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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

What It Means to Be Depressed--Illustrated!

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

What It Means to Be Depressed--Illustrated!

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out of the light star
Friday afternoon, I happened on this blog post on Hyperbole and a Half. Allie, the blogger, has been away for more than a year, dealing with severe depression. She writes--and illustrates!--about it in her return post.

It made me cry and laugh. It's an incredibly insightful and brave post.

I work with kids and young adults, some of whom have severe mental illnesses, some of those who suffer from depression. Some of my students have attempted suicide or periodically disappear for a few days or weeks because they are being hospitalized for their illnesses. I also had a major depressive episode when I was 19 and have dealt periodically with less serious "mood issues" since then. There are so many misunderstandings about mental illness, depression in particular. I think it's hard for "normal" people to understand to have a brain on the emotional equivalent of a bungee cord; once you fall over the edge, there are forces beyond your control. It's the whole "snap out of it" mentality ("Why can't you make your fish be alive again?"--read the post and that will make sense! :) and it's hard not to be angry at people who think that way. They haven't been there and just don't know.

I think that's why I love Allie's post so much. She makes it possible for people to go there and maybe understand, even a little.

I love and loathe my brain, depending on the day. I love that it's pretty smart and can do cool things like write stories that people tend to get into, and it's apparently pretty funny (my coworkers tell me I'm hilarious, which is weird, since I've never thought of myself as a funny person) and capable of empathy for and emotional connection even with difficult people (hence the work I do). I loathe the dark side of all that: the bizarre thoughts and dwelling on unpleasant things (blood! violence!) and dysthymic funks and random, formless anxiety and its capacity to cause me physical pain (its new favorite way to announce "I'm stressed!" being pain that radiates down the right side of my neck and into my right shoulder). But it's my brain, so I keep trudging on with it sloshing around between my ears doing its thing and trying my best, despite it, to do mine.

Also, the music choice, I swear, is coincidental. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is one of my favorite--if not my favorite--albums of all time. My sister bought it in 1995 when it first came out, and I promptly stole it ("borrowed it") from her--I still have it! It's downstairs in the basement on the CD rack! Anyway, my iPod is broken so I'm limited to Spotify on the laptop, and I have a surprisingly limited imagination when it comes to thinking of music to listen to. It's pretty much Mellon Collie, the LotR soundtrack, the Fleet Foxes, or other stuff from the '90s that I'm too embarrassed to confess to!



This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/315271.html
  • I saw that post also. It is a good one. Brave--right!
    • I figured it would be a re-post for a lot of people, but I loved it so much that I thought that even if one person saw it who hadn't, it'd be worth it! She has an accompanying post that suggests she worked on it for about a year.
  • Terrific posts -- both yours and hers.
  • I loved the Hyperbole and a Half edition on depression, it's both funny and true.

    The "why can't you just make your fish be alive again?" thing reminds me of the exhortation to "get over it!" I think I hate that phrase more than any other phrase in the universe. It's so astonishingly trite, arrogant, and soulless. (Oh yeah, dude, thanks, I've been looking high and low for a way out of this, but it never ever occurred to me to GET OVER IT. Durr hurr, you so smart, thank you!) /rant
    • IKR? I saw a poster in the Newark Airport once that I thought about summed it up: "You wouldn't tell a person with cancer to get over it. Why would you tell it to a person with depression?"

      As though, if I could get over the pain and misery my brain sometimes deals me, I'd still choose to be miserable and in pain. I think the "get over it" misconception stems from 1) the belief that We're Only Out for Attention!!1! (I might try something more fruitful with my time, like writing a novel or trying to build a scale-model of the Empire State Building out of toothpicks, if this were the case) or 2) because it's in the mind, then it's not really an illness-illness. Because everyone knows that the mind is this nebulous not-physical I-don't-quite-know-what, but apparently we all wield perfect control over it at all times.

      I wish!
  • And this was, of all weeks, to finally end up letting my parents know i'm probably depressed. Timing.


    (And it feels weird.)
    • It does. It is only recently that I have been able to admit my own "issues," including what I went through when I was 19.

      Please let me know if you need anything, okay? I'm not far. *hugs*
  • Spotted that, too, in two different venues. I'm fortunate not to have anything worse than transient, situational type depression (as opposed to clinical depression,* but those close to me have experienced the latter. In a big way. Hyperbole and a Half's cartoon was astoundingly good and from my observations of the depressed, pretty accurate.

    My brand of depression compared with clinical depression is as a mild cold is to an Ebola virus infection. It's not difficult to talk oneself out of the former, but the latter? It's the same as saying "Snap out of it" to a Stage III or IV cancer patient.
    • Yes. Most of my mood issues have been very transient--a few days at most. Not anything like the major episode I had when I was nineteen. I remember being at work--I was a cook then--and sitting on the floor in the restaurant kitchen, stocking the bread shelf and crying my eyes out. So even her floor-cry resonated! (We served corn, but there was no shriveled piece of corn to cheer me, though.)

      Lately, it's not as transient, but that is likely stress-related, i.e. the Ball Jar post you just read! I am holding on best I can for summer. :)
  • I… don't know what to think about her post. Because at the same time, it both resonates with me and doesn't. There are parts that fit my experience of depression and parts that don't (and my brain is wonky enough that it makes me feel like I did something "wrong" because my depression was different). I'm glad it worked for you.

    I've lost a lot from depression (interest in photography and the American Revolution, even the amount of books I read), and while I've regained some of it, I haven't all. I'm not even sure I've recovered fully-- there's a reason my journal title is "halfway out of the dark". It may come from Doctor Who, but the episode I took it from aired right around the time the clouds started to break. And yet, I'm scared it'll return. (Because my anxiety has ramped up recently, to the point where it's probably diagnosable, and I don't want it to turn into/add on depression.)

    There's a lot I have to say about this, but not in a public post. (And even in a locked one, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable enough. It's just too personal in many ways.)
    • Her experiences aren't 100% mine either. My major episode was more like being a huge, raw wound rather than numb. Everything hurt (which is why I worry about the physical pain I'm having now. :^/) I'd cry and rage with the underlying bit being that I thoroughly hated myself and thought I was pretty worthless. I had my sister and, toward the end of it, I had Bobby (we were broken up at the beginning), so very little well-meaning but off-base attempts to help.

      But the black hole ("What's in it? Nothing!") ... I remember having times of what felt like such strong happiness and thinking, "It's over!" But, of course, it wasn't.

      *hugs* Please let me know if you ever want to talk. You know where to find me.
      • For me, it's this part that resonates the most: "it's more just this detached, meaningless fog where you can't feel anything about anything — even the things you love, even fun things — and you're horribly bored and lonely, but since you've lost your ability to connect with any of the things that would normally make you feel less bored and lonely, you're stuck in the boring, lonely, meaningless void without anything to distract you from how boring, lonely, and meaningless it is."

        Fandom, I think, was one of the only things that I didn't entirely lose enjoyment of. But worthless-- oh yes. I still feel that way about quite a lot of things relating to being a functioning adult.

        I never told anyone while I suffered (for a while, I didn't even realize myself). Even my sister, who I tell pretty much everything to, only knew after it was over. My parents still don't know.

        Thank you. I don't know when-- or even if-- I'll take you up on it, but I truly appreciate the offer. *many, many hugs*
  • I followed that comic for years and was both sad and concerned when she went off radar. When she posted Depression, Pt. 1 last year, I immediately made Patrick and my mother read it, because it was as if she had crawled into my brain and made a perfect rendering of all the things I couldn't adequately express. And she's done it again this time.

    My "work-wife" and I share the same brain, so it resonated with both of us very strongly, and if one of us was having a bad day, we'd quote parts of it to each other from memory. "Where are you trying to go, sad legs?"

    I'm so glad to see she's back, and that she's crawling toward the light.
    • I hadn't read the first part, but I just did. As I just noted to Indy, while her experiences aren't 100% mine, she just strikes a certain ... truth, I guess. Imo, of course. The fear-proof exoskeleton in Part 1, the searching and searching to find "NOTHING!" in Part 2, the floor-cry ... yeah, so been there.

      I just found her through the depression post, but I've been rewarding myself for getting my work done all weekend by reading her old posts.
  • I love this. Both your post and the other one...

    One of the many things (other than my phobia about mold...which did not play well with my dorm room) that sent me spiraling downwards this past semester was people (including friends) telling me to "Just be happier! You need to talk about happier things, because you're annoying everyone". Right...that's exactly what you need to tell someone who has been struggling with diagnosed mental health issues since age 8 and perfectionism since being a toddler. Diagnosed anxiety, but I have sneaking suspicions that if I ever have health insurance that would cover it, a lot more than just severe anxiety....for reasons that I won't get into here, because of my fear that RL people will connect "Brooke" to me and stumble across posts. But yeah...I'm still not over that, in spite of my favorite professor insisting that I need to stop listening to people, molding myself into what I think other people want, and stop assuming I am annoying him by coming to talk to him...

    That was a long paragraph. I think my main point of posting this was that I understand both loving and loathing your brain, depending on time.
    • "Just be happier! You need to talk about happier things, because you're annoying everyone"

      This is the worst. I saw a PSA in Newark Airport once (of all places!), saying, "You wouldn't tell someone with cancer to snap out of it. Why would you tell that to someone with depression?"

      Because of the work I do, I am very good at faking it to the point where I almost convince myself, because my kids don't need my problems on top of theirs. But then, when my last student leaves for the day, there are days when the exhaustion is crushing. And yet, this is just my mood cycling that is quirky at most, likely nothing near pathological. When I had my full-blown episode at age 19, though? There was no faking around that one.

      if I ever have health insurance that would cover it

      This makes me so angry, that mental illnesses are treated as though they aren't real illnesses, as deserving of treatment as anything else. It's no wonder that many people can't take them seriously.

      I probably don't have to tell you that anxiety and depression frequently occur together. When I was working on my bachelor's, there was talk of adding them together to the next edition of the DSM ... not sure if that happened or not.

      in spite of my favorite professor insisting that I need to stop listening to people, molding myself into what I think other people want, and stop assuming I am annoying him by coming to talk to him...

      But that's easier said than done too. I wish normal-brained people could live as us for a day! :) It's only been very recently, for example, that I stopped blurting everything out at 100 mph because I was convinced that no one would be interested enough to listen for more than 10 seconds. It's still almost impossible for me to ask for help in a story, and I'll usually angst for a few days before sending an email to a professor.

      *hugs* And I think you're awesome too, btw. :)
      • That PSA needs to be every where! (Granted, the reason that person told me that was that she apparently couldn't be my rock (I don't remember asking her to), and that I was always smiling at people. Which is the truth, but I still feel like people that self-appoint themselves my friends should want me to be the real me...and perhaps not sit next to me in classes if they don't want to hear me talk to the professor, when he asks me how my time at home went.)

        I'm very good at faking too, mainly because I feel like people won't like me if I'm not that bright, bubbly girl people want me to be (high school proved this). But now that I have professors who want me to be me and classmates and family who want me to be that girl...I'm often exhausted, too. *hugs* I had a full blown break down at age 17 that resulted in me almost failing everything the last semester of my senior year. Partially brought around by physical health, partially brought about by some of my teachers (there were several that with time and distance I have now realized were verbally abusive.) Of course, now my mom no longer trusts me to do anything right, so...I'm glad you're doing better.

        Exactly, mental illness aren't treated as though they're not real - of course, I find that people also don't treat physical illnesses as real if I don't look physically ill (in the same conversation as the "Just be happier" comments, I also got the "Nobody would look at you and think there was anything wrong, so you don't face the stigma", as related to my diabetes, bad legs (I've fallen down quite a few staircases), etc.) I think people think that if you look well, you should be well.

        I'm aware of the link between the two. I don't think it happened (granted, my knowledge of the DSM is limited to what I learn in my classes. There are times I wish I had a pysch major.)

        Yes, I wish they could too! But I might have given the wrong impression of my prof - he doesn't ever assume that it will be easy for me. He just gently reminds me that things aren't how I assume they are (that I am annoying him, being a nuisance in class, etc) and won't let me apologize to him for things like talking and taking up his time (insisting that by him scheduling a meeting at my request, he invited me to his office). He always seems to know the right thing to say or do and makes an effort to understand where I'm coming from (and he realizes that negative reinforcement is not what everyone seems to assume it is, aka physical abuse, as opposed to what it really is/what I've experienced throughout life.) There are reasons that he is one of the few professors I'm truly comfortable with speaking in his class and in a social setting. I angst for days before sending emails to professors as well. Or in one case, two weeks...email is one of the things that makes me most nervous.

        *hugs* Thank you (I'm blushing in real life.)
  • I hadn't seen this before, but so much of it resonated with my feelings when I was in high school and sporadically at other times in my life. The curling up and not caring, the depth of lack of feelings, and the corn - oh that corn. I clawed my way back and am glad to see that she is also doing so, but it's hard and the relapses are always there on the other side of a very close fence. Thanks for sharing this...

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • It's making its rounds on the Internet, but I hoped that someone might see it here who mightn't have found it otherwise. :) For professional as well as personal reasons, I am quite passionate about increasing awareness around mental health issues. When I was an undergrad, the statistics for women and depression were that 1 in 3 would have a major episode at some point in her life. I am one of that third and know many, many other people, especially women, who are as well.
      • Reaching out to a kindred spirit, another one of the three...

        *hugs*

        - Erulisse (one L)
  • I saw it the other day on Pinterest, when Juno posted it. Like you said, the experiences aren't exactly the same, but when she tells about getting that unbelievably frustrating "snap out of it" vibe from people... She's dead on. I had so many feels about that post, I was reduced to gibbering at the screen.
  • Yes, I saw that post and thought it was very eloquent.

    (This is an icon that I made from an earlier post of hers.)

    Edited at 2013-05-13 04:37 am (UTC)
  • Allie's post is wonderful, and yes, very brave. I wish I could talk more in-depth in relative public (read: here) about the parts that resonate with me and why (I'm not terribly worried about the parts that don't, or not as strongly, because depression is such an individually different phenomenon), but in many ways it is striking rather close to home. Feelings ultra-lite is kind of a status quo currently, but when they do hit full force then they're intimidating, unfriendly zombie fish, to pick up the comic's imagery. I was just told yesterday, twice by different people, that I just needed to change my attitude, because still doing things well (or being perceived as doing things well) means there can't still be problems. -__-

    That said, I am still very impressed with you and the ability to keep going on, and I do hope you manage to wrangle things until summer. *offers hugs* And can I just make the same offer you've made a couple of times in this post, of having an open ear if you want or need to talk? (And if you like the Fleet Foxes I think you might enjoy the Decemberists, or Doug Mains and the City Folk. They reminded me of them, anyway.)
  • I absolutely loved that. I understand about the fish!
  • As someone that suffers chronic depression and despite meds still battle with it on a monthly if not weekly basis I must say that I think that bog post should be recommended reading to everyone trying to understand depression, its informative, witty and spot on even if not everyone shares the same stages and emotions. It is absolutely fabulous and its been a joy to read back over older entries since she was a new find for me...
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