This is a very difficult post to write. I do not often share this part of my life with the world, but I think it is something that needs to be shared just now. You have heard by now that Robin Williams has passed away, and that he struggled with depression – most likely for all of his life. Many of you reading this have struggled with depression, or will struggle with it at some point in your adult lives. You would think that because so many people experience depression, we would be more aware of it as a society, but we don’t seem to talk about it very much, or understand it. Depression can come from many places, often from stress or overwork, poverty, illness, abuse, or traumatic events. It can also come from inside your mind, for no reason you can see. Whatever the case, there is one truth that you need to remember:
Depression can come into your life so quietly that you don’t even notice it, and use your own voice to lie to you. It steals away all of the happy memories you have and colors them and gives them back, until you are sure that not only does everything hurt now, everything has always hurt, and you are tired, desperately so, and you are very sure that everything will continue to hurt, forever, and nothing will get better. Waking up is hard. Eating is exhausting. You’re not sure you have it in you to keep going.
Depression is shame. It is feeling like the parts of yourself that might make you happy, that are open and wonderful and creative, are shameful and raw, and need to be hidden away from the world. Depression makes you so desperately ashamed of everything you are that you can’t bear to create anything. You don’t want to speak, because you are so ashamed that someone might hear you. You don’t want to write, because you are so desperately low and base and inadequate that anything you create will be an embarrassment.
Depression hurts you in little ways you wouldn’t expect. Your joints hurt, your head hurts. You feel like a stranger in your own body, able to feel pain and disconnected from it at the same time. Depression creates intrusive thoughts that show you horrifying things.
But depression lies. It speaks with your voice, but it is not you. It tells you that it is a part of you and you can never get rid of it, but you are free to tell it that it is not welcome. It tells you that you aren’t worth the effort, but it is okay to take care of yourself. It tells you that you should be ashamed to be depressed, but there is no shame in it. If you can trust me, just for long enough to pick up the phone or open a website, please believe this: the depression is wrong about you, and it is wrong about your future, and you don’t have to go through this without help. If you want to talk to someone on the phone, you can find a list of resources here. If you prefer to seek help online, you can go here. If you’re looking for some resources just to make you smile, here’s a good list. If you want to read one of the most accurate descriptions of depression I have ever seen and laugh at the same time because this woman is so amazingly good and unflinching in her descriptions, read Hyperbole and a Half’s Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two.