A few months ago, I told a friend at work that I struggle with depression. She was surprised and said, “How can you be depressed with your job and your family? You don’t have any problems.”
I swallowed hard. No, as a cancer survivor I don’t have any problems at all. I’m not anxious about recurrence. I didn’t just take on $20,000 in debt to replace my sewer lines. My list went on and on.
But, then I stopped and realized, I’m not depressed because of these things. It’s not cause and effect. It’s depression, and depression defies rationality. It doesn’t follow the laws of physics or of logic.
Depression means two totally opposed things can be true at the same time.
And, believe me, if she’s shocked at my inability to find joy in my very good life, it’s tiny compared to my shame. I know my life is good. I know I’m privileged. I know there are people with much less than I have who are happy and joyful.
In truth, I’m grateful for my life. And, I say this out loud or in writing every day. I make myself take stock of the good.
But, then, the wind started blowing yesterday. The temperature rose. The sun came out.
As the world warmed up and brightened around me, the wind stirred up anxiety in my gut and a cloud of despair descended. I went to my office after a meeting at the end of the day and put my head down on my desk and cried. I didn’t even want to go home.
If someone had asked me why I was crying, I would have had no answer for them. None at all. “Why?” is the wrong question altogether.
I’m not depressed because I’m a failure or ugly. I’m not depressed because life is hard and I’ve suffered more than my fair share. It’s the other way around. Depression reframes my world so I think of myself as a failure and ugly. It invites me think about how hard life is and about how much I’ve suffered.
And it hits hardest in the spring.
As a college kid who spent four years in west Texas, I grew into adulthood in the midst of a relentless wind that came every spring. My roommate and I would link arms to walk across campus so that we could withstand it. And, every spring that wind blew in hopelessness and despair.
I don’t know why. I’m not sure I care why. I just know that when the wind starts, I fight to stay upright.
It’s hard to look into a gorgeous blue sky, feeling 60 degrees warming your skin in February, and all you can come up with is despair, numbness, dread.
Why do I write these incredibly discouraging words into my blog? Why do I share this with you? Because I want you to know that depression isn’t a failure of gratitude. It isn’t the result of bad behavior or bad luck.
Depression is a paradox, a confusion, and a frustration. It can’t be fixed by thinking differently or being a better person.
And, it doesn’t help to be told that you have no reason to feel bad.
Depression just is. With luck and with privilege, I have family and caregivers to support me. I have good medical treatment. I have learned, sometimes, to just sit with it. Let it roll over me. Accept it.
I am learning to stop the script of self-loathing in its tracks. When I begin making a list of my troubles and my failures, I’m learning, day-by-day, to just stop. It’s okay to be depressed, but I don’t have to feed the fire.
When everyone else is out celebrating this amazing weather, I’m tucking my head, pulling the covers over my head and just being.
And that’s ok.
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