*DISCLAIMER: I do not consider depression a true flaw. People suffering from depression are not responsible for the feeling and can only at best abrogate the effects. We will never be free of depression and we are often ridiculed and judged for it. That being said I find the way I’ve reacted to my depression to be my single biggest flaw.*
I bet I can guess what you’re thinking reading the title of this part. Want me to guess? If I do will you go out and buy a few of my books? Okay, here we go, I bet you’re thinking some variation of the following:
Are we really talking about depression again?
I mean damn Josh it seems like all you ever do is talk about your struggle with depression. You go on and on like a broken record perpetually playing ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ but not the Britney version. No the version we’re stuck with is from an impersonator working in Branson, Missouri, Branson not even mother fucking Las Vegas or even Atlantic City!”
Am I right?
If I am then, you have my permission to stop reading now and do something fun. I recommend going to see Captain America Civil War while it’s still in the theaters. If you’ve already seen it, then the local water park (if you live in the northern hemisphere) or the ski slope (if you live in the mythical lands of the Southern Cross) are perfect for an enjoyable day out.
Still here? Awesome then let’s get down to it.
When I was, I want to say seven, but it might have been eight, all I know for sure is it was the summer my parents split up, and I assumed we were vacating the house so Dad could clear his stuff out. To facilitate this, my mother took me and my unnamed sibling camping with my paternal grandfather. The horrible biological one not the one who helped raise me. I was never clear on the details, but for some reason my grandfather was hiding out at a KOA campground. Not sure if it was because his second wife kicked him out or he was being hunted by one of his side women’s husbands. Not even joking—there is a solid possibility this is the reason.
I loved camping as a kid and really couldn’t care less why we were going to spend a week on the lake. We had a really good time while there. I think it may be the last good time I had with my bio-grandfather. It wasn’t long after the camping trip that I saw him hit my mother in the garage on Taladay Road.
On the last day of the trip, we were cleaning up the campsite and I was really sad. My mom asked me if I was depressed that we were leaving. I’m not 100% sure but I believe that was the first time I’d ever heard the term applied to me. I asked mom what she meant, and she did the best she could to explain. She told me being depressed was being sad and not being able to do anything about it. That was a poor explanation, but it did open the door for me to learn more in the years to come.
I realized my depression was far from “normal” in the eighth grade. We’d been living with my maternal grandparents for two years, and I was going through the horrors of puberty. It was the lowest point of my pre-adult life, but at the time I thought it was normal. I honestly believed everyone was wired the way I am, and it wouldn’t be until I was sixteen years old that I learned I had problems.
I’ve told the story of my first suicide attempt before, and I’m not going to bore you all with that story again. What I will say is that during the summer I spent in the looney bin, ok it was a good place and I have remained thankful for my time there, I learned I was Bi-Polar. In the years following my stint in the nuthatch I’ve done a bad job of dealing with my depression.
I’ve ignored my friends and family. I’ve been petty and cruel. I’ve ignored my depression. I’ve refused to talk about the things bothering me. I’ve blamed others for my issues. I’ve been a horrible friend. I’ve been a terrible father. I’ve been an unworthy partner. I’ve allowed my depression to reign financial ruin on my family. I’ve allowed my depression to ruin jobs. I’ve allowed my depression to destroy my self-esteem.
I could go on, but this is depressing me.
In the spring of 2012, I finally cracked and opened up to my doctor about my depression. Since then it’s been a dance of balancing medication and forcing myself to expose my flaws and secrets to the light of day. It’s worked wonders, and there are stretches of entire weeks when I don’t feel the tendrils of severe depression tickling the back of my mind. That may sound mediocre to many of you but to me it’s a miracle I would’ve never believed possible five years ago.
Sometimes I’m happy.
The whole point of this has been trying to describe what living with severe chronic depression is like, and I fear I keep coming up empty. Should I have focused on the sadness, the anxiety, the apathy, the fear, or the pain? I couldn’t decide on a single angle and instead blasted them all at you like a shotgun. After that, they all might have resonated with some of you, but they failed to focus in on my personal experience in more than a peripheral way.
I nearly deleted all of this and walked away having failed in truly conveying my experience. But I waited a few minutes and let the situation ferment. After a few seconds, I knew what I had to say. I knew how to cut to the heart of the situation.
Every morning since the age of sixteen I wake up and think, “If today is too awful I can just kill myself and not have to wake up again.”
That’s it—that’s what my depression means to me. This is how I live every day of my life. It doesn’t mean I want to die, it doesn’t mean I hate my life or the people in it, and this is not a cry for help or attention. This is simply how I handle depression and without it I’d have been dead or insane years ago.
It works for me, and despite it being my greatest flaw I make no apologies.