Photo by Joel Sossa
Depression is despicable. You know that guy who followed you around at lunch-time at high school, picking holes in everything you said, highlighting your every little insecurity and telling you how useless you were? That’s Depression. But Depression isn’t restricted to lunch hour. He follows you home, telling you how you’re hopeless because you didn’t make the football team or reminding you how that more-than-fuckable girl with the cute pigtails laughed her arse off and told you to get bent when you asked her to dance at the school disco.
I think of Depression as a persona because I don’t want to admit that it’s part of me. I like to think that I can get away from it, that hopefully one day it’ll just die, preferably before I pack it in myself. This line of thinking that depression follows you around isn’t new. People have been calling it the “Black Dog” for centuries, which, by the way, is way-too edgy a nickname for the likes of Depression. Also, Depression can’t be the Black Dog, because dogs are happy, loyal and generally good-natured creatures. Depression, on the other hand, is a chemical imbalance in my brain, draining me of serotonin, dopamine and all those other “happy chemicals” whenever it sees fit, leaving me with irrational thoughts of self-hate and hopelessness. I’m sorry, but no dog has ever done that to me. Don’t sully canines’ rep by lumping depression in with them.
If we know from scientific studies that depression is a chemical imbalance and those who suffer from it aren’t just wankers feeling sorry for themselves, then why do we have so much trouble confiding with friends about how it’s affecting us? I mean, I’ve been dealing with this waster for however many years and the days when I wasn’t open about my so called “mood disorder” with my friends are so far in the back of my mind that I had completely forgotten about this aspect of it.
The whole stigma issue was brought back into context a few weeks ago through a brief conversation with a relatively new friend. It seemed he’d had trouble with Depression. It so happened we were talking about a mutual acquaintance who had Depression. We ended up talking about how we both had parents who had struggled with Depression throughout their lives. Although our conversation was quite open, his discomfort in speaking about his “disorder” was palpable. I mean, if we’re all so fucking depressed, then why can’t we just all talk about it? The conversation ended with him encouraging me to keep it quiet, citing friends whom he had known much longer than me and even lived with at one stage or another as people that didn’t know about it, and asserting he wanted it to remain that way.
For me, this reluctance to “come clean” is part of what I term “shame spiraling”. Depression constantly makes you question your rationality and, in doing so, drives you even deeper into hopelessness. Why when you fucked that girl with the pigtails who rejected you in school and never called her again or bought her breakfast do you still feel like shit? Why are you feeling sorry for yourself, dickhead? What a waste of space you are. If anything has gone wrong, it’s your own fucking fault anyway. Why can’t you deal with it like anyone else would? You’re a freak. Any sane person would keep their distance from you. In reality, all these thoughts are due to a simple error in your brain’s chemistry. I’ll explain it using the extremely useful model of the rise of Nazism.
Monoamine “Adolf” Oxidase has worked his way to power using his charisma, weird sex appeal and promises to restore the brain to its former glory. Monoamine Oxidase hates serotonin and dopamine – believing them to inferior, disgusting chemicals – and decides to exterminate them in a happy chemical holocaust.
So yes, this free-fall shame spiralling, I’m-a-crazy-freak feeling is not easy to get past – brain chemistry is working against you. But Depression is hard enough to deal with without hiding it from everyone who actually cares about you. I hate having to deal with that fear that you’ll hit a new all-time low next time your mind goes on a serotonin bender and forgets to stop and top up the fuel tank. Like the one where you don’t want to get out of the shower, because to get to your bedroom and get dressed you have to go past the kitchen, and there are knives in the kitchen and you feel so useless you might just do something stupid, and then you have to force yourself to turn the hot water off so that your shower is ice cold. Only after a good five minutes of freezing cold water and violent shivering can you then make yourself get out. If you’ve got someone to confide in – someone to talk you through it, then these fears become much more manageable.
I’m not saying this whole concept of openness about depression is revolutionary: very much the opposite seeing as just about every depression support organisation from Headspace to Beyond Blue tells you to get yourself a support network. So, if you have to deal with this despicable disease, then tell your friends about it. That way next time he comes along you can all beat him to a pulp or sodomise him or whatever gets you off. Yes, I may be dishonest with myself when I deny that Depression is a part of me, or hope that it’ll disappear forever and everything will magically be smiles and sunshine, but I’m open with my friends about my emotional baggage. Do yourself a favour and unload your own.
By Josh Manning