[Content note: the obvious]
Today is a Depression Day, like Wednesday and Thursday were. I’m quite sure I don’t qualify for an official diagnosis of depression anymore and haven’t for about a year and a half, but I still experience the same symptoms pretty often.
My actual moods and activities vary, but the constant is fatigue. No matter how much or how recently I’ve slept, fatigue. Whether I’m hungry or full or neither, fatigue. Whether I’ve been working out a lot lately or not, fatigue. I possess an amazing ability to fall asleep at any time, given enough comfort and quiet, and wake up feeling as tired as I was when I fell asleep, or more so. My sleep isn’t about resting; it’s about biding time.
If I wanted to, I could probably just keep sleeping, waking and falling back asleep every hour or two, for who knows how long. I could stop going to school or work and just sleep. Maybe it’s my body’s way of helping me adapt. When you sleep, you don’t think, and my dreams, while unsettling, are often at least a little nicer than reality. At least in dreams I can see the people and places I miss, some of which I might never see again.
There is no “feeling good” for me, ever. There is only feeling better than usual, and there is a brief period of time after I’ve just exercised when I feel like a person my age should feel. There are also occasional times when whatever I’m doing or whoever I’m with is occupying my attention to such an extent that I no longer notice the leaden feeling in my body.
Since I want my friends and partners to at least sort of understand me and not expect things I can’t do, I have to do an annoying amount of explanation. If someone asks me if I’d like to go do something and the truth is that the only thing I can do at the moment is sit in my room and be sad, I’m probably going to tell them that, because I don’t like lying and I don’t like making it seem like something it’s not (i.e. “Sorry, I have plans,” or “Sorry, I’m not into [activity]”).
But then I inevitably have to deal with people asking me if I “want to talk” or telling me they’re available if I “want to talk” and I imagine they do this out of a sense of obligation or so that I don’t off myself or because there’s a script in which that’s What You Do When A Friend Is Going Through A Hard Time. Problem is that my depression is chronic, so my entire life is A Hard Time. If I came to you every time I was feeling bad, I would be doing it several times a week. Nobody wants that. (It’s not that they’re bad people for offering to listen. Of course they’re good people. You have to be a very good person to even entertain the notion of listening to a depressed person’s bullshit, unless you just don’t know what depression is.)
More to the point, I don’t want that. I think people think that depressed people are always looking for A Shoulder To Cry On, maybe because that’s the stereotype: all we want to do is talk about our stupid problems to anyone who’s willing to pretend to listen, wearing people out until they can’t handle it anymore. I’ve worn out a number of people this way, who always ended up admitting to me that they’d just felt so bad for me and ended up feeling an obligation to listen and feeling guilty when they got frustrated at me, and I’ve always been like, then whyyyy would you ever offer to listen if you didn’t really want to. So nowadays I pretty much don’t take anyone seriously when they offer me A Shoulder To Cry On.
And neither do I still feel any real desire to unburden myself upon other people. Not out of shame, but just out of apathy. What do I care who knows about my stupid depressed thoughts? It literally makes no difference whether I tell people about them or not. It makes so little difference that I’m continually shocked when people confide in me and tell me that just talking to someone made them feel a lot better. God, how I wish it helped me at all.
Writing this helps a little because I imagine at least one person with depression will read this and think, “Hm, maybe I’m not the only one who fails this fucking hard at being happy.” Of course, none of you are failures. All of you are amazing human beings. But I know you can’t see it a lot of the time, just like I can almost never see it in myself.
I see it so little that sometimes I feel a terrible disdain for all the people who love me, for being naive enough to fall for my bullshit. The fact that I’m unloveable seems to obvious to me that I wonder how oblivious someone would have to be not to see it. But in a way, I’m also giving myself an inordinate amount of credit. It’s almost grandiose. What makes me think I’m such a masterful impostor?
Today I was feeling shitty and worthless compared to a friend of mine, who I’ve for whatever reason decided is Just Better. (I don’t think this in a grudging way at all; I think my friend deserves all of their success because I think they’re a better person than me and even if they weren’t, success is not actually a zero-sum game.) So I decided to make a list of all the ways in which I think I’m inferior to this person and I came up with 21 reasons. 21 things that are important to me but that I think I’m worthless at. I have failed in almost as many ways as there have been years in my life. And I realized that it was never really about my friend at all; they were just the accidental trigger for a reminder of all the things I hate about myself.
Just out of curiosity, I tried to list any ways I can think of in which I’m better than them. I came up with only one: I think I’m a better writer. (Don’t worry, what you’re reading right now is not meant as a representative sample of my best work.)
Writing is the most important thing in my life. There have been times when it was the only thing I lived for. Friends and partners and communities and other hobbies have come and gone, but I have never gone a single day without either actually writing down words, or at least imagining poems, stories, essays, journal entries in my head. I can’t separate writing from my life itself, because the way I process events both small and large in my mind, both as I live them and after the fact, is imagining how I would write about them. I am engaged in never-ending narration. That’s what I was doing, alone in a room, my eyes constantly trying to close, my mind trying so hard to dream of something better and failing, when I took out my laptop to write this.
I suppose the only comfort I can find right now is that if I’m going to be inferior to my friend—or, rather, inferior in general—in almost every possible domain, from personality to intelligence to interests to achievements to interpersonal stuff, except writing, maybe that’s enough for me.
Writing can, at least sometimes, light a candle in an otherwise-pitchblack room. And writing will never go away. Of how many other things can that be said?
Depression, at least for me, looks nothing like it does in the movies and in literature. There are no tearful scenes on bridges or on top of buildings. There are no electroconvulsive therapy treatments. There are no borderline-pornographic shots of self-injury. There are no heartbreakingly beautiful paintings or sonatas or novels borne of mental anguish.
There is lots of sitting and looking off into space. There is thinking that it’s at all a good use of my time to make a list in my notebook of all the reasons I’m a failure; now I’ll have to see that shit every time I flip through it. And there is constantly, desperately wishing I could just sleep.