Depression is often thought to be the scars of a horrible experience. And that is in no way false. Depression can certainly be constructed in response to a traumatic event. This is not always the case though. My own life has not had any dramatic hardship (outside of my depression). All in all my life is pretty blessed. I haven’t faced any great loss or injury, and yet this disease still exists very strongly in me.
The basic principle in a fight is to incapacitate whoever you’re fighting while minimizing the damage done to yourself. To tackle both of these things at once, you first target those things which give them the ability to fight back. You want their defenses to be nonexistent, or at least so weak that they are a minor obstacle.
What people need to know about depression is that this is what it does with a horrifying efficiency.
When you have depression it’s like you have two shadows. One is the thing that gets cast when light is present. The other is, of course, depression, which follows you around day and night without reprieve. Unlike your actual shadow, there aren’t periods of time when it isn’t there.
There’s a stigma that surrounds mental illness in general. There’s a sense of shame that comes with it in a lot of cases. Some people view it as a sign of weakness. It makes it difficult to open up about the kinds of feelings that depression creates. And when you do let others see it, there’s a chance you’ll get the “well just toughen up” or “you just gotta pull yourself up by your boot straps and be a man about it”. It’s degrading for you to be feeling all this pain and not know why, and then for someone to tell you that it’s just because you’re not strong enough or are just being a wimp. In fact it’s gut wrenchingly painful. When you believe what you’re being told (which because of the disease you tend to believe the worst about yourself anyways), you start to see your sickness as a personal flaw instead of as a situation that you were born into. I wrote an entire post about how depression isn’t a choice, so I’ll digress from that.
The reason I bring this up is because feelings of shame are a powerful force. When you feel shame, you want to hide whatever it is that causes it. Depression is no different. You don’t want others to see what you’re feeling, so you bury it deep. You hide it under your smile, your sense of humor, your relationships with others; you throw anything you can on top of it so that it doesn’t see the light of day and others won’t be aware of it. Some people are really good at this, and that’s why you hear people say, “I would have never expected you to have depression”. I was told this a lot when I was first diagnosed. Some are better than others, but you learn to hide the things you don’t want others to see in whatever way you can.
Recently I was joking with my brother about how I got the bad end of the genetics from our parents. I mentioned that, among the bad hair and sight problems, I had gotten all of the anxiety from my parents and it had compounded in me. It was at this point that his roommate looked at me and said, “Yeah, but you can get over that”. I was expecting a joking answer when I asked him how to do so; in all seriousness he told me, “You just decide not to.” Decide not to? You mean to tell me this is a matter of choice? You think that this is something I choose to keep subjecting myself to?