I struggle with depression.
Every week to two weeks, there are 2 to 3 days when I find it difficult to get out of bed. Everything looks stupid and pointless. I think about hurting myself, and in passing, killing myself. Sometimes, those 2 or 3 days turn into a week or two of slightly less intense depression. Rarely those weeks turn into months of intense depression, where I struggle to do basic things like eat, shower, go to work, or basically function. On one occasion I’ve had full blown clinical depression with all the dark bits. Most people have no idea because (1.) I hid it. (2.) I don’t take medication. (3.) I don’t talk to shrinks.
Why do I hide it?
Because people don’t have very good imaginations. Depression is a chronic thing, not an acute circumstantial issue. The problem is with people who don’t have good imaginations is they imagine disability to be a acute thing and respond thusly, when it is a chronic thing. Example: being in a wheel chair and not being able to get up. Chronically, that’s just a sad reality: you are less able, so you need a chair with wheels. Acutely, however it’s just like being tied to a chair. People make asses of themselves because they respond to chronic problem (disability) with what they falsely perceive to be an acute problem (Oh my god, that woman is tied to a chair.) So depending on whatever goes through their head they might A. see someone to abuse, B. see some sort of sicko who goes out in public tied to chair, C. see someone so dangerous or mentally unstable/retarded, they need to be tied to a chair, or D. all of the above. My friend Kat has experienced all four.
Depression is similar. People who have never thought about cutting themselves or ending their lives or just how much everything sucks right then see this as a acute condition and not a chronic one, so they try to fix me instead of the action that my disability prevents. It’s a little bit like seeing a person in a wheelchair struggling to reach something and giving them a lecture on how to not be in a wheelchair…instead of just handing it to them.
When I’m not depressed I’ll often try to correct false ideas about depression, but when I am depressed, I’m too fucking tired. Most people don’t have the imagination to visualize what it is like, so I go to great lengths to hide it. You know what’s more depressing that being depressed? Being depressed and heckled by fools at the same time.
Why don’t I take medication?
I don’t want too, and I don’t have to. First of all, let me say I very nearly had too. I have my own way of working under the constant fog of depression which does not include medication. Recently while long separated from my wife I started to struggle with intense and deep depression. Due to separation from family and circumstance, I couldn’t work it own in my own time. She asked me to talk to a doctor (which virtually means get medicated) if I thought there was real risk of harming myself. I agreed. After a few days, it sort of drained away and I was OK.
I was willing to take medication under those circumstances because I needed too. Normally, I don’t need to. I’m very rarely a threat to myself and when I am, I go to the people I need too and have them help look after me. I’m no threat at all to others. Hurting people makes me more depressed.
Lastly, I subscribe to a theory called Depressive Realism. Basically, it is a theory that while some depressed people have excessivly negative veiws, many moderately depressed people actually have a demonstratively more accurate view of their own powerlessness and futility.
In general, I just don’t want too, and I don’t have to. I’ll answer why I don’t want it further detail below.
Why don’t I talk to shrinks?
Because I think the modern mental health profession is based a variety of false concepts. First off, I think that the fact I’m depressed doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. Yes, it does make me less able than others…but with enough arbitrary scales, everyone is less able than someone else. If you make a graph and very, very sad is on the left and very, very happy is on the right, and population is up…then it will make a nice bell shape, and most people will be in that thick middle section with a few like myself far off on the left and few Pollyannas off on the right.
Why is the left deviation from average a sickness, while the right deviation from average is a virtue? The deeply joyous are as equally deviates as the deeply sad. Yet only the sad have to be medicated into conformity. When the medical community starts saying that chronic perkiness is a mental illness I’ll take their claims that my style of light depression that harms no one but me is a mental illness a little more seriously. In the mean time, they’re just picking on sad people because we make them sad too.
And I chafe with the term “illness”. Technically what I have is called RBD. That’s not an illness, it’s a symptom list. Chicken pox is an illness. “Inflamed, red, itchy spots covering whole body” isn’t an illness, it’s a symptom. The fact someone invented a title for what ails me doesn’t magically confer upon it a physiological cause. The physiological cause most frequently bandied about is “chemical imbalance”. I’d take that more seriously if they could actually tell me what chemical it is. Zinc deficiency is a chemical imbalance. It has a symptom list, and the symptoms go away when you provide zinc. If there was a single chemical they could inject in my blood that would take away the symptoms of depression with no side effects, I’d say that one’s probably the chemical that’s not balanced. But they can’t. Because they don’t have a illness, they have a symptom list and different people respond differently to different chemicals. Further…life consists mostly of “side effects”. As a side effect to having procreative sex with my wife, I have an amazing daughter. As a side effect of having an amazing daughter I learn things about life I didn’t know before.
I’m not willing to let someone change a manageable part of my life (depression) because of their puritanical moral judgment (normal statistical deviation is somehow sinful) through questionable means. Added all up my point of view is this:
I’m disabled because the world is set up for people in the middle of the bell curve, not because there is anything wrong with me.
When I meet a shrink that shares that perspective, I’ll let them help me out. In the mean time…no dice.
But isn’t there anything I can do to help?
Help me be able, don’t help me be normal. I’m not ever going to be normal. I don’t want to be normal. If that’s your plan…Go Away.
Respect my privacy. If I’m obviously hiding the fact I’m depressed come to me when the sort of people I’m hiding it from aren’t around.
Don’t lie to me. If you don’t want to help me, don’t say you do.
Don’t put in my groups of people who all demand my attention at the same time, or all want to touch me (prayer groups). When you’re depressed, the effort to be socially normal in a large group of people is far, far too much.
Don’t touch me without asking. My depression doesn’t mean you can paw on me. If you want to hug or something, warn me first. When I’m really hurting and people touch me unexpectedly I tend to panic.
This doesn’t mean I can’t go out in public. Any place I can be anonymous in crowd is fine, but I need the freedom to be who I am and not have to try to be normal. No one notices a dude sobbing in a rave club, for instance.
I can do all the things I normally do. I’m just depressed. If you’re going to movies, take me. I’ll sit there and be depressed and watch a movie. It’s a lot like having a wheelchair. I want to do everything I normally do, I just need some help doing it.
And finally and perhaps most clearly…give me yourself.
If you really want to help me, give me yourself. Write me a letter, take me out for coffee, hold me. As long as your focus is helping through and not trying to cure me (believe me, I can feel the difference) it helps. Give me whatever you can of yourself. I’m not sure why it helps but it does. Just make me a part of life for however much time you have to share. Play some X-box with me for 2 hours. Squeeze my hand for a second. Just give me yourself, and if you aren’t comfortable with that, PLEASE don’t offer to help.
I mentioned earlier that I struggle to deal with depression when I am away from my wife. This is because a sex in general, and warm, loving, kind, easy, respectful, gentle, earnest, sex in particular is balm for my soul. I understand that’s not something most people give away, but as I said…don’t offer me help if you don’t want to help me. Give me the help you can. If that includes gently making love to me while I look in your eyes, I might take you up on it. Just really spell out the boundaries because I’m too internally focused when I’m depressed to find social cues easy to follow.