And now, please rise for an announcement from the King of Overreacting:
Hoo, what a week. From working constantly to my anxiety levels rising to almost being kicked out of my house, it’s been a rollercoaster, to be sure. Everybody has their initial reactions to things, both good and bad, and oftentimes those reactions can be rather…intense. I think of all of these adjectives that people can use to describe how they felt about something particularly extraordinary: OVERwhelming, OVERjoyed, UNdeserving, UNDERappreciated…and it got me thinking. What defines something as being overwhelming and not…well, whelming? What about feeling joy versus feeling OVERjoyed? What line does an individual have to cross before their feelings on a particular event are considered stronger than the societal norm?
For me, it isn’t just about the intensity of our feelings, but how long we dwell on them. You can be excited about going to see a movie with somebody, and no matter how damn good that movie was, I doubt you’d still be reeling with excitement about it a week later. You can do better than anyone else in your class on a test or exam, but you won’t be in utter bliss for the next month. Many people’s minds consider the “alloted amount” of excitement for something good, and once that alloted time is up, you’re brought back down to earth. “You did great on a test, good for you. Yes, by all means, feel your excitement, your pride, your worth. But once you’ve done that, don’t forget you have more life to deal with!” your mind says.
So very rarely do we dwell on the good things in our life, our blessings and accomplishments. So mind, I entreat you to tell me, why must the things we dwell on be our failures? Our slip-ups, what we should or shouldn’t have said, why we feel like trash? Let us have our moment of glory for our accomplishments, but the minute we make a mistake, thrust every possible negative emotion our way like a tidal wave of despair, suffocating us for weeks, or even months, at a time? How is that fair?
The simple answer, as I’m sure many of you know, is that it isn’t fair. Flashback to our somewhat oblivious family member or mentor, reminding you that “life ain’t fair, deal with it and move on.” Well, that person isn’t wrong. I saw a movie a while back (it’s on Netflix if you’re interested, a little cheesy but still entertaining) called ‘Keith.’ This isn’t an exact quote, but one of the main characters said something along the lines of “shitty things happen to good people.” And yeah, that’s true. Shitty things happen to everyone. It’s just that those of us with depression are much more likely to beat ourselves up for those things than the average Jill or Joe.
So what happens when that tidal wave of despair drags us under its dark waves? It gets in our eyes, our mouth, our ears, and it washes through you, affecting your being as a whole until it washes out of our system. Funny thing is, for those suffering with depression, it works in tandem with that despair. It opens up areas of our brain that the despair might not have even touched if not for depression’s help. “So that person said one thing to you that could be taken as slightly offensive? Well, depression here to tell you that it probably means that that person hates you. Maybe what that person said isn’t even true, but even so, your opinion isn’t worth anything, so it doesn’t matter anyway. Yeah, they hate you, and probably for good reason. Hey, what are you even doing with your life? Maybe if you weren’t sitting on your ass all day moping you’d be somewhere actually worthwhile? Oh, who am I kidding. You aren’t important enough to be worth anything.”
Did it suck to read that? Yeah, it sucked to type it. The amount of times my own mind has told me something very similar to that is too many (and too depressing) to count. Whether the thing you’re worrying about is a mountain or a molehill, your depression will tell you that it’s Everest each time. “You won’t make it to the top, hell, you’ll probably die along the side, forgotten and a failure.”
Well, King of Overreacting here to tell you that your depression isn’t right. It’s sick, it’s twisted, it’s a plague, but you are more than that. You are a human life. You live in a world where miracles happen everyday. For as long as humanity has existed, there have been those who are overwhelmed just by the lies their mental illness tells them. But we’re still here. People are still here. We make it through, and you will make it through.
That tidal wave is mighty hard to stop, I know. Nearly impossible. But to echo one of the most overused inspirational quotes out there: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It may not feel like it at first, I know. You may emerge from that tidal wave, only to come up gasping for air, limbs shaken, mind rattled, coughing up water for hours. But you’ll know better how to shield yourself against it next time. It may take many, many tries, and you may not always know how to resist it, but that’s why other people are here trying to help. Psychiatrists, therapists, family members, friends, significant others…they can help you build a wall to block that wave as best you can. And, in the process, you may very well be helping someone else build their wall without even realizing it.
There are tools out there. In my last post, I mentioned “finding your comfort,” something that, no matter how influential your depression may seem on you, there is something out there that is moreso. To say that it’s possible to stop these waves of despair from coming in completely would be to give people false hope. Unless you find a way to shut off your emotions completely (and I wouldn’t wish that on the worst of my enemies), despair will exist. Sadness and anger and guilt will exist. But you can weather the storm. I swear to you, on everything I hold dear, you can weather the storm. Be a foundation, telling your depression that you won’t let it linger. Life moves on no matter what happens, good or bad. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and make it to the next hurdle. Even if you’re limping, people can support you. Pets are wonders at that as well. (In my opinion, there’s almost nothing better than having a terrible, no good, very bad day, only to come home to a dog who is ecstatic to see you no matter what your mind tries to throw down on you.)
I’m a stranger to many of you, but if I can help you build that foundation to weather the storm, to resist the tidal wave of despair, I entreat you, please, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m no therapist. I haven’t spent my life studying mental illness and how to treat it. But I live it. Like you, I struggle, every day, wrestling with my illness that tells me it has control over my life. It doesn’t, and if I can help show you that in any way, I’d do so without a moment’s hesitation.
Stay strong, because whether you realize it or not, you are strong.