A few days ago, a retweeted comment flashed through my Twitter stream and caught my eye. Its author was someone I’d never heard of, and the message read:
I retweeted it instantly, but it took me a couple more hours to investigate further, when that line wouldn’t get out of my head. It turned out to be one in a string of PSA-style messages imploring those suffering from depression to be public about it, to not hide it from friends and family, to not be ashamed by it, because that shame can be devastating.
“We live in a society where depression, WAY too often, is seen as just a mood or a feeling. Or if it is diagnosed, depression is seen as something to be ashamed of. A dirty secret. A hidden infection. That shame, of course, makes it worse. Makes the person with the disease feel like an outcast. Compounds the problem.”
I’ve dealt with depression before, most recently when I was working at a job that left me feeling so utterly downtrodden that I sought help from a psychologist and even took anti-depressants before finally feeling strong enough to quit. I’ve known people, some very close to me, who have been bed-ridden at times with depression. I’ve also known others, also very close to me, who regularly said they didn’t believe in depression, like it was the tooth fairy.
The thing about depression is that it seems like a kind of luxury. Depression isn’t something you feel if you’re struggling day to day to make ends meet. You’re dealing with much more instinctive emotions then – you don’t have the time to sit and think about how you feel. So to say aloud that I’m depressed – and yes, I am depressed – makes me feel guilty the second I’ve said it. I think of how fortunate I am to have a job, a roof over my head, a family who loves me, friends I get to see often. I think of how many people would give everything they have to be in my shoes. Yet thinking those things doesn’t make me feel better about my life, it just makes me feel guilty for feeling unhappy.
And that, as the Twitter messages said, makes it feel worse.
I’m not here to say that I’ve found the solution, that I can acknowledge that I’m depressed without feeling guilty – I can’t. But I’m also trying to take the cue from the #sunlight Twitter messages and stop lying to my friends when they ask me how I’m doing. The honest answer is that I’m depressed. I’m not suicidal (don’t worry, Mom) – I’m just unhappy, out of sorts, and feeling a bit directionless. I’m not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life, and I’m having a hard time seeing the path to get there (wherever “there” is). It’s frankly a bit boring that all this is coming to a head just as I’ve turned 40, because it makes me feel like it’s a run-of-the-mill midlife crisis, but there you are.
So, even though it’s nearing midnight as I type this, I hope it’s the little bit of #sunlight I need.
You can read the full #sunlight stream here, in order.
photo by Dave Stokes