It isn’t typically very easy for a depressed person to explain said depression. This, I believe, is one reason the illness continues to be so misunderstood. Certainly, the sadness involved in learning about depressing things keeps a good bulk of people away from the subject entirely. Why wouldn’t one avoid this if they had the choice?
Well, as those of us who suffer from depression (and those who live and love the sufferers) know this isn’t a choice we can make. There are choices we can make as a result of being depressed, yes. But depression itself… is an illness, just like a cold. Or Cancer. Or COVID-19.
One of the reasons I started The Turning Gem was to combat my own depression. A spiritual journey was a result of that battle, as well as just a plain old desire to be a better person. So, I’d like to share with you something I wrote while I was actively depressed. I haven’t had much time to “turn the gem” on this, but I do believe it is an important window into the mind of a person who is struggling to see meaning within a deep sadness.
I originally published the following on a mental health site called The Mighty. Unfortunately, unless you are a subscriber, it can’t be viewed easily. My hope is that these words find some more people through The Turning Gem. Please feel free to let me know what you think.
Here We Go Again: I’m not okay right now. I know I will be, but I don’t know when.
I’m a 48-year-old father of four. My youngest will be five next month. The first time I remember being depressed I was about his age. In kindergarten. 1978. A boy stole my Star Wars action figure. Greedo. Took it right out of my hand. Told me to go ahead and tell. I didn’t cry. I felt embarrassed because the boy was laughing at me. And so were his little friends. I don’t remember why. Doesn’t really matter anyway. What matters is I remember thinking, “What difference does it make?” Playing with Greedo wasn’t going to be any fun anymore anyway… because I would just think about the boy stealing him from me.
The next day that boy gave Greedo back to me. His parents wandered where he got the toy. The truth, I suspected, was the boy was angry with me somehow that he had to give the toy back. I suppose I felt that way because he returned Greedo with a smirk, a feckless “here,” and with one less leg than humanoid creatures should have. Yeah, for some reason the kid snapped Greedo’s leg off.
I kept that toy for years afterwards. Decades, to be honest. As a young boy I figured Greedo needed taken care of, now that he was injured. That kid had been mean to Greedo, too, after all. As messed up as it was, I related to that broken toy. I identified with him. Misunderstood and bullied.
Did I realize this as a five-year-old? No. But the memory has been with me all my life. So has Star Wars. Lots of time to reflect on what the exchange meant. My first experience with depression, as well as being bullied. You could say the kid did me a favor, stealing and breaking my toy. It gave me something to focus my sadness and confusion on.
Many days, still, I feel the same way I did all those years ago. Looking at the world with the same pair of eyes. Wondering “what difference it would make,” if I only felt a little happier. Retreating to the downstairs bedroom away from the world, and why? Why isolate? I don’t suppose there’s an easy answer to that, but I do know what it feels like…
It feels like everyone upstairs is better off. There’s a shame to feeling this way. A sadness on top of the sadness. And the older I get the more clearly I’m able to see how my moods effect the people I love. At best, I’m able to softly mumble out an apology. At worst I wonder if they’ll love me less, not understanding how hard I try to smile through it all. Once again going to bed feeling the way I felt 43 years ago. Defeated. Embarrassed. Wondering what difference any of it makes.
I think we, the depressed, think those words because we’re so often unable to control how we feel. We can make ourselves feel a little better by chanting “things will get better,”
because we’ve been through the cycle enough times to know what comes next. Possibly a worse day upon waking, possibly a better one, but tonight… this night… we feel bearish and feeble and forlorn.
But what matters most is that we allow ourselves the opportunity to wake up the next day. And the next. And…