The Shame of Depression

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 damn 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 bitch 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 gives a shit.” 

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.

Comments

  1. You are brave and you are loved. Keep on fighting. :HUGS:

  2. Oh, Myra. I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling and I too had wondered where you had been but then I haven’t been online much either lately due to a major disaster at home. This is probably going to sound idiotic and perhaps you’re tired of hearing this from people but I really do mean it – if there’s anything I can do to help you in any way, please let me know. I’d really like to send you a gift, a book that’s really helped me lately and if you give me your e mail address or whatever you use on Amazon, I will do just that. Stay strong x

  3. Wow…Thank you so much for being brave and writing this. It’s been my battle for many years. For too long I was made to think Depression was an emotional issue that I needed to learn to “get over”, that I had the power to not let it control me like flipping a switch.
    Only two years ago did the freedom & knowledge come that Depression was a medical issue. For so long, I dealt with it silently, angry with myself for not knowing how to “turn it off”.
    In the last year, writing has kind of saved me.
    I’m still fighting it. I’m still trying to be brave myself and speak about it–i.e. this comment alone is a LEAP.
    As an introvert, book nerd, and creative writer, it’s easy to accept and live, prefer even the isolation. Even more so, when people like you (also a published writer which I’m aspiring towards), write posts like this, it helps me remember; it’s not just me. I’m not alone. There are others out there who are battling, but more importantly, still pursuing and have achieved portions of their dreams, goals.
    Anyway, all that to say, thank you again for posting this!

  4. Sophie R says:

    And let me just add that through her battle, Myra reached out to me and checked in re: my own worries about my Dad. Myra, I am forever grateful that we connected. Couldn’t adore you any more than I already do. (((hugs)))

  5. Stephanie Page-Levesque says:

    I read this and it brought tears to my eyes. I wish that I could write a response that would be witty or eloquent or in some small way take away some of your pain. But all I can say is “Thank You.” I am sending you love and light and prayers….

  6. Camille says:

    Thank you for speaking up. Too often people with mental health issues keep silent. I have been diagnosed with Bi Polar II, and therefore suffer from depression often. Before Christmas a colleague committed suicide, and then a author and advocate for getting help with mental health committed suicide as well. It was a rough holiday season. Speaking up and seeking help from books, meds, therapy, family, friends, and even fans will bring awareness and hopefully eliminate the killing that depression inflicts on ourselves.

  7. I get it.
    I am no one, I am no writer, I don’t know you. I’m french and I followed a link on the Internet not really knowing what to expect. But your post moved me and I can understand everything you said, so it felt somehow important to tell you. I know what it feels like to have these feelings, I know how lonely you can feel, I know how hard people – even those who love you – can be, juste by not understanding. And I know how important it feels to meet people who do understand.
    And I’d like to thank you. I think I hadn’t realized how bad I was feeling until I read you. I’ve known depression for a long time, but as I’m not feeling as bad as I used to I thought it was over. But as you said, fighting depression is a life-long struggle. And it’s time for me to seek allies again. ^^
    Thank you again, you were courageous to write this and I wish you the best for the times to come.

  8. SR Johannes says:

    love you!

  9. Talking about depression is almost as hard as the depression itself. There’s something about its weight that makes speaking out feel like peeling back your skin and exposing your vulnerabilities–knowing they’ll be attacked. And yet, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes people accept your pains and struggles and even thank you for your honesty. Sometimes people are good and trust you with their stories too. And that web you talked about happens. (Web is the PERFECT word, describing both the frailty and the quiet toiling.) And it doesn’t make the depression go away, but it makes it easier to breathe for a while longer.
    God bless. Thank you for speaking. Thanks for your honesty.

  10. Girl. GURRRRL.

    “Then there’s doubt, and comparison, and self-hate.”

    And then there’s swimming through a chin-high pool of bitter molasses with all of that doubt, comparison and self-hate strapped to your back. You don’t wanna carry it all to the other side, but your last shred of dignity and faith in yourself is tucked somewhere in that knapsack of tears, and you’re not even sure if it’s better to stand still or try to slog through it. Every time you move, it feels like slow sinking.

    Girl, I wish I could hug your neck. You are very loved. And you are not alone. Thank you for writing this post.

  11. Thank you for being brave enough to share this with us. I know it couldn’t have been easy, but know that you are not alone. You are talented, kind, so so brave. Even in your darkest moments, please try to remember that. <3

  12. I get it. Oh, man, do I get it. And you’re completely right about how having a diagnosis doesn’t mean people don’t say stupid things. The most common ones I’ve heard are “What do you have to be depressed about?” and “Oh, just cheer up, it isn’t that bad. You just have to try harder.” (I frequently say, “Really? My husband’s a diabetic, will his blood sugar become normal if he “tries harder”?”)

    I’ve been fighting depression and anxiety disorder most of my life, and much of that time, I’ve done it in silence. In fear. I’ve let the stigma keep me from being honest about my illness. But lately, so many have come forward to say “I battle this too,” and I’m very thankful for everyone who has more courage than I do.

  13. A Stevens says:

    I love you, Myra McEntire, and you are in my prayers. Wish I could have hugged you at Court’s debut party at Parnassus instead of just waggling my fingers across a crowded room. Pretend that I did, please! <3

  14. Bekka Gandy says:

    I read your post a year ago about writing and depression. It changed my life. It helped me through a very difficult time, where I was avoiding everything and daydreaming about hanging myself from my husbands pull up bar.

    I’m over the hump (for now) thanks to a diet change, and am now trying to be brave and pursue the writing I’ve found it so difficult to do for the past 3 years of my life that I was depressed. You helped me so much by sharing. I’m sorry I didn’t let you know sooner. You are loved, appreciated, and not alone.

    You’ll get out of that bathtub yet.

  15. June Morgan says:

    I totally understand. I waiver back and forth because my the physical disabilities that have just recently made me come to a stop and attempt to re-evaluate where I go from here. Life can be rude and get block what we want to do. I may not be as active as I have always been, but I am still me. If you never write another word, you are still you. This too shall pass.

  16. I am just going to give you a virtual hug now because words couldn’t possibly be enough to express how much I admire you right now.

    Your weapon is your writing, wield it proudly, strongly and lovingly and you’ve got 50% of the battle won.

    -Alba. (A faraway fan of yours.)

  17. I prefer Elijah, myself, but I understand nonetheless. <3

  18. Jenn Sutherland says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have been battling Depression for over 18 years. It always makes me feel better knowing that I am not alone, and with this post, you have definitely made my day.

  19. Me, too. Thank you.

  20. Just saw this in Stacked’s post on depression in YA novels, and glad I found it. Next time someone says, “It’s not like depression kills you,” tell them, “No, it just kills everything in your life.”

    You mentioned self-hate, and yeah, that’s the worst, like you can’t strip away enough of yourself, and the one tip I’d offer on that is to treat yourself the same way you treat your boys. Meaning a slight kick in the pants when you need it, yeah, but always love, compassion, and patience first. And unconditional – not just when you feel you deserve it. ‘Cause you do deserve it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] is because I ran across two blog posts recently that struck me as important: Myra McEntire’s The Shame of Depression, and Libba Bray’s Miles and Miles of No-Man’s Land. Both are about writers dealing with […]

  2. […] some extraordinarily talented writers who are caught in the grip of depression.  Libba Bray.  Myra McEntire.  Our own Dawn Montgomery wrote a post last round about suffering from burnout (which is, I think, […]

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