“My weakness I feel I must finally show.”
– Awake My Soul, Mumford and Sons
This post is a bit darker than usual, but I feel I can’t break my hiatus from posting written blog entries until this one is seen.
To answer the question posed in this post’s title: What makes me vulnerable? Asking for help when I am so incredibly depressed I lose my words.
Now let me put this in context: Around the end of June of this year, I felt…off. I don’t really know how else to describe it. I’m typically fairly calm, content, and level-headed, but I found myself off center. I was snapping at those closest to me and always felt either fuming angry or deeply sad. There was no in between. Thus started three months of the worst depression I have ever faced.
I don’t know where it came from or why it never left during that time period, but there it was when I woke up in the morning, haunting me throughout the day, and keeping me from sleep. There was much crying and frustration and voices (yes, voices, which makes me sound schizophrenic. But it’s more common than you think.) I couldn’t do anything without crying. I knew there was a problem, but didn’t know what the source was, which near made me go insane.
What was the most maddening for me during this time was the fact that I’m a writer…but I had no words. When my fiancee or a friend or a family member would ask me what was wrong in a genuine attempt to help (which I am so grateful for), I had nothing to tell them. I wasn’t trying to be coy or less of a burden. I legit had no idea what was wrong with me. I eventually stopped reaching out because it seemed pointless.
I kind of felt like Vincent Van Gogh, as portrayed in Doctor Who. During one of Van Gogh’s fits of madness, he has a short conversation with the Doctor:
The Doctor: Vincent, can I help?
Van Gogh: It’s so clear you cannot help. And when you leave—and everyone always leaves—I will be left once more with an empty heart and no hope.
The Doctor: My experience is that there is, you know, surprisingly always hope.
Van Gogh: Then your experience is incomplete! I know how it will end. And it will not end well.
For months, I felt exactly as the artist did in the previous exchange. I felt as if everyone always left me, and I was always alone. I felt like this experience I was having would end very badly.
I don’t think that people should live without hope, but I do think that everyone reaches a point where they truly believe there is none. I agree with Van Gogh in the sense that if someone has not experienced that, then her experience of life is incomplete. But the point isn’t to stay there. It is to rise and get help.
I know it’s a cliche saying, but it is true that sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to go anywhere but up. That’s where I was, and I decided to just fold into myself. I didn’t reach out, as mentioned before, and tried to deal on my own (This didn’t go well. If you’re experiencing depression, please tell someone). I watched depressing movies so I could cry. Sometimes it was all I could do not to hyperventilate. And in between all this, fielding the voices in my head, and fighting just to go out and see the sun on so-so days, I made it my goal to find words for whatever it was I was feeling. In the process, I amassed a pretty good collection (some of which I’ve already shared in this post, with more quotes to come).
Now to circle back to the question posed in the beginning of the post: I was vulnerable during my depression, especially because I didn’t have words. But, somehow (and very thankfully), I moved past that to ask for help again. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t pretty. But I started to say, to a trusted few, things like “Something’s wrong,” and “I can’t take this anymore, but I don’t know what to do,” and “I don’t know what this is.” And people stepped in. My fiance, my friends, and family checked in on me. They made sure I had everything I needed. They skyped with me in a minute’s notice. They got me out of my apartment.
It’s hard for me to accept help. I think part of this hearkens back to the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” One of the main characters says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I wanted to soldier through the depression on my own because I wanted to be independent, but I also didn’t want to be a nuisance. The kind gestures of those closest to me showed me that I deserve a love much better than what I originally thought, and I try to carry that knowledge with me wherever I go now.
After getting help, both personal and professional, I’m feeling better. I’ve been ok for about a month now, and I can’t fully express how refreshing it is. I’m back to being myself. I still get frustrated and blue, but it’s manageable and in proportion with the circumstances I face. And I also get happy and smile a lot. But more than that, I’m content. While some may see content as being “middle of the road,” for me, right now, there is no sweeter feeling than to just be satisfied with where I am.
I must give credit where credit is due: There are two web sites (one blog post and one TED talk) that really pushed me to be brave and write this post: Natalie’s “The Lies in Our Heads” and Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability.” Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories.
In her TED talk, Brene Brown talks about telling “the story of who you are with your whole heart” and having “the courage to be imperfect.” That’s what this post is for me. That’s why I felt I couldn’t post anything else before I wrote this. I had to learn that being depressed wasn’t my fault. I had to learn that it’s ok to be imperfect and ask for help, spreading that messiness to others who can do something positive. And I needed you, the reader, to know this and, perhaps, let what I’ve learned sink into your own life.
Epilogue: I was seriously thinking of making this a private post just so I could write it, but only for me to see. So why make it public? Because I’m starting to find words and, as a writer, it’s important for me that I put those words out in the open, knowing that this could backfire or that not one person besides myself will read this or care. But even in the times when I don’t believe in myself, I know that risk is worth it, that the written word infused with authenticity has the power to change everything. Aside from authentic human relationships with the closest people in my life, it is all that has ever changed me.
Here are some of the other words I found to help me through my journey and articulate what I was feeling:
“Do not ask the price I paid. I must live with my quiet rage.
Tame the ghosts in my head. They’re unwild and wish me dead.”
– Lover’s Eyes, Mumford and Sons
“I feel fine, and I can smile,
But I feel the anger coming.
I don’t know why
It’s always overflowing.
It’s a constant fight
And I wanna forget it.
I confess I’m always afraid, always ashamed
Of what’s inside me.
I confess I’m always afraid, always ashamed
Of what’s inside my head.
And I can breath, and I still feel,
But not the way I want to.
I’m on the edge. I don’t know how
I can escape this nightmare.”
– Confession (What’s Inside My Head), RED
“You’re so mean when you talk about yourself. You were wrong.
Change the voices in your head. Make them like you instead.”
Fuckin’ Perfect, Pink
“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
– The War of Art, Steven Pressfield (Thanks for sharing, Stephanie Levy!)