Friday, March 18, 2016


Note:  This post was written about a month ago now.  I chose not to share it at that time, in part because I was looking for housing and it is a fact that in our world people don't generally have a very positive image of those who live with mental health issues.  

The sad truth is we all live with mental health issues of one degree or another.  Our culture is not supportive of a healthy mental state.  We work too much.  We are more and more isolated from each other; community seems on its way to becoming a word we Google. And  when we do come face to face with our own pain, there are a plethora of options out there for numbing out so we needn't ever actually deal with it.  

 I tell myself that there is no shame in living with depression, but these words and the actions of my mind very different.  There is that voice that tells me over and over again, "You are broken and because of that you are unlovable."

 A hundred outside voices can tell me, "That isn't true, I love you..." but the voice inside will find a hundred reasons why those words are false.  And each reason makes sense.

A few weeks ago, at the end of my second therapy session in as many days, my new therapist asked me what I wanted out of this work.  I took a deep breath and I replied, " end to my self-loathing." 

It was one of the most difficult things I've ever said to another person.  I'd like to say that the acknowledgement of my own pain made me feel better or somehow lighter, but it didn't, at least not in that moment.  I felt very vulnerable.  I felt afraid.  I felt a deep sadness akin to grief.

I don't know why this time is different.  Why, after decades of living episode to episode, this one pushed those words past my lips.  This one was darker than most, and it still lingers. But as the mental fog that accompanies these times begins to clear there is another voice that is there in my mind, and this one is asking, "...but what if they are right? What if there is a way to see with my own eyes what others profess to see through theirs?"

And I'm listening. 


No.  It’s not returning from my three months at sea. 

No.  It’s not beginning my admittedly super stressful and last semester at school.

No.  It’s not sleeping on the couch in my mother’s apartment while trying to find an affordable living situation in the city I love.  

No. It’s not having one friend threaten suicide and being terribly worried about another, and I do worry – about everyone and everything, but no, it’s not my anxiety either. 

No. It’s not coming to terms with the still unprocessed feelings around nearly losing my best friend several months ago. 

No. It’s not trying to figure out how to balance my day job, teaching, school, rehearsing, performing, friendships, creating and everything else that goes along with being alive.  

Yes.  These things may contribute and yes, they make living with depression all that more difficult but they are not the cause.  No.  I can’t just suck it up, deal with it or think it away.  It is a part of me. 

Depression.  I’ve lived with it for pretty much all of my adult life.  For many years it went undiagnosed, unacknowledged and untreated.  When I was first told that I had depression I was angry and I cried (my reaction to nearly any intense emotion is tears).  It wasn’t like being told I had anxiety; anxiety to me made sense and it had these identifiable episodes, panic attacks, that I had learned to see coming and which I could prevent.  And I was used to it.  “Anxiety is my white noise,” I used to say.  

Depression.  Maybe that was it.  Maybe it was because I hadn’t named it before, maybe it was my own preconceptions about what depression meant (comatose, unwashed in a dark room, unable to function…).  Not that I hadn’t had periods in my life that were like that, I did, but somehow those periods (my dark hole wallows) passed, or they didn’t last long, or well that was last year and this year will be different…and because they passed or the calendar changed that must mean I don’t have this thing called depression.  

Depression.  The episodes come and go like the seasons of your favorite reality show.  You don’t want to admit you watch such things, but you can’t tear yourself away.  You, the outsider, can see the train wreck that is to come, you yell at the television (OH MY GOD don’t be stupid, don’t say that, don’t do that, don’t……) but the players stay right on track, chugging along to disaster.  

Depression.  My life is not a reality show.  And I can hear my own thoughts, I can talk to myself.  There is no unbreachable fourth wall in my life.  I can seek help, and I do.  I can reach out, and I do.  And even though there are all sorts of other feelings mixed up in this thing called depression (self-loathing, shame, anger, sadness, grief…) I can name them.  I can face them. 

Depression.  It isn’t easy.  I choose to deal with this without medication.  This is my personal choice.  If there is a side effect to any medication I get it – dizziness, nausea, weight gain, darker thoughts, no thoughts at all, itching, rashes, numbness.  My body seems unable to handle much beyond aspirin.  Though a few years ago I gave medication a try too – it left me feeling spaced out, detached, tired, and uninspired.  And I gained 25 pounds.  I asked if it was okay to try dealing with this without pills.  Yes. 

Depression.  I knew this latest season was approaching.  I saw the previews (the not sleeping, the melancholy, putting on the mask, going through the motions to cover up my waning desire to do…well anything).  This past week I hid out on the couch.  I definitely drank too much. I neglected my school work.  I watched waaaaaaay to much QVC/HSN and Real Housewives (we all have our dark coping secrets). I shut down. I crashed. Hard.  


This week I also started therapy again.  I reached out to close friends to ask for help.  And I’m attempting to reestablish the routines I need to get back on track. Sleep, hydration, exercise, food, meditation, journaling...all of the things that help me manage life (all of the things that I seem to let go as soon as things take a bad turn...) 

Depression.  It’s just another part of who I am; like my asthma, my height, my hazel eyes, my weirdly over-sized second toe on my right foot, it is a piece of me but also like those other things, I do not need to let it define me.  

Nor do I need to hide it.