I’ve had this post in my draft folder for like … two months. I kept waiting to bounce back, for the wry, sardonic Myra who could talk/write about depression to show up. If anyone knows where she is, please send her home.
I wrote a post a year ago giving tips on how to avoid the spiral. That post became a source of shame for me. Even as I wrote it, I was still spinning. Isolating myself, forgetting the definition of balance, dodging my accountability partners. I still don’t have any emotional energy to spare. Conversation is hard. Reading is hard. Watching TV is hard. Y’all, I have FOUR episodes of The Originals on my DVR. If Joseph Morgan/Klaus the Sociopath can’t lift your spirits, there are ISSUES.
Being a wife and a mom and a friend are darn near impossible. So are things like answering emails and tying shoes. Some days, I worry I’ve lost my desire to tell stories. Boy, howdy, does that hurt to type. But one of the main symptoms of depression is losing interest in the things you love, and this gives me hope.
I’d decided to keep quiet about the whole thing, and then someone asked me at a signing (which required Xanax to navigate) why I hadn’t been online lately. My bottom lip did that uncontrollable wobble, and my top lip stuck to my teeth, and I said, “Depression.” I didn’t go into specifics, but later I had at least five people thank me for being honest. It meant the world.
(Incidentally, “Sure, let’s have lunch – my psychiatrist thinks I should get out more!” is not a thing you really want to say to a casual friend at a book event.)
I can pinpoint triggers, but knowing what kicked this bout off and knowing how to stop the fallout are two completely different things. Plus, there’s this tricky little witch called brain chemistry. Then there’s doubt, and comparison, and self-hate. There’s this thought: “A million different writers have posted about this, why should I add to the canon?” And this one, too: “No one really cares.”
Most creatives I know examine depression. We take out our spirits, take note of all the scars and dings, and question how they got there. We wonder if karma is real, who we’ve wronged and how, what normal looks like, if anyone has accomplished it, and why we weren’t born with THOSE genes.
I’m glad (?) to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It’s a relief to know I’m not just hopped up on angst. It’s a harsh truth that a clinical diagnosis doesn’t help us deal with those who brush depression aside. Someone actually said to me, “It’s not like depression kills you.” It’s claimed more than one of my family members. It’s taken lives of people in the writing community. The lesson we should remember most but always forget is simple. “Everybody is dealing with something.” Choose to be kind.
Sadly, a diagnosis isn’t always enough for the people you’ve hurt while you work out your heart junk. There are casualties. You don’t always get the chance to explain what’s up with your life, and even if you do, the truth can sound like an excuse. You want people to understand, but you don’t wish depression on them, so you become endlessly grateful for the people who get it.
That’s why I finally wrote this post. I got a DM from a friend on Sunday with the words “She gets it” and a link to Libba Bray’s unbelievably beautiful depression post. (Find it here.) I called another friend to share it, and she was already writing Libba a note.
There’s a web that connects those who deal with depression, a tenuous thread that runs under every human interaction. Libba’s words: “I see writing as an act of resistance against an occupying enemy who means to kill me. It’s why I’m writing this now. Silence = Death …”
So this is my resistance. Not to claim a victory, because I’m coming to understand I will always fight depression, but to acknowledge that there are many, many people wielding weapons beside me. We might not know each other, and for different reasons, we might not be able to speak out, but we can stand together on the same side of the battlefield.
Shame = 0.
Community = 1.