Today, a regular on Slacktivist, chris the cynic, posted to call attention to yet another blog I had never seen before: Hyperbole and a Half. The most recent post describes the author’s battle with depression. The author uses a comedic approach to explaining how bad depression can be, which trips up my artificial empathy patterns with the mixed message “feeling terrible is hilarious and I want you to know how hilarious it really isn’t,” but it’s a feeling I understand.
I almost feel as if I shouldn’t, but I do. I took every psychology class and anything related my college offered — Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Psychology of Sex and Gender, Developmental Psychology, Sociology, Social Problems, Bioethics… they all gave various insights on the human mind and its myriad conditions. But!
I still have antisocial personality disorder.
That’s kind of a problem. How does one properly understand how others feel when they’re afflicted by something which, by definition, makes it very hard to relate to anyone else? I won’t deny it, my natural impulse on reading “I have depression” is to think “… So, you’re like, uh, sad?” Words are inadequate to describe my own emotions; now I’ve got someone trying to tell me theirs, and I have no natural mechanisms to care. That makes me sound heartless. I am. I’m Commander Data, tilting quizzically while trying to determine which comfort subroutine is appropriate to your native species and culture. Should I pat you on the back or give an inspirational speech? (Neither. You’re a Talarian and I should join you in mournful howling. Awoooo.)
I do understand. I understand depression on an intellectual level from my schooling, but it took realizing that I suffer from the same condition to put the equation together and see how it related to other people. I’ve struggled on and off with depression over a number of years, wandering somewhere between dysthymia and major depressive disorder. At its best, it’s a feeling that never quite goes away, but it’s just comfortable enough to fade into the background. My usual emotional state is relaxed and easy-going, but who says that has to be a happy easy-going?
At its worst, it feels like having been crushed. Sometimes I swear that’s the literal truth, that if I had an x-ray done, I would see my ribs crushing into vital organs. It doesn’t help that I already have physical problems with my everything, which just adds insult to injury: not only do I feel terrible, I feel terrible. My mind and body are colluding in a grand design to make themselves miserable! Jerks.
It’s difficult to explain depression to someone who hasn’t ever had a major episode. I say it’s like being crushed. In a way, it’s almost more like those nights when no matter how you toss or turn, you can’t find a comfortable position. Your legs just don’t fit right, your arms can’t figure out if they want to hug something or punch the wall, and exactly how straight should the spine be? Have you ever had a night like that, and after awhile, you just give up and hope that you fall asleep before cramping and bruising set in? That’s like living with depression: it hurts, but there’s nothing you can do about it except wait and hope the day passes before it gets worse. After awhile, it’s just kind of there. It hurts. The sky is blue. It hurts. Kids are noisy. It hurts. It’s never warm enough, except when it’s too hot.
I discovered awhile ago that a lack of natural empathy not only makes it harder to care about others, it translates well into not caring about one’s self. Hyperbole and a Half’s author described this as “my depression got so horrible that it actually broke through to the other side and became a sort of fear-proof exoskeleton.” The emptiness and futility are so encompassing, they include any concern for what people might think of me. Thankfully, expressions of that total lack of self-regard have largely been limited to throwing on something society frowns upon people wearing (you name it, I’ve probably worn it, from tied straitjackets to clothing very obviously intended for someone not of my apparent sex to bondage collars to things which probably ought not to be mentioned without a NSFW tag) and wandering around public places.
It doesn’t bring me any great joy to do so, but the desire was there — along with a complete lack of concern for what could happen. Someone could see? Oh well. Someone could yell? Oh well. Someone could yell very loudly? I might muster up the willpower to yell right back. They might call the police? Darn, I might go to jail and have a place to stay and food and better medical care. Scratch that: I’d have medical care.
I feel like this sums up a lot of how I spend my days now, just tottering around while I wait for the day to end, alternating between doing responsible things and trying not to feel too flattened, rebelling against responsibility by throwing on a miniskirt or a dumb hat or (NSFW!) and grabbing a book and going outside. Or staying inside. I’m actually very bad with responsibility, a fact of which has apparently somehow been communicated to the eight places I sent job applications to on Monday.
I think I’ve run out of things to write. Can you tell this was an exercise to try and wriggle out from under my depression?