I tweet a lot, and that’s probably how you know about the Particular Finest. Twitter is a huge deal to me, and acts as one of my primary outlets for thought, emotion, and self. As I’ve spoken of previously it often acts as my collective consciousness, giving me insight and nuance I couldn’t achieve on my own.
Twitter is also where I’ve been talking about depression, and my recent, ongoing fight against it.
Depression is the worst thing I’ve ever gone through.
A popular narrative in Western culture is that Depression is “sadness,” deeper than unhappiness or misery. Within this narrative is carried the idea that, like sadness or happiness, depression is a state that does not endure, will be passed through quickly, or fought off with power of positive thinking.
How much do I wish that was the truth, for it would make dealing with depression easier by miles.
Instead, all I can describe as depression is the feeling of rot within my being, centered within my chest, filling me with a blackness tinged in bright fire that consumes everything that I am. Similar to exhaustion, it’s difficult for me to focus my mind or engage my attention. Even when I can, it’s only for very short spells before the rotted feeling forces through again, draining away my energy and attacking my sense of self.
It is weight, and while under that weight all my strength is dedicated to not letting that weight fall, because that weight is the will to keep living. If I let it fall or slip then I am lost, not just in the sense that I need a break but that the passions and loves that drive me, that are me, are no longer enough to keep me from committing suicide.
To admit that to yourself is terrifying and overwhelming. Instead of expressing and participating and loving what I love, I’m striving only to keep myself from losing that love entirely, a struggle that no one but I can see, or touch, or experience.
On good days, I don’t even notice what I’m carrying. On bad days it’s all I can feel, and there is nothing but desperate clinging.
Depression is more insidious than just good days and bad days, of course. Instead, I am deprived of the boundless reserves of energy that so many take for granted.
For example, six months ago I could work a full day before spending the evening on an elaborate presentation, or pouring effort into my Change of Scenery. I could do things in the evening, learn and teach and share and do and be.
Being able to teach is a huge deal for me, it is one of the things I feel can be my legacy. That I could help someone learn, and then they could go on to help another is immensely satisfying. At work, part of my week is dedicated to developing teaching materials, writing presentations and helping others learn what I know.
Depression takes that away, by depriving me of the energy to engage. I can’t work a full day and then expect to have any capacity to write a program in the evening. I can’t expect to craft a presentation, notes and working code samples and ideas and patter and the elequoence that is giving and sharing. I can’t even expect the energy to switch contexts, moving from programming to teaching during my work day.
Instead, depression gives me a world where a full work day leaves me barely able to work the next, the rot clutching deeply in my chest and my emotions scattered, erratic. I am not allowed my passion, merely the memory of the joy it brings and the hope that one day I will be able to push forwards.
The only response is to ration ones’ abilities. The best description of this is Spoon Theory, a great description of what it’s like to live with Lupus. Many of the ideas transfer cleanly, and I highly recommend you read the post.
I have my passions and my joys, and now I must ration them. Saying “no” had to become my default stance, saving what I have to heal and the occasional event I am deeply excited by.
I’m saving up spoons to go to Montréal and give a 3 hour tutorial on Twisted Python, and that’s going to be an absolute blast, and I’m super excited. I’ll be mentoring at Startup Weekend Wellington in late February, and I’m very excited for that opportunity. But if I tried to do that, and the tutorial, and work a full day, and do the training I want to do for work?
I’d be a useless wreck, unable move further than my couch to watch Dr. Who, let alone try to code or work with my team, made worse by the memory of when this was all so easy.
Depression is a chronic illness. Sometimes there’s relapses, sometimes things are amazing and great for months or years at a stretch.
I’m being treated for depression, and I’m doing all the right things. I know that.
I also know how hard it is to be forced to ration myself, to protect my tiny kindles of passion from being snuffed out, how much I resent the basics of my neurochemistry for putting me in this position.
That resentment forms the rocks on my path as I carry this great weight, trying to force me to trip, fall, and lose everything. I used to be better than this, the narrative goes.
I shouldn’t be like this.
I know that shoulds are dangerous, but, it doesn’t make acceptance any easier.