I’m at the peak of my Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I’m mired in suicidal depression. Texts from people I love are going unanswered, my work output is pathetic, and I’m damaging the relationships I have.
I wish I had the skill to express what it’s like to you, living through this time of year. But then again I don’t.
See, if I was better, I could write a flourishing emotional essay describing What It’s Like To Be Mentally Ill, with the same detail that sometimes I describe What It’s Like To Be In Love, and give people a taste of what it’s like to realize that your brain sometimes just gives out on you like a bum knee. If I was healthier, I could write it up in a way that you got it.
And it’d probably get me hospitalized.
I get bitter. I do. Because whenever someone says, “You can talk to me,” I know that’s not true. That’s what my illness takes away from me. Thirty years of talking has taught me that I can’t be honest with anyone, sometimes not even my own therapists. Because if I reveal the suicidal ideation I’ve dealt with for decades, that can land me in a stint in the hospital, which could cost me my job, which would, not surprisingly, not make me better mental healthwise.
People say “You can talk to me.” Yet the profound truth about chemical depression is that it’s boring, and talking doesn’t necessarily cure it. Sometimes talking accentuates all the worst parts of your life, revealing this sagging weakness in your foundations makes you seem more pathetic with every word, and you come out of it feeling worse.
And that’s bad, because when people say “You can talk to me,” what they often mean is “I want to be your hero.” They don’t mean to, but they’re often looking for that shot of pride at having Helped A Sad Person Overcome Their Trauma, to be the star of their own movie, and when they talk to you for two hours and you’re actually worse off then they quietly think you’re no fun to be around and they start quietly distancing themselves.
The number of people who can sit in a dark hole with you and simply hold your hand are rare. Most people want to see you improve in real time, or they’re going to step away.
You may say you’re the exception. Most people say they’re the exception. But there are terminally ill people in hospitals who are terribly lonely because people tell themselves they’re the exception but quietly find excuses not to be with a dying person who needs them but isn’t going to get better.
There’s a lot of exceptions to those exceptions.
And if you do find someone who can sit in a dark hole with you, your thoughts are corrosive and insulting. Because you question everything they do. Your self-loathing is secretly attacking their reasons for being here, every time you tell them how worthless you feel you’re also informing them that really, they either are stupid for showing up or deluded or both, and enduring that subtle abuse is its own skill, and a debatable one.
And then, as noted, uncorking someone’s depression can be fucking terrifying if they’ve seen you as a mostly functional human being. Talking is walking them backstage, saying, “I know you thought this was a beautiful show, but the truth is this furniture is fake and this wall collapses if you push hard and the makeup looks cheap close up.”
They rarely say, “Oh, wow, you did a good job with what you had.”
They just see the gaps, and decide this show has to be fixed. Because if you tell someone, “Yeah, I’ve considered killing myself two or three times a week my entire life,” and explain that there are days you don’t drive because of your concern that you’ll yank the wheel to one side and destroy yourself, their reaction is not to go “That’s how life is for this person, they’ve fought this for decades” but rather “JESUS THAT WOULD TERRIFY ME LET’S CHANGE THIS PERSON NOW” and again, if you tell the wrong person about these continual sadnesses, you wind up being flagged a danger to yourself and hauled away.
There are a few people I do talk to about things, when I get really depressed. But I don’t talk to them about it often. Because I know that sharing this unending wail of torment I’m in will corrode friendships, and I need friendships, and the issue with being as mentally ill as I am is that the survival technique is to conceal portions of myself to protect the people I love from my madness.
Because I don’t want my mental illness. And I don’t want to inflict it upon others unless I have to.
So I conserve discussing my depression until I really need to, because otherwise I won’t have anyone to discuss it with. And whenever I say that, people are like, “Oh, if you had real friends…” and my response is, “Maybe you have a nice, happy disorder that you can open up to your friends about, and that’s a lovely fucking place for you to live, but don’t you dare dismiss my friendships because your disorder is people-friendly.”
Mine isn’t. Mine is toxic. And even talking about my mental illness this much – this is the light version, people – inspires people to come out of the woodwork and tell me that I need to cheer up, that I don’t understand how friendship works, I just need to find the right people and all will be well.
And what I’m asking you to examine is your need for the Hollywood friendship – the one where you have a chat with your buddies and they get better and you get to be the hero.
Maybe that’s a disorder of its own.
Maybe that’s not helping.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.