I am depressed. I have depression, though I guess the popular terminology is I “suffer” from depression. I’ve “suffered” from depression as far back as my memories go. Everything from a young age has always felt empty and meaningless. Very few things filled me with joy or brought about any real sense of happiness. I felt like that as a small child, I felt like that throughout adolescence, I felt like that in my young adulthood, and I continue to feel that as I swiftly approach 40 years of age.
I don’t know if “feel” is the right word. I have a lack of feeling. A true emptiness. So much seems utterly pointless and devoid of even the glimmer of positivity. Every single thing is dry and repetitive and unyielding in its potential disappointment. Each day is the same as the one that came before and the one that came before was shitty.
The times I’ve reached true happiness, or what I perceived to be happiness, are few and far between. Every time I’ve been on a film set has been truly joyous. Brought together with various artists and technicians who collectively create magic on film for all to see. To wield our imaginations to create something bigger than ourselves. Manufacturing better worlds. Telling stories. Sharing our souls. I haven’t done a lot of film work but every single one has been momentous to me and deeply moving.
Doing drugs made me pretty happy. When you’re blitzed out of your mind and scraping the bottom of Heaven, there’s no room for depression. Not until the comedown. But the easy cure for that is simply more drugs. This isn’t to say I did all the drugs I did to escape depression. Far from it. I indulged in drugs to have a good time. And I had some great times. There were low lows as well and I’m absolutely certain my years of drug use have left their indelible fingerprints all over my psyche (and not for the better). Drugs were an escape for me, but not from internal issues. I didn’t really notice I wasn’t depressed on drugs until I stopped doing drugs. It was looking back at those partying days that I realised that I wasn’t burdened with my usual doom-and-gloom. I wasn’t “suffering” from my usual depression when I was high. I was too busy feeling good to feel bad.
There have been other times. Spending time with friends. Being with lovers. Personal accomplishments. Dancing. Travelling. They’ve all brought tidbits of joy. But my mind is a poison landscape that quickly and irrevocably finds ways to spoil those moments. I have this beautiful gift of seeing the absolute worst of any given situation, whether it’s true or not. It’s as inherent to my nature as breathing is. There is a constant, dull cloud that hovers over the potentiality of anything good around me. Taking every available chance to rain down and make all good, bad.
They say depression stems either from genetics or environment. I think I’m blessedly unfortunate enough to have gotten it from both. My father “suffered” from depression for quite a while (a fact I learned in my adulthood when our relationship slowly went from abuser-abusee to something resembling tolerable acquaintances). My grandfather too endured depression but succumbed to it 20 years ago when he ate a handgun. Inherited depression obvious, but my upbringing in a mentally and physically abusive environment invited depression into nearly every facet of my life.
While I’ve talked about the abuses I “suffered” growing up quite a bit, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Mine abuser was an expert at the unseen abuse. The unprovable. I don’t think it was intentional. My father wasn’t the sort of conniving man with the forethought to think about what marks physical abuse would leave on me (and prove he was abusing me). It was just easier for him to verbally and mentally abuse me. It was his second-nature. I learned later in life, after my father’s death, that he himself was abused by his father (my grandfather). Perhaps grandpa treated dad the same way.
Perhaps that’s what he thought love was. “Tough love” or some such machismo bullshit. I don’t know. I didn’t even truly understand what I went through as a child until recently. The last few years, as the veneer of mourning his death wore off, I started being able to look back at my childhood with impartiality. Understanding the things done to me weren’t normal or healthy or proper. Some of it came through in my book Accepting Gravity. Some will come out, I’m sure, in future blog posts and stories.
It feels weird to talk about depression. It’s easier for me to talk about past drug use and past abuses because they are just that. Past. I’m detached from them. I’m speaking about history. But depression is ongoing and oppressive. I don’t know how to address it with the same level of certainty and control as I can with many other topics. I certainly don’t want to talk about it while I’m actively depressed. I don’t want to talk about or do anything when I’m experiencing a heavy bought of depression. All I want to do is watch garbage television and practice immobility. I still eat, brush my teeth, go to work, go to sleep, slap a plastic smile on my face, but inside is a vacuum. I’ve never been so depressed that I can’t get out of bed, so I suppose that’s a plus.
Those few times I’m not depressed, that I’m actively feeling good and I’m not faking it, well… who wants to talk about being depressed when you’re having a rare bought of feeling good? To think about even the slightest, tiniest, slimmest bit of depression when I’m not actively depressed is inviting depression back in. When I’m happy, I can’t risk soiling it with depression by thinking about depression (let alone talk about it). I have enough depressing thoughts (memories, regrets, past mistakes, missed opportunities, unrealised dreams, etc.) during the bad times, I don’t want any during the good.
It’s also hard to talk about depression because it’s a sickness people can’t see. If you say “I’m depressed” there’s always some jackass who says “Just be happy.” Imagine saying to someone who has a broken wrist “Just don’t have a broken wrist” or someone with cancer “Just stop having cancer.” Great. Thanks. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Fuck me! I’m sad, why don’t I just be not sad? Brilliant! Thank you for saving me with your insight!
There’s a multitude of reactions that follow “I’m depressed” like a fucking plague. Virtually none of which are helpful. People mean well. Most people are beautiful, caring individuals who don’t enjoy knowing others are suffering. Maybe there are helpful words and I simply haven’t yet heard the magical combination of vowels and consonants that will make everything better. Perhaps there is a magical phrase at the tip of someone’s lips just waiting to cure all that ails me and it’s one simplistic platitude away from hitting my ears. But I doubt it.
The best analogy I ever heard about depression (that I’m going to paraphrase badly because I don’t feel like looking it up) is something like: depression is like when you grow up and see other kids playing with their toys and garnering joy from them, but when you look at your own you feel nothing. It feels like that, especially when I’m out in public in a “fun” environment. I see everyone else having a blast and I feel nothing. My being present and my not being present have absolutely no difference. But most times, my depression makes me feel more like a single balloon floating helplessly away from everything, only to eventually pop and float no longer.
This isn’t to say I’m suicidal. I’m not. There have been a couple of half-assed attempts long ago, but nothing with the correct amount of “follow through.” Despite everything, I don’t actually want to die. I’m simply tired of being alive. I see slim positivity in anything past, present, or future. My being alive and my not being alive have absolutely no difference.
My depression gets in the way of me getting anything truly productive done. I’m a musician who’s barely produced music. A writer who’s barely produced writings. The only consistent thing I’ve produced over the years is more internalised depression and that depresses me further. A fun, never-ending cycle. I don’t get work done because I’m depressed. I’m depressed because I don’t get work done.
It’s a depressing position to have. I don’t see a silver lining. I don’t see a hopeful end. No light at the end of the tunnel. Usually, a blog post like this comes from a place of accomplishment or hope. I have none of that. I am as depressed writing this as I was before I wrote this. I will likely be as depressed when I proofread and share. I wish I could tell you that I have hope for the future. I could actually, but I’d be lying and the entire purpose of me writing this blog is to be truthful (and truthfully, I’ve written so little in his blog in 2019 because I’m busy being depressed). In fact, I’ve started and restarted this particular blog entry countless times, each restart fueled heavily by depression.
It doesn’t help that most of us are depressed. Perhaps that’s why we frown on negativity on the Internet. People only want to read about good, happy things. They want to “Keep it positive.” No one wants to read about depression when we’re all enduring it. The planet is dying beneath our feet. Dictators are usurping governments left and right to the cheers of the electorate. Less and less money is going to less and fewer people. The future is a dark cloud hovering above all our heads. And in all honesty, little will likely change for the better. We’re too easily distractible. We’re too complacent. We’re too afraid of change. It’s easier and more satisfying to worship at the altar of the new Star Wars movie than it is to find a measured solution to homelessness. It’s easier to fear foreigners and immigrants than it is to find a way to abolish all the imaginary borders on a planet we all share. It’s easier to believe talking heads on television than it is to turn it off. I don’t begrudge anyone their distractions. I’m as guilty as anyone. It’s a big world with a shit ton of problems and it’s easier to be depressed than it is to come up with valid, working solutions.
My dog brings me joy. Simply looking at this tiny, innocent, fuzzy pile of cuteness fills me with what I imagine happy people feel all the time. It’s disgusting how cute he is. Every one of his traits delight me to no end. He’s one of the few constants in my life that brings me unbridled happiness (in the present). I have friends, family, a partner, all whom I love tremendously, but my mind finds ways to ruin those. Doubt constantly tries to pollute them, pushing me away from them (or forcing me to push them away from me). My failings in those relationships are entirely my illness, not theirs. But depression has never found a way to ruin the dog. If I could figure out why and apply that to everything else, I think I’d be in a good place.
I am trying, though. I haven’t given up. I have just enough willpower to not give up. Writing this post is a step towards something better. It may not be hope exactly but it’s a slow movement towards something resembling hopefulness. A tiny light at the end of a giant, dark tunnel.