Depression Over the Ages

It’s a funny thing, depression. One of the loneliest conditions a person can experience, it’s nonetheless felt by millions upon millions of people the world over. And yet, despite being so prevalent, no two people experience it quite the same, even though the outcomes are so often similar.

When I first succumbed to the onslaught of depression in the early 2000s, there wasn’t a whole lot for me to know about it. I felt miserable, I wanted to sleep all day, I hated myself and my life, and daydreamed of death virtually non-stop. It was a distinctly personal experience, and one that I had trouble sharing with … well, anyone.

You see, the advent of easy global communication was still a year or two away, and in the beginning, there was just myself and my friends at school. My friends at school didn’t really understand depression – even with my closest friend, Jen, who I know suffered as I did, I struggled to communicate the depth of despair and self-loathing I felt every day.

The funny thing about misery, though, is that it loves company. I eventually found myself on AOL chat rooms and other instant messaging platforms, and suddenly a world was opened up to me – a world of dark, dangerous, depressed people who felt just the way I did (and some of them were even worse). For the first time in my life, I truly realized I wasn’t alone, and although I never met any of these chat people in real life, my online presence became my life. I would count the breaths until I could sign on again to talk to my dark, gothic friends.

These ability to communicate thoughts and feelings was, in some ways, a saving grace. Without it, I would have been truly alone, and I don’t know how long I could have survived in such a state. I have little doubt I would have killed myself.

Before this, though – before people could easily communicate – what did depressed people do? How did they let out their frustrations, vent their feelings, and cope with the voice in their head telling them they would be better off dead?

I mean, depression isn’t exactly a new phenomenon; famous figures throughout history have notably suffered, including Tchaikovsky, Churchill, and Cobain. As public figures, of course – and as artists – they had some form of outlet, but what about the countless ‘little’ people, the ones with no outlet, no forum, and no way of telling the world that they aren’t happy? What of all those lonely souls throughout history?

Whilst depression may not have changed in a million years, our reaction to it certainly has. Even though it’s still considered taboo in some circles to discuss mental illness at all, the fact that it can be discussed is, in itself, a revelation. I came across a post the other day on Reddit about a young girl who was contemplating killing herself. It was a heartbreaking read, but what made it bearable was the fact that, without hours, there were literally hundreds of comments in support of her and her experience – hundreds of people who reached out through the anonymity of the internet to try and help her through this difficult moment.

I’m not saying that people who suffer from depression are in a better place now than in the past; the disease is powerful, and can make lonely the most outgoing of people in a heartbeat. But what we do have now, that we never had before, is a forum through which to discuss our suffering. A place we can go to learn from others, and share our experiences. And whether that’s on Reddit, Twitter, or right here on WordPress, there is a world of loving and caring individuals out there who are willing and waiting to hear what you have to say.

So don’t be lonely, and don’t be a stranger; reach out. Someone will answer.

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You’re Not the Only One (And That’s a Good Thing)

Don’t you think that you need somebody?
Don’t you think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody
You’re not the only one

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain

Loneliness – the dreadful, gnawing sense of abandonment and despair that comes from knowing that no one in the world suffers as you do – can be devastating. Worse still, you often feel as though you deserve it, because you’re somehow less than other people – less capable, less valid, less … human.

I used to feel this way a lot. I still do, sometimes, although as I’ve gotten older and weathered the storms of depression I’ve learned that even despair passes with time, and that even the loneliest among us aren’t really alone. It doesn’t change the feeling itself – in the moment, when the black closes in around you, you know beyond any doubt that you are utterly, completely alone.

It isn’t true, though. Not really.

Humans, by nature, need companionship. We crave it. We want it with every fiber of our being, and yet … sometimes we reject it. Sometimes, even when a friend comes knocking, we fail to answer the door. When a hand reaches out in the dark, we see it – and turn the other way.

Many of us … struggle with feeling valid. [But] it’s possible to be wrong.

I used to wonder about this. I used to think that loneliness could be a kind of strength, a measure of how deep my depression ran. That, somehow, being alone meant I was validated in my despair, that it was … okay, I guess, to feel so miserable. And I would see overtures from friends and family, and I would actively push them away, driving them off like rats with a stick.

I used to wonder why I was like this. Why on earth did I reject others’ attempts to help me? Why did I want to be alone?

The answer, I believe, lies in the belief of self-worth. Many of us, especially here on this blog, struggle with feeling valid, with believing that we’re worth something. Something deep inside triggers us into feeling that, no matter what, we don’t deserve the love of friends, family, colleagues … that, simply put, we aren’t worth the effort.

I know this feeling all too well. It once was bad enough that I remember thinking that I was punishing the world simply by being alive – that the air I was breathing would be better suited to someone else. I wanted to die, not only because of the depth of my misery, but because it somehow felt that it would be fairer to those around me to just not have to worry about me anymore.

But here’s what I’ve learned over the years. What you feel doesn’t change how others feel. Your beliefs don’t affect those of the people around you. And it’s possible to be wrong.

You see, from the moment you’re born to the moment you die, there are people who care about you. And the don’t care because they must – they care because they want to. There are, of course, varying levels of care, based on the feelings of sadness and hurt when you suffer, but there are so many, many more people in the world that care about you than you know.

Because every single word you utter, every sentence you type, every glance you give, affects the people you know – and sometimes the people you don’t. I don’t know you – we’ve never met – but I care. James here at The Bipolar Writer cares – for crying out loud, he’s even offered his phone number publicly! And believe me that the people who do know you care even more.

I attended a funeral last year for a friend of mine. If I’m honest (I hope he forgives me), he was no one special. He didn’t write books; he didn’t make movies. He wasn’t famous. Sometimes he was depressed; sometimes he didn’t want to carry on, especially towards the end. But he did; he powered through his cancer until the bitter end, because he wasn’t alone. And nowhere was this more evident than at the outpouring of love at his funeral. Yes, there were tears – but more than that, there were laughs, and good memories, and a sense of companionship between the rest of us who live: brought together by one person.

So what I’m trying to say here is simple: you’re not the only one to suffer. And you aren’t alone in your suffering. Every one of us here at The Bipolar Writer has, in one fashion or another, been in your shoes; we know what it’s like. We care. So do many. And the community James has built here should help you understand this simple idea:

You aren’t alone.

Coffee time thoughts #1

Today while I was drinking my coffee I was thinking about how far I’ve come since I was 16. I used to become very violent at random times during the day. Now I just get violent when things have become too much for me to handle at home. ALthought I have learned to notice it before it becomes a problem. No matter what I do though things tend to become a bit hairy at points. I don’t have as many panic attacks anymore. My anxiety is more or less under control. Plus I’ve grown as a person. I was never really an outgoing person. I just tend to follow my favorite person around, because I’m afraid to be alone. When I i think about the year i was 16 a lot of stuff happened comes to mind. I told my mom that i wa raped. I was handed the keys to a car that was never put in my name. I dumped a guy. I had decided to move in with my dad, but didn’t actually do it till i was 17.

No matter what had happened though I became a stonger person and more able to handle the world around me. I had become smarter than to trust a family member. I learned not to trust my little brother. Although through all of this I was expecting to become a spokeswoman for the mental health community and travel the world. No one told me to not have big dreams. Although IF any of you know me outside of this blog then you know my other dream was to become a psychologist. No I haven’t given up on that dream i just want to study things about horses first. I plan on going to meredith manor this fall.

My parents divorced when i was 5. That was when things went down hill. My parents both turned to destructive vices. They never truly accepted me for who i was. Plus, now that i think about it my dad never will. My mom mostly has accpeted me for who I am , i have a husband, his family, and my dogs who accept me for me. I’ve had friends over the years come and go. I’ve had a few stay by my side even through me leaving them countless times. Little have i realized theat I really needed them. There are days that I go without talking to anyone and all I do is sit and listen to the world around and inside me. I can’t help it I just feel the need to listen sometimes. Now I just look around and imagine things from someone else’s perspective.

thanks for listening,

Bri