21 Jan Truth Talk: Depression
Alert: There’s fewer dicks in this post than you’d expect on this blog.
If you are a regular reader, or someone who follows me on twitter, you might have noticed a slowdown of posting and chatter in the last few months from me. I think it’s important to take some time here and talk about why that is. Not just to show that there’s a serious explanation to my internet absence, but also to bring some reality and truthiness to what might otherwise seem a one-dimensional, sex-crazed Instagram personality. I’m a real guy, after all.
Depression is hard, y’all.
Since November, I’ve been dealing with some mild to worsening depression combined with an already present generalized anxiety situation. This is a place I have been before a few times in my life. I’ve sat with depressive episodes in my late teens, my mid twenties, and now again, at the cusp of real adulthood.
Statistically, it’s likely that you’re familiar with depression and the ways that it manifests itself; 16 million adults suffer a major depressive episode in any given year in the US. However, unlike other diseases and disorders, depression can seem entirely nuanced and tailored to the specific life and mind of the person experiencing. This means that my symptoms might not look like your symptoms, and the degrees to which I am able to function in my life are inconsistent, even day-to-day.
Some days, I feel fine. Not stellar or excited or amazing, but fine. I can get up, go to the gym, run errands, and return correspondence like an adult.
Other days, I cannot (I don’t know a better word to express the feeling, and if you haven’t experienced depression it might be difficult to fully understand why that word is appropriate and quite literal here) get out of bed or leave my house. These days offer a sensation like a sudden realization that nothing matters and that my life will remain the same whether I get up or go back to sleep; a spontaneous nihilism that just occurred to me on waking. It is a sense of exhaustion and hopelessness which seems in the moment as though it will go on eternally.
It is this sense of impending “forever” that makes these days most difficult.
But wait, it gets worse…
Often, in things that I have read about depression and the symptoms it forces upon the lives of sufferers, this is where descriptions of trauma and pain stop. But there is a secondary facet to this in my experience that is harder to illuminate and more embarrassing and difficult to talk about.
A common theme between my major depressive episodes is a point at which I begin to lose control of my plate spinning: emails go unanswered for days (weeks?), social media goes unattended, my site doesn’t get updated, and the hours I might spend talking about different kinds of balls or dissecting masturbatory habits here, become hours half-focused on tv shows I’ve seen dozens of times before. Or just sleeping.
I begin to disappoint and fail the people around me without any clear explanation to them about why. I am too afraid and ashamed to say that I am simply “depressed.” It doesn’t feel like that should be enough. Especially when it is contrasted with the things I do manage to do. The meetings I do manage to make, and the messages I do manage to return (if you can do it that time, why not this time?).
Because I have my personal economy to support, I can usually make it to meetings and work “have to’s,” but eventually, even these suffer from my lack of enthusiasm and an inability to focus.
But then it gets better.
If there is anything that I have learned from my experiences, it is that there is no forcing wellness into depression. As tempting as the thought of “just get over it!” seems, it is fruitless to try to “will” oneself back to “normal,” and often this effort leaves you more tired and frustrated with yourself than when you began. Instead, I have had to learn how to make space for this. Indeed, to make space for myself in my own life. To recognize that there will be difficulties and failings fueled by circumstances that are – to a large degree – out of my direct control.
The things that I can control, I try to change. I have been in CBT since late November (the psychology-related one, not this one), and simply having a neutral forum in which to discuss my situation openly has been of tremendous benefit.
Being kinder to myself about missed deadlines or late replies is also something I am striving for, though I am not making monumental progress. I still feel very badly when someone says something kind or sends a gift or note, and I do not answer them immediately. There is still a narrative in my brain along the lines of my old retail mantra of “time to lean = time to clean.” If I have the time and energy to feel badly about something, why not just change it and do what I’m meant to do?
Because sometimes I simply can’t.
If you have been neglected by me in one form or another these past few months, I am sincerely sorry. I am most sorry for making space for the idea that it might have been something you did or said that put me off. I hate the idea that you would think that, and it is most definitely not the truth.
In the fullness of time I will reply to all of my messages, and I will begin to return to a semblance of normality. There will be time for new posts, tweets, and instagrams. Most importantly, there will be time for the connections in my life that make what I do so worthwhile. You (yes, you, if you are reading this. I mean you), have come here to hear what I have to say, and to reply in kind in the comments, and it means the whole world to me to know that I am in such good company, and that the things I love are the things lots of people love. We will get back to loving them together.
It will just take me some time.
PS: If you are struggling with depression, and you want to tell me about it, I am always here to listen. You can email me or find me on Telegram. My own baggage might slow my response to you, but know that you are heard, whether I shout back immediately or not.