There have been times when I have to preface a statement with, “and please don’t try to offer me support right now because it feels like you’re slowly suffocating me with a lambskin blanket you just pulled out of the dryer.” My wording varies, but that’s the general sentiment I’m trying to get across. Describing depression to someone almost invariably leads to an outpouring of well-meaning comfort and support in the form of “it’ll get better soon” wrapped up in “you just have to smile” and “don’t let it get to you.” It can also make people see you differently, because if so many other people can deal with their own minds without struggling this much, why can’t you? It isn’t like you have a real disease that requires attention and care, because it’s all in your head, and we all know that thoughts aren’t real the way that viruses and bacteria are.
I’m seeing this a lot with the current state of the country, and it makes me cringe every time. Granted, I’m one of those people who will immediately try to be helpful, but I’ve been slowly learning when it’s the better course of action to stop “helping.” Being sad, or angry, or afraid, is not wrong. As much as we have the instinct to protect and to comfort, that can actually do more harm than good in certain situations. It can give the impression that the negative feelings are wrong, and that feeling these things makes you wrong. It can lead to a sense of complacency when the negativity is a response to an external force. It can lead to self-loathing when the negativity is entirely internal, because why would it be so important to leave the negativity behind and run from it if it was something that other people felt, too? Am I broken because I feel this way, and that’s not the normal way to feel?
It’s hard getting out of bed sometimes, which is part of why I set multiple alarms every morning way earlier than I actually need to be up. Sometimes, on that first alarm, I’m still in that shadowy place, and I need a little bit more time to daydream until I feel equal to facing the world. Sometimes I have to look at artwork of my favorite video game characters, or find a music video for that song that’s been stuck in my head for the last week and a half so I can take a three and a half minute nap while listening to it. Sometimes I need to grunt at my cat because he doesn’t realize how heavy 15 pounds feels when it’s all leaning on a single paw jammed into my ribcage, but then I feel bad for grunting because he lays across my hip and hugs my arm to his chest with his little paws.
My dark places can be awful, and they can be beautiful, as twisted as that sounds. I think that knowing those dark places has made me a better teacher, because I can see that particular brand of sadness in a kid’s eyes and be a living example that feeling alone and afraid doesn’t have to stop you from loving your life, even if you don’t love it as vehemently every day. It makes me a better writer without question, because I’ve taken to studying my emotions the way that people much more intelligent than me will study fine art. I don’t whip out my little leatherbound, embossed notebook to scribble enigmatic poetry every time I’m depressed, not like I used to, but I study my emotions, and I file them away for later, when I can infuse them into fictional characters. I use them when I watch a movie or start scrolling through pages and pages of art online, and I understand more pieces of myself every time.
I think I need to write about this occasionally because there are days when I need to read it. I need to know that someone else understands these emotions on a visceral level, and that they don’t only survive, but they live. Maybe someone who needs to know the same thing will find this post, even though there are hundreds of thousands of these posts on the internet that are probably more eloquently written than this one, or that are funnier, or more sentimental.
But if you’re reading this, and you needed to read it, I want you to know that I am living my life instead of just surviving it, even when I have one of those days that takes four or five alarms and the threat of being late for work to get me out of bed. Even on those days where I’m listening to the same song I’ve had on repeat for the last 72 hours, or when I can’t manage more after work than curling up in bed and watching reruns of various incarnations of Star Trek.
And I wouldn’t trade it. As much as it hurts to have depression, I truly believe that it gives me a different sort of appreciation for the depths of my emotions that I wouldn’t otherwise have. The world is more beautiful to me on my good days than it would be if I didn’t have the bad days. When I’m in the middle of a bad day, or a run of bad days, I can’t always remember what the good days look like, but I know instinctively that they’re there.
We aren’t alone. There are more of us out there, and we’re a beautiful part of this world, even when we’re struggling to move through it. We matter. All of us.
If you’re struggling, please know that there’s help. There are people at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline who are here for you. If you need to hear another human voice, you can call 1-800-273-8255 at any time of any day. If you can’t bring yourself to speak aloud, there’s a live chat.
More specifically, please know that if you’re LGBTQ+ youth, The Trevor Project is here specifically for you, and also has a 24/7 toll-free number you can call: 1-866-488-7386. You can also chat or text. If it’s something you’re able to do, please consider donating to The Trevor Project. All kids deserve to know that they’re loved, beautiful, and important, exactly as they are.
My own experiences won’t be the same as yours, and the way that I feel and cope is unique to me. I share this because I hope that it’ll help, especially since this is that Awful Thing We’re Not Supposed To Talk About Because It’s Ugly.
You’re still beautiful.