Tag Archives: depression

Dark & Beautiful: The Brain & Creativity

brainsbrainsbrainsThe human brain is a marvelous and terrifying thing.

I once heard that science knows as little about the deep sea as it does the human brain. The last frontiers. Is that true? Really, the only thing that matters is that I can buy its truthiness. Science can’t even really explain why some PMS makes me want to club a baby seal, but other times I’m fine. Hello?

Yesterday, for instance, I managed to be productive and focused, but inside I was terribly, terribly depressed and angry.

Fortunately, logically, I knew it was just hormones and weather. I realized there wasn’t an actual reason I should be either depressed OR angry, and I knew where I was in my cycle. The way I was feeling wasn’t rooted in reality, and I understood that, come morning, odds were highly likely the mood would vanish.

And poof, just like that, it’s gone. Today I’m hopeful, creative, charged, and just bought the domain name for the creative and existential project to consume the next half decade of my life. If that’s not optimistic, even at the low, low price of $8.99 per year, I don’t know what is.

Perspective

I mean, how many people have the opportunity to point at Planet Earth and go “I want that,” then set into motion the mechanics of taking on the whole wide world for five years with no roots, anywhere, no limits? One in 100,000? One in a million? Lucky, indeed.

It’s knuckle-cracking elbow-greasing time when it comes to this little going-Full-Nomad project of mine. A friend has offered to help me set up my blog. I’ve decided not to host that content here on The Cunt. This place has been great for me, and I’ll likely still use it to unleash my wrath and rail at the gods from time to time, but I’m in a different place now. I’m a different person now. I need a new creative home.

Despite my older, mellower ways, it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never be Mary Poppins. Nor would I want to be. I like my wrath and fury, my joy and faith. I like the mix of pathos that swirls in my brain. My yin to my yang is right there. I may tilt and pivot, vacillating from seeming extremes, but I’m usually able to hold onto a small measure of awareness that, whatever the tempest, life is generally a smooth-sailing place for me. Or at least a place I manage to navigate without peril.

Storms are Genesis

Chimp_Brain_in_a_jarEarlier, I saw a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how it’s impossible to be a serious writer if you don’t suffer depression. I’m sure if he were to expound, he might have said something like it’s the variations of emotional themes which make great writers what they are.

They’ve loved, they’ve lost, they’ve lived to tell another tale.

Throughout history, writers have been the teller of the tales. They’ve kept the legends alive, passed the records of humanity from one generation to another. It wasn’t until humans began to write that we really had a record of not only the social structure but the emotional worlds in ages long past.

Writers record the human condition. We try to grasp what happens around us, record how it affects us, and inspire the next step. Today, different mediums allow for writing/recording/inspiring to happen visually, in audio, and of course on the page/stage/screen.

But all of it starts in the brain, when someone sees something and has a thing or two to say about it. Poof! A synapse fires, a thought is born, a project springs forth.

That inspiration and the ability to create something of where there was nothing, it blows my fucking mind.

The human brain is a marvellous and terrifying place, indeed.

The Psyche and the Fulcrum

Surviving nearly a year of dark, fearful deep depression baffles me. Survival didn’t seem an option then. I’m grateful my forays to bleakness are seldom now, rare even, and I’ve the faculties to buckle up and hang on until it’s over, which is never more than a day or two.

I have no illusions. Once I’m gone “Full Nomad,” there’ll be days where I find myself fatigued and homesick, wishing I had a bed all mine. But it’s days like today after I’ve told myself “It’ll be better tomorrow,” and I wake up, and it really is better, that convince me I’ve got this. I’ll have brief downs and see myself through them.

Done and Done

That’s another funny thing about the brain. The more we realize and act upon our strength, the more our brains can sell us on our toughness when needing a pep-talk down the road.

It’s fantastic we’re as resilient as we are. One of the greatest gifts ever given is adversity. It never feels that way at the time, but no matter what the loss or the price is, a healthy person will become better, stronger, more resilient as a result. I know I’m grateful to have proven already I’m “tough enough.”

Like the saying says, we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.

That part is inspiring and comforting. What’s terrifying is the brain’s ability to shut out all hope and languish in darkness. Science needs to unlock mental illness. I’m glad it’s getting more attention.

And Now, More Mysterious Than Ever Before!

Strength and resilience aside, the flipside to the possibility of that terrifying darkness is the jaw-dropping experience of creation. Some brains conceive rocketships to the stars, incredible food combinations, cures for disease, life-changing books, or soul-charging songs. Poof! Magic. Inspiration, creation. And so the creative cycle continues.

With every new experience, a new creative door might open. I can’t begin to imagine what seeing the world and blowing my perception wide-open will do for my brain. What will I create? What will I learn? What will I experience? How will it influence my thoughts for the rest of my life? My creativity? How much will it increase my resilience?

I’ve already lived through incredible extremes of the human brain. Or like to think I have. In less than eight months, I start the project that I hope will shake me to my foundations and awaken me from my white middle-class life, and change my world-view for the rest of my days.

Waiting will be a bitch. Luckily, Trusty Brain shows me positives in proceeding slow and studiously, while laying proper groundwork for a long, successful journey.

Way to go, brain.

Brains

I Fought Depression & Won. I Was Lucky.

It’s #BellLetsTalk day and while I hate giving free advertising to a company, it’s a day that does inspire a lot of conversation, and for that reason I feel obligated to say my part.

My feeling “obligated” to share my mental illness battles stems from being someone who’s been through both biological and situational depressions and who knows first-hand how hard it is to climb out of that, but that it’s possible (for some).

These days, I still get angry at people who suggest depression is a matter of discipline and keeping your appointments. “Oh, do X, Y, Z, and talk about crap with a professional, and you’ll be tickety-boo.” Right. As if.

Sunset in a cemetery.

Sunset in a cemetery. By Me.

Sometimes There’s A Reason

I know now, from this early-greying side of 40, that many of my mental issues probably stem from the fact that I had four concussions in the decade prior to a traumatic brain injury. I don’t know that I’ll ever walk away from anxiety and mood-swings completely. Maybe that’s a part of me now. It’s been 11 years since my head injury, but I’ve had leg bruises take 6 months to heal, so who knows about the brain, right?

I do know that I’ve overcome the worst of it. It’s like finding your legs at sea –a new normal can be found where one realizes their ups/downs and the triggers thereof.

Sayings like “knowing is half the battle” become truisms for a reason. Knowledge changes everything, particularly in the mental health battle.

It was life-changing the day I learned that some 80% of TBI sufferers go on to experience serious depressions in the decade following their traumatic brain injury. It really was life-changing, on a #BellLetsTalk day, no less. Two years ago.

In Good Will Hunting, here’s a scene where Matt Damon keeps getting told by Robin Williams that “it’s not your fault,” and Damon doesn’t get it until he “gets it,” and then he breaks down in tears.

This wasn’t quite like that, but finding out there was probably a physical cause for how I got so very fucked up, it was so empowering and disarming. It wasn’t my fault. I was “injured.” Until then, I didn’t realize how much I had always blamed myself for my depression.

But it really isn’t my fault. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s not our fault that science can’t explain these things better, or that we’re only really now studying the brain and making advances.

What if There’s Always Been a Cause?

I’ve seen news recently too where medical experts are beginning to wonder if there can be a bacterial cause or infectious disease behind the growing spectre of depression. There is evidence that this is potentially true. What if it’s a “bug” you caught as a kid that’s made you depressed all your life? What if it really can be “cured”? This is an amazing idea.

It’s also a dangerous one to latch onto. Depression is such an insidious beast that easy antidotes are a cruel tease. False hope can literally be a killer.

For me, I know now to expect lethargy, anxiety, depression, overeating, overdrinking, and every other negative under the sun when I’m enduring the short days of a Canadian winter. I’m one of the 20% for whom “SAD” could be a very serious affliction. So much so that my heart sings at the idea of being a nomad next winter and taking off to the south of Spain in January. Oh, yes. Positively giddy concept, that.

The Road Back

Reprieve will always excite me, even if it’s just me running away to a Spanish winter.

I’ve been through hell and back on the inside of my brain. It’s just a thing. That’s depression for you. For those of us who’ve come through to the other side, life is a surreal and powerful experience. Sometimes overcoming depression can be as simple as a decision, but those are the lucky and the few who enjoy that choice.

I often have moments when I look around the world and know it’s largely the same when I’m happy as when I’m depressed, and I’m all too aware of just how dramatically differently your brain can process things, and sometimes by fluke of chemistry or just seasonal weather. It’s astonishing once you see both sides.

For most, the road back from depression is an inexplicably personal journey, one that cannot be replicated, faked, or mass produced. For most, there is no easy answer, no one-size-fits-all trick. For most, it is a grueling, tiresome, troubling, exhausting journey where two steps forward come with one step back, but eventually, if lucky, they succeed.

Happiness, it turns out, is a process of elimination in which one of many factors is simply luck.

And if folks don’t succeed on their “road back,” they sometimes end up like Robin Williams, at the wrong end of a rope.

That’s depression for you.

Use Your Words

Whatever it is we don’t understand about the brain and its chemistry, the one thing we do know is that, for some baffling reason, just using your words, opening your mouth, and saying something to someone, anyone, can sometimes be the thing that saves your life.

It saved mine in August, 2006 when I called a psychiatrist and said I was scared for what I might do to myself that day. Because I was terrified of the “what if” that afternoon.

Since then, I’ve never again felt that kind of hopelessness. Never again. Never, really.

And I think that’s a potential outcome for many people who today might feel there is no future or hope. Maybe they just need to open up and admit they’ve never been lower than now, to tell someone, anyone, and start that journey. Maybe that’s all it will require.

Hey, it’s a start” has never had as much potential as it does when you put a name to the unthinkable beast that’s been keeping you down.

Trust me. Knowing really is half the battle. Put a name to your beast. Then get your fight on. You can do this. I did.

Depressions, Anxiety, and Their Link to Head Trauma

This is getting to be an annual thing for me. It’s #BellLetsTalk day today, so once again I’ll roll out the mat for my battle with depression.

I’ve learned a lot more about head injuries in the last couple of years and I just wanted to drop in and make sure I tell you a little about it too.

Turns out that nearly 65% of people who suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) are likely to suffer anxiety and depression in the SEVEN YEARS following their injury.

Think about that.

It takes the better part of a decade to get past just one major symptom of brain injury, like depression and possibly debilitating anxiety. Never mind all that cognitive function and language and stuff. That’s a whole other deal.

This is from MSKTC’s website:

Depression is a common problem after TBI. About half of all people with TBI are affected by depression within the first year after injury. Even more (nearly two-thirds) are affected within seven years after injury. In the general population, the rate of depression is much lower, affecting fewer than one person in 10 over a one-year period. More than half of the people with TBI who are depressed also have significant anxiety.

I’m not the only person to hit suicidal feelings a year or two after a head injury. I know personally at least five people who’ve had seriously suicidal tendencies within two to five years of their TBI.

It’s hard for someone who’s not had a head injury to understand the recovery experience. For me, I took a big spill off my scooter when I was still going 40km an hour, landed on my head with such force (even helmeted) that both my in-the-ear hearing aids exploded and blood spilled from my ears. I had a bruised swollen face for six weeks or more. I don’t remember more than about five events in the first six months after my injury, and my job performance continued to decline dramatically for two years.

I knew I was supposed to be tired, depressed, and that sort of thing, but I couldn’t realize what it was I was doing differently, or how weirdly changed I was in some ways. I couldn’t process how much harder some tasks were for me because I couldn’t remember how I used to do them.

My actual ability to understand myself was impaired. My objectivity was shot. My processing skills were badly diminished. Who was I? I was somebody far different than the girl I had become post-accident, but I couldn’t remember exactly how.

Life felt foggy, disjointed, and everyone kept saying “Oh, that’s understandable.”

No! Not inside my head! It’s not okay for it to feel so goddamned WEIRD and WRONG. I was crystal clear before. I didn’t lose focus. I didn’t get confused. And then the accident happened and I didn’t know how NOT to be all the things I once wasn’t — confused, unfocused, emotional.

And that’s what a head injury is.

Our brains aren’t just under dermis, they’re under thick skulls, buried deep in our head. When they’re bruised and rattled around, it can take YEARS to heal. Oxygen isn’t getting there. Sunlight isn’t getting there. It’s gonna heal by the grace of luck or not at all.

Me,  it took about four years to start feeling like myself.

But some things are different and likely always will be. Anxiety finds me more often. I get super-intimidated in learning new things when once I was cautious but confident. I’m more affected by the darkness and short days in the winter. I have many symptoms and challenges similar to ADHD. I get overwhelmed easily. I’m more introverted than I used to be.

Yeah. Without a doubt, I’m a changed person.

I’m still smart. I still write not only well but quickly. I process math and remember things a little better than I did five years ago (the accident was nine years ago). I’m quick-witted, funny, determined, able to conjure a quick plan of attack when I need one.

Today, I find I’m socially challenged at times because I get overwhelmed when details change. So now I know I need to give myself a few minutes to process the information, and even better, now I know to read the face of people I’m with and go “Hey, it’s not you, I just need a bit longer to mentally process this and then we can proceed” and I explain why. I don’t always remember to do that, but I usually do, and that’s good enough today. That’s the process. I remember to explain it and I’m guessing in a couple years I’ll instead be able to bypass the overwhelmed part and get straight to the “Let me think for a second–” pausing that won’t require me swallowing pride and saying “I’m different, wait for me.”

So there’s hope areas I see progress in will continue to improve. It’s head trauma — a lot of studies show it can improving indefinitely. But there are no guarantees, either. Science doesn’t know enough.

One of the gifts of wisdom and age is that we begin to know our weaknesses but also the reasons behind them. Ideally, we learn to work with our failings and help others do so too. We learn acceptance.

These are all true of traumatic head injuries. It’s hard not to be changed. The degree to which it will occur can depend on how hard the impact is, or how often the impact has happened before, and whether previous impacts had healed first. Coping ability depends on the injury itself. A strange and vicious cycle when often recovery’s greatest asset in getting well is the brain, but it’s the brain here that needs to get well. Catch-22.

We don’t know a lot about head injuries. This is true. But we’re learning. Just nine years ago when I had mine, the literature was dramatically reduced.

And now we know you’re likely to deal with depression and anxiety. It’s a part of the process. Knowing this is connected should help a lot of TBI victims deal with it. It’s a small but critical victory to be able to say “Hey, this is happening because of that. It’s not okay, and I have a lot of work to do, but it really does have a reason for happening.”

When you’re the guy with the biological depression, any little lifeline that explains why it’s happening can be a huge mental tool in doing the hanging on and hoping that a true battle with depression requires.

If that’s you I’m talking about? Hang in there. Talk to a pro. It’s survivable. I’m proof.

Let’s Talk Mental Health: Life after Depression, My Story

Today is #BellLetsTalk day in Canada. It’s an initiative by Bell Media to get Canadians talking about mental health. Use of the hashtag on Twitter results in 5 cents per tweet getting donated to mental health awareness by Bell, but the tweet needn’t be about mental health to count. Tweeting about a donut? Tag that.

This big-biz-sponsored day on mental health has prompted me to want to talk again about my own experiences with depression, because I know for a fact it has helped people in the past, something that fills me with great pride.

I consider myself major-depression-free for 5 years now. (Woohoo!)

Sure, I got pretty depressed at the end of my time in Vancouver, but that’s different. That’s what you call “situational depression,” in which you get depressed as a natural result of a situation in your life — whether it’s a death, a job loss, bankruptcy, or any other major stress that can result in anxiety and other disorders. You can medicate yourself to manage these situations, too, or you can just hang on tight, knowing that it’s related to something that’s going on and that it’ll pass. When I thought about the stress of moving, I was depressed.

When I thought of the life I expected after moving, I felt momentary glee and hope. That’s how I knew it was a situational depression and that it would subside.

So, I hung on for the ride, then I moved to Victoria. It passed.

And that’s life.

It’s a lie to try and convince anyone that once depression goes away it’s all sunshine and roses. It’s not. Some are prone to depression and moods. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m “prone” to it, but I know that I have been susceptible in difficult times. The safe thing is to assume that I might always have a hard time in some situations. I’m a passionate person. Maybe that’s part of the package.

I think occasional susceptability to deep moods is a pretty normal deal. The important thing is being able to recognize it.

When I suffered my major, major depression that was chemically induced by a bad birth control prescription that closed in on me fast and changed everything. It began early 2006 and lasted into the autumn. I had to ask for help. I had to place an emergency call to a shrink in August, and then I went and got meds, and things began to improve 3 weeks later, but it was a long struggle back to normalcy.

I took those meds until spring 2008, but had to rapidly get off them because I had changed my diet and exercise routine so dramatically (and would lose 80 pounds that year) that I was able to get my body chemistry back to normal. At that point, the “anti-depressants” began making me aggressive, and we knew what was going on: I was getting balanced through natural means and no longer needed the chemicals to regulate matters.

Since then, I need a combination of time alone, vitamins, quality exercise, and regular sleep to keep my moods regulated. And if I “go off balance,” it’s usually only a couple days before I’m back to where I need to be.

Depression, once you’ve had a REAL depression — not just sadness or stress or a down period, but clinical dark-as-fuck, will-I-survive-this depression — I think it’s always there. Like a mole on your leg or your social security number, that experience just becomes a part of you.

I don’t mean in a way that you’re always AWARE of it, or that you always feel it. I just mean that when a real wave of sadness or sorrow hits, you remember that time when you couldn’t escape that feeling.

It’s always a relevant thing. Any time those moods return, I think it’s when a formerly depressed individual has to ask themselves if the emotional response they’re having is suited to the situation they’re experiencing, or if their response is illogical and possibly a sign that something chemical is off in the body.

Last week, I had just that kind of a week. I was moody, depressed, not wanting to do anything, and after a few days I realized there wasn’t a causal reason that deserved the reaction I was having. Then I realized I’d not been taking my vitamins for over a week.

Boom. Took vitamins, slept better, and then next day I was back to a normal level of grumpy I-Hate-February self. And that’s okay, because I’ve always hated February, and then I’m like a little kid in March when sun comes and flowers bloom. That’s my “normal,” and it’s okay, as long as I know that’s what’s going on.

Eventually, being a survivor of depression is just like being a survivor of back-pain or the owner of a shifty knee. You’re aware it’s a weakness you’ve had, and when things go awry, it’s okay to ask if it’s a Big Picture situation, or just a fluctuating phase like everyone experiences.

And it’s still okay.

I survive grumpiness. I also experience a lot of joy. I smile a lot, even when I’m alone. I get angry, too, but then I tell people why, or I write about it.

Mental illness comes in many, many different levels of severity. Not all are debilitating. Not all are perceptible by others. But all of them have struck someone you know, someone who may not have had the courage to tell you or anyone else about it, and that’s the only thing shameful about mental illness I can think of. Please encourage people in your life to talk to you, to feel safe in admitting what they’re going through, because lives can depend on it.

When you’re in it, depression feels like forever.

When you survive it, it’s hard to believe you ever felt as bad you once did.

It can be survived. It’s the fight of a lifetime, and there are tools of all kinds you can wield against it. Talk to someone who knows.

If you’re depressed and you want to read an amazing account of what it felt like for Pulitzer-prize-winning author William Styron, read his Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. If you love someone who’s depressed and can’t understand how/why they’ve changed so much or why nothing you say seems to help, please read Styron’s book, and you’ll understand it for the first time. Here’s an excerpt in Vanity Fair.

_____

Don’t forget… you can read about my new, improved life I’m leading in Victoria on my new blog, VanIsleStyle.com, my take on a lifestyle blog.

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Ethics of Blogging: Writing, Interpretations, & Responsibilities

So, I cracked the depression nut in a rant on the weekend that had a lot of positive response from people who’ve been there, with more than a few quietly thanking me for saying what needed to be said: People usually don’t choose to be depressed.

Now, apparently my tone was full of “hate,” according to the writer of the post that originally angered me, who commented on on my piece (psst… she sounded angry too).

Come on, I don’t hate anyone. I just get angry. I channel my rage into my writing and other areas in life. It’s a productive fuel. In fact, studies are coming out in which they’re realizing that anger is actually among the best catalysts one can have. Don’t like things in your life? Get angry and change them.

But I don’t wanna go into the philosophy behind Darth Vader’s School of Wellness here or anything. Another day, another soggy blog post, friends.

You know what kills me about posts like the one that irked me on the weekend? The arrogance of bloggers.

Okay. Whoa, Nellie. Wait for it. This is a complicated stance I have, but it also needs to be said, even if a bunch of bloggers might get grumpy at me.

First: If I didn’t think my voice mattered in cosmic mix, I wouldn’t have more than 2,000 posts, 4,000 drafts, and seven years of blogging underneath me. Clearly I think bloggers belong in the cosmic mix.

That said: We’re just bloggers.

We need to write responsibly. We need to use disclaimers that remind people that we’re not certified in all things awesome. We’re a voice with an opinion, and all we’re often bringing to the table is our experience.

As someone to whom edge and attitude come naturally, I understand wanting to turn a cool phrase or have things sound awesome. I know why we get stylistic, chuck some hyperbole in, and embrace flippant whimsy. I get it. I do it. I love it.

But there are times you have to stand back and really see how your words will be taken, and you have to watch it.

This writer accuses me of misconstruing her words, like it’s my fault they mean BOTH things.

I didn’t pull my interpretation out of my ass. It was RIGHT THERE, honey, in the words you wrote. If you’re going to take something huge and life-altering like depression and throw 90 words at it, you can bet your ass you’re leaving a wide door to walk through on the interpretations front. This is why we have DISCLAIMERS, and I’ll get to that after.

As a writer, while I absolutely love pushing buttons, I think you’d be hard pressed to find many examples of when I’ve done so irresponsibly in a way that could hurt people. Depression is one of those topics I wade into very trepidatiously, because I know people are unhinged to begin with, and I know how easily the wrong comment can trigger something in someone.

When I write about depression, I now do so from a largely “PAST” perspective. I’m not “depressed” anymore. I’m normal now. I have ups, I have downs.

Someone out there’s probably going “Oh, see? You’re ashamed. You won’t cop to being depressed.”

No, you know why? Because I’m not depressed! I love the snarky side of me, and that’s staying around. I’m not ashamed of my experiences with depression — but I’m proud I’ve battled out of it for a pretty average, stable existence. It’s proof one can get out of chemical depressions and get away from that horrible crushing place. I pulled a Gloria Gaynor, man. I survived.

It takes a long time, but it can be done, and there’s no one answer, which is why it seems so insurmountable.

And BECAUSE I know there’s no one answer, I know there are people out there who are as smart as me and as big on research as I am, and I know they’re at home late at night Googling for things to read about depression (or insert whatever other hot-button topic people don’t publicly discuss — like domestic abuse, etc) so they can get other perspectives.

And when they DO find something on Google about depression, I hope to fuck they’re reading someone realistic like me, and not someone bubbling on about choosing to be happy and making it sound like it’s some short-term project that’s easily accomplished because that suits the smaller, quicker, more upbeat post they’ve been tasked with writing.

If you’re clinically depressed, it is mental illness. It’s not when you’re thinking clearly, and that’s exactly why I try to be as straight-talking and clear as possible, for that 5–10% of my audience who might currently be experiencing that hell and who need a relatable perspective that might make them feel like someone else has lived in that world too. It’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay to write about that.

You’re goddamned right that it’s arrogant of me to think I might play a role in shaping how they think about X-subject this week or five years from now, and to care about writing in a way that’s relevant on these things, but I’ve been given good reason to feel I’m relevant.

So, yes, many bloggers are arrogant. They’re sometimes more concerned with having a good read or getting their $50 payment from some blog magazine site. There’s this “nutshell” syndrome where everyone thinks just touching on a topic is good enough.

God help you if your post is over 500 words and you actually SAY something, you know.

While the writer of the piece that angered me, she actually had a few really great points on OTHER topics, and if she’d simply put a ONE LINE DISCLAIMER in the paragraph about depression, the whole fucking piece would’ve been FINE with me. All she had to say was, “Depression can be a serious and fatal condition, and while it can be self-treated, one needs to talk to their doctor. Not all depressions can be handled the same.” Then, boom. Perfect. Responsible. Big picture.

That’s it. That’s what that article was missing.

When it comes to blogging, I feel responsible to speak truth, be honest about who I am, get my facts right, and respect that my words might be construed differently by others, and it’s up to me to take a solid look at what I write before I publish it so I know all the ways someone might read into it, and if anything’s going to come back and bite me, I fix it up.

(It’s an old editing trick. Pretend you have no clue what you just wrote, read it “out loud” in your head, and try to understand it for the “first time.” Works.)

And here’s a thing: Most of the time, no matter how someone “interprets” what you’ve written, they’re not wrong. Not really. Words are flexible. They’re like cattle. They’ll pretty much go anywhere they want, and it takes a skilled hand to rein ‘em in. But that’s what writers do. Or, it’s what they should do.

Okay, gather ’round kids, and Auntie Steff will tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I took three weeks to write a post about my dead mother. Seven years later, I’m still proud of the writing and I remember how hard it was for me to get it done. I write in minutes and hours, not over the course of weeks. Very nervously, I published it.

Months later, it was Christmas, and I checked my email. There was a $500 “gift” on PayPal from a reader. She said she had never been able to express the world of hurt her mother’s death caused her, and reading this post of mine, she said she sent it to every friend she had and said “When I’m sad about Mom, this is why.”

Oddly, I’ve had very few donations in the years since, and nothing even close to that, but the Christmas Donation taught me something very important about blogging and writing.

In our very anonymous words, sometimes strangers around the world find some meaning, something they can relate to. On a microscopic scale, we can change lives.

I believe in blogging. I consider myself blessed to be alive at a time when I can have a voice in the mix. I’m astounded at readers’ abilities to connect and tell me what resonates.

And, like Uncle Ben told Spidey, with great power comes great responsibility.

So, when blogging about depression and other very serious things people are likely to take to heart in very dark manners, it’s worth a little time to ensure you’re not blowing things off, making light of dangerous conditions, and that your words have been chosen with all the right reasons.

Be careful, Grasshopper, because you know not who you write for.

Depression isn’t a CHOICE, People.

This post was in response to something that has now been removed from the web. The author of the original post, Mary Rose, in comments below has asked that this similarly get removed. While I understand why she thinks post is “hateful,” I respectfully disagree — this is an angry post, and anger was an understandable reaction to what was originally written, from my perspective.

I’m also of the belief that we NEED discussion about these things, and Mary Rose isn’t the first person to maybe be a little quick-worded in writing about something daunting like depression, and therefore I will not be removing this post.

This post should be seen as a snapshot of what someone’s mental process is after reacting to something they take the wrong way.

Anger isn’t hate. It’s a justifiable emotion, and, yeah, I was angry when I wrote this. It doesn’t mean I wish Mary Rose harm, or that I disrespect HER. I took issue with her words, and that’s clear here, I felt. The comments are where to disagree with me, of course.

Times like this are when we learn what kind of reach our language choices have — and LOTS of people are guilty of telling people to cheer up when depressed, whether they mean it as flippantly as it sounds, or not, and it’s to ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE this posting is directed. Thanks for reading.

***

So, I started my Saturday wanting to drop-kick someone for a post they wrote in which they asserted depression was a choice and one could just happily choose to move on.

Know how I know someone’s never experienced REAL depression?

When they tell you to move on, to “choose” a better attitude, to buck up and deal. C’mon, everybody! GET HAPPY! Let’s watch the Partridge Family and have a love-in!

Here’s an image for you. Tortured guy goes through life dealing with endless depression, finally decides being unhappy to his very core is literally too painful to endure anymore, and kills himself. Let’s say there is a St. Peter and some Pearly Gates. Suicided Dude shows up there, and St. Pete goes, “What the hell are you doing? You coulda just CHOSEN to stop being depressed. Wow. Waste of life there, selfish dick.”

And Suicided Dude’s jaw drops, and he goes, “WHAT? I coulda JUST STOPPED being depressed? Why the fuck didn’t anyone tell me it was like putting on pants? JUST DON’T DO IT? Who knew? Aw, man. Don’t I feel like a dumbass. The next 40 years mighta ROCKED.”

Right. Sounds pretty fucking dumb, doesn’t it?

That’s never gonna happen. Why?

BECAUSE DEPRESSION ISN’T A CHOICE.

Here’s what Hippy Guru Writer says about “leaving depression behind” in this blog post:

Depression is manifested anger and fear. An extension of the above. Take Usana multivitamins, Univera cell renewal, and exercise for fun. Do it alone if you feel like everyone thinks you’re a loser. Get out of your stale mindset. Enjoy the space inside of yourself and tell the demons inside that they are not welcome there anymore. Tell the part of you that doesn’t believe in you that while you appreciate its special, non verbal brand of tough love, you’re renting all the space inside of you out to new tenants. These new tenants are all the magnificent, hidden, scared, doubtful parts of you that have been beaten down by the giant called depression. Tell it to leave you now. You do not need it to sit on your face anymore.

MULTI-VITAMINS? Really? 30 push-ups? Insta-glee? “Yo, demons! Get outta my space! Hasta la sayonara, BADDY!” What the fuck?

I’d just tell her to fuck off but she’d tell me I’m manifesting my anger and fear. Which, actually, I kind of am.

Namaste. Hakuna matata. Awimbaway!

Image ‘Depression’ by David Baldinger. Source: http://www.dbaldinger.com/drawings/depression.html. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic

Here’s the deal. I’ve been down the depression road and back again. In my descents into darkness, there are a few things I’ve gleaned to be true.

(Reminder: I’m some chick sitting cross-legged on the floor in boxers as I write this, and not a trained professional who bled money for a degree to learn about psychotherapy. Mm-kay?)

Anyhoo. I’ve learned there seems to be both SITUATIONAL and BIOLOGICAL depressions. Now, situational is when it kinda makes sense that you’re down over a long period of time.

Maybe you’ve lost a job, got dumped, shattered your leg when skiing, have creditors chasing you down and no prospects, or maybe you had your mother die. Whatever. Being depressed then not only makes sense, it’s part of being human, and it’s a necessary journey for our growth. It’s not a DEFECT to be ignored and leap-frogged over, it’s a natural situational depression that means our soul’s hurting a little. It may be treated with chemicals, diet, and/or exercise, and that can take the edge off and make fighting one’s way back easier. It still takes a long time to do right.

Biological depressional, however, is a total beast and the reason why it can lead to suicide is because your chemistry overtakes logic, emotion, and everything else. It’s being under a black cloth and not knowing how to find your way out. At its darkest, it is a living hell that isolates you from your dreams, family, friends, and every aspect of your life. Your anger and hopelessness catastrophically cut you off from everything and everyone.

The most insidious part of depression is how it can take over and you’re so incredibly in the dark you don’t even realize it’s an illness. It’s been nearly 6 years since a chemical depression brought me to the brink of suicide, thanks to bad-ass birth control pills I was on that caused an imbalance in me.

The idea of that EVER happening again is terrifying because I had absolutely no control over this darkness that was consuming me for the first 4 months. It was a horrifying descent to the brink of madness for me, and I thank my lucky stars I got past it.

But then assholes like this Hippy Guru Writer come along, who think they’re being helpful for depressed people by going, “Come on, Skippy! You can do it! Just a little hill, and we’ll have climbed right on outta Unhappyville, boys and girls! YAY, HAPPY-CHOICE TIME!”

And do you know what that does to someone who’s actually clinically, biologically depressed? It increases the self-loathing, hopelessness, and frustration, because they remember the 287 times they have gone to bed at night telling themselves it would be better in the morning, promising that they would get up, “do everything right” and have a great day. Then, they get up, a trigger happens, and they’re fighting tears and hyperventilating, just because work beckons in 45 minutes and they need to “pretend” again.

So, on behalf of everyone who’s currently being crushed by depression, I’d like to tell you to fuck right off if you think you’re a part of the solution by telling someone to “get a grip” and move on. They don’t have the objectivity to do it for themselves, thanks to people like you and whatever chemistry’s at fault.

Luckily, I’ve fought depression on both the chemical and situational fronts, and I can tell you it’s as different as summer and winter. In my situational depressions, occasionally things transpire that I find fun and enjoyable, I might even have a whole day or week that’s good, and those are the natural highs/lows of a system that’s functioning properly despite suffering a recent blow the mind needs to heal from.

In my one chemical-based depression based in imbalance, it got darker and darker so that no light entered my life at all. I tried to think my way out of it, do things to cheer myself up, but it often backfired and became worse because it meant I really TRIED, only to FAIL AGAIN, so it perpetuated the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that define true depression.

Of course, being unable to “cheer” myself up then had nothing to do with failure at all — that was the nature of the illness. It took two years to undo, but I did it — with the help of medication, exercise, diet, and great friends around me. There was no one cure. There usually isn’t.

The last year and a bit, I’ve been in a mild situational depression because I knew I was unhappy, and I couldn’t figure out what part of my life was the problem. But that’s not actually a situational depression — it’s just being plain old unhappy, indicating change is needed.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried to “think” myself out of my situational grumpiness, either. There are times when thinking one’s self out of a mood works, but when there are actual causes and those causes haven’t been mitigated, choosing “happy” isn’t usually enough. Sometimes, you actually need to change a lot in your life, and that’s not always an option — especially not in this economy, which has given a lot of people reason to be depressed and scared.

You may think you’re giving depressed people a pep talk, but in actuality, you’re likely part of the problem.

Here’s an idea. Be quiet. Listen. Ask them if they need to talk, and just listen. Sometimes, there are no solutions. Sometimes, it just takes a while of hangin’ on, holdin’ out, and hoping. And most of us do those things in different ways, whether you approve or not.

But if all it took was a decision, they would’ve fucking solved life a while ago. Mm-kay?

Don’t just get off your high horse, shoot it. Please.