Whosoever Puncheth the Wall

I’m Phil, and I am depressed.

Last night I was depressed, and I was a little angry about it. I hope I didn’t alarm anybody, but I know I did cause at least one person to worry. I was asked if everything was ok, and if the people around me are safe from physical violence as a result of my dark depression. Yes, I am ok. No, the people around me are not in danger.

I wrote last night specifically because, unlike right now, and the other four times I had written about my depression, I was not functioning on a higher, happier level. I wrote last night specifically because I was darker and deeper. This is an honest, straightforward and authentic account of one man and his depression. I don’t want to edit or censor or sugarcoat because I want the realness and the rawness to be evident, however that appears through the words on the screen.

Not only do I want those who know me to understand me, and perhaps know me better, I want other people – out there in the world – who are depressed to know that they are not alone. I can’t do that if I do not tell the truth and don’t shy away from unpleasantness. I also want those other people – out there in the world – who know someone who is depressed to be able to have an insider’s glimpse into the mind of a depressed person. Depression is extremely hard to understand, cope with, and live around. It doesn’t make sense, it isn’t constant, it is messy, unpleasant, and downright annoying.

But how do you have compassion, how do you support the depression of others unless you are able to sympathize? Sympathy, according to Wikipedia, is “the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another human being”. It is fundamentally impossible to sympathize without “understanding”. Empathy, by contrast, is “the capacity to recognize [the] feelings [of another human being]” (Wikipedia). Other depressed people don’t need to understand. They know. They empathize, and I have heard from them as a result of my writing. But those that don’t know, who haven’t experienced, need a little help. I am here to educate, partly. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t therapy for me.

Furthermore, the point I made badly last night was that there is no need for something to be wrong for a depressed person to be in a dark, bad place. Everything can be just fine and dandy. All can be right with the world and a depressed person can still be in a dark place. Earlier, I talked about how weather affects mood, but that is only a generalization. Plenty of bright, sunny days dawn upon a darkly depressed me. During the winter, there were a few slate grey dead days that brightened (winter days in Wisconsin don’t always dawn) that I was very light and relatively carefree. Everything can go right on a day free of responsibility or worry and I can be depressed. Everything can go wrong on a stressful, worrisome day, and I can be happier depressed. There doesn’t need to be any instigating factor.

An alcoholic always wants to be drunk. Stress doesn’t make them drink. Success doesn’t make them drink. Alcoholism makes them drink. So too: whosoever puncheth a wall puncheth the wall simply because they are depressed.

But don’t worry. I don’t usually punch walls, and the only person I remember punching was my brother. I was 13, he was 14, and believe me he deserved it.

I’m depressed, not violent.

Blame the Weather

I am depressed.

I’ve been having more good days than bad ones lately. This is indicative of almost nothing. If I were writing this past February, I would have been doom and gloom and full of rageful brooding. (Oh, nothing personal, that is my modus operandi when very depressed.) So, what was different about February? It was winter. Where I live that means slate grey skies for weeks on end; low, concrete clouds. A late sunrise followed by an early sunset. Everything is grey and faded and dead. Now it is summer. It is hot, unbearably sunny, full of blue skies and puffy white clouds. The grass is green and long. The leaves are green and rustling. The birds sing and the bunnies hop. So I am happier and more buoyant than I was in February.

I am a victim of the weather. I hate that atmospheric conditions can fuck with my mood. I wish I knew why that was, not that it would make anything better, just I like knowing the reasons why. My guess is that there is some sort of evolutionary reason why human brains are geared to respond to weather conditions. Probably something to do with productivity or hunting or something that doesn’t mean much in a modern world in which we insist on trying to ignore any connection we as humans might have to the environment. But it isn’t just me. It is well documented that people in general feel blue during the winter, and it isn’t just because school lets out in summer that we enjoy it so much.

I should probably clue you into something: I am writing from dark depression today. You see, the past four times I wrote, I was feeling fairly good. I was writing from light depression. But right now, I am tired, angry, sad, and in a very dark place. Oh, don’t be alarmed, it happens. Today’s dark place is brought to you by the cast and crew of the West Wing and my own jumbled thoughts. I’ve been watching the West Wing lately, a brilliant American TV show about the staff of the White House. The episode I watched tonight the was finale of season three. The President had to decide to assassinate a terrorist, and a Secret Service agent was tragically killed while buying flowers for the woman he was starting to love. The episode was beautifully written, masterfully performed, and was the best so far. It was an orchestrated ballet of life, story, and emotion. It nearly brought me to tears, which for me, means I was feeling quite a bit of emotion. That, coupled with a bunch of stuff rattling around in my brain has spiraled me downwards. The intellectual, English major part of me loved the mastery with which the episode was written and acted, but the depressive, tortured part of me got a kick in the gut. Since the latter has way more of a grip on my psyche than the former, well, you know now why I am writing from a dark place.

I am feeling poetical. This is not unusual. I am a poet, a writer, and a teller of stories, and the more I get depressed, the more I can write poetry. Try this on for size:

Flash. Bang. Four smooth jacket jackhammers
shatter the rose, peddling death
smash the heart, beating love
stealing away the happiness
you were planning to snatch
from the jaws of life lived dangerously.
The devil was in the details of your protection’s
killer apprehended not twenty minutes earlier
on the back road of the victory
for which your love labored.
Now you lie bleeding and dead.
Now she sobs, alive.

So, not very good, full of cliche and probably a bit awkward (I just wrote that and won’t edit it) but I wouldn’t have been able to write that were I in a happier mood. I wouldn’t have even considered it. It is an ironic fact that most of the best poets were depressed, drug addicted, dark sons of bitches. Something about seeing into the heart of emotion and the human condition requires a less than well adjusted, happy personality. Sure, not all poetry is written from a Sylvia Plath level of despair, but some of the most real assessments of humanity were given birth by humanity’s most tragic sons and daughters.

My point was that I am depressed. I’ve analogized depression like alcoholism and that is a very good comparison. People are born with a predilection towards being a drunk which they cannot help. I was born with a predilection towards depression. I am a poet. This is a part of who I am, which I cannot help or, to a certain degree, control. My depressive tendencies make me able to tap into my poet’s soul. Unfortunately, my depression usually overwhelms my poetical nature. Life’s a bitch, eh?

By the way, I am swearing more than I usually do. I grew up around religious people and still count my closest friends and family among the devout, so I am more attuned to how some people respond to profanity. Another symptom of dark depression is a loss of inhibition. Profanity is a vital and necessary part of all human language which seeks to express immediate, unarticulatable emotion, or sometimes degree of emotion, so as I am feeling a lot of deep emotion and am simultaneously uninhibited I swear more. I hope it doesn’t offend you, but it happens, it is human, and well, you should move on if you can’t stand it.

Well, this is degenerating quickly.

I do not censor myself here because I want anyone who reads this to understand what depression is like. I want to be honest about what I feel, and how that effects me. Tt isn’t always pretty or organized. It isn’t simple or comfortable. It is a condition that never lets up for a second, even if I start a day feeling great and sunny, I may not end the day like that. I usually crash, and burn hard. What goes up…and, well, you know the rest.

After having read through all that, I remembered my main point (yes, I had one): “and some days it doesn’t matter what I do, I end up happy or sad or both, so I blame the weather.”

I’m Phil, and I am depressed.

Read about a good day here. Check out my previous discussions of depression, what it looks like, and why I might be depressed.

Today is Different

I am depressed.

Today was a little bit different. I made the bed. I took out the trash and recycling. I straightened up the living room, and even put some dirty clothes in the dirty clothes bin. Today was a win.

I hear “and?” coming from the studio audience. To most people, this is routine: the everyday habits of responsible people. This is what adults do. Not children, not college students, but the image of the functioning, complete adult. Now, a lot of assumptions and preconceptions feed into that image that might not be entirely accurate, fair, or reasonable, but for the most part, I usually agree. I actually hate clutter. I need to have my things arranged neatly and precisely. I am all about presentation, making things appear just so. I don’t like piles of things lurking in corners or right out in the open. I’ve always sort of been this way. I am not, however, a clutter-nazi. I don’t go to extremes, and I let life happen. But bottom line: my default is not to let things lie.

Depression laughs at my default and kicks it in the balls. The piles of laundry taunt me. The unwashed dishes mock me. The bed berates me. The clutter clamours with noise. Usually all I can do is look at them and sigh and move somewhere where I can’t see them. Out of sight… Most of the time I simply cannot muster the motivation, the energy, or the motion necessary to perform mundane, easy, household chores. To me, the chores don’t seem easy or mundane. They seem monumental. Intractable. Insurmountable. Carving a cave out of a mountain with a pickax and doing the dishes appear to me to take about the same amount of time and effort. Objective reality does not invade this mental assessment. Reality cannot hope to compete with the cold, dark shadow of depressive evaluation.

With this, of course, comes feelings of guilt, inadequacy, failure, and weakness. I know, somewhere in my head, that doing the dishes is not like bashing rocks. I know it to be true. But I can’t make myself act on that information. And so I berate myself. I ridicule. I imagine that those who live with me hate my inability to do the little things. I feel that I am not measuring up. I feel like my life is therefore meaningless and worthless. I feel like a fuck up and an idiot child. The depression doesn’t have to work to get me down because my spirit has already fallen through the floor and is still falling.

But that is a typical day.

Today is a better day. I didn’t wake up with a smile. I didn’t see things in technicolor, birds didn’t sing. But I did pick something up and put it away. I did collect trash. I did walk it outside and toss it in the dumpster. And then I realized that I was actually doing all of those things. I became aware of it. It seemed normal because it was. But it was abnormal because I was able to do it. Normal for me is the once in a while opportunity. I have to come up to get to where most people are most of time. So I look around the apartment and instead of sighing, I feel content. Things look more refined, more like they should. I don’t have to hide from anything, because, as I look around, from all angles things look the same: in their place and quiet. There is nothing to hide from.

So, today is a good day. And I felt that was worth sharing.

If you are wondering what I am on about, check out my previous discussions of depression, what it looks like, and why I might be depressed.

The Whithertos and the Whyfores

I am depressed.

I first wrote about my general depression history. Then, I tried to give an insider’s perspective on depression. Stephen Fry, a British comedian, author, actor, writer, tech enthusiast, and former depressed individual tweeted a link to an article about a member of the British Parliament who came out as being depressed, and how that is hardly unusual. It is a great, short article, and it does a good job of presenting another view of and on depression that is different than mine.

Being my third article specifically about depression, and my depression in particular, I guess I can christen this an official “thing” but that worries me.

A symptom of my depression is that I am always starting a new project. Right now I am two weeks into a daily picture taking project in which, at 1810 (6:10pm) I snap a picture with my iPhone and upload it to Twitter and Flickr. I am trying to capture the everyday activities of life, and I call it: My Life at 1810. See the set on Flickr. Two weeks in is usually when the bottom falls out. Dig around my Flickr and you will see a few other projects which I started and never finished, such as a picture a day, and a few others.

Because depression sucks the color, vigor, and excitement out of life, the only way I can feel a rush of vitality is to start something. Beginnings are heady with promise, with anticipation, with new ideas, and this infuses energy into the darkness. But without a genuine, clear thinking will that energy fades and cannot be sustained. That clear thinking will is what depression destroys every time. So the project dwindles, is abandoned, and becomes one more Ozymandias to mark the post apocalyptic landscape that is my life. This time around, with the picture a day thing, I have tried to outsmart myself my picking a project that, by definition, ends whenever I want it to end. Convenient, eh? I doubt that it will work, but that is just the depression talking.

All that to say, I don’t know how long I will be able to sustain this self aware series of posts about depression. I am not going to worry, though. I figure that any time I am writing is a good time, and writing about depression is a great way to self therapize, to remove stigma, and to perhaps help someone else who may be depressed and reading this to realize that they are not alone, there is hope, and that it needn’t be any more of a burden than it is already.

Why am I depressed? What a perfectly legitimate question for which I have no real answer. I am still working that out in my own mind, and in the overstuffed chair at my therapist’s office. (I tend to eschew the couch because it seems a bit too cliche.) I don’t know exactly why I am depressed.

The easy answers are of course: (genetic) brain chemistry, and traumatic life experiences. As we now know, thanks to medical science, our brains are finely tuned lumps of mush that run on electricity generated by the transfer of electrons through chemicals. Or something like that. I am no neurologist. But, these electrons are delicately transferred, and the chemical solutions and mixtures must be precisely balanced. Imbalance them, and then you’ve got missed signals, wrong signals, and all manner of unseemly cross firing and mental short outs. The result is known as a mental health disorder. This can just happen. Or, it can be made to happen. Violence, aggression, abandonment, neglect, abuse, stress, hostility, and other similar events can knock the chemical balance of the brain off kilter. Anyone could be walking down the street and have a wire come loose, or they can be hit and have one knocked loose. Genetics plays some role in this, as a predisposition towards depression can be inherited just like alcoholism can be passed on to the next generation. This is why alcoholics run in families and depression just sighs and watches the family stare out the window. One of my grandfathers was treated for depression, both of my parents were/are, and I am. Good chance that if I have kids, one of them might. But, of my siblings, not all of them seem to be affected. My mother’s depression was almost entirely as a result of trauma, my father’s was a bit of both. Mine certainly seems to be mostly trauma with a hint of genetics.

But that doesn’t really explain why. Science can tell me how, psychology can tell me what that looks like, but why is a question for a god. I don’t happen to believe in a god, so why becomes a question to simply be asked of the universe and left unanswered. Why did Steve Jobs go in the direction of computer hardware design and not mathematics? Why did Ghandi become a peace activist? Why did Mother Teresa join the Catholic church and move to India? Why did Alexander feel a need to conquer the world? Why am I depressed? Life is unbelievably complex and interconnected. I can tell you about abuse, I can tell you about fear, I can tell you about religious persecution (in that religion persecuted me) but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Many people are abused in some fashion, and not all of them end up paralyzed by depression. All of them need therapy, but some move past their abuse rather quickly, all things considered, and lead fulfilled, self-actualized lives. A lot of people reject a life of oppressive religion to embrace a freedom and a happiness that never looks back. So why did those things so effectively captivate me? Other people have genetic predispositions to a great many ailments and afflictions that never materialize. Not everyone in an alcoholic family becomes an alcoholic. So why do I get drunk on despair? Why me?

Why?

At the moment, I am not angry when I ask that, I am not screaming out to a god. I am not in despair. That could be because depression robs me of an ability to actually feel much of anything, but right now I am also very curious. I know some reading this, and who know me but not intimately, are very curious. “Really, Phil? How is it that you are depressed?” and, honestly, I ask that question of myself fairly often.

I fall into the same trap that snares people who have no idea what depression is or how it works. They wonder: “ok, you know you are depressed, why can’t you just snap out of it? why can’t you start being happy and get over it? why can’t you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and be a man/woman?” Heh. If only it were that easy. But it isn’t. Most days, I am powerless. My therapist Julia is helping me to take back my power, to exert it over my life, but that is like teaching a paraplegic to walk. It takes monumental effort, time, and patience. I can’t just be happy. I have to learn what happy is, and learn how to be it. And, for the record, nobody ever pulls themselves up by their own bootstraps. The whole idea is complete nonsense and is a cruel, evil philosophy. Everybody gets help to do almost everything in this life. The bootstraps are a lie.

I know some reasons why I am depressed. I know some of how it works. But I don’t know why I, in particular, won the mental unhealth jackpot. And I can do nothing about it without help.

Today’s monologue is all over the place, and a bit unfocused. Today I am only half there. Here. Whatever: point being, this is depression: sometimes I just can’t think.

Sigh. I am depressed.

Define Depressed

I am depressed.

I previously wrote a brief history, or encapsulation, of my depression and tried to give reasons as to why I am suddenly talking, or writing, about it.

I don’t know how obvious it is that a depressed person is depressed; I don’t know if some of you reading this are shocked that I am, or surprised, or for how many that sort of makes sense, given my peculiar personality and demeanor. All I know is, I tried to keep a lid on my particular problem for a long time and now I am coming right out and saying it: I’m depressed.

But I also don’t know how many of you actually understand what that even means. I guess the general understanding is the “blues” and not the cool music from Harlem, New Orleans, or Kansas City, but a glum, sort of not happy feeling. Some people say they feel “down” or “sad” or that they are “in a funk” and by all these terms mean that they are depressed. The word itself means “in a physically lower position, having been pushed or forced down” and, secondarily, “in a state of general unhappiness or despondency” which sort of makes sense. In a literal, physical sense, if you push down on something you are depressing it. A depressed personality is one that feels pushed down. I have no unique claim to this feeling. As I’ve mentioned, many people are familiar with a blue, pushed down feeling, at least, for a period of time.

I am more than depressed. I am clinically depressed. All that means is my depression is a condition. It is a mental health problem. Like alcoholism, it is something you are born with or can develop through no fault of your own. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t really get better. Wikipedia says it this way:

“Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable; experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions; and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may be present.”

My life is a constant haze of pain and darkness. I have daily headaches, frequent back and joint pain, and never feel quite right. Mentally, everything seems black, which is really hard to describe to those who have no idea what that is like. In trying to explain it, I came up with a metaphor. I am not sure how helpful it really is, but it seems roughly analogous to me.

I live in a room. This room has a very low ceiling, no windows, no light, only a single door on one wall. Most of the time this door is shut and I am in darkness. Occasionally, this door is barely open, and I can dimly discern a hint of light. It is grey, smogish light, but light nonetheless. On bad days, the door is open, and there is light, but it is like looking through a translucent curtain. On ok days, the door is open and beautiful light pours through. This is fairy tale light, with little twinkling dust motes, and beyond, a far green country, a blue sky, and the most delicious warmth. But I don’t feel it. I am inside the room, and I can only see out. On good days, I stand right at the threshold to the door. I experience the wind, the light, the warmth, but dimly, like I’ve been novocained. On great days, I can get halfway outside the door. This is my mental habitat. Most days for me are somewhere between total darkness and bad days. I had a great day once, last month, the only one I’d had in months. Rarely I get ok days.

Another way I usually describe my depression is as a feeling of inertia. One of Isaac Newton’s laws of motion states that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force” and that works for rocks and me. Unless I get a good push, I’m going nowhere. And for me, that push has to be disproportionately large. I sit around. I stare at nothing. Sometimes I walk across the room, just to walk back. I stare out the window and think about nothing. I have no motivation, even less inclination. Like Wikipedia says, I feel empty and restless. Things I know I love and enjoy seem hollow. The gloss and the shine is gone. I think of a hundred things to do and spend three hours deciding to do none of them. A day is an unending string of exhausting moments spent doing nothing.

But I don’t choose to live this way. There is no conscious choice. Conscious choice is a fantasy, a thing hoped for, the incentive waiting at the end of the decathlon. I have to work hard and strenuously to get to the point where I can make a conscious choice about something.

Deep inside my mind, the real me still lives. Like Thor (in the Avengers), trapped in the Hulk’s cage, there is thick glass and 30,000 feet of empty air beneath me. But inside that prison, a half-remembered me slams a hammer against the wall, fighting for freedom. I remember what it was like to love things, to derive pleasure. To really enjoy to write, or to build with LEGO, or to revel in the physicality of movement. I have hundreds of creative ideas: pictures I want to take, paintings to be splashed on canvas, stories to write down, LEGO creations to build, crafts to construct, but they all bounce off the ceiling and crash into a pile of their mates at my feet until the weight of them smothers me. And I catch my breath and realize that I am in an empty glass cage staring at 30,000 feet of air.

What a bleak picture. Usually I don’t notice, because as I’ve said before, this is normal for me. This is my everyday experience. I’ve gotten used to it. I hardly know how to react when the depression lifts and I can think clearly again, it is such an unusual experience. Remember that great day I said I had, once in many months? I spent half of it wondering what had drastically gone wrong while I slept. Feeling happy, coherent, lucid, and unburdened scared the hell out of me. It felt so very, very wrong. Eventually I stopped thinking about it and just enjoyed it, having a great day, but I knew it wouldn’t last. I also knew that no matter what, I had to get to a point where that was the new normal.

But that seems so far away, and to be an insurmountable challenge.

Even this, writing about my depression, seems weird. Not the writing about the depression thing, but the writing thing. I wanted to do it. I am doing it. In a few minutes I will have done it. This doesn’t usually happen. It might be another few months before I write again. I have no way of telling, and I have no way to make this happen again. Sometimes I can break through, mostly I can’t.

I’ve developed patience. Depression is a waiting game. Without help, and usually drugs, I am helpless against it. All I can do is stand in my room, wait in my glass prison, and watch life pass me by, waiting for those few times when I can step outside of my depression and experience something resembling happiness, which I take for all I can, because at any moment I can be kicked off the ride.

So when I say that I am depressed, that is usually what I mean, generally speaking.

Don’t Need a Reason

I’m depressed.

It has taken me a very long time to realize this simple fact, let alone process it, and be able to externalize it. You see, for most people, what they feel, how they react, what they do every single day, in any given moment, feels like normal to them. In a way, it is normal in that there is no global, standardized measure of human normality. Everyone has their own normal, their own equilibrium within themselves and with their environment. To me, being depressed was normal. I assumed that was how I was supposed to feel; I thought that is what the world looked like; I figured that was simply the way of things. For most of my life the fact that there was a different way to life, a better way, simply didn’t occur to me. I knew other people, I observed my friends, my family, random people I didn’t even know, and even though a great many of them were acting and living on a completely different plane of existence than I did, it didn’t occur to me that this wasn’t simply their normal and that it was different than mine. Some were female and I wasn’t, or gay and I wasn’t, or happy and I wasn’t. I didn’t know that happy was something I could be. I just knew I wasn’t, and that is was something I would have to live with my entire life.

I know better now. For one thing, I am an adult. I’ve graduated high school and two different institutions of higher learning (though that sounds 50% better than it actually is) so I am slightly more educated than I was as a 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 year old. Knowing better, for me, was a gradual enlightenment, like a lightbulb controlled by a dimmer switch slowly sheds light on a greater volume of a room.

As a kid, and a teen, I just got black sometimes. Deep, dark, brooding, simmering sadness that turned to rage that turned to helplessness, emptiness, and profound despair. Then, sometimes, I would sleep, and the next day things seemed less grim. I always used to say that “it’ll be ok, I’m always better in the morning” even though that wasn’t strictly the case. Nowadays medical care professionals and therapists always ask me “Do you ever think about hurting yourself or others? Do you ever feel like killing yourself?” and while on occasion that has been true, it isn’t really my thing. I’ve never wanted to hurt anybody, not for long, and I’ve got just a bit too much grasp on life to want to give it up. I like movies and Jules Verne, and I’d never forgive myself if I killed myself and they finally made a good adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Hey, nobody said I had to have a good or particularly meaningful reason to live. Any reason will do, as far as I can tell. But anyway, I just thought periodic heavy darkness was a part of my life. I went there, I brooded, and eventually I moved on. It wasn’t until later that I began to see that not everyone existed that way, and there wasn’t any reason why I had to.

But, just knowing that you are depressed and could be happy is no salvation. Enlightenment is no substitute for fundamental life change. It just means that you can tell exactly how badly things are skewed. Helpful, but not transformative. And as a poor college student with very little time, no employment, no access to health care, and a culture that doesn’t like to talk too much about mental health, I didn’t have any options. As a college graduate with few job prospects, time, but still no health care, I had no options. It wasn’t until I got married and my wife got a job with benefits that included health care, and even the possibility of consulting with a mental health professional that I had any hope that my normal might change, that I might get to create a new normal. It still took a ridiculously long time to cut through red tape, assure people that don’t know me that I am not faking, that I really do have mental health issues, and then find someone I could, in the span of 45 minutes of conversation, feel I could trust enough to bare my deepest, darkest soul to, but I have made it.

Her name is Julia. I tell her things. She asks me questions. Some days we make progress, sometimes we don’t. We talk superficially and about minor symptoms of my depression, and very occasionally she guides me into something deeper. It is a process, a long road, and hard work. I continually have bad, dark days. Rarely, the sun shines through. I’m learning to take both in stride.

This evening I viciously and suddenly threw an empty plastic bottle as hard as I could across the room. It was like hitting a whiffle ball. You can put all the effort you want into the swing of your whiffle bat, but it is still just going to float away. I’ve had a bad, annoying, frustrating, irritating day of being depressed today. I kept it bottled up, I ignored it, but Julia says I shouldn’t reject the depression any more than I should reject the happiness, so I let it all out with a petty, ineffective gesture of acceptance. And I felt a little better. Like I said, I’m learning. Ignoring feelings and keeping them locked away doesn’t help. Acknowledging them and experiencing them helpfully does. So I do.

Why was today so bad and depressing? It is really hard to explain to someone who doesn’t understand chronic depression, but it’s like this: I watched an episode of the West Wing this evening. It is an American television show about the business side of the White House and the United States government which I have recently started watching and very much enjoy. The fictional President’s Chief of Staff, a man named Leo, is an alcoholic. So far in the show he has been sober for many years, but as alcoholics are, he is always one drink away from drunk. In the episode I watched, he received divorce papers from his wife, and the rest of the staff were gently, and respectfully, checking in on him to reassure him that while the divorce hurt, it wasn’t a reason to start drinking. Leo’s response? “I’m an alcoholic. I don’t need a reason.” I’m depressed. I don’t need a reason.

For some time now, I have been following the life of a woman named Maurissa Tancharoen. (Wikipedia) (Twitter). Some of you may have heard of a little nerdy movie called the Avengers. It was written and directed by a man named Joss Whedon. His brother is Jed Whedon. Maurissa is Jed’s wife. Maurissa was diagnosed with a very severe and debilitating case of lupus. It constantly interferes with her life and what she loves to do, namely act, sing, and write. But, Maurissa refuses to be kept down by her physical condition. She fights: sometimes she wins, sometimes she loses, but she doesn’t usually give up. It is a war she will never win as there is no cure for lupus (yet) but she fights. And she writes about it on a little blog she calls “It’s Not Sexy”. Read it here: It’s Not Sexy.

Maurissa is a tiny Asian woman, but when it comes to bravery, she kicks my ass. But, I think she might be on to something. Sharing the trials and tribulations of an affliction is not a pity party. It is not a “woe is me” or a call for attention. Fundamentally, it is a statement. An acknowledgement: “here I am, weak and broken”.

Aren’t we all just shiny, happy people? By which I mean, do we not all have our troubles? Judge not, but find compassion. Come, let us love one another. This isn’t some religious bullshit or bleeding heart hippyism. This is just a call to humanity. I am human. I struggle daily. I am depressed. But I won’t be beat, and I won’t give up. I’m going to keep going, because I know that there is something better, something to be gained, and this is my own particular road to hell…and back. I’m coming back, through, past, beyond – I won’t be beat. I have no answers for you; I have no pride; I have no wisdom to impart. All I have are people who love me, people whom I love, a wonderful woman named Julia who is my therapist, and a will to live.

So, listen to me if you wish, but know that whatever bothers you, I write so that you know you are not alone. That much I know with absolute assurance. We can figure out the rest together.