[Content Note: Depression]
Ana's Note: This is a new series as part of the Health deconstructions. It exists partly because sharing overly personal stuff online is kind of what I do, and partly because a number of you have kindly written in saying that when it comes to depression, I Am Not Alone.
One of the interesting things about my current bout with depression is how utterly self-loathing it is.
That doesn't mean I automatically think everyone on earth is better than me (counter-intuitively enough), but it does mean I don't think particularly highly of myself right now. And that attitude can blossom into a really terrifying spiral really quickly.
For example: after a long day of feeling like total suck, it seems very natural for my brain to latch onto the fear that Loved Ones -- such as Husband -- who by definition do not suck, will eventually and inevitably recognize my suck and leave me alone forever.
And I recognize -- because another strange side-effect of my depression is that I can logically know the feelings are irrational and medicinally-induced and yet I still can't shake them -- where these feelings are coming from. I feel like total suck because I'm not contributing to the household by cleaning or cooking. I feel like total suck because I'm not getting up out of bed every morning and heading in to work like good, hard-working people do. I feel like total suck because I'm not creating things of meaningful value and I'm instead arsing around in bed, watching television, playing video games, being bloggy, and trying to force myself to eat more so that my spinal incision will finally heal. Geez, what a hard life you have there, Marie Antoinette, says the Depression.
So when Husband comes home from a long day of Work and immediately starts contributing to the household economy by Cooking and Doing Dishes, the fear sets in and sets in hard.
Because Husband demonstrably does not suck. I demonstrably do. This is highly obvious for anyone willing to look closely enough at the situation. And Husband, being the bright clever person that he is, will eventually look up from the Fog of Love and notice that his wife is demonstrably useless. And then he will do the logical thing and immediately and irretrievably leave forever, because that's exactly how marriages always dissolve in real life and I will have lost something of immeasurable value.
Cue internal, heart-wrenching sobs.
But wait! That part you can understand. That part you would expect. Depression, after all, isn't called that because it's Happy Rainbow Unicorn Farts all the time.
No, the really weird part comes two minutes later, when the wait, hang on, I'm only feeling this way because I'm depressed defense mechanism kicks in. Because at that point, what you want most in the world is to fly into Husband's arms and ask for reassurances. You still love me, right? You'll always love me, right? You don't mind that I'm total suck, right? But then your brain logically points out that, no, you only feel like total suck because of depression, and Husband doesn't feel that way about you, and therefore you can't go to him and ask for reassurances because then you'll be bringing him down from his Happy Mood into your Sad Mood and then you really will be total suck.
You see? You were worried that you were Total Suck for not being an equal contributor. Now you can also worry that you are Total Suck for thinking that way and bringing down everyone, including yourself, into sad depression land.
At this point, you -- or at least I -- start surreptitiously and intensely examining Husband for any little indication that everything is Right (or that something is Wrong!) in order to achieve that necessary reassurance without bringing up the topic and sending everyone into sad depression land. And eventually, Husband will do or say something that could be interpreted to be something other than marital bliss and the fear will be confirmed: you've lost him forever and it's all your fault for being sad. Or something.
Depression is different, or so I'm told, for everyone. But my experience so far has left me in helpless shock at how easily it replicates itself into a growing critical mass of awful. Logic and reason and You're only feeling this way because you're depressed can be absorbed into the depression as effortlessly as water into the dry Texas land without healing a single angry crack in the earth. Frighteningly, depression can and will replicate itself based on the very rules and principles of logic: You are total suck for the following list of reasons. Arguing against it very often just plain doesn't work even if you know what is happening in that moment.
There's not a pithy closing statement here because I have no advice for how to deal with depression. I'm flabbergasted that something like this is even "dealable" with over long periods of time. But if you aren't depressed, but know someone who is, go take a moment to reassure them that you love them, no matter what. Telling them they aren't total suck won't work; the depression has logic and reason and copious footnotes on its side. Telling them that you'll love them forever even if they are total suck is the only thing that the logic can't defeat because logic is helpless in the face of tautologies.
So go tell your loved one that your unconditional love for them is unconditional. Now.