the six things i have learned from unbearable sadness

there are things that come from sadness.
one of them is knowledge.

people spend a lot of time talking about the benefits of depression; how it hurls you into a world and life that is much deeper than however you were living before.  this is partly true.  i'm not so sure it outweighs the detrimental effects of depression, such as being depressed all the time, but there are definitely benefits from depression, little gifts that find their way into your psyche and then one day you realize the simple fact that you have learned something.

so these are the things i have learned from my sadness.  i am sharing this little macabre compendium not to trumpet my wisdom, but to remind people of the little hopes that exist in sorrow, and hopefully somewhere this will ring the little bells of truth for somebody.

and so here we are.  i have been unbearably sad for over six years.  i am finally starting to feel better.  these are the things i have learned.

1. there is love.
there is something about sadness that makes us feel like we are outside of love, like we are out of love and out of life and there is no love around us.  but there is more to it than that.  depression is more than a lack of love, or lack of perceived love.  rather, depression is about the darker side of love; it is an exploration of sadness and madness that comes from love.  i have never been quite so in love with people as i have when i have been depressed.  it gets a bit reckless, but all in all i think the unbearable love from unbearable sadness is a strength.  i think the reason for this is empathy.  empathy is so deeply engrained in sadness - the thing with being sad all the time is that you gain a certain understanding and familiarity with sadness.  you learn how sadness feels sitting on your chest and how it makes air harder to breathe.  most of all, you learn to love the darker side of things. you love people for their sadness and you love people for their weaknesses and that is generally a great thing.  

and people love you too.
this is one of those things that doesn't feel like truth when you're depressed, but when you finally step aside and ring in the true it stares you down like only the truth can.  when you present your sadness like a gift to others and they accept it, it is a very special kind of love.  not everyone is up to it and that's okay (sometimes).  

2. it is always a bad idea to read sylvia plath when you are sad

3. all tears are real
there is a lot of guilt that comes with being depressed.  mostly for me, it was guilt around this question "how can my life be so beautiful while i'm so sad all the time?"
we have this weird notion that sadness has to be earned through trauma and tragedy.  but that's simply not true.  if we can really have true empathy for ourselves and choose to love ourselves the truth is that all tears are real; they are all worth love.  do not hate yourself for sadness, and don't hate other people for their sadness either.  if we could take sometime to stop trying to legitimate our sadness and just accept it as a truth rather than a battle, we would be a lot of steps ahead. 

4. depression is real, you are beautiful, and stigma is still stupid
stigma is really dumb.  stigma is the license to stop caring and stop listening.  i have been surrounded by the greatest champions of non-stigma throughout my recovery, and it has made all of the difference.  people have stood by me and filled me with love and light.  they have come to see me when i've been in bed and peeled me off the floor when i was in catatonic states and that has made all of the difference.  the point is, while stigma is stupid, the opposite of stigma (whatever that may be... love? caring? empathy?) is beautiful.  it is so helpful.  it can't lift you out of sadness but it can hold you.  my friends have been amazing with me throughout all of my misery and it has made all the difference.  

5. ring in the true
try hard to hold on to reality.  there is a world within you and without you.  depression isn't about living in one world or the other; it's about learning to negotiate and navigate your way through both of them.  your friends can help you here.  it helps to be held by people who can take your hand and walk you through the real world, the one that is outside of yourself, and show you all that is marvellous. 

6. we are not alone.

we are not alone.

real words for wonderful people

two weeks ago i e-mailed the most beautiful people in my life
to talk about my depression

this is what i said

this is my sixth year of sadness.   i am writing this to people who i know and love and people who somehow make me believe that there might be something slight inside of me that is worth preserving.  i am writing this to talk about me and all of you and my life and how i need to live to get better.

getting better is really a vague thing to say and it might make sense to a lot of you but in very different ways and so i am going to clarify.  when i say get better, i mean so many things but mostly to get away from here, where ‘here’ is some kind of spatial metaphor for darkness, abyss, etc, etc, but really means depression and mental illness and all of those things that have arrested any kind of potential in my life.  the actual diagnosis is beyond me; my doctors keep adding little terrifying qualifiers in front of “severe depression” and i’m not sure which are medical and which are not, but essentially it is an ‘extremely’ severe and chronic depression.  most of you know, either through me or fantastic loops of gossip, that i have been depressed for the past 6 years, with little bursts of eating disorders and self-harm every few months.  this hasn’t exactly been the best kept secret, but with a million celebrities appearing on tv this week screeching that we should all talk, it occurred to me that the slightest secrecy isn’t working all that well for me.   my depression is something i have never fully been open with to anyone.  i always use words to understate everything that is in my mind so that people won’t worry.  keeping depression a secret was always because i didn’t want people to worry.  there is a lot of secret shame in harbouring this little dark secret fugitive in my heart that i can’t show to anyone because that is exactly what it is, it is a darkness that happens to be a part of me and i hate it and myself most of the time and i can’t bear to show it to people because it is so ugly. 

last june when i was in toronto was when i had one of my more terrifying breakdowns.  i was suddenly alone in a city that i do not love.  there was no trigger or cause, i just descended into depression almost immediately and it was just complete darkness.  my mind was out of control and suddenly obsessed with suicide and self-harm and i was so tremendously alone and i really don’t know what happened.  something dark and horrible seized my mind, and the only shred of self that was left of me sat silenced and scared.  all i could do really was try to focus on everything outside of me and summon all of my strength to pretend that everything was okay, which it was not.  when i left i was alive, with little scars all over but there was still life in me so it was okay.  after that week i took a teary plane ride to montreal with a lot of sobbing while porter attendants hurled baked goods at me in kindhearted efforts to pacify my wails.  but i got there and things were a bit better while a stayed with my aunt who threw her baby upon me and screamed baby therapy! and i cooed with a baby and that was that (but not really.  really i just talked to my aunt a lot and she is a therapist, which was probably very convenient.  i did still coo at the baby though).  there is more to this story that i will not say now.

i spent all of june in bed.  since then i have had two severe breakdowns (or rather, ‘major depressive episodes’ if you would like me to be all DSM V-y about it).  the worst was in november, and the second one started in very early january.  i spend all of my time in bed.  i can usually gather the energy to leave the house for about 3 hours at a time, but after that i come home and return to bed, slightly more miserable and slightly more exhausted than before.  sometimes i just can’t get out of bed. when i try i collapse on the ground crying for no reason at all.  sometimes the physical pain of depression makes it hard to move.  i am catatonic and actually can’t physically move my legs.   when i am in bed i just cry and cry and cry, sometimes for hours at a time, and my dog licks the tears-mascara concoction off my face and i think ohmygodwhatismylifethisispathetic and cry a lot more. most people i talk to tell me they wish they understood, but they don’t.  the truth is, i don’t understand happiness either.  i look at people around me and see that a lot of them got out of bed because they wanted to, and they are all alive on purpose instead of in spite of everything and i just don’t get it.  i wish i did.

i don’t think i have ever been ashamed to say that i have depression, and i’m not now.  but i am ashamed of what being depressed means about who i am.  what i am ashamed to say is that i spend roughly 16 hours a day in bed, my perpetual habitat. that depression means that i am an inadequate friend in a lot of ways, and that i can’t always be there for the people who need me because i am quite simply not there at all.  i am ashamed that i can’t enjoy even the most wonderful things in my life.  i am ashamed that even though i can tell you all about food security and malnourishment in the global south sometimes i can’t eat a sandwich without throwing up and being upset for the next three days about how disgusting i look.  i am ashamed that every time i walk anywhere alone i recite my personal depreciative fugues ‘i am worthless’ (a little mantra donated to me by everyone’s favourite exboyfriend) over and over and over to the rhythm of my step.  i am ashamed that i believe that i am worthless and disgusting and am repulsed by myself even with tons and tons of therapy that tries to change that.  wherever i am, i never want to be there.  i am ashamed that my life is full of reasons to be full of life and love and everything and all i can feel is uninterrupted despair, that even though i am surrounded by love, i feel completely alone and fully lonely

If I’m lonely
It’s with the row-boat ice-fast on the shore
In the last red light of the year
That knows what it is, that knows that it’s neither
Ice nor mud nor winter light
But wood, with a gift burning
(Adrienne Rich)
this message isn’t meant to herald my triumph over my little battle, but is an admission, apology, and promise.  it is not meant to make anyone worry about me.  my forever policy from when i was first diagnosed was to never let my self-harm ever hurt anyone; which meant never let anyone worry about me.  it was this little condition that has kept me alone.  because if i am being honest i am worried, and scared and terrified and i am not strong enough to tell people with any honesty at all that they don’t need to worry.  i don’t know what is going to happen, because from what my doctors tell me this will be with me for most of my life (the reassurance is in the prospect of remission), and will get worse and better and worse and better but sometimes my mind is just not my own and that is a scary thing. 

i can’t say don’t be worried, because i’m really scared.  i don’t know what will happen and i don’t know how to talk about it.  all i know is that my sadness has been a secret for too long; not a secret in that people haven’t known.  lots of people know that i am depressed.  i still hold it like a secret though; for the most part people see my sadness, no one would recognize me between the four walls of my room and bed, i’ve hidden that despair pretty safely in a lot of ways and people have been close but no one has ever seen or heard or felt my darker demons in all of their horrible realities.

the world is held together by secrets (Joyce Carol Oates)

these are the things that are happening in my mind and they are happening now and almost always and i am seeing doctors and my little eclectic team of mental health professionals who meet behind closed doors with timbits and clipboards to prod at my psyche and synapses. and it will probably get better.  the difference between now and two months ago is that for the first time in years, i see that it is possible for me to live past the age of 25.  the difference between before i wrote this message and now is that i am releasing myself from the secrecy of darkness and telling you that i am tired, i am weak, i am worn and i am scared. 

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m to tough for him
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see

all of you can see some kind of light in me that no matter how hard i try i just can’t seem to see myself.  i have spent a lot of months looking inside myself and just trying to get better, but this is not where answers are.  i don’t know what will happen next.  i don’t know if i will be hospitalized soon or not or later or not, or if i will make some miraculous recovery.  all there is left for me right now is to hold on to everything and everyone i love and wait.  getting better is an exhaustion, and it might take a few years of me launching myself back into the universe screeching triumph of new medication, while retreating two weeks later into my little cocoon of sadness.  so for now i will live truthfully and love people whenever i can.  this is to let you know that i am in here somewhere; the light or the something or the opus that you see inside of me is there but it is sleeping, and i am sick and might stay sick for some time but it will be back.

that is my promise: to stop mylovemyself from sleeping forever.  that is all i can promise because that is just about all the strength i can find right now.  i will live truthfully and honestly and show the world the sadness that seems to be all that is left of me now.  because maybe there if something to that, and maybe talking about it will sometime help someone somewhere.  and that is really all i want to be; something good in the world.  my depression will not be a secret anymore, and i figured you should be the people to know first.

march forward, march first

one: find the part of you that glows

maybe eventually all of these little posts will lead me to a place of glorious sanity, but that's not the point.  the point is to keep a little collection of little palatable tidbits that might just be able to help anyone when they are feeling what i feel (sometimes. i'm pretty okay right now).  and also for my friends.  because sometimes people feel helpless and like they can't do anything when really they are kind of heroes.  so now that i am basically happy and have been for a few months i will explain.

if my depression was a game of quidditch, i would be the seeker and you would be the keepers.  

this is the first tidbit or lesson or collection of words that has helped me:

number one: find the part of you that glows

sometimes in your life you have been happy and that is all you need to know.

it is so easy to become sadness.  
all it really takes is just letting yourself think that you are depression and you will always be depression.  everyone will have a different way to do this.  i did it my own way, but then i grew past that because after a while you kind of have to.  i grew away from this by telling everyone all about my sadness.

and this is what happened.
i had forgotten that everyone who has always known me can hold this part for me.
if you are like me, and you try in dark delirious times to find light inside yourself, it might not work.
but the people around you remember who you are 
and they know that you were this happylittledynamobigheartbigsoul
they will keep you.  they will hold this part of you.  so while you are wandering the world in sadness just know that your light is safe.  the people who love you have the part of you that glows.

sometimes this is too hard.  sometimes your relationships with people get so strained and stretched by your sadness that they don't see any light in you anymore.  that is like the worst possible thing to do to someone who is depressed.  to stop believing they are more than sadness or drama or tortured words wrung out from an unhappy heart. it is sad when that happens but don't worry about it; some people just can't handle things.  as long as there are other people who know that you are amazing.  you are amazing.

it can be really hard to imagine how the people around you who tell you they don't understand but are still there can help you.  but there is nothing better than this: they know who you are.  they will keep the part of you that glows safe while you romp around through miserable springs.  don't forget to thank them.  the people who can do this are the best people in the world.  they are everything.  i usually thank people personally.  but this is more than that (for some reason i have never really mastered delivering convincing thank yous even though they are always sincere) - this is a long and real and public acknowledgement that all of these people were the first thing to help.  that the people who message me just to say you'llbeokay and meaggyyou'reamazingdon'tworry and the people who tell me that all of the time changed everything.  it is less an apology and more a true and honest and teary admission that this has kept me alive for the 9 months this year, and it is a hard and beautiful thing to keep someone alive. i kept getting sadder and sadder from january until june but even when i was totally wrapped in sadness i knew that my heart and light were safe with everyone i love and that mattered more than anything.  
this is everything.
the people who answered my message and came to my bed and held me and saw my demons and even just knew me for the past year are people i love completely and entirely and will never stop.  

sometimes i really just marvel about all of the amazing people in the world.
but this is more than that: this is knowing the power that they have.  that is important.  

so this is the part of me that glows: my name is meaggy, my dog is nessie, and i love pesto.  i like dostoyevsky and poems.  i don't really like toronto.  i like to dance when i am drunk enough.  i love the muppets and i love disney.  i love to smile and laugh and when i am really really being myself i am smiling and laughing a lot.  i would do absolutely anything for anyone and the one thing that can make me feel like myself when i am sad is when people let me see their hearts too.  i like to help people more than anything.  i like cakes and i love atonement, humility, and blueberries.  boom. 

depression is real, you are beautiful, and stigma is stupid

this week is mental health awareness week, so i figured i would contribute something to the ole mental health community.  there is a "defeat denial" campaign put off by the CAMH and lots of other nice things.  there are probably lots of more fun interesting things i could talk about like how falafel at mohammed ali's is the most spectacular drunk food, but i'm gonna go with this for now.

stigma around my depression has not been a big part of my life for the past year.  the people around me all know about my depression and are loving and never judgmental and try to understand that sometimes they can't understand and that's okay but honestly it's really not a big deal and it's really not a big part of my life when i'm happy.  i know the stigma pretty well, but my family and friends and former teachers and conductors and current professors; these people in my life are spectacular champions of non-stigma and the most genuine love and maybe they should all get awards (i think they really should).  and i'm feeling pretty good now, and i'm pretty happy i have them.  and so i don't know all that much about stigma, but this is what i do know:

there are always little wisps of guilt and shame shrieking that depression is not okay and i am crazy and selfish, and so i meander through all of my little 'healthy cognitive structures' and try not to internalize and can bring myself to this conclusion: depression is real, you are beautiful, stigma is stupid and sometimes people are wrong.  and i know that.  there is no stigma around my life, and there is no stigma that i adopt and nurture and call my own, but it is still there.  and that is my point.  there is stigma in the air.

when stigma comes my way, i'm pretty good at dealing with it.
some people are just wrong.  stigma is stupid.  if people can't handle depression, i really honestly don't want them in my life.  if someone hears that i'm depressed and doesn't want to go out with me then my response is: well obviously you are the worst person in the world so no thank you anyways.  but anyways.
this is what is wrong with stigma: stigma is a social license to stop caring and stop listening.
the answer to any stigma is always simple: "you don't know me."

i remember the most recent explosion of stigma in my life was when someone who had been a pillar of strength and support and wonder said to me in one of my most vulnerable moments, 'but are you really actually trying to get better? sometimes i don't think you are?'
woup! there we go! good point.  my doctors must have missed that.  it's been that easy all along!  if only the psychiatrists and therapists had prescribed 'effort', maybe i could have just picked my little self up and romped along, happy and carefree.

but here is the thing: there is a problem with the question, but there's a problem with my reaction too.
the reason stigma exists is because it has to fill the air with assumptions when people don't talk about things and when people don't listen.  and so if i react in my little defensive way, the only thing i really achieve is stifling the conversation even more.  because it isn't fair to assume what people know and what people don't know either.  the response is 'you don't know me,' but sometimes that needs to stick; you just don't know.  the reason we tend to hear the same theories over and over again ('you're just not trying,' 'you're just looking for attention,' 'just snap out of it') is because people are doing everything they can to try to make sense of something, to try to deconstruct something that they just don't know.  it's because people are trying to understand, by applying a mentally healthy framework to a unhealthy mind.  honestly, they're making due with what they have and it's hard to blame people for that.  they just don't know.  and so this is what stigma is made of: what people don't know, what we expect them to know, and pride.

i'm not so sure it is fair for me to assume that people know that my sadness isn't about greed or effort or attention.  here's the catch: as long as they don't assume that they do know.  my friends ask me questions all the time.  they usually preface it with long rambling  ihopethisisn'toffensivei'mjustcuriousmaybethisisthewrongthingtosay missives, and then they ask one of the typical questions and that is okay.  because the only way to push stigma away is to fill the air with conversation and with answers, so people don't need to try to guess 'why'.  and so that is what i try to do.  i try to answer the questions as honestly as i can, in a way that makes sense to people.  not everyone can be this open about it.  i mean i'm pretty painfully frank about it when i do talk about it, which might be 1% of the time because there are more interesting things in the world, but it took me a reallllllllly long time to work my way through my own issues and talk about it, because it is really hard to tell people who do nothing but love you that you do nothing but hate yourself.

so for people who can talk about it, talk about it.
for the people who don't know about it, ask about it.  please don't assume that you know or can know.
we need to remember the open space for assumptions that stigma is made of, and we need to fill it, and we need to never assume that we do know or never assume that someone else knows what we know.  and there will probably always be people who don't care enough to know and don't want to hear about it, but don't worry about them.  they're probably annoying anyways.
just keep trying to clear the air.  keep asking questions nicely, keep answering them nicely, and never assume anyone knows anything.

(i think this week i might post a little about the-things-that-people-don't-understand and clear the air around some of the things (if i have time which i probably will because i am sick with cold and fever and flu etc) that i hear a lot)

two: these things have a beginning and an end

a lot of people shared my last post, which makes me pretty happy.  it makes me happy because of the amount of people who stood with me and said 'yeah, stigma is stupid,' but even more because i got a lot of messages from a lot of people who said thank you, and that it helped them, and anyone who really knows me knows that there is nothing in the world that makes me as happy as helping people.  because that is all i want to be.  a good thing in the world.  when i am depressed (right now i'm in a delightful remission) i feel like that is just never going to happen. 
but then i get better and it does.
and that feels
and so thank you to everyone i love you all so much and so boundlessly it doesn't even seem real sometimes.

this is wisdom brought to you by one of my many life gurus who have forged this little path for me.  this is something she said to me when i was just past the year mark of a long and treacherous depressive episode. depression has a way to seem eternal, and it feels like it will own you forever.  especially if it has come to you more than once.  i've been dysthymic for six years, and my first major depressive episode was when i was in grade 12.  and so i had a few years of general light and relief from my darkest depression, but when it comes hurtling back it's usually with twice the force.  because the familiarity is terrifying.  this is a friend you do not want to know so well.  but you do. and that's terrifying.
and so this is the second piece of wisdom that keeps me together sometimes:

two: these things have a beginning and an end  

when depression comes back to you, it feels like it has come back home.  the prodigals return.  the ease and comfort with which is slips back into your life is horrifying.  everything else falls away.  and with everyone screeching that depression is this great battle and when you feel better you have conquered this evil force, falling back into misery just feels like that much more of a failure.  which is stupid of course.  but that's how it feels.  you can only come back to life and back to yourself so many times before it starts to seem a little ... insincere.  it loses the triumph and the glory.  but it doesn't have to.  not really.  if you just go and go and go you are amazing.  you have so many lives.  that is beautiful and i love you.

so this is the thing.
it is so easy to remember yourself like this.
and to look at that and to see yourself like this forever.
i still do.  i am happy now, and i can look at the life ahead of me and see myself in my bed and that makes sense to me.  looking ahead and seeing myself in the life that i have and the life that i wanted doesn't seem as real.  but that doesn't matter. and here is why: these things have a beginning and an end.

you don't need to think about how much longer
how bad it will get
and how it will be with you forever
because it just won't.
because remember when this started? because just before that, you were happy. and full of soul and honey you were wonderful no matter who you are.  think of that. let that be your mantra. don't look to the future to try to find a hope there that doesn't make sense for you.  but look behind your sadness and remember that you were something before that.  and you still are.  just know that it is there.  because you had it before.  and you will again.  these things have a beginning and an end.  darkness is never forever.  these things have a beginning and an end.

and that's it.
i just say that to myself sometimes.  over and over.  
and it doesn't drive demons away
i promise you it won't
but it reminds you that they are not yours, and they do not belong to you, and this is not a battle you lost but a friend who came back to you who you need to set free again.
it's a little line to hold on to, and love.
and so it will help, if only a little.  i promise you it will.  good luck.

on my several resurrections 
my seventh coming
there can only be so many seraphims 
willing to cheer again
and exalt and love
my smile.
i still glow like a moon
sincere with a light that tries to be
the whole world sings
with that kind of light
too fast to last but still so real and bright
it is worth something.

but daggers and knives have homes in me
and come back like prodigals;
they'll come back but honey don't worry they
just let you live again
not loved but lost and so
they will come to me
in darkness
and i will hold them and love them and then
set them free
and i will live again.

one sad love song

this is a poem i wrote once because i felt like i was falling in love with my sadness.  so this is not a poem about being sad about love. this is a poem about being in love with sadness.  i think it is just something that happens when you live so closely with this darkness in your heart.  but it helps i think, to think of it this way.  because this way it isn't necessarily part of you.  

one sad love song
melancholy honey you hold me like a mother
you grasp and cling and sway me and i
am for you
your rock and heart
i live through your arms
quietly captive
and all i have to do
is wait.

three: my depression is a truth, not a battle

this is something that has always struck me as strange in the semantics and constructions around depression or any kind of serious illness.  the lines that people repeat over and over: she is battling with depression (or for others 'breast cancer', 'cancer', 'ms', etc) and even worse after someone has died, 'after a long battle with ___ she/he has passed away (...)'.  i mean, it's weird enough to have to conceive of the rest of my life as a battle, but for someone in the final stages of cancer who has to characterize the end of their life as a defeat... that has just always seemed really strange to me. only in the past year has the world these words create been really clear to me, and so i have conclusively decided that it is foolish.  my depression is not a battle.  

the dichotomy of victory and defeat creates an impossible world of both stigma and barriers.  i remember two summers ago i had the most horrible depressive episode in toronto and deciding then that i would have to be really open about my depression.  it literally took me over a year to be able to talk about depression with words that weren't just vague sylviaplathisms or small little references to sadness.  each time i tried to write about it i would find myself coming up with the most ridiculous posts that really could have been about anything at all.  one of the hardest things about it was that i was waiting for a great triumph.  i thought to myself "self, comma, these are the things that people like to hear about once they know we are safe, and the battle is over for now at least and we have won." so i spent all kinds of months waiting for that to happen and had small little remissions but other than that it just didn't happen.  without that victory it felt like my words had an incredible weight that i didn't want to release.  it was this strange condition on the conversations about depression which is basically just an advanced stigma, and a nuanced way to keep sadness at bay.  

i remember thinking to myself for a lot of months last year that i was just losing a battle.  it was a defeat.  depression is hard enough to talk about, but adding the little semantics of defeat is just a weird way to pretend that we have control over things we do not have control over.  i remember the crushing, gut-wrenching anxiety i felt at the idea of my pseudorelationship ending because (among other reasons, of course) i thought i had somehow stumbled upon the one person in the world who could look at my sadness.  my first real boyfriend was the first person i ever told about my depression, and his response was a simple "ok, but there is one condition, you need to never talk about this again."  i remember telling myself over and over as impending break-ups draw near that i was damaged, and as long as i was losing this battle i was something beyond love, in some weird darkness where no one's love could ever find me.  
this was all foolishness of course,  and luckily my most recent pseudorelationship did a tremendous job helping me realize that. that could be the most wonderful and helpful thing that anyone has ever done for me.  there is a weird an subtle power to it.    

after that, the only other thing i needed to know was that my depression is not a battle.  i never really doubted that the people of my life would respond in the most sincere and loving ways (iamsolucky), but the thought of having to unleash this horrible weight onto them, to just give them this darkness, always seemed selfish to me.  in my mind i was some terrific martyr, sparing my friends from darkness and defeat and waiting for light of any kind.  one of the most amazing people in my life who deals with depression told me that she thinks about telling people about her struggle as 'giving a gift'.  and then i read this and that felt really true:

“Someone I loved gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”

- Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

and so,

three: depression is a truth, not a battle

depression is not a battle.  there is no great war, there are no weapons, there are no horses and bayonets, there are no hardhats no trenches and no landmines.  for those of you who cling to the figurative world, i'll try to shape some other (poorly formed) metaphor.  depression is like this heavy ghost around you.  there is no struggle or fight; it just never feels like that.  it is a heavy ghost: sometimes it holds you.  sometimes you hold her (mine is a girl).  and sometimes you just hold hands.  understanding depression in this way, as a truth and not a battle, makes talking about it a lot easier if that is something that you want to do.  but it will also help you deal with it.  depression is just something to work with.  trying to fight depression will not help.  it is a force.  and so use it.  that is all.  it is just this rogue and rebellious horse that you learn how to ride.  you direct it.  (obviously it isn't that easy.  mostly what i'm talking about here is meditative ways of dealing with depression, which is only something i've managed to do now that i am cozily ensconced in my own mental health).  this is obviously not to say let it wash over you and cede all control to your demons.  it is more about an active acceptance and shaping, a dual management that takes time and practice.  understand (without glorifying depression) that there is a small kind of truth in darkness, and a power that comes from knowing that this truth is not in the darkness itself but in how we live in it.  the goal is to hold hands.

initially i didn't think i would write this, because it seemed petty.  i mean, it is just a word.  but at the same time, i know that it kept me from figuring things out for a long time, which i guess i tried to show.  and maybe for some people it is different.  maybe some people need to conceive of their depression in that way, and it works for them.  it's not like i'm particularly qualified, or actually know what i'm talking about.  i just know what works for me.  

to finish and to start

all of my words until now are important background i guess.

but this is all you need to know to understand this blog.

  • i have terrible refractory depression and sometimes it is basically unbearable but i'm on my way to feeling better.
  • this blog won't be about my sadness.  i've already gone through that, and i can't really think of any real reason to keep churning out metaphors for misery.
  • this is about the little pieces of wisdom that make sadness easier, and trying to love everyone.
  • i promised my friends i would try to make it back to myself and the person i used to be.  for the past year i've been using all of my cognitive resources to get myself out of bed, or to leave the house, or something which is finewhatever considering circumstances, but now i need to get it together. 
depression acts like it is this impenetrable darkness and it feels like that too, and so the words that people spend hours stringing together to make someone feel better often don't work and from then on there is this horrible billowing idea that nothing helps and you will never be able to reach this person you love so much who is so far away -

there are things that help.  there are lots of things that don't.  
there are small little wisps of wisdom or love or light that somehow seem to make their way to me some times.  
they don't make depression or despair go away or light forever. they don't pull anyone out of their darkest selves, but they are little flares to remind you there is something else somewhere, something to hold on to.  and so i'mma start keeping track of what these things are.
i just want my friends to know that i love them and everything they are and everything they do.  and this is mostly just for me; so i can keep track and keep trying and keep going to trying to wander my way back to being some kind of wonderful person.

i also really don't expect people to read these things.  mostly because blogs are boring.  but that doesn't really matter to me.  this is the tree that falls in the forest with no one around, and there is a sound.

things i don't necessarily remember

This blog was never really about redemption and recovery or anything, but I guess it has to be when you recover?

Most of my posts are from 3+ years ago and are about what it is like to be depressed.  This post is what it is like to not be depressed.

Also I use capital letters now.  It's a gift to my brother, who cares about things like capitalizing letters.

Anyways, I had deleted (read: made private) almost everything I have written because it all felt a bit performative, y'know? I don't really know why, but it was important for me to be quiet for a bit. I think it helped.  But then I posted it again, for no real reason except having some sort of accessible history of my life seemed kinda... nice.

I've probably learned a lot, but there are a lot of things about life that I need to master.  Lifelong learning and all that.  But writing is still an important outlet for me: I have to be careful with it (which is not really something anyone tells you when they pat you on the back for being open), but sometimes it really can help.  Not because I'm being brave or vulnerable or anything (maybe I am, but I've never really felt that way) - if anything, writing before now exacerbated a lot of my insecurities.  But it is a good record to have.  It's good to write these things mostly because I can then read these things and look for patterns, and look for places where I haven't really been myself.

I think the best things I write are my poems, not because they are good but because I think they are good and it doesn't really matter to me if anyone else thinks that.  That sounds untrue but it actually is true.  I like writing poems that I fall in love with, and other people usually don't like those ones, and that's pretty okay.

Anyways.  I feel so much better now.  Clinically, medically, socially, academically, everythingly.
So much so that there are things I don't even remember.  Like these.

  • I do not remember what it feels like to be depressed. 
                  People say sometimes I will be a good clinical psychologist because I know how it feels. I don't really.  The only think I know is just how much I don't know?  For one thing, depression/mental illness is a pretty substantially different experience for everyone.  There are different, sometimes opposite, symptoms - some people can't sleep and some people can't stop sleeping.  Not to mention every symptom is this strange living relationship between you and your body and also the world (?) that everyone handles and manages differently.  

                I imagine there are things that I know that other people might not.  But those are not secrets, really? They are just tiny facts that bring enormous relief when they are articulated.  But really, I don't remember the feeling? I can read about it in my dark little poems, but I don't remember why I felt like that, or how heavy it felt - it is something I can't reach because it's so far away.  I am very grateful for this.  It might bring hope to the people who think having refractory (treatment resistant) depression means they will never be okay.  It also might not.  If I was depressed, I probably wouldn't be reading blogs about people who aren't depressed.  etc. 
  • I do not remember how to cry when a toothpick breaks or I can't find my hairbrush.
                This is... also probably a good thing?

  • I do not remember how to think about suicide.
                Thinking about death used to come pretty automatically to me.  I would get little flashes of suicidal ideas, even for years after I started to feel better.  Every visit to a subway station would have a brief flicker of darkness, no matter how happy I was feeling? That was strange.  It can happen with automatic thoughts too - things like 'ugh I hate myself' or 'fuckkkkkk' every time I remember a time when I was a terrible embarrassment.  These still happen sometimes, when I'm not doing well - they kind of ding and dong like steely alarm bells that jerk me into realizing I gotta step up my self-care game.  

                (This is one of those things where therapy really helps.  I had to retrain my brain.  I had to do a mindfulness exercise every time this happened.  After a few months it went away.  I still find that hard to believe.)

I do remember the friends.

Look at that smile! Look how happy I am capable of being!

I remember the friends.  Holy hell I have good friends.  My 23rd year of life is entirely thanks to Liz, who lived with me in Ottawa and is the only reason I got a job, started getting out of bed, and got my life together.  Melissa was my entire social life in Toronto.  Lauren had the unique capacity to make me laugh even when I was depressed. Shauna was/is always there.  Erin was/is always there.  Evan was/is always there. Kevin has my back.  Rebstu is a go girl.  Al Stenty is a go girl.  Mitchell is the reason I have confidence.  Rachael was critical to Corner Brook survival.  Aria is a go girl.  My brother and sister mean so much to me.  Andrew would rescue me in Toronto.  David will always call and always check in.  Also... Nessie.

Really, my friends are just a bunch of people who care, and that is very much the reason I am alive a
nd able to leave my bed and live a normal life.  That is something I very much remember.

Anyways, I don't know anything and will continue to not know anything and still write about it, if that's okay.

a little night music

it has been a beautiful fight


so it seems the happier i get the less i have to say.
i’m trying to figure out how to continue speaking about life without sadness.  it’s weird.  sadness wasn’t only a lens for me, it was a way of life.  and now i don’t have that anymore.  and that feels strange.
wonderful, obviously.  but strange.  

there were 7 years of profound depression, which also happened to be 7 years of friends and family holding me and caring for me and loving me.
now i am happy and stable and happy to report that i am stable.
it feels like i have nothing more to say: i was sad.  the world was sad. i am no longer sad.

to be honest i’m having trouble placing myself.  that sounds ungrateful but it also sounds true: i’ve spent 7 years engrossed in unbearable sadness and now how on earth am i supposed to define myself without that?
i’m not so sure that i can, or that i should.

i’ve always struggled with who i become after sadness; i have never wanted to be a poster-girl survivor who can point at people and things and show you what and where it hurts.  (not that there is anything wrong with these people; many of the poster people for the mental health movement are close friends of mine: it just never seemed to be a suit that fit me).  i don’t want to walk around trumpeting recovery and i don’t want to hold seminars about dealing with sadness.  

i think all i want is for people to know that i hold darkness.
and that it's okay.
all i ever really wanted was for people to see why i wasn’t what i thought i should be.
“i want to be something good in the world,” i said. 

i told you what it was like
when i held suicide inside me like a clock
(dry ticks mark time)

now i’m telling myself
it’s different now.

in what universe do i make my bed every morning?

this is that universe, apparently.
i barely know where i am.  i am lost entirely, but not in a sad way.  i’m not trying to say i’m sad to be happy; i’m quite happy to be happy.  i promise you, this is not a complaint - it’s just a question.  i just don’t know where i am.  so show me.  

what’s next?

i think i need to take a moment and realize i am in love with the world.

the six things i have learned from unbearable sadness

there are things that come from sadness. one of them is knowledge. people spend a lot of time talking about the benefits of depressio...