For the longest time, I’ve told myself “Yeah, I’ve battled depression.” But I don’t think I really understand what that means.It’s a word that I’ve used different ways for different reasons.
It’s how I’ve distanced myself from bad feelings. It’s a buffer. Maybe tossing the handy label of DEPRESSION on my mood was a convenient way to write off what I was going through as something that was out of my control. Like a cold. Or the flu.
It’s how I tried to gain sympathy from others. Claiming that “I’ve had stretches of depression,” could have been my attempt to emphasize my emotional pain and get people to understand that what I felt was real and serious. Even though it’s never been diagnosed.
It’s how I’ve tried to make myself feel stronger than I am. “I’ve faced down the big D and won” is a chest-thumping piece of ego-food.
But using that word in those ways really doesn’t do justice to the severity of the illness. They’re misdirects. When it can clamp down on one of the funniest, warmest, and, by many accounts, most beloved comedians on the planet and tell him that he’s worthless, and get him to fucking agree, then maybe I’ve overstated my own feelings. It’s the perfect time to take a step back and do a little reflection.
Like everyone, my mood has taken dips. I’ve felt alone, sad, worthless, scared, anxious. I’ve spent a lot of quiet time feeling disconnected and broken and unable to be part of the world. Like everything was taking place on the other side of an invisible barrier and while I could see people, I could never join them or be one of them. Like a ghost.
I’ve also felt the absence of happiness. Which is different than being sad. Because sad feels healthier somehow or more natural than not being able to find happiness where you’ve always found it before. The nothing feels a lot more risky. And hungry. But what is that? For me, it’s never lasted that long. But how long is too long for it to last? Is one weekend too long? Is that the edge where sadness becomes depression? I’ve always been able to pull myself back up. Have I even really even been there? I’ve never had the loss of appetite or insomnia or over-sleeping or drug addictions that seem to fit the Internet diagnosis. Are those mandatory for a true diagnosis?
Against all of this doubt is the lingering uncertainty: maybe I have battled depression. Could that be the most dangerous part? Second-guessing what you’re dealing with until it’s too late? Telling yourself that you can’t be depressed because you never gave in and gave up? Not like Robin Williams. That guy had everything and still he succumbed. If I really had depression, with far less success and excitement in my life (and if we follow that flawed logic to its inevitable conclusion: so much less to live for), then surely I’d have been gone a long time ago. Comparing what you feel to what others have done and reassuring yourself that you don’t have it that bad might be the greatest deception in this hidden war.
All I am sure of is that it’s a good conversation to have. The world is less funny today. And life is worth living.