I kept being reminded this month of an article I read on NPR last fall. It starts off discussing Allie Brosh's book and then goes on to talk about the stigma of discussing depression, not as a past life struggle, but as a current "no, this is happening to me now" kind of thing:
In the conversations surrounding her book, Brosh has made it clear that she is not looking at depression in the rearview mirror in some sort of "let me tell you about this thing that happened to me once" kind of way. She's in it, and she lives with it, and sometimes it's better, and sometimes it's worse. It means you don't see her for a while, because she's a real person and it's a real thing.And, later:
We're more accustomed as readers to the memoir model, where depression — or addiction, or even ordinary anxiety — appears as a monster from the past, one against which you still have to bolt the door every day, but one that's not there right now, not interfering with your writing about it, not writing about it with you.Let me tell you, bloggers like Allie Brosh and Jenny Lawson and Wil Wheaton, who are willing to share their stories about dealing with depression here and now, as they write, are incredibly encouraging to me.
It means that someone else feels the way I do.
Better yet, it means that someone successful, who I admire and who has written books and gained fans and has real Twitter followers they've never met, feels the way I do.
Whenever Jenny Lawson talks about her social anxiety, I feel a kinship with her, and I feel like if someone else goes through that kind of thing, then maybe it's not as awful as I think when I spend my morning freaking out about having to make a phone call.
When Wil Wheaton posts a blog where it's clear that depression and anxiety are attacking his brain, I think, "If someone who still feels like this sometimes has been able to do all this cool stuff with his life... then maybe if I still feel like this sometimes, I'm not completely broken and I'll be able to pull something cool out of my life."
And I can't even put into words how much I love Allie Brosh's two-part series on depression over at her blog. Just read it. I linked to the first part up above.
It's so much easier to talk about depression and anxiety as if I'm over it. It's far more tempting to look strong and triumphant over a past battle than it is to admit that last Wednesday, instead of writing or working or doing anything positive, you just sat on the couch for six hours and cried. But sometimes somebody else you know spent that Wednesday crying on their couch, too. And sometimes it helps to have a reminder that other people, both people close to us and people we admire from afar, sit on their couches and cry for a day.
We're all pretty broken people, whether it's depression or something else. And since we're not there for most other people's breakdowns the way we are for all of our own, it's easy to feel like you are the only one.
So every once in awhile I try to write up something like this that says, "Hey. If you're feeling dumb or worthless or broken today... me too!"
Sometimes just hearing "me too" is exactly what my soul needs to begin the climb back up the hill.