This isn’t easy to talk about. It’s uncomfortable, even, to think about.
Sometimes it hits me in the produce section of the grocery store. I can’t shake it because it’s quite real. But it happens, and it scares the hell out of me.
It’s depression, the word many are too embarrassed to talk about because people will call us “crazy” or look at us differently like it’s contagious.
Depression is extremely difficult to talk about. I’d rather hide it instead express what I’m feeling. This has taken me months to write. (We, worry you might judge us). It’s easier to put on a happy face and fake my way through the day. But it’s an illness, a crippling one, many do not understand. It can hit anyone at any time. There are days I switch from happy to sad in the blink of an eye. The most real example that comes to the forefront of my mind is actor Robin Williams. Watching Williams on the big screen, we assume he was the happiest person on the planet. He made us laugh and delivered in almost every performance he gave. He was always smiling, but he was just masking his pain.
He died from complications with depression. Many people dismiss depression as a “minor, trivial concern,” Dean Burnett wrote in a 2014 column “Robin Williams’ death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish.”
But it’s not trivial. It’s real. And it’s real hard and it isn’t easy.
I have it. Many days it’s paralyzing. Admitting it feels like defeat, but it should be considered a small victory. Sometimes people cannot admit they struggle. How many people have we met who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, yet they continue to deny they have a problem?
I think many people would cast me in a similar light as Williams. “He seems happy.” What’s wrong? “You should be happy. Look at what you’ve done with your life.” And so on.
No matter how hard I try, I often feel alone; I’ve often felt like I do not have a true connection in the world (which stems from my adoption); I tend to cry for no reason; life events like death are triggered by little things; I become overly emotional and shut myself off, and so on. I often bury things that bother me, like death or something that’s happened to me emotionally. I hold grudges. I don’t process things when I should and instead hold on until I explode.
It’s hard on those around us because they don’t understand why we are the way we are.
This isn’t easy.
More than 60 percent of people – who were polled in a public attitude survey in Tarrant County, Texas, conducted by the county’s Mental Health Connection and the University of North Texas in Denton to determine the community’s view of mental illness – believe the most effective way to treat depression is by “pulling it together.” These were family members polled.
Dionne McFarlane wrote “10 Things People With Depression Want you to Know.” This is her list (which I agree with every one of these):
- We can’t just snap out of it.
- We don’t always have a reason as to why we’re feeling depressed.
- I don’t want to hurt you.
- Depression and being sad are not the same thing. (I would say many people confused these two).
- Depression isn’t a choice.
- We can feel like a burden and that we’re too much to deal with.
- Achievements that you see as small are big to me (This carries a lot of weight with me).
- We can still have some good days.
- We appreciate your kind words and how you’re trying to help.
- We’re trying our best to get through it.
This isn’t easy.
Music is my way of getting through it or at least helping. I love being on the stage – as a musician and actor. But it’s not for the glory and fame many think it might be associated with (it used to be when I was younger, until I understood why I perform). For one, music and acting allow me to transform into a different character on stage. It gives me a brief time where I can leave what I’m experiencing at the moment and find peace. Music also helps me heal. It’s really been my only form of healing. So I write and perform so others can possibly experience what I experience. If I can help someone who suffers from the same thing, I’ve done my job.
And when I’m rewarded in my music or acting (an award, accomplishment, etc.) it helps fuel my desire to continue on. It’s the acceptance and connection I need. Music has been my one constant connection and one feeling of belonging.
I don’t tell many people I suffer from depression. I have quit on many therapists. And the thing I need most is a good therapist. I have buried myself in emotional debt. And I walk with that every day. I’ve been too afraid to confront it because everything hurts. And I’ve dealt with a lot of hurt.
I’m writing this for a few reasons. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Believe me, I feel sorry for myself enough. This is my “step one” in facing my lifelong battle with depression. Secondly, I want to help people who suffer from depression. Like McFarlane wrote, “it’s not a choice.” We don’t enjoy this. We don’t like feeling sick. We don’t like what is in our heads.
And I’m hoping one day I kick this disease.
Williams sums it up best, “And for those suffering from depression, I know how dark and endless that tunnel can feel. But if happiness seems impossible to find, please hold on to the possibility of hope, faint though it may be. Because I promise you, there’re enough nights under the same yellow moon for all of us to share, no matter how or when you find your way there.”
This isn’t easy, but one day I hope it gets easier.