Today I had a very unpleasant interaction with a family member who decided that they are going to add their name to the list of people who have decided to tell me that my depression is a choice and if I just believe hard enough and think happy thoughts, it will go away. I call these people idiots. These are people, typically of an older generation, who have this weird idea about the nature of mental illness, and I now suddenly feel very bad for their child who is currently dealing with the affliction and wondering if they are telling him the same thing. That is most unfortunate. Hopefully he can surround himself with better people when dealing with this.
It’s no surprise to me that the family member in question is very, very religious. The idea that if you just believe hard enough and think happy thoughts and your ailment will magically go away is an article of faith. A horrible, horrible article of faith by people who either have never had to deal with this, or who have been indoctrinated by a society that really treats those with mental illness so badly. Most recently saying that only mentally ill people do school shootings or other violent attacks. Timothy McVeigh was many things, a lot of them bad, but if you watch the interviews with him after the Oklahoma City Bombing, he shows that he had a very clear rationale for what he did. He believes the government was evil for what they did in Waco, Texas, and he was fighting back against that injustice. There are plenty of people who have rationalized evil actions with a clear motivation. Say how wrong it is, and you are right, but it shows that they thought it out and weren’t just some crack-addicted hobo.
Depression is an illness that is so misunderstood in society. It kills me inside how so many people are so horribly stigmatized by it and treated so badly by their peers because of it. I live with this every day, and I will be getting into it. My goal here is to help those who are either suffering, or those who know those afflicted and are either unclear about what this feels like or are among the ill-informed people like the aforementioned family member.
I’ve had depression ever since I smashed my head open when I was 14. My head met a rock going down a hill on my bike. The person who found me was very reticent to call the cops, and I think that they might have hit me with their truck, but that’s a conspiracy theory that will never be solved. I don’t even know where the bike I was one is anymore. My depression is caused by brain damage. I’ve had my neurosurgeon and a neuropsychologist do the due diligence and test to see if this is the case, and that’s where all evidence points to. Because of that, this affliction is something I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life.
Not all depression is like this, but that’s just my case. For those who want to go into detail about all the various causes, there are plenty of quality resources to look into that I would recommend looking into. Here’s a link to one, but there are lots of others and I suggest doing your research.
How can I describe what it’s like to live with depression? Imagine, for a moment, that your brain is turned against you. It is actively fighting back against every happy moment or good thought you have ever had. That’s what it has been like for me. The family member I spoke of said that I can choose to be happy, and that just pissed me off so much. They do not understand what it’s like to be having a perfectly fine day and then to just have your brain do the thing where it makes you feel like shit and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It can come out of nowhere. Or I’m having a very good day and then something comes out of nowhere that throws a wrench in it. Even if it’s something small, there the tumbling down the rabbit hole goes. Alice in Miserable Wonderland.
I don’t remember what it’s like to feel legitimately good. Many months back, when I tried edibles for the first time, and it was really high in CBD, feeling the elation and actual happiness in my brain again, it was so joyful. I cried. It felt so good, that when the feeling disappeared back into this awful nightmare that is my day-to-day, it hurt me inside. Alas, I’m too fucking financially conscious to go crazy and load up on the stuff. That’s the thing about living in poverty. It’s the same reason that I don’t actively go see a therapist or get on a drug regiment. I already have to take meds for a condition I have. Adding more to the mix is money I don’t have. Not to mention time off work. I wish there were shrinks around who were open when I get off. But those visits are also money I don’t have.
When I have someone tell me that I am choosing to be sad, I want to beat them upside their stupid fucking head. They have no idea how crushing this feeling is. What it’s like to live with it. But the aforementioned family member isn’t alone. I cannot tell you how many friendships I have lost because of this. I can’t. How many people who I used to be so close to that now keep me at such a distance because of it. I suppose I could lie a lot. Be really peppy and happy and fake being well-adjusted. I know that most of them would just turn a blind to the problem and enjoy that because as a species we would rather have happy things around than not happy ones. It’s easier to lie to yourself about a problem than have to deal with it. Speaking from experience.
My relationships across the board have suffered. Friendships that dried up when they couldn’t take the negativity anymore. No matter how loyal I was, that loyalty was NOT returned in kind. Now matter how much I would go out of my way to help anyone who asked and is a friend, they would treat me like it’s too much to have the way I am around. Then there are the romantic or sexual connections. The people in my life who found that even though I was very happy to be around them and be in their lives, my depression snuck in and made my bad days very bad for them. Once-again, I suppose I could have lied to them, hid it deep under everything and told no one. Would make me a very popular guy. But if I didn’t have the release valve, I probably would have killed myself when I was 17.
Which is another thing – thoughts of suicide. Suicidal ideation is always in the back of my mind. No matter how good a day it is, there’s always that little thought deep in the recesses of my brain that says that life isn’t worth living anymore and I should end it. I’ve been fighting this for so long that I sometimes think about that line from Garrus in Mass Effect 3 –
But how long before the fight’s kicked out of us?
It’s such a struggle. If I had a social network that was more eager to help, maybe that would make it easier. Alas, I am born into a generation that will do anything and everything to avoid sad or negative things. Everyone wants butterflies and rainbows, and the second that they don’t have that, they get very, very angry.
Maybe I should post on depression forums or something. Find like-minded people. I think that’s part of the problem. People who don’t have to deal with this ailment just do NOT understand what it’s like to live with it. They all just think that you’re not trying hard enough or that if you wanted to be better, you would be. That societal misconception led to one of my favorite memes that I’ve come across.
People who don’t have this ailment don’t realize what it’s like. To have your brain constantly fighting against you. To be your worst enemy. To hate yourself and think that everyone hates you at ALL TIMES. To be trapped in your own head creating your own reality that has everyone not caring if you live or die. No joke, I have that thought a lot. Thinking that if I died tomorrow, virtually no one would miss me. On a conscious level, I know that isn’t true. I have truly amazing parents who have done more for me than they have any reason to, and I wish that I wasn’t drowning in poverty because of a job that I am woefully underpaid for so I could keep my word on paying them back. As it stands, I doubt I will ever have a life that is financially stable enough to do so.
I know that I have extended family that while I am not close with almost any of them, they would be saddened by my passing. I know that I have a few very close friends who would be devastated. There are a couple of people that I have loved or been very close to that even though one of them hates me now for reasons that have something to do with depression, infidelity (not on my part), and the cost of being the rock upon which I stand. I am sorry she hates me, but I understand the reason. Even though she hates me, I know that she would still feel sad. But this disease makes all that go away and those thoughts creep in like a cancer.
Depression sucks the life out of you. It takes the things you enjoy doing and tells you that they aren’t fun anymore. It has you desperately wanting to feel good and not being able to. It’s an iron ball around your ankle dragging you down into an ocean of despair and you have fucking idiots telling you that you can just believe and choose to feel better and that will fix it. I seriously wanted to scream at this person. I wanted to tell them that I think they’re stupid and how I wish that I could subject them to how this feels for a week so they could understand what an absolute nightmare this is.
It doesn’t help that my crushing financial poverty has me not being able to actually seek help that I truly do want. I don’t have the money, or the leave time, or the assistance. I don’t have any of that, and I wish that I did. I don’t have a social network that is supportive because I am part of the millennial generation that wants sunshine blown up its ass. Worst of all, I’m having to fight back the urge to die even though I genuinely don’t feel like I am living for anything. That is EVERY. SINGLE. Day.
What bugs me the most is that there are people like this family member who have this baffling idea that I want to feel like this. That I am choosing to be this way and that I somehow want it. I would give my last 40 years to have this go away. I’d grab a hacksaw and go all Dr. Gordon on it with my foot if I could make the brain damage go away. There is no price that I would not pay if it would mean making this horrible affliction leave me alone. But that’s not how this works. Not that anyone else would know that.
For those who suffer from this ailment, know that I’m here. Go onto any of my social media or even leave a comment on here and I’ll talk with you. Granted, that is opening the floodgates to be fucked with my trolls. The Internet world we live in. Hopefully this can help some of you know that there are those out there who know what it feels like. And for those who are stupid enough to actually buy the logic that if you choose to you can be happy, you are woefully ignorant and I am saddened that there are people who may look to you for guidance and you give them that bullshit.
Until next time, a quote,
“Because humans are complicated beasts. You believe comforting lies while knowing full-well the painful truth that make those lies necessary. In the end, Connor, it is not important what you think. It is important what you do.” – The Monster, A Monster Calls