“This is not a weak brain; this brain is strong and resilient.”
Yes, I only want to blog about art and the outdoors and positive mental health progress as asides. But lately, I haven’t been able to think about art. I would like to get back to art ASAP and here is how this will help me do that.
Fragile but beautiful cups
*If you are suffering from depression right now, and have gotten to a point where you’re simply denying how much pain you feel through other means everyday, seek help now. Thinking positive thoughts and faking till you make it sometimes just isn’t enough. Seek help.
I’ve thought and written so many things about depression, none of them good. But what I never did was talk. For some reason-and now I know because I simply didn’t have the language to describe why it hurt so much-I could only think about it. I never meant to shut anyone out. But now I see that’s what people feel, because I know myself how much it hurts to feel a friend shut me out. Nothing hurts more than that. I know the people who helped me think I didn’t trust them enough, because I’ve been on the receiving end, too. But the opposite is true: it’s that just having them by my side was the only way I could stand touching that pain that I told no one, not even myself.
I used to think depression was just losing enjoyment in what you loved and feeling numb and wanting to die. But the depression I feel is a very different thing: after working with a counsellor for a year, I feel a wide range of emotions, and I see how my feelings have a shape and root. But while I still enjoy the things that I do, even more so, and even though I don’t want to die, I am not depression-free. Counselling helps me nurture the side of me that withers when I don’t know how to deal with depression. But what it can’t do it take away enough of that pain when it gets too much. For that I’d need to lose parts of my memory permanently or, god forbid, medication.
That’s the funny thing. When I was first severely depressed when I was eighteen, I wanted medication. I was in a bad state of mind, and I knew everyone just medicated their woes away some way or the other. But I was too afraid to ever try anything, and too socially anxious to go to a counsellor. Plus-again-I didn’t know how to voice my pain. I saw it as an obsession of my own, a selfish need to feel self pity and inflict my own pain because “there was nothing bad about my life.” I convinced myself my life was great, not because it was, but because it didn’t make a difference to me if that life was good or bad. So it might have well been a good life. I smiled my way through everything and paid the price. I didn’t have the language to ask for help.
So, when my counsellor pulled out a depression assessment again, five months after our first counselling session, I was happy to score eight points lower than the first time. But my counsellor looked at me in concern and told me that my score was still too high. And really, I went with the lower of my guesstimates on that scale. It took those kind words and the “have you considered medication?” from my counsellor realize that I desperately need help. That it doesn’t matter if I’ve internalized my depression so deeply that I hold pain in my head as easily as I hold grocery lists. It doesn’t matter that I can live with my depression, because the only way I can do it is by denying myself a fulfilling life. I could confidently say that I had been underachieving for a long, long time and that finally, it was not okay. Even if I felt okay, even if I could smile, and enjoy some semblance of life, I couldn’t do it forever. It wasn’t healthy, nor fun. When your will to live is predicated on a lie, your life becomes a series of coping mechanisms until you get help.
And that is why, for the first time, I’m allowing myself the grace of getting medical help. Even now, it’s so hard to get to the point. I’m so used to burying the most painful encounters. How did I get here? That’s a question I could ask all the time. How did I get to this point? How did I finally find the courage to walk into the hospital and ask for help? Well, the answer is simple: I only had it in me to seek help, but I didn’t have it in me if there was nothing offered. Under that stress of wanting to live but not wanting to hurt, I went, even though it felt like walking back into a teenage memory. The hospital represents all the other times I felt like I had nothing to live for, out of no fault of its own: every place where I’ve forced to acknowledge my pain, I fear.
I can’t see how much I hurt. I can only feel it, relative to how hurt I’ve been all my life-not so great a scale. Post-counselling session, I could finally see just how much I really was not normal. The first observation was that I was completely off base about my feelings. Although I now knew I hurt, it far exceeded what I would expect and I had no more ways of abating it than I did when I first pushed it down. The second was that I still had an intense fear about discussing, and feeling, depression. Anxiety, sure: it feels better to discuss your fears, and the symptoms are physical, and everyone knows what anxiety feels like. But depression? It wasn’t even something I could think about, let alone discuss, without feeling an uncontrollable amount of helplessness and sadness. I waited hours after counselling before I felt good enough to walk to the hospital to book a consultation. And when I did, the third factor came into play: I never did overcome the trauma of my first depressive episode. Revisiting a hospital for the first time for three years, the pain was just as fresh as it was the days after depression and anxiety forced me to visit. As if an eating disorder and various OCD behaviours would ever fit under the category of “therapeutic self help”.
Trying medication is only the first step. But that’s a first step I should have made three or four years ago. A paradoxical move for someone who advocates mental health/self care and openness, I have split my personality into equal parts pain and self. Every hidden fibre of my being recognized itself as I walked into that hospital, pleading me to lie in a bed, to the point where I could only ignore the impulse by staring straight ahead. I needed comfort and rest more than anything else I ever needed for years, my whole life. I needed professional assessment and help. Unlike when I was eighteen, I was now an adult and I was free to make choices. If and when it comes to it, I should not be ashamed or angry at how much I need to rest and let myself be helped.
I’m by choice an optimistic, high energy person-I know I’ve inspired a lot of people with that. But I am definitely not depression. It is half of me, I’ll give it that. But I made the choice four years ago that I wasn’t giving up, and that was long enough to see that I was worth living. If the pain can be stopped, I will look for ways to stop it, constructively. If I can just extricate myself long enough, I will be able to see what I look like without depression. And I think not just me, but everyone else who has made it possible for me to enjoy life will be excited to see just who I am.
*This was probably the most lucid and coherent thing I said for two years, because blocking traumatic memories and feelings is indiscriminate. I have been unable to spell, write grammatically correctly, or organically/creatively, or only so with great difficulty, for a long time.
**The actual cause of my depression is quite convoluted and based on a strange and specific opposing set of circumstances that I never saw were related until today. But they are based on two facets of me, family history and sexual orientation, that I can’t change. Because of this, it is no longer useful to simply try to rehabilitate my brain and thought patterns alone to try to “fix” things that can’t be “fixed”. It is only possible to deal with it, with the help of something to abate the pain long to really confront those opposing circumstances without internalizing the depression.
***I’m thankful my brain has allowed me to stay here all this time, even through all the abuse I throw at it and the help I deny it. This is not a weak brain; this brain is strong and resilient.