This post will contain some real-talk about depression, specifically my depression. If that makes you uncomfortable then… don’t read this…
My depression has been with me for as long as I can remember. Childhood memories, every photo, all are touched by my ravenous pet. Perhaps I’m projecting my recent emotions onto my past but I can’t help believing this reality. It’s easier for me to accept a depression that I was born with, a genetic quirk that I can treat with prescription medications, than to think of it as caused by something in the past few years that’ll need years of therapy to exorcise.
At its weakest my depression is a terrible imaginary friend whispering degrading comments in my ear from when I wake up to when I sleep. At its worst, well today I’m going strong and would rather not dwell on my darker days.
The spectrum between my two extremes is volatile and can change by the hour (though my medication does help to keep me at a level emotional footing.) I can drop from Maria von Trapp-levels of joy to a skulking Gollum with ease. Some days I walk around with a vile monkey on my back that pulls my hair and scratches my skin. At times I wander through my day asking myself, “Why? Why? Why?” There are mornings where leaving my bed makes me flail my limbs around in anger and frustration, which only increases the anger I feel towards myself.
My biggest breakthrough in the past few months occurred last week when I realized, “I have Privilege.”
I am a white, cis-male (I don’t always present as my gender is expected to but I can butch it up if needed) who is financially stable. There are self-care measures that help and I can do them. I have the privilege of being able to go to a coffee shop for a decaf coffee and a blueberry muffin. I can watch episodes of Deep Space 9 while hiding in my bed with a mug of Earl Grey. If I need to take a three-hour walk I can. Not only this but because I still qualify to use my parents’ health insurance (also- having parents with health insurance) so I’ve been able to afford medications, counselors, even a psychiatrist.
It used to be that this sort of thought would make my depression worse. I know my pain is my pain and the fact that many people are less-privileged than me does not invalidate my condition, but try telling my depression that. What helped me move past this was the recognition of my other privileges.
As a cisgender, white dude society seems to like hearing me speak. I can use this voice for raising general awareness of depression but I think that area is white and cis. enough. Don’t worry, I have no intention of speaking for non-white and not cis. people. What I can do is use my voice to direct attention away from me and to programs and causes that make the mental health advocacy more diverse, more representative of those of us who need help.
Adopting this mindset hasn’t cured my depression. What it has done is given me a lifeline to cling to: I can do something. “Do” is the important word in that previous sentence. No matter how nice a sentiment is what I really need is an action, work that I can do, movements that I can take.
It’s not too late to get involved with Missive March Madness, my month of letter writing. And by “not too late” I mean that I don’t have 31 volunteers yet. More information in this post.