Monday, May 23, 2016

Sad Music (Tweedle-dee-dee)

You can't talk about mental health without talking about...


It's like the panda of conservation for mental illnesses. There are so many worthwhile, pressing topics in mental health, but for some reason depression always happens to be the default. Maybe it's easiest to talk about because "everyone has felt sadness," or maybe it's prevalent enough that people can relate ("I had an aunt who had depression, but she did yoga and it went away").

Anyhow, as a person who has had the experience of dealing with recurring depression, there's not much to say about it anymore. I still haven't wrapped my head around everything there is to understand about it, but if I had, I probably would have won some psychiatry award by now. Lately, I've wanted to synthesize some of the thoughts I've had regarding depression and sadness in society that may be applicable to life in general. This is by no means a complete conclusion, but maybe it can help. Then again, I've been told I'm pretentious, so read at your own risk.

1) On Grieving:
There's often a stigma against being sad. "Toughen up" and "Don't cry" are common sayings, while encouragement to cry is almost nonexistent. It's important to let people be sad. It is not only a part of the grieving process, but also of the healing process. If sad feelings are repressed, they don't go away. They fester and manifest again in worse ways — violence, fear, anxiety.

Unfortunately, society likes "chill" people because they're easy to deal with. You have your own problems so why get involved with someone who is always dealing with more problems or celebrating things they're better at than you? As a result, people tend to shy away from negative emotion, doing whatever they can to try to appear happy. For some people this manifests itself in destructive tendencies like partying, rash life decisions, and complete abandon of responsibility. It seems like that's the bulk of the stigma against depression: you can't be sad because your problems make me sad and I don't want to be sad.

2) On Healing:
That has never been sufficient for me. Those temporary distractions don't last long, and the sadness doesn't go away. One thing I fixated on when I had depression is that I want to feel the full spectrum of human emotion. I can't pretend to always be happy when my life is dull. To understand the highest of highs, it's necessary to understand the lowest of lows.

When I have the capacity to, I try to solve a problem at its root. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one. If you push the sadness away, it's never going to be fully gone. But if you confront it head on, let it beat you down, and recover, then you will know how to beat it back.

With depression, I felt like it was burning me away from the inside out. When it was done, I found myself with no sense of identity. It's a terribly isolating experience to find that you don't know who you are. But after the identity crisis, I was in a place where I could reevaluate and build again.

There was a Hemingway quote I saw on Tumblr not too long ago that said, “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” I think that's an admirable goal. Too often I have found myself drifting through life day by day and not remembering any of it. Depression stole that part of my life from me, so now when I am able to, I strive to live to my fullest capacity. I have a long way to go, and maybe I'll never reach it, but the best I can do is try. ◊

No comments:

Post a Comment