Depression is an Abuser
Here’s a novel idea: Maybe I’m not actually a terrible person who’s basically a lazy sinner?
No, but really though. This is something that, at 36, I am just now digging out of the muck of my psyche. In fact, this is such a recent and active mental archeological site that the use of the word “sinner” up there surprised me and then led to a WHOLE BUNCH MORE ARTIFACTS. Disclaimer for those new to this blog: there is a lot that is beautiful about Christianity, and certainly a lot of Christians actually act as Jesus would have, but the churches I grew up in were more focused on control and hate than on the love they pretended to preach. And, as it turns out, I just found a new layer of pain from having grown up with the belief system that if I wasn’t perfect I was sinful (full of sin, apart from God, alike to darkness, bad).
But backing up a few months. Sometime last winter my hands were doing the thing they do sometimes where they go numb or tingly or tingly-numb. I have been told this is stress. And lord knows it could be. But it also seems entirely unrelated to anything. It happens on its own schedule, independent of anxiety attacks. I don’t know. But I hate it. So every so often I’ll take a moment to re-Google it, in case I am missing something. And this time I fell down the autoimmune disease rabbit hole and, oh my goodness do I have a lot of symptoms. Throughout my adult life, at one time or many, I’ve had sudden exhaustion, weight gain or inability to lose, hair loss, and on and on and on and seriously on. And a lightbulb went off: mayyyyyybe when I get suddenly too tired to do something, it’s not just that I am a lazy sinner who’s just the absolute worst – maybe there is a real reason for it?
And of course, the thing is that there IS a real reason for it. I’m not feeling terrible just cause I think it’s super fun. And, regardless of what the spiritual leaders of my youth would say, there actually isn’t any such thing as sin.
And then just last week I read this (from this post).
Until I started taking my antidepressants, though, I didn’t actually know that I was depressed. I thought the dark staticky corners were part of who I was. It was the same way I felt before I put on my first pair of glasses at age 14 and suddenly realized that trees weren’t green blobs but intricate filigrees of thousands of individual leaves; I hadn’t known, before, that I couldn’t see the leaves, because I didn’t realize that seeing leaves was a possibility at all. And it wasn’t until I started using tools to counterbalance my depression that I even realized there was depression there to need counterbalancing. I had no idea that not everyone felt the gravitational pull of nothingness, the ongoing, slow-as-molasses feeling of melting down into a lump of clay. I had no way of knowing that what I thought were just my ingrained bad habits… weren’t actually my habits at all. They were the habits of depression, which whoa, holy shit, it turns out I had a raging case of.
I read that and started bawling. The bolded bits clearly came out of my own heart.
At the beginning of the summer I had that, for lack of a less cheesy term, breakthrough that helped me so much. And I felt pretty much instantly better. And at the time I wondered if that wasn’t just the high of a release after having been trapped in my own head for too long – and it turns out that, yes, that probably is exactly what it was. I had a terrible week the week that Robin Williams died and all that terrible shit in Ferguson was happening, and I haven’t really felt consistently good since.
But there is still a difference. Because things are clearer now. I can see what I am dealing with (depression) and I know that it lies, and I know that it’s real, and I know that it isn’t me. I may not feel good, but I am working to change my inner dialogue so that it reflects the truths. Instead of, “Ugh. I am so lazy today and can’t get anything done!” I say, “Wow. Depression is strong today. That’s okay. Tomorrow might be better. If not tomorrow, certainly one day in the near future. Depression comes and it always goes.”
For the record, I am also working to find meds (or something) but for reasons I won’t go into right now, that’s currently at a standstill, and anyhow, hasn’t been a simple process for me this year.
And then, this week, I started noticing that the bad thoughts were sinking back in. The abusive ones. (I nearly wrote self-abusive, but it’s not me doing the abusing and I will no longer blame the victim.) But I could see them for what they are. Nearly, anyway. It was like trying to spot ghosts in the mist – I knew they were there and I could almost make them out clearly. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to be able to take a clear photo, I just needed to know they were there so I could work to stop them and to change my internal dialogue. To take back my power.
Late last year I wrote that I am so sick of writing about depression. And then shortly after that, I wrote about how everything was good again and depression was totes gone forever and ever. That has been the story of my entire adult life. Depression -> having a good day and feeling like Depression was gone -> being depressed and being embarrassed -> overly hopeful that the depression was gone for good this time for reals. And feeling like I let everyone down if I was, in fact, still depressed (oh look! Another new artifact!).
Aw, how dearly innocent I was 11 months ago. It’s embarrassingly hilarious that I didn’t see what was so obvious.
I think I see now that I’ve just always been depressed. It’s hard to see for a lot of reasons. Partly because it looks so much different than my mom’s did. Partly because it doesn’t let me see it (it lies, remember? it’s an abuser, so it puts the blame on me). But also partly because it’s not really that bad. I allowed it to let me believe that I didn’t suffer from it enough so I didn’t really have the right to be gentle with me.
In fact, yes, let’s take a look at some of the more subtle signs of abuse (from this list), here are the things my depression did to me:
#2 Incessant lectures. Your partner constantly tells you how you’re so flawed and how you still need to improve in so many ways.
#3 Painful comparisons. Your partner constantly compares you, either with your more prettier or successful friends, and tells you how much better than you they are. (Also comparing me to those who are “more depressed”.)
#5 You get blamed for no fault.
#7 Your self esteem is crippled. Your partner constantly tells you how bad or worthless you are.
#10 The humiliation.
#11 Big demands. They set unreasonable expectations and make big demands from you.
#19 Emotional memories. Your partner constantly reminds you of all the times you’ve screwed up each time there’s an argument or a discussion.
#20 Your achievements don’t matter. Your partner glorifies even the smallest of their achievements and proudly brags about it. But on the other hand, no matter what you achieve or do, your partner always mocks your achievements and makes you feel silly for celebrating it.
#21 Denial. Even when you point out their emotionally abusive ways, your partner doesn’t accept their emotionally abusive ways as a flaw. Instead, they convince themselves and try to convince you that they’re doing all this only to help you become a better person and stand on your own feet.
I don’t know what the future holds. I know it will hold a lot of ups and downs. I know that depression will always be a part of my story and a part of who I am. I hope that I will continue to be able to make the distinction between it and me, but I also know that abusers are crafty and that I might not sometimes. I believe that the more I dig and the more artifacts I discover, the more I will be able to separate myself from the depression, even if the depression is here to stay. So, even though I feel like crap today and told Facebook that I was having a hard time humaning and was, instead, turning into blankets, I feel so much clearer than I did last year. And I’m holding on to that feeling.