. The desire for connection, the desire for love, is what makes us want to change. Depression can be the greatest teacher in the world because it shows us everything we’re not, everything we want, and everything we need. We just need to stop identifying with it to hear what it has to say
Your concept of depression will never align with your experience. You’ll say others have it worse or you’re not that bad or you don’t have any reason to be depressed… that is the depression talking. It will never seem like you have depression until you call it for what it is.
If any of this resonates: you are not the problem. You are experiencing a problem. The first step is admitting you are having a problem. The next is asking for help..
And of course, if you need someone to talk to, I’m here. I get it. I may not walk in the ill-fitting shoes of your mind, but I definitely have some 10” stilettos in the closets of my mind that really, really, really suck. You are not alone. You are not an island. You’re suffering like everyone else, but you don’t have to.