Darkness Falling May 7, 2012Posted by craftlass in people, relationship, SpaceTweeps.
Tags: community, depression, social issues
Depression is a nasty beast. There are so many species of it and I think few people can lead even a medium-length life without being attacked by at least one.
During 2009-2011 I went for the longest stretch of my life without it. It was glorious! I was able to be the sunny and thoroughly productive person I had always longed to be. I made lots of new friends, found a new calling in life, and wound up involved in many projects I am very proud of. I went on crazy adventures without fear or hesitation and did things I hadn’t even bothered to dream of because they seemed so out of reach. Life was good.
Then one day last August I realized something had changed and I had lost my hope. Hope is a powerful thing. It gets you through bad times, illuminates good times, and just generally adds a sheen of goodness to everything and everyone. Most importantly, it gives you the courage to have faith in people, which is pretty much a necessity.
So, here I was, with a wonderful life I couldn’t have imagined, and I suddenly didn’t want anything to do with it. I had plenty to look forward to – I was gearing up to head on a dream tour of Europe with some of my favorite people and was in discussions for cool plans after my return. Yet, for some reason, a darkness was settling into my heart again and I couldn’t find a way to push it out. I felt trapped inside my head and was panicking over how to get back out.
I tried to just keep living my life the way I had. I failed. Everyone experiences depression in a different way, mine is to become even a bigger loner than I already naturally am. When I get that way I find that being around people makes me far lonelier than actual loneliness ever could. A few years ago it was really easy to give in to that as I lived alone and had few friends. I could set up my little fortress of locked doors, silenced phone ringers, and an avoidance of email. Healthy? No. Objectively I know it’s bad to retreat from the world on many levels, including the fact that it prevents getting better, but I hate sharing my pain while I’m experiencing it and when my mood gets that low it’s impossible to share anything but pain.
To top it all off, the thing that compounds my depression the most is the knowledge that I’m hurting people by retreating from them. It’s one of those vicious cycles that is infamously hard to get out of. I have so many apologies to make that I can’t find a good place to start.
So, I left for Europe depressed. I fell further while there, even while having some of the best moments of my entire life. I came home wanting to find a way to change almost everything about my life and not seeing any path to doing that. Then my worst fears in life came true and rock bottom dropped to a new low. My physical health toppled until I couldn’t do anything even if I wanted to (which, if you know me at all, is pretty much the opposite of how I live under even the worst circumstances. I’m all about energy and activity, even when everything else falls apart) and that made my mental state hit a dangerous level. The only tried-and-true solution for making myself feel better is exercise, particularly dancing in any form. Without that I am truly lost.
My partner tried to make me feel better but that mainly just made me feel guilty he was stuck with this lump on a couch instead of the woman he fell for. He deserves better. A few friends demanded that I keep them in my life no matter how hard I tried to push them away, even if it just meant listening to me cry and complain and reject any attempt to cheer me up. They deserve better, too. At the time I was resentful about people “bugging” me, which says everything about how far I was from my true self. I wish I could find an adequate way to thank these friends! What level of gratitude could be enough for reaching into the bowels of someone’s personal hell and dragging her into the light again? There are no words, no gestures, nothing that could express how I feel in a meaningful way.
Obviously, I am feeling a lot better now. I can write about this from a far more objective viewpoint. I have a long way to go to get back to where I was a year ago but what matters is I have good days now in between the bad ones. Why am I writing about it? I see a lot of my friends going through the same thing right now. I wish I could be strong enough at this point to be their support. It’s impossible to help someone when you are lacking the strength to help yourself. Maybe, just maybe, by sharing a little of what I was going through and why I disappeared from the internet and my local life will at least show other people that they are not alone in this no matter how much it feels like that. I won’t say there is nothing wrong with being depressed, it sucks and there’s no way around that, but it’s also not exceptional. It’s part of many people’s lives. Some have full-on clinical depression, some have situational depression like I have been experiencing. The reasons are less important than the emotions.
Our brains are mysterious and wondrous things. We’ve come a long way in understanding them but there are still more questions than answers. Therapy and/or drugs are helpful to some but destructive to others (I’ve always been in the latter group). We have to muddle through and find our own ways to combat these sorts of problems in life. I’m a long way from figuring out my own but I am here to tell you right now that things would be different if a few amazing and patient people hadn’t gone out of their way to show me that the loneliness and worthlessness I have been feeling is just an illusion. I’m starting to believe them, slowly.
Never doubt the power of simply sticking around.
Since I’ve started to communicate again I’ve found a lot of different reactions to my reappearance. A few people stopped responding to me and a lot of relationships have permanently changed. Then there are the people who acted like no time had passed at all, who welcomed me back and showed me I was missed but immediately went back to treating me exactly like before this rough patch. They’ve turned a potentially painful process into a joyous one and made me want to be me again. I may not be out of the woods, I may even face the deepest of depths again, but for the first time in my life I am certain that there will always be a ray of light at the end of a tunnel of any length. Becoming social again is overwhelming every time but at least a lot of the tidal wave this time is of the positive variety. Being around people I’ve loved all along and fully enjoying their company is the most refreshing experience I’ve ever had.
I repeat: Never doubt the power of simply sticking around.
As American culture gets lonelier and more selfish, life gets harder. Friendship in particular is becoming more superficial (for examples, just look at Facebook) and we are often told to value our selves and our families almost to the exclusion of anyone else. We collectively admire most the people who create success “on their own” even though that is never the true story. We care less and less about those less fortunate even as more of us join those ranks. Even most of our social groups divide us more than unite us, as they make us look at the world as “us” and “them”. This is poison to us both individually and as a society. Depression and malaise grow and bring everyone down, including those not experiencing them directly and those who profit off other people’s woes.
Maybe an individual can’t change the path we’re heading down, but you absolutely do have the power to make at least one person’s life better. Use it.