ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Before I begin tonight’s topic, I just want to say that the past two weeks have been incredibly hectic for me. I’ve been trying my darnedest to get my new work ready for publishing and I am very, very close to the finish line! I am tweaking and doing finishing touches before I am finally able to reveal what I’ve been working on for the whole month of January! I am so, so proud of my work and can’t wait for the big unveiling coming soon. That and more surprises are coming up by the end of the week, I promise!
Anyhow, for tonight’s discussion… depression and anxiety and how the “neurotypical” perceive issues concerning mental health.
I had an interesting debate this afternoon regarding depression and anxiety.
I was taken aback by one person’s perspective and decided to question the individual. A lot of thoughts flashed through my head, but my thoughts honestly weren’t combative. My questions and thoughts were coming from myself being a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety and trying to establish a teachable moment for an outsider who may “sympathize,” but not necessarily “empathize.”
Depression and anxiety are complex. A person may exhibit chemical or situational depression. There may be tons of factors as to why an individual becomes afflicted with such a debilitation. My depression and anxiety, coupled with me being overweight, carry an enormous stigma for myself. I hate leaving the house. I feel judged at every corner whether it’s my own perception or reality. I have had depression and anxiety and been overweight my whole life. I know of no other way of being. I have known fleeting happiness sprinkled sporadically throughout my life. I can still smile and laugh at jokes and have a good sense of humor. Those things don’t mask the fact that to my very core, I’m deeply hurting inside. So, for me, hearing this person’s thoughts and how a seemingly kindhearted act, which I found to be insensitive, would somehow both eradicate and invalidate this struggling individual’s feelings—it felt a little tone deaf to me.
I was reminded of the poor individuals in Flint, Michigan dealing with their water being unfit for bathing, cooking, and drinking. I remember reading about celebrities delivering bottled water to the residents of that area. There was a disconnect between the people and the outside world and their struggles were not being properly understood. I feel the same was true in this particular situation regarding mental health.
I honestly wasn’t meaning for it to sound judgmental or negative, but right away the person I was speaking to was so very offended and said that I had to “shit on everything” and that I was always negative about everything. Being negative and judgmental and being concerned and fearing that the individual’s seemingly well-meaning thoughts would do more harm than good are two totally separate issues. I was made out to be the bad guy because I was trying to get that person to reach a little deeper within themselves. The person even deflected and backpedaled stating that they too once suffered from depression. To me, if you can say you suffered from depression in the past tense, then it wasn’t truly depression.
To me, the way that I see it, depression is a lifelong struggle. It stays with you. Whether you seek counseling, are medicated, or choose to cope with your depression on your own terms, depression and anxiety are never going to disappear completely. One therapist I visited in my early 20s told me that I was never going to be the same me I was in my youth. She told me I was always going have depression and anxiety and told me that what I would learn in therapy were strategies to cope, learning to recognize triggers, and finding ways to combat the depression whether through medicine, diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, or other strategies. There’s no getting rid of it. That’s my own experience with it at least. This is my own experience throughout the years. I do not doubt that every experience is vastly different. Again, I am not here to judge. I respect everyone’s journey.
Also, you don’t know what a person is truly going through when they say that they are depression and anxiety sufferers. If the person revealed they had suicidal ideations the best way to handle that is to gear them towards professional help and help them develop ways of handling their depression whether it’s chemical or situational.
Do you think something as simple as throwing a party or saying a kind word would have helped Kristoff St. John’s son, and possibly himself, or Kurt Cobain, or Chris Cornell, or Chester Bennington, or Anthony Bourdain, or Kate Spade, or anyone else who has taken their own lives? No, the problem is so much deeper than you can imagine. The problem is real. The problem can’t be shaken off by one or two hours of laughter.
You’re missing the point.
Depression is not, “I’m having a bad day.
Depression is not, “I’m sad.”
Depression is not, “I hate the rain, it makes me depressed.”
I will tell you, from my own experience, what depression means to me:
Depression is not remembering what cash feels like in your hands because you’ve been poor for so long.
Depression is not being able to wash your hair for ten days straight because you just don’t have the strength.
Depression is talking to people who never listen to you and choose to talk over you because they find you inferior to them and you let them believe it because you have no more self-confidence to prove them otherwise.
Depression is not wanting to get out of bed in the morning because you can’t think of a single reason why you should.
Depression is leaving the house in old house clothes, not brushing your hair, or taking care of your hygiene because you just don’t have the energy to do anything about it.
I’ll tell what anxiety is not.
Anxiety is not, “I’m going to fail that test tomorrow if I don’t study.”
Anxiety is not, “It took me two hours to go to bed because I was nervous about that job interview that I had this morning.”
I will tell you what anxiety is to me:
Anxiety is not wanting your picture taken because you feel that the whole world will judge you because you’re so ugly and the thought of having someone take your picture makes your throat close up from fear of judgment.
Anxiety is staying up all night from remembering something stupid I said in front of co-workers ten years ago that no one remembers except me.
Anxiety is being afraid to speak up about your traumas and your past because people only ever tell you stuff like, “Why don’t you go to the doctor and get some medicine,” instead of offering empathy, compassion, understanding, and just being present and listening.
Anxiety is working hard to appear “normal” and human like the rest of the world so you don’t get labeled anti-social or an outcast on days you just feel like being by yourself.
I am not exaggerating when I say that depression and anxiety are crippling and debilitating. I’ve tried the whole therapy/medicine routine. I never found anyone who could truly empathize or understand. I don’t want to mask my pain with pills, I want to heal from it. I want to address my pain, I want someone to drag it out of me, I want someone brave enough to want to stick it out with me no matter how ugly or scary it may appear on the other side of that dark. I want someone to carry that burden with me and hold my hand on the dark days, and then laugh and triumph over the good days.
My pain is validated. My pain is real. My pain can’t be erased by one-hour of someone’s attention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not miserable all of the time. I do have amazing days. I have days I wish I could bottle up like perfume and revisit them on the really dark days. My life is one big uphill climb. I just want someone to understand that, that’s all. I’m not arguing. I’m not suggesting I’m right and you’re wrong. I’m saying dig a little deeper and don’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty because depression and anxiety are ugly beasts that need to be slain, sometimes daily. It’s exhausting, my body gets tired, I’m getting older and weakened. But I’m not giving up. And I ain’t dead yet. Which means I’m doing something right.
So, in closing, the debate turned ugly, but it didn’t have to. Sometimes you just need to listen and hear an individual’s pain. There is no worse feeling than not being heard or understood. An old friend once told me that pain is like shouting in the dark with the volume turned down. It is invisible to most, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Sometimes you can hear someone’s pain almost like a whisper if you stop trying to speak over someone’s softened, innocent voice. Louder does not mean right. Experience someone’s struggle firsthand. We don’t measure mental anguish on a scale. This isn’t a competition on whose pain is worse. All of our struggles matter. All of us deserve to be heard and understood. I’m a lover of love. I may be a shy introvert, but I feel that I exhibit much compassion and empathy towards other living beings. It took me many years of struggling to earn this level of self-awareness and introspection coupled with an outward-looking perspective of everything around me. It’s not hard to hear someone’s pain, sometimes you just have to stop talking, and just listen. Sometimes a person’s silence speaks volumes to those who were once too proud to listen.