The world is plenty full of myriad articles dispelling the misconceptions of living with depression. For my part, I don’t think one more will do any more good than the above photo of Kurt Cobain being a total goof with a pizza pie. I think that picture does more to explain how living with depression can look normal to the person seeing “snapshots” of you day by day and not seeing the inner workings of your mind and how it gets gummed up, redirected or sometimes crippled by your mind taking depressive swings.
For my part, I want to dedicate a couple posts to talking about my personal dealings with depression. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and a handy case of OCD in high school. The first thing I want to discuss is medication:
I don’t take any.
This is far from a condemnation of psych meds, in fact the opposite. If you struggle with depression and want to not be held back or slowed down by it, believe me I understand. I’ve spent plenty of time in bathrooms out of sight of friends and peers having panic attacks. I’ve spent plenty of weekends ignoring my phone unable to move from my couch. Those are days I’ll never get back, moments of courage I simply didn’t have for the basic interactions most people manage without hesitation.
If your depression is keeping you from that life and living the way you want then absolutely seek psychiatric evaluation and consider medication to help with your struggle.
I made the decision back at the end of high school when I was first diagnosed not to take it. At the time I’d helped start my school’s Dead Poet’s Society which was aimed at sharing poetry for not just art’s sake, but as therapy by giving its members a safe space to share their unfiltered voices.
I shared a poem the day I got my diagnosis and prescription about the challenges I’d been having. I can’t recall it and it was among the things deleted in the purge I mentioned in a previous post, but a friend of mine told me in his personal opinion (which everyone else in the group seconded) that I shouldn’t take the medication.
I countered that I was really struggling, and that medication would help me just as much as it helped them.
They didn’t argue that I was stronger, not directly anyway. They told me my art came from the struggle I understood internally and that it helped me empathize with them so well too. I remember only one friend’s counsel, and I’m sorry to say I lost touch with this guy after high school: “If you take it, your voice will die because you’ll be numb to all the things that give you your voice.”
I’ve talked previously about the importance of empathy, of understanding your characters and their motivations the way we should strive to understand real humans we interact with. It’s a sad truth, but one of the best routes I’ve had to that in my life is an intentional sympathy and empathy with others’ pain, struggle and despair through my own fight with depression.
That’s explaining how depression has lent me a lens, the next question is: how do I keep it from knocking me off the horse? We call that a teaser folks. I’ll be back with more self-reflection in a couple days.