|1.Severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.
2.A condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life.
When I am on an up-swing, or in control of my emotions and the chemicals in my brain and body are mingling in my veins in proportions that are just right, I wonder if my depression might be a warranted response to a life of excess and over-stimulation.
Sometimes, it even seems possible that the despondency and hopelessness weren’t in reality all that bad. Perhaps there is no “depression” being suffered here, perhaps memories are just dramatic figments of self-indulgent moments, and I really don’t get “depressed”, just bored or blue.
Then a teensy wave of it laps gently toward me.
It generally starts that way. Tiny ripples. Negative internal dialogue, anxiety, doubt, mild despair. Then I start questioning every social interaction, every parenting decision, personal or business interaction; doubting my worthiness to be heard, to contribute, be tolerated. To be loved.
Then I start reaching out desperately to friends, or even strangers for validation. A terrible and fruitless dance, yet one that I continue to bang on with. Needy Dee is so annoying and embarrassing, so I over-correct and shut everyone out and hide from my dearest, most honest and supportive friends because I am embarrassed and don’t want to be a burden.
The ripples turn into waves, and all the coping mechanisms and attempts to keep the waves from breaking over me and knocking off my feet are for naught.
Then comes the reasoning. Surely I just need a cup of tea and a few hours of sleep. If I completely lay off booze and go for a walk, and do as much as I can and no more for a while, then I’ll be back to feeling like a box of birds. If I can just say no a little more readily, and not take it personally when people are ungrateful or unkind. More importantly, I must not let it break my brain when the angry force of the many times I have let people down or caused them pain or disappointment comes crashing into my thoughts when I make an attempt to stop for a quiet moment.
Reason gives way to blame. Blame gives way to this dark, sticky, syrupy self-hatred that I almost relish for a time before the real deal settles in. Self indulgent and strangely satisfying, I take some time to acknowledge and comfort the strange, awkward and lonely little girl that exists in me and is very angry and resentful at this stage of my own personal depressive dance.
Then the waves breach whatever defenses I had built and the sadness really sets in.
I had a short but intense episode of the real deal set in when I recently spent the morning attempting to catch up on the mountain of commitments, either sought or placed upon me.
After making a little progress, I got a call from my husband asking if I was ready to go out for some breakfast. Apparently I was not.
“I don’t think I can move.” I whimpered.
“I’m just so tired of trying and it is no ones fault but mine that I feel this way. I try too hard, I take on too much, and I’m not sure anyone notices any of it unless I forget to do something. I shouldn’t offer to help and then feel so exploited. I’m just spoiled and awful and a terrible person…” I started to sob “You’ll have to come home and carry me to the shower, because I honestly do not believe I can move baby.”
As he has dealt with my episodes and antics for 11 years, he was not agitated by my dramatics, nor did he question my earnest.
“You’re not terrible.” He comforted me. “You are a fucking nutcase though, especially when your hormones are on the attack. Get in the shower and I’ll come get you.”
“Mmkay. Love you baby. Sorry I’m nuts.” I sniffled.
“Love you too. You’re absolutely perfect, well for me anyway.” He chirped.
I didn’t make it out of the house that day. And while Grumpy made me tea and comforted me our daughter snuggled in concerned for her generally cheerful mother.
“What’s wrong with Mummy?” She asked her father.
“She’s just sad. It is like the weather, it comes and it goes.” He replied.
She was playing games on my phone and took this picture of me during this particular down day.
“I’m fine baby, I just need to cry for a bit.” I smiled convincingly at my little blonde mini-me who feels other people’s emotions so strongly it is palpable. All three of the children have this empathy – and the chances are that all three of them will battle with depression, anxiety or some other mental illness at some point.
Arguably, the older two already have.
That’s the thing with genetics, they have inherited some great, good, bad and even some ugly from their father and me. I guess all we can do is try and spot it when it is happening, and assure them that they are not alone and it passes.
I’m not entirely sure what the essence of what I am trying to share with you today in this blog is.
What I do know is; that while there are silver linings everywhere, there are also clouds.
Every one of us is an amazing, complex miracle. Some of us struggle with depression, some of us struggle with other demons and difficulties. Some people, even, seem to go through life without highs or lows or being all too affected by other people’s feelings too terribly much at all. I wonder what that’s like.
I was really affected by a conversation I had recently, with a gentleman who said to me:
“The work we do in Kenya really changed my take on depression. One of the translators laughed, like literally belly laughed at the concept of depression and told me that it was a “Western” problem, because in places like that, no one has time for being depressed the way we do. They’re too busy scraping by and getting on with life: Surviving.”
It does seem to me that we are beggars sitting on beaches of gold. Sadness, emptiness and even depression are not curbed by our desire to surround ourselves with beautiful things and experiences. If anything, the lack of having to put forth some serious effort to provide the basics in life, as well as changes in our priorities, are contributing to our individual feelings of worthlessness and failure.
Ours is a society where flawlessness, riches, excess and hedonism are idolized. The sad fact is, we are all pretty flawed, and broken. The struggle for financial freedom and desire to have and do everything we think everyone else is doing puts us into great personal, financial and even spiritual debt. The race to keep up with the Joneses has become an epidemic. Sadly, the Joneses, (whoever they are) are probably in debt up to their eyeballs as well, and struggling to keep up appearances and crying into their pillow at night with the stress of it all.
The root of my own self-indulgent episodes of sadness is often fortified by the fact I do not understand how I can have healthy children, an adoring and supportive husband, enough of everything, and still feel utterly useless and empty and undeserving of any happiness. We have friends and family suffering through debilitating medical and personal issues and they carry on while I can’t get out of bed for a day or three.
Our children healthy and seem to be quite well adjusted, our day to day life is obscenely happy and filled with laughter and there is always an adventure to look forward to on our calendar. It makes me absolutely ashamed that I can’t embrace that joy and be grateful and just do some good from time to time and be content with that.
So I give.
I give time, and energy and resources, trying to show gratitude to the universe for all that I am blessed with, but no amount of giving fully assuages the middle class guilt that permeates my picket fence life as I watch the world around me falling to pieces through war, poverty, and human greed and cruelty.
In conclusion, I think; my own brand of depression at least, is kind of a Western problem. And I am very keen to get back to a simpler existence for a while and see growing food, consuming less, and cutting down on over-stimulation and reliance on technology and connectedness. Perhaps this will bring me back in line with a feeling of self worth that so vehemently eludes me as I reach for it through all the other fruitless shit I try to do day in and day out.
But then, I am reminded of the generations of women in my line of ancestry who did live simpler lives and fed very large families through the sweat of their own brows. These women, I have been told my whole life, had a strong faith and great personal strength. They shone bright when they were not struggling with sadness and hopelessness or the constant uphill struggle as settlers and pioneers in Canada. They got on with things and tilled fields and worked hard. And some of them, would go through serious depressive episodes of despondency that their own children remembered and shared with concern decades later to their children, and these stories eventually filtered down to me and will continue to filter down to my children and so on.
So that puts a considerable spanner in the works of my theory that it is due to our indulgent lifestyles that some of us are left battling to put one foot in front of the other from time to time.
Some people do not struggle with depression, and I’ve know those people to be somewhat heavy handed with the “snap out of it” or “build a bridge and get over yourself” comments. And you know what, there is absolutely a time and place for that kind of tough Love, and I genuinely appreciate the sincerity with which I am delivered their take on things. Sometimes a swift kick in the pants is exactly what a spoiled little drama queen such as myself needs.
Sometimes it doesn’t help at all though.
What I am quite sure of is this: The highs would not be as magnificent or productive, were it not for lows. Those bright, shining silver linings simply would not exist without the clouds.
I’ll wrap up before I get waffling too much more on this very loaded and meandering blog that has been sitting in my unfinished folder for months now.
If you’ve taken the time to read through this rather wordy outpouring, and you can relate to any of the feelings of helplessness or depression, please reach out to someone and soon.
I’m very happy to talk if you’d like to message me privately or publicly. But I am also not a trained professional, and won’t be able to offer anything but a sympathetic eyeball and hopefully a swift response.
Please take the time to visit one or all of the following websites if you are currently struggling with depression or stress: