I don’t write much about depression because it’s, well, depressing, and most of the time, I’m trying to run from it rather than acknowledge it. When I’m depressed I tend to hide from the world and embrace my bed like a long-lost lover come home. I sleep. A lot. Because it’s an escape from the disturbing thoughts that obsessively bombard my mind.
The holidays tend to exacerbate this ugly beast of burden. There’s something about them that bring feelings of loneliness and unhappiness to the forefront. Right now, there are many posts on Facebook giving out the Suicide Hotline phone number, urging people to call if they become desperate. But many won’t. They’ll continue to suffer in silence.
For those who don’t have a problem with this illness, it may be difficult to understand the mind of a depressed person. Just like I don’t understand what it’s like to have cancer, or be paralyzed, or lose a child. I don’t pretend to. I would no more tell them to “buck up,” or “look on the bright side,” or “get over it” any more than a “positive” person should to someone suffering depression.
One word: Empathy. A quality many lack, especially when they don’t understand something. Empathy is “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”
I personally believe the more sensitive and creative a person, the more prone they are to depression. They see more, feel more, and ponder more. About everything. But this can often lead to a downward spiraling of mood. Depressives are ruminators. They start with a negative feeling or thought, and they overthink it to death. They beat it until it’s nothing but a bloody pulp. Is it learned behavior, a default switch, in a sense? A chemical imbalance? Hereditary? Who knows, who cares? The important thing is realizing how dangerous and serious depression is.
I’ve been dealing with depression for over 20 years. I was never a depressed teen, but then again, I was partying way too much to feel anything. It wasn’t until I came down with CFIDS that I became depressed. Think about it. A healthy, outgoing 26-year-old actress living in NY, doing what she loved. Now imagine her getting sick with mono. Imagine it NEVER going away. Imagine all her hopes and dreams buried in a dumpster full of rotting food behind Denny’s.
Now I know there are people out there who get their legs blown off in Iraq, come home and start a foundation to help people like them, get married, and have a great life. There are others who are raped and tortured, write a book about it, and go on to counsel other survivors like themselves. I get it. Strong people turning adversity in to a positive. Rah rah for them.
But I’m not one of those people. Wish I were, but I’m not. I can blame it on my dad for yelling at me my whole life, telling me what a worthless piece of crap I am or I can blame it on brain chemistry. Bottom line? It is what it is.
So. Here’s an example of how my depressed mind works: I completed the first draft of my novel on Tuesday. It’s 90,000 words. That in and of itself is something to be proud of, right? And I was proud of myself. For the rest of the evening. The next day, I sat in front of my laptop, a little lost because every author says you should wait like 6 weeks before you edit, and I thought, Okay, WTF am I going to do while I’m waiting? So I start researching who I can shop my novel around to once I have a final draft ready.
Now, mind you, I’ve published 2 romantic comedies already, but decided to write a dark erotic romance. Why? I have no idea. I don’t read that much erotica. Hell, I don’t even like erotica all that much. So why did I write it? Come to discover the market is saturated already, and very few agents want to represent it. As for legit publishers, there is 1 for me to choose from. 1.
First thoughts: I just spent a year researching and writing a novel that I won’t be able to sell. Why didn’t I stick with my chosen genre, so I could have a better chance of building a following?
Second thoughts: Most erotic authors self-publish. I don’t want to learn how to self-publish. It’s too much work that I don’t have the energy for. I’m such a fucking idiot.
Third thoughts: Just like everything else in my life, I never think things through. Instead of furthering my career, I’ve stalled it. Something I can’t afford to do because I have a kid to feed.
Now by this point, I have a tension headache, my chest is tight because my breathing is shallow, and I start worrying about how I’m going to pay my rent next month. And afford $100 bucks to enroll my son in soccer. And renew HostGator for my website for $150. And pay property taxes. And buy soccer cleats, and…and…
And the worrying starts to spiral out of control. Depressed people don’t just think of the problem at hand (In my case, writing a ms that won’t sell). They remember every. single. problem they’ve ever had since birth.
If only I were smarter, or married, or healthier, or skinnier, or richer, or my mother had breastfed me…fill in the blank.
I shouldn’t have married my abusive bf from high school, gotten into the car with that frat boy, done that line of meth, driven while drunk, picked up that hooker who turned out to be a guy, gotten that awful nose job…fill in the blank.
I should have gone to grad school, never quit that high-paying job even though it made me miserable, stayed on the Pill, kicked my husband out 5 years before, gotten my breasts done a long time ago, checked her license to see whether she was of legal age…fill in the blank.
My father, mother, old boyfriend, best friend was right. I’m a train wreck, a fuck up, stupid, ugly, fat, a douche canoe…fill in the blank.
I’m going to be 80 years old, poor, single, unhappy, fat, my cats will eat my dead body, no one will come to my funeral…fill in the blank.
This is how the depressed mind works. Or at least how mine does. Cognitive therapy helps if you’re willing to do the work. Meds only do so much for a while. Many lose the battle, because once that desperate hopelessness sets in, magnifying the feeling that nothing will ever change, that you’re going to feel this miserable torturous mindfuck forever, suicide seems like the only relief in sight. People usually don’t commit suicide because they want to end their lives; they commit suicide because they don’t want to feel the pain anymore. That’s an important distinction, and it truly breaks my heart. Because we’re not bad people. We’re not weak. We’re usually nicer and more successful than we think. And although I’ve had close friends accuse me of being negative (I’ve even lost best friends over it), I believe it’s more about their own self-centeredness in not wanting to be brought down. Again, they’re lacking that empathy factor.
I, on the other hand, because I’ve gone through so much hardship in my life would never berate or shun a person for being down, or negative, or suicidal. I’ve had strangers talk to me for hours, telling me all their problems or admit they’re wanting to commit suicide. Why? Because I genuinely listen, so they feel safe. I don’t judge them or tell them to turn that frown upside down. How many people can genuinely listen to the pain of another without judgment or telling them what to do to make themselves better? I’ve only met one or two.
If you need someone to listen and you have no one to talk to with a sympathetic ear, please, please, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255–24/7. Or message me here. You are not alone.