Well. I guess I’ll be starting off with a bomb-drop of a first blog post here, because apparently, that’s how I roll.
Next week, on this day, it will be my official birthday eve.
While I’d like to think my game-face is a particularly believable one, it may not (or it may) surprise you to learn that this time of year is always especially difficult for me. “Difficult” here actually meaning “unbearable.”
Have I recently seemed happy? grateful? ridiculously funny? silly? positive? bubbly? Well, in fact, I am still all those things.
But I am also pretty profoundly depressed.
I’m not sure I even really know why this is quite yet, but with each passing year as the days approach closer to my birthday, I find myself vacillating between wanting to truly celebrate my existence and somewhat-hopelessly wishing I wasn’t alive at all. A growing accumulation of long-term health issues has allowed my experience of such an existential ambivalence to become even more frequent and predictably worse.
This yearly depression is an unwelcome friend and birthday party guest.
I’ve learned that the most important part of attending to feelings of depression & disturbingly strong yearnings for un-alive-ness is this: you can NOT passively let these feelings just sit.
The appropriate action must be something resembling the emotional equivalent of a STOP-DROP-and-ROLL.
That’s right – act like something is on goddamn fire.
Because it kind-of is.
While I often align with the holistic perspective that “feelings are visitors” and we best “simply allow them to come and go” without engaging, I am discovering that this is one of the few situations where the strategy just doesn’t seem to work. Because a depression so deep it leads to hopelessness or thoughts of suicide should not be treated like a temporary visitor. Because it is actually a FREAKING BURGLAR – and that burglar is tryna steal your life.
Aside from the obvio need for professional (and possibly pharmacological) intervention in most cases of depression, there are other ways to comabat this burglar and/or begin to put this fire out (note to self: next time, try to pick just one analogy & stick with it).
There are certainly a number of blogs and websites that someone (like me) can use for guidance, advice, or simply to connect to something that helps ease the I’m-all-alone-in-my-craziness-ness a tiny bit. There are also crisis hotlines that can be accessed at anytime, on any day. There are also an impressive amount of resources available for self-care (see also: the impossibly rising popularity of adult coloring books. I am now the proud owner of two).
I personally have also had limited luck trying to skyrocket myself out of depression using massive amounts of caffeine (kids, don’t try this at home) and exercise. And writing, whether something publish-worthy or a scribble on scrap, is a tool that at least for me personally has recently been growing in helpfulness. I may have even bribed myself to write this post with a promise of a short walk after for chocolate and coffee, because hey, if one method helps, why not try several of them all at once.
And then there are also times when it feels like I have below zero energy to cope with anything at all, that I can’t even be bothered to brush my teeth let alone exercise or read a blog, and nothing I try will seem to ever work. But the trying must continue anyway.
One last observation about of my own personal dealings with the soul-crushing heaviness that depression can bring is the helpfulness of connection. Often (okay, always) it’s really embarrassing and frightening to admit that any of this is going on. I am lucky to be able to openly share my struggles with Boyfriend and Dog whenever I need to, but there is a lot I’m also afraid to admit any more openly. Because it’s a terrible feeling when people get scared or overreact to my already-intense emotional experiences.
But it’s also most definitely worse when they don’t seem to even notice or care. When you are depressed you feel truly alone. And it takes great acts of courage to speak out, ask for help, or to connect from that state.
But an incredibly wonderful thing often happens whenever I get plucky (it means “determined courage in the face of difficulties.” I looked it up.) and spill it: instead of hearing the expected “ewwwws” and “ohhhs” and then nervously waiting for someone (literally or figuratively) to hit “un-friend” – something else happens:
People start to call me inspiring. raw. honest. helpful. courageous. brave. ?? To be honest, I’m not totally convinced they’re not bullshitting me. But it’s still really nice. I’m not saying honesty doesn’t have a price – there are some friends who, yes, have actually walked away after gaining deeper insights into my illnesses, but it always leaves me questioning whether these people were actually ever really true friend-material.
Thank you for allowing me to share this small piece of my life with you. I admit, I’m struggling today … but I’m also okay. Anyhow, I’m not really sure how to wrap this up. So Imma just leave this here:
I fall, I rise, I make mistakes,
I live, I learn
I’ve been hurt, but I’m alive,
I’m human and I’m not perfect,
But I’m thankful.
Now, about that coffee I promised myself …