I know depression. And I know him well. I’ve shaken his hand and I’ve waved him goodbye many times.
The thing I’ve gotten wrong about depression is that I assumed he is a cut-and-dry kind of guy. That once you deal with him he will just leave and never come back. But that’s not who he is. He likes to linger, meander, sneak back in. Sometimes I recognize him immediately. Sometimes he might be wearing a mask, or funny glasses to disguise himself. And suddenly I will start to be afraid— thinking wild and irrational thoughts.
“What if ______?”
(Literally fill in the blank anything you want:)
-my car explodes
-my child falls down the stairs
-I have cancer
-My significant other secretly thinks I’m pathetic
-I actually have no artistic ability
-my “friends” don’t like me
Should I go on? I’ll answer that for you. No, because it’s a dark, scary place.
My mind will spiral and spiral. I will feel alone. After weeks or months of this I will have an epiphany or have someone I love help me out of the hole— “I know this feeling. I’ve been here before.”
This cycle used to put me in so much shame. Shame that I got to that point at all. Shame that it’s not gone completely. Shame that I’m not strong enough to control these feelings. And the shame would escort me down another rabbit hole. (Does this cycle sound familiar?)
I may be here a couple weeks, maybe only an hour. So I’m not immune to this cycle. I’m just here to tell you the truth and I hope that is enough for today.
Shame has no place here. Shame is a lie.
RECOGNIZE THAT FEAR AND SHAME DOES NOT HAVE TO BE NORMAL and it’s ok to ebb and flow in your thoughts and feelings. It’s more human this way. The world can often tell us that it’s one way or the other. You either have depression or you don’t. You either get your feelings together or you’re a mess.
ATTN: The goal is for you to be a human, not a robot.
“Perfection is shallow, unreal and fatally uninteresting.”
Now, I treat depression as if he is a sojourner passing through just needing a cool drink and a place to air his grievances. I nod and I listen. I acknowledge what he has to say. And then, it’s time for him to move along. I don’t invite him in. I don’t entertain the idea of entertaining him. I simply say “thank you" and wave him goodbye."