Almost all of us have known of some stupid teenager who wants to appear ‘deep’ and ‘beautifully flawed’ by placing “OCD” in their “about me” section of their myspace/tumblr, and who constantly writes about how miserable and depressed they are even though they actually live a perfectly normal, marginal existence wherein one of their greatest problems in life is their bitch manager at Old Navy who doesn’t even know how to fold properly. This post isn’t for those kind of people, because if you or anybody you know has seriously suffered from crushing depression or staggering mental illness, you know that there is absolutely nothing cool about this shit, and in all likelihood one of the last things you are interested in doing is advertising your problems to the world.
Take it from me: As someone who has long struggled with depression, OCD, excessive anxiety and unwanted thought disorder, most of my life has felt like a never-ending battle to cling to some shard of happiness and feeling of stability because my brain won’t stop acting like a fggt. The silver lining to living this life is that I had to develop coping/survival skills along the way, and while I do not pretend to be any kind of professional on the matter, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with mental illness. So if there’s any depressed/suicidal/troubled bros in here (I suspect there are), come on in and let’s talk/e-hug it out. TRIGGER WARNING: sad, but sometimes sort of funny stuff ahead, along with some instances of severe faggotry.
Before we talk about depression and suicide, we should be clear that practically fucking everybody gets depressed at some point in there lives (if you don’t, you may have empathy issues), and there is absolutely nothing wrong or weird with having a protracted emotional response to a major life event or situation (ie: death of a loved one, ending of a cherished relationship, etc). This is normal stuff, and while I’m not trying to downplay how real or painful it may be (because it most certainly is real and painful), this type of depression typically resolves itself once circumstances change and tables turn.
The type of depression I am focusing on here is the kind of lingering, continual depression that most average people cannot relate to because they are mostly emotionally balanced, whereas clinical depression is embodied in the severe lack of emotional balance. In other words, no matter what you do, where you go, and what you accomplish, you always feel unhappy inside. You may not want to talk about it too much because you don’t want to be perceived as a drag by those around you (plus, contrary to what a million skinny artfag college students think, girls will not fuck you for being a sadsack unless you are in a band or already have a great body from the get-go), but at the end of the day life feels like a burden, and it’s easy to not value being alive when you spend most of your waking moments feeling miserable. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and I had to learn most of these lessons the hard way:
1) Don’t blame yourself for who you are: On an episode of The Sopranos, the frumpy Jewish therapist lady at one point tells Tony Soprano that depression is “rage turned inward”. I think the show kinda jumped the shark by that episode, but she is right: whether you are conscious of it or not, depression can be fairly characterized as a biting, internal hatred of one’s self, which is usually why you stay the same miserable person no matter how well you may be doing irl. It may be one of the hardest things you do, but you need to resolve to not think of yourself as a piece of shit, and resolve to find a path to recovery and betterment. Even if you don’t know where that path begins, you will have already found the starting point if can accept that your own life is worth turning around and changing. Save your hatred for murderers, rapists, and easycore bands that stop writing breakdowns. If nothing else, the fact that you read this site means you are probably an okay person, even if you are sad and/or have made some shitty decisions in the past.
2) Set your goals, stick to them, surround yourself with positivity: Besides medication and therapy, which I will get to in a moment, one of the most important and productive things you can do in combating the notion that your life is an endless mire of misery is to create positive, measurable goals. Start working out, level-up your job prospects, continue your education, even set quotas for the number of random girls you are going to chat up when you go out. You’ll feel awesome when you achieve your goals, and when you when you have missteps, you can use them as opportunities to learn and improve for next time. Following a devastating breakdown in which I saw the girl I wanted to marry leave me amid the worst mental purgatory I’d ever experienced, getting a gym membership was probably the single best investment I made in turning my life around after the dust settled – I saw myself shape up, which made me want to eat and dress better, which made me more confident. Don’t take for granted how much setting goals (and sticking to them) and making a game plan can help!
3) Don’t think you are too good for medicine or therapy: Of all of the regrets in my life, and I have several, possibly my biggest one was waiting so long to get professional help for my problems. When I look back, I don’t know how many times my life needed to fall apart or how much pain I needed to put myself through in order to get the message, but the point is that if you have been generally depressed for a long time and you see no end in sight, there is a very good chance that there’s a legitimate biological explanation for at least part of your problems – and issues of biology are not something you will just “get over” in time. Figuring out what you are really dealing with and how to treat it may be a long, difficult process, but it is better to nip the issue in the bud asap rather than face potentially devastating consequences later. Don’t let that girl or that job slip away because you didn’t act when you needed to: as much as we all want to be independent alpha bros, sometimes being truly self reliant means knowing when to ask for help, and considering that seemingly everybody is on meds now anyway, you need not disclose anything and nobody who isn’t an asshole should give a fuck if you are on medication or seeing a therapist anyway.
4) Seek an outside opinion: Your friends and boyfriend/girlfriend are not a substitute for a professional therapist. While true friends will listen to you and try to be there for you, you risk putting a heavy strain on your relationship when you burden then with every painful thought that crosses your mind, and for all you know, they may have problems of their own that they are trying to work with. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be willing to be open with your friends, but be very cautious as to what you decide to tell them and who you tell. Just as you don’t want to overburden your friends, you don’t want to misplace your trust in someone and end up having your name dragged through the mud if a relationship sours. Aside from an elite few, share the most with your therapist – they can give you an objective opinion, and can help you formulate strategies for recovery.
5) Don’t make excuses for dragging yourself down: For a long time, when friends asked me why I didn’t take advantage of certain social opportunities during heavy bouts of depression, I’d tell them “I’m not being pessimistic, I’m just being realistic. I really am a useless person”. The truth is that because of the way my brain was wired, I didn’t actually know what “real” was, and that I was in fact making excuses to keep myself down because confronting the truth, (ie: that I needed to change my life) was scary, and it’s easy to keep kicking yourself when you are down when that’s what you know. Being able to take a step forward means having to, on some level, reject what you may believe about the world or about yourself, and commit full-on to change. If nothing else, consider this: if you hate yourself and there is anybody in the world who likes you or thinks you are worthy doing anything (and odds are, there is), perhaps you are wrong about yourself, not the rest of the world.
6) Not killing yourself doesn’t make you coward, it means you are acknowledging your will to survive: There were at least two occasions I can recall where I locked myself in somebody’s bathroom with a steak knife, held it up to my wrists in the bathtub, and tossed the knife away before anything went too far. Each time, I spent the next three days in black-out rage mode for being such a “pussy” and extending my cheap existence. Simply put: fuck that shit. You’ve probably already heard the typical “suicide is the easy way out” line, but to be honest, it isn’t: It’s scary as fuck to think that somebody you love and care about can get that close to the edge and let go, or to stand there and face the void yourself. If you have ever gotten low enough to try killing yourself but pulled back at the last moment, you may feel fear and intense self loathing, but at the end of the day you are on some level accepting that you do want to keep going, even as painful as life is at the moment. Step back, reassess your options, and do not hate yourself for acknowledging that you have the potential to get through another day, and that tomorrow may be better.
Some Hints/Cheat Codes for General Mental Illness:
1) Seek out like-minded voices: Whether you are feeling depressed, anxious, nervous, or whatever, it’s easy to feel like you are all alone in the world and that nobody understands you because you are living inside your head. While people often lean on music to find ‘something 2 relate 2’, music that communicates how you feel doesn’t always help because it can re-enforce feelings rather than alleviate them (see: any sad fggt who has ever listened to Elliott Smith to deal with the pain of a breakup). Don’t underestimate other avenues and forms of media to find voices to relate to, such as forums, podcasts, group therapy, etc. As cheesy at it sounds, I literally had a revelatory moment listening to a podcast with comedian Maria Bamford, because it was the first time I had ever heard another person openly articulate a condition I had been dealing with for years (unwanted thought syndrome) in a clear, open manner. Plus, she has been through way more shit than I have, and she is semi-famous and monetarily successful, so bonus motivational/inspirational points as well!
2) Find the therapist that is right for you: So far, I’ve seen three therapists, and I made more progress in the three weeks spent with the third than I had with the months spent with the first one (or second). Finding a therapist that fits with you may take time, but like dating, you should be able to tell whether or not you click with a therapist fairly quickly, and if that therapist is giving you a hard time, is too distant, or just seems like an ass? NEXT! The first therapist I saw made me analyze lyrics to his terrible Pearl Jam rip-off band as an “exercise” and tried to buy my trust by (illegally) disclosing deeply personal information about one of his clients, who happened to play in the original line-up of SYWH punching-bag band Christian Death. I was 17 at the time and didn’t know any better but to put up with it, but if I knew then what I know now, I totally would’ve NEXTed his ass yesterday.
The Bottom Line: While mental illness is by its very nature highly personal and there’s no single set way to go about dealing with it, hopefully some of you will find the #realtalk above helpful in sorting through your own issues. Just keep in mind that nobody is truly above finding any happiness in the world – it’s just that some of us, whether due to nature or nurture, have to work harder for it than others. No matter how hard things gets, just remember: you truly are good and lovely, and as long as you are willing to work for it, you too have the ability.
Discussion: Have you ever dealt with depression or mental illness? If you feel like sharing, what did you do? What do you do now to keep the ball rolling in a forward direction? Have you ever gone to Target to look at the furniture for no other purpose than to try and feel like you are a normal, functional human being?
If anyone wants to talk to me directly about the issues described above or anything else, you can reach me on Tumblr or e-mail me at email@example.com