Do a Google search on ‘depression blogs’ and you’ll find a hundred million kindred spirits, all trying to encapsulate what it is to be ‘That Mental Health Thing Where People Seem Fairly Normal And Probably Wouldn’t Cut Off Your Head With A Sword’. Stick around for a few hours and peruse the entries, and there’s a good chance that you’ll feel a little better about yourself. But will you actually be better? I doubt it.
The problem with depression sufferers writing about depression is that we spend most of our time and effort simply listing things about depression which only people with depression will understand- basically like a shit Buzzfeed list. No one gets educated, because you can be damn sure that people without depression aren’t Googling this crap. They’re too busy being awesome and normal and getting on with stuff. Instead, we just create a cult of self-justifying back-patters and head-rubbers, eliciting cries of ‘That is so me!’ and ‘Truth!’, while no one learns anything new. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably helpful to have someone who is better with words than you sum up exactly what your experience happens to be; but, having been around writers all my adult life, the vast majority of us are depression-hounds, and even more have convinced themselves that they have the penmanship skills of a modern-day Oscar Wilde.
Once again, don’t get me wrong- one of the most important parts of getting through depression is the knowledge that you’re not alone. And, thanks to the interwebs, it’s quite obvious that there are ten hundred billion of us . But, unlike going to AA and having someone be your sponsor, knowing someone who also suffers from depression doesn’t seem to help remedy the situation. On the contrary, it’s often counter productive. You either end up with a wallowing partner, both of you going nowhere slowly; or you do that thing which clever people love to do to each other- you secretly despise them, because in your opinion, their depression isn’t even half as bad as yours. They’re depression-lite. They’re the Diet Coke of depression. One calorie- not depressed enough.
And what about the rest of the world? The ones who don’t have depression? Your friends, your spouse, your family? Well, they don’t actually believe there’s anything wrong with you. Obviously, they are nice to you. They love you, and they’d like to help. The problem is, you happen to suffer from something which sort of looks a bit like ‘being sad’. And they’re sad all the time, but they just get on with life. So you’re either lazy, faking it, or just a massive prick. Once again, this isn’t a fault of your loved ones- it’s more an evolutionary defence mechanism. After all, if we ALL believed in depression, what would be to stop us just lying down in the street and giving up? Remember the video for Radiohead’s ‘Just’? Me neither.
People who have depression, but live active, productive, successful lives, are even less helpful. Like ex-smokers, it’s an integral part of their recovery process to forget the times when they were ‘weak’ or prone to illogical and self-destructive behaviour. It’s imperative that they distance themselves from those memories; and, as a result, they have very little patience for someone like you- someone who is apparently wallowing in a pit of self-loathing and inaction, with no real motivation to change. They may tell you to ‘go see a doctor’, with the best intentions in the world. But you’ll just see that like you see any suggestion by a non-depressed person- another hoop for you to jump through in order to please the rest of the world- a world that’s supposed to accept you.
Well, here’s the newsflash: that world is never going to accept you as you are. They see you as a straggler- someone with all the opportunity and privilege in the world, who one day decided that they were no longer going to play ball. The only people who are going to accept you are the same people who Google ‘depression blogs’ and feel warm fuzzy glows as they read the Hyperbole and a Half lady validate their potential-eschewing existences. Which is fine, if that’s what you want. No one is forcing us to change. Depression is on its way to becoming a livable condition, just like Being Fat, or The AIDS. So, if you want to carry on living with it, you can.
Just remember that everyone you know who doesn’t have depression secretly thinks you’re making it up, and hopes that one day you’re going to get your shit together.
Enjoy the rest of your day!