I guess I’m not depressed.

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.

12 Comments

  1. The only thing I can hope is that his passing sheds some light on those that truly need help.

    • jeffandjill

      08/13/2014 at 1:21 pm

      Me too. It’s surely kicked up a lot of emotion, a lot of ignorance, and a lot of discussion. I think everyone should take a moment to think about what they’re going through and take it seriously. I’m still wondering if I ever went through it. I know I’m not going to throw the word “depression” around lightly anymore.

  2. Good questions and good post. Just wish there were easy answers.

  3. This is how I feel too. I’ve had these bouts of “depression,” but I’ve never seen anyone about it – at least not in the past 10 years. I snap out as quickly as I fall into it. Are they just feelings of sadness and low self-esteem? My bouts tend to be circumstantial, so that makes me think it’s not real depression. But there have been a few days, under great stress, where all I could think to do was cry. Is it just stress or something else? I don’t know.

    • jeffandjill

      08/14/2014 at 10:46 pm

      I hear you. For me, it can be a cloud that rolls in, independent of whatever else might be going on in my life at the time. It feel like I have a loss of purpose, and I’m unable to concentrate. But mostly it happens when stress blots out the sun. It would be good to draw that map so I know when I’m crossing into real darkness and not just temporary blues.

  4. In my mind, this just confirms that there are varying degrees of depression & that those that suffer from it can vary just as much. . . I think it boils down to an awareness of exactly that. . . Thought-provoking post. Thank you.

    • jeffandjill

      08/15/2014 at 9:50 pm

      At the very least I’m going to have a new respect for what that word really means. Thanks for commenting.

  5. I have been diagnosed with depression (when I was 15–30 years ago), and like so many things, it looks different for different people. You don’t have to be suicidal to be depressed, and not all depressed people are suicidal. There are varying degrees of depression. I go through periods now where I get depressed and wonder why I bother. But it’s never to the point where I think the world or my family would be better off without me. I haven’t been completely convinced by depression that I’m worthless. It’s like The Bloggess says, “Depression lies.” I am not so far down the road of depression that I listen to those lies (at least, not all the time).

    • jeffandjill

      08/18/2014 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you for posting that. It helps to know what others are dealing with. I have nothing to measure against. No way to weigh what I feel. This helps me and hopefully the conversation around Robin Williams will help others etch out their own definitions and tolerances.

  6. Great post. What you experienced sounded very familiar.
    In hindsight, I believe I suffered from depression during my final year and a half of uni. It wasn’t ever so bad that I thought about ending it, but I still remember the feelings of being apart from everyone else, extreme apathy, feelings of worthlessness. I didn’t want to talk to people because trying to remember how I used to be and trying to act like I was still that person was exhausting. I wanted so bad to be out of that hole and just be BETTER but had no idea how to do it.
    I did get past it (a supportive sister, a change of scenery, some adventures and finally finding somewhere that felt like ‘home’ are to thank for it). I still have the normal, regular bouts of being a bit down and wanting to be alone, but thankfully those times are now the exception not the norm.
    I can’t imagine what it must be like for anyone who has gotten to the point of thinking checking out is the better option. All we can do is ask if they’re okay, and listen to them, and tell them not to give up because it can and will get better.

    • jeffandjill

      09/08/2014 at 6:54 am

      I think that’s something most people go through. And it sounds like your bout was brought on by the life events you were experiencing, the circumstances. But I’d imagine for depression sufferers like Robin Williams they never feel like they find home. Or they suddenly go through episodes of feeling isolated even though their world hasn’t changed. I don’t know. I’m glad you’ve found your home. And I hope more people will find the support they need.

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