depression survival guide
1. we live in a world where we are smothered with an empty word called happiness.
2. if happiness is the demand everything else feels like failure.
3. but you are made of mostly water, and it is your right to cry.
4. before we can talk about mental illness, we have to talk about sadness. i am furious that i have to say it is okay to be sad, since i truly believe it is the default and joy is an added bonus, but since grinning magazine covers and men telling women to smile were an elective we never signed up for, I have to preface:
5. it. is. okay. to. be. sad.
6. but while the opposite of happiness is sadness, sadness and depression are not synonyms.
7. think of every weepy housemom in a commercial about depression. light your tv on fire and remember why millennials don’t fucking buy tvs.
8. “the opposite of depression is not happiness, it is vitality” - andrew soloman.
9. those words changed my life.
10. look at me healthy. look at me making atlas’ job seem easy. how do i do it? how do i take on five projects at once, a relationship, care for my body, call my mother, feel, learn, crush boundaries and make them into bridges, and still have time to watch youtube videos of dogs being reunited with their owners?
11. because I have my vitality. because I have the will and capacity to live.
12. but i have lost my vitality before. clutched at my pockets in panic, searched for it in the basement of my sanity. and I know that I often overdo for fear of losing it again.
13. depression makes you believe you never had vitality in the first place. depression denies you of your right to survive. it convinces you that you never will again.
14. hey, you, with your heart clutched in your hands and the color something awful, the pulse barely there, exhausted from hiding . I see you. I am you. for one minute, can we pretend we live in a world patient enough for you to get better? because here’s what I would say:
15. everyone heals differently.
16. I could not meditate my depression away. Big ups if you could, bro. But I don’t have time to sit on a mountain in silence, I have to take the new york city subway to my dreams and god knows those fuckers are loud.
17. I did try to meditate it away. And drink smoothies! And do yoga! And write!
18. And by try I mean I sobbed on the floor of my childhood bedroom, lost 10 pounds because depressed people are too busy living in existential dread to chop strawberries, turned my body into the tin man because each panic attack traumatizes your nervous system so stretching is a fucking joke, and my notebook became a home for my conviction that I was dying, plus writing is hard when you’re too sick to buy tissues so you blow your nose in paper instead.
19. If you’re considering medicine, you can make this easy or you can make it hard. Science makes it easy. Stigma makes it hard. That’s why i waited til just-nearly-too-late to take the pills.
20. My body can’t be a fucking temple if my brain forgot how to pray.
21. I. Am. Not. Saying. It. Works. For. Everyone.
22. I. Am. Saying. It. Works. For. Me.
23. This argument that medicine numbs you, takes you, quiets you, disconnects you, kills you?
24. This instagram you are following is proof of the opposite. Guess what I was doing before these floodgates of ink opened? Sitting paralyzed in a Duane Reade, skinless, hopeless, and with vitality nowhere on the shelf.
25. You are allowed to feel better. There is an opposite to the way you are feeling. And while medicine worked for me when my depression grew too big for my own brain to comfort, for a long while therapy and moving my body was the answer.
26. Which is to say your demon and mine are not the same. Which is to say another person has no right to tell you how to be human.
27. it took a very, very good doctor and many sessions of me tracing a painting of my brain and my mother’s before there was a pink oval in my palm.
28. you know how you know when you’re getting a cold? and how you don’t want to be sick so you pretend you aren’t and then a bunch of people hear you sneezing and some of them are assholes about it but most of them want you to feel better, bring you soup, tell you to take the day, and literally bless you. and you can fight it, sure, but eventually you’ll have to give in to get better.
29. What if that was the dialogue around mental illness? Since it is as common as a cold. As human. As worthy of soup and bless yous.
30. I believe half the battle in getting better is to stop hiding mental illness. I believe secrets destroy us from the inside out. I know it.
31. It is wildly sad that getting better is a privilege.
32. But for those of us who have it, we must scream about it. normalize. destigmatize. make it so that we can live in a world where everyone has access to mental health care.
33. for me, vitality is a feeling and not a given. I have had times where I’ve wished my make and model came with that feature, but it didn’t. I almost traded in, but I heard that vintage carries more of a story. Besides, the tune-ups did the trick, and there are a lot of models out there who look a little like me.
34. See you at the shop?