Depression is not a laughing matter.
It's an illness, and one that too many scorn others for enduring. It's not just feeling sad. Feeling sad is perfectly natural, as is grieving, having down periods, or just not having a good day.
Depression is when those feelings intensify, don't go away, and suck all of the joy out of life. It can last hours.
More often than not, it lasts days, months, and sometimes even years.
This post is for those who suffer from depression, no matter how mild or severe. This post is for those who don't, too.
Mostly, however, this post is for me, so I can get it out and speak, because the silence hurts as much as the depression does.
I'm not looking for attention, so don't feel like you have to reply. Listening is enough. Speaking is what I need to do, to maybe help climb out of the hole I'm in. This may be uncomfortable for some of you, but I'm going to be me: Honest.
It's okay if you walk away, I don't mind. But if you stay, thanks for listening.
I suffer from mild depression. I've been to counselling in the past. I've been told I should buck up, to stop acting like a child, and to feel happy. After all, I'm in total control of my emotions, aren't I? I should have the ability to just shut off all of these negative emotions and be the happy, motivated, joyful person I am supposed to be.
The syndrome is often called bi-polar, or manic depressive syndrome. It means that instead of having a stable set of emotions with normalized up and down phases, I take these things to extremes.
One minute, I'm a joyful, happy, motivated, kind, and gentle person.
That can change in seconds, leading to all of the darkness and unpleasant thoughts people don't expect from me. It means I sit in a corner, cry, and be completely incapable of doing anything. I can become extremely violent as well, although I've learned to control those tendencies.
It's been years since I've punched a wall.
But mostly, I suffer from depression. That's when even breathing can be too much work.
When this happens, I'm smothered by feelings of helplessness. No matter what I do, it just isn't good enough. The hole is deep, endless, and unconquerable. Worse still, there is the incessant thought that I deserve to be there. During those times, I feel I live because living is a punishment, and no punishment is strong enough for someone as worthless as I am.
That's just scratching at the surface.
Between the basement flooding, an incorrect payment to a government agency, a broken pool, inefficient air conditioning, a car that needed major repairs, and a lot of other things, I've been fighting with depression again.
Often, people admire me because of my work ethic. And right now, when I'm just starting to crawl my way out of the abyss, all I can feel is guilt.
I hadn't written a thing for over two weeks. I got back in the saddle, briefly, last night. Today, I got back in the saddle again, and I rode for a little longer. Words were written. Editorial for clients was done. I edited some of Winter Wolf.
I considered — and am still considering — a kickstarter for the Witch & Wolf series. If I can convince myself that it is worth the effort, and that I might have enough fans to make it worth while.
Life has started coming back together, instead of being on hold, frozen in a stream of financial woes, sewage floods, insurance hassles, and things blowing up in my face.
Writing through depression isn't easy. It's painful. Every word is a little like nails down a chalkboard, if you're weak against that sort of thing. I am. It's hard. It's hard to describe, too, especially to someone who has never experienced actual depression.
It isn't something I can just lift my chin, stand back up, and walk away from. ‘Normal' people tell me that's exactly what should happen. That's the keyword… what should happen.
The above paragraph, I initially wrote in the second person. Then I stopped, considered, and changed it to first. It's something I need to face. I'm not normal, and likely never will be. I suffer from depression, and depression is an illness.
Depression is an illness because what should happen doesn't.
I can't speak for everyone — or anyone other than myself — but it's pretty horrible when I hear someone tell me how I should feel, and I try… and fail.
Then I try and fail again, over and over, until something so easy and simple, like being happy, becomes some lofty goal, like climbing to Everest's death zone and living to tell the tale.
And when those brief moments of actual happiness come around, it's a shock, and it's scary, because after so long fighting the depression, it's hard to know what I'm supposed to do when I'm happy.
Usually, I express my happiness, I get excited…
… and then I get told I'm an annoyance and nuisance for being excited, happy, and outgoing.
Being happy is a crime, and when depression strikes, it's a sin; it's a black mark against me, because I can't be happy like everyone else, in a way that is deemed socially acceptable.
In response, I wear masks. I throw myself at my work. Because being praised for my work ethic is something I can cling to.
It's something I'm good at.
So, what does the fighting and writing have to do with depression, as the subject implies?
I fight my depression through writing. Yes, sometimes I use it as pure escapism. I throw myself at these characters and write their lives so I can escape my own.
I forget I'm depressed for a little while.
That focus so many of you admire, that work ethic I'm often complimented on, is a coping mechanism for my life.
Instead of medications, I write.
Instead of counselling, I write.
Instead of wallowing, I write.
But what happens when I can't write?
The past two weeks have been hard. I've cried, at least a little, most days. I look at my basement, put on a mask, and try to pretend everything will be okay.
I look at amazon at bar stools and other things I can't afford, thinking how nice it would be if I could have those things for a basement that hasn't been refinished yet.
It's still bare concrete, with some evidence of 1970s linoleum on the floor. There is still a Hep A filter running its little heart out downstairs because the only thing between the basement and the sewage lines are a few rags.
I don't know how the budget will be. So many things I owned were destroyed from sewage contamination.
The contractors haven't gotten back to me with an estimate to see how the budget will be. There's so many unknown things, and the unknown is very scary.
I have managed to keep enough money for my editors and things squirreled away for the immediate future, but the rest is up in the air. Unknown.
I'm supposed to go on vacation sometime in the very near future. Another unknown. I can't afford to go, and I can't afford to not go. I can't get back the money I invested in this trip well over half a year ago, when our finances were looking really good.
They aren't looking really good anymore. We'll be pinching pennies on the trip, but we'll go.
For eight days, I'll try to pretend I'm happy. Who knows? Maybe I'll somehow break free of the depression smothering me long enough to actually be happy.
I'm planning to write in soothing places, near pools, at cafes, in quiet corners, anywhere I can… because I'll be free.
For a little while.
Fight on, me. Fight on.
And if you also suffer from depression, all I can say is this: