Aug

22

2014

Depression Is Like An Elevator

depression elevator

I want to talk to you about depression. At first, I resisted writing this post, for a few reasons. After the sad and shocking death of Robin Williams, it seemed like everything about depression that could be said was said, and also, it’s scary and uncomfortable for me to come out and talk about my own struggles with depression. But then I realized, maybe that’s why it needs to be written. Because it’s scary, and because it takes a sad and shocking celebrity death for people to talk openly about depression, when the conversation should be ongoing. So here’s my contribution.

I’ve said that depression is like being stuck in an elevator in an empty building. You basically feel like you’re powerless, and that no one can save you, least of all yourself. I’ve also talked about struggling with anxiety. I’ve joked that anxiety is like forcing a cat to wear a costume. But really, having anxiety is awful, as is having depression.

The worst thing about struggling with mental afflictions like these, is the feeling of being trapped. You feel like you have no one to talk to about it, because if you tell someone, you’re afraid they’re going to say the worst possible thing they could say: “Oh stop, you’re being over dramatic.” Hearing the phrase “over dramatic” makes me flinch. I hate being accused of being “over dramatic” so I push all of my negative thoughts deep down, hoping that I’m doing my best at pretending to be a real, functioning person.

And yet, you know that if you have depression, you should talk to someone. (In the wake of Robin Williams’s death people have said over and over, “If you have depression, talk to someone”, as though it were that easy. I understand it isn’t that easy.) That’s why therapy is helpful, but I can’t call and text my therapist 24/7, even though she’s the only person who understands why I freak out at the idea of parking my car. Everyone else thinks I’m insane and ridiculous for freaking out over something so stupid, so why would I tell anyone?

I’m here to tell you that you can tell me. I understand. I understand that it’s the little things that build up inside that make us feel like we’re in that elevator. And I’m also here to tell you that it’s okay. It’s okay to have those scary, depressing, anxiety-ridden thoughts. It’s not okay to always give into them, but it’s okay if that happens, because you’re human, and sometimes, the thoughts win. Sometimes they don’t, and when they don’t, I give you the highest of fives. I want you to know, that you’re not over dramatic. You’re allowed to feel depressed even if you have what others consider an enviable life. They’re not “first world problems” — they’re real problems because they hinder your life, even if no one else thinks so. They don’t have to agree with you. They don’t have to understand. I’d like them to, but people won’t always understand.

Sometimes, the thoughts that win are the thoughts that make people choose suicide. “Why would anyone commit suicide?” people say. “That’s so selfish.” And that’s another word that makes me flinch, because there’s nothing selfish about depression. It’s a disease, like any other, but unlike any other, you get accused of being over dramatic. And these are negative words, and when negative words accompany negative thoughts, bad things happen. I want to tell anyone thinking of suicide that I don’t think you’re selfish, or a bad person.

What I’d like you to do though is think of the story about a man who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge. On his way down, his only thought was, and I’m paraphrasing, “There’s nothing in my life that can’t be fixed other than the fact that I just jumped off a bridge.” In that one moment, he would take it all back. He survived. There’s nothing sadder to me than the idea of someone having that moment and being unable to take it back; of realizing that they made a decision that they can’t change, and wishing they could. Of having the fleeting thought of survival and watching it get sucked away. Please think about that.

I’m not a doctor, and I can’t fix all your problems, but I can let you know that I’m here, if you want to use this post to vent. This is a safe space. I won’t think you’re over dramatic. I won’t think you’re selfish. I won’t think anything other than I’m glad you’re here to add your thoughts to this world. Let’s be good to each other. Let’s break in the building and bust open the elevator door.

 

CC Image, “Help is on the way, elevator, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL”, courtesy of Cory Doctorow via Flickr.

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Posted in: let's just talk from our hearts

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa August 22, 2014 at 1:23 pm

This is a great post to read. I, too, have my share of struggles with anxiety and depression. I remember when you posted that one post about parking your car causing you anxiety and I related to it completely. When I struggle with anxiety or depression, I always get the same responses, that I’m being ridiculous or dramatic. I’ve gotten into so many fights trying to explain to people how I’m feeling and I’m so exhausted from it. I just don’t even try anymore. And it sucks because these are the same people who were all like “Talk to someone if you have depression”. People should also be saying “Listen to people when they talk about their struggles”. Anyways, it really was a thoughtful post and I want to thank you for providing a safe place to talk about these things.

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Almie Rose August 22, 2014 at 1:38 pm

“People should also be saying “Listen to people when they talk about their struggles”.” YES. THIS.

Thank you so much. I’m glad you found it thoughtful. And I’m glad you relate to my parking struggles. I had a meeting this morning and on the way back, couldn’t find parking. So I took a deep breath and parked in one of my roommate’s spots (he was at work) until a space opened up. And it did! And everything’s fine.

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath.

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Kelly L August 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm

‘People should also be saying “Listen to people when they talk about their struggles”. ‘

YES YES YES. Infinitely more helpful advice than “talk to someone” because that’s hard and people don’t always listen.

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Kelly L August 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Remember when we were gearing up for BiSC and would occasionally be all “2013!” as a moral support system for trying to get/be in shape? I think we should re-implement that for when depression or sadness hits. Because I often am curled up in the fetal position with my phone a foot from my head and I’m just staring at it and I’m like, who can I even talk to right now that won’t think I’m crazy or roll their eyes or think I’m being – like you said – over dramatic. Just being able to text someone and being all “THINGS SUCK RIGHT NOW” is kind of a lifeline that would be nice to have. y’know? Anyway, I miss you, and thank you for posting this.

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Almie Rose August 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm

YES. That’s a great idea! You can always text me or call me. xoxo.

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Laura August 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Thanks for this, Almie.

Depression is weird and scary. It’s lead to a lot of shame in my life. I never wanted to talk about it because I didn’t, and still don’t, think anyone will really believe me. I’ve even had friends ask me if I was “done being sad.” That one was tough. Most people don’t know what to say and I often feel like an alien in a human suit. However, it’s my choice to avoid prescription drugs (if that even helps? I don’t know), but I do see a therapist. She mostly pisses me off, but whatever. I’m doing something. It definitely helps to know that someone wants to listen. That’s something I’ll always do. Back at you, girl; I’m completely here to completely listen. I almost always come with a bottle of wine in tow.

I agree with Lisa. We should be encouraging people to listen as much as we encourage depressed people to talk. I’m all about keeping this conversation alive. Depression is so misunderstood and stigmatized, and the more we talk (and listen) about it, the less confusing it may seem to people around us. It also gives us a chance to laugh a bit and put things into a clearer perspective, which is super sexy.

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Lisa August 23, 2014 at 8:04 am

I used to take prescription drugs but I went off them about a year ago to try and handle my anxiety and depression other ways, like seeing a therapist regularly or practicing self-love, taking alone time, meditating (Headspace app is really good!). Medicine didn’t work for me, I felt like a zombie. It works for some people and that’s totally okay. It just didn’t work for me personally. With my anxiety meds, I kept finding myself in situations where I got panicky but didn’t have my medication on me so it worsened it. I was getting too dependent. I couldn’t keep putting myself in situations like that so I’m trying other methods and so far I’m doing good. I think that everyone just has to find what works for them and sometimes it’s a little bit of trial and error, which sucks sometimes. As long as we have people to talk to though, it works out in the end.

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Almie Rose August 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Meds are very, very tricky. I’m on 2 different meds right now and am currently in the process of (responsibly) going off one of them, because I am beginning to hate how it makes me feel — I think it’s making me worse instead of better. And that can happen sometimes. It’s all about finding the balance.

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Almie Rose August 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Thank YOU!

“I’ve even had friends ask me if I was “done being sad.”” — that’s terrible. No friend should say that, and I’m sorry that was the response you got.

I, too, sometimes feel like an alien in a human suit. I totally get that.

Hooray for a new, sexy perspective! :)

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Jelly August 23, 2014 at 10:45 am

I get anxious about parking too :|

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Almie Rose August 23, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Thank you for this. We will endure!

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michelle August 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

Almie,

this is so heartfelt and amazing and beautiful. you’re desire and willingness to help friends and strangers is wonderful. I’m so proud of you and so impressed by your offer. you are the best girl in the whole wide world. xoxo

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Almie Rose August 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Thank you :) xoxo

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Pablo August 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Hey Almie! I don’t know if you’ll remember me, I’m Pablo from Barcelona, I once wrote you a mail like two years ago or so, I added a photo of me dressed as a bunny.
It’s sad to know what you are going through, from a far away part of the planet, I feel what you’re saying and hope that everything works out well for you. It’s also very brave from you to talk it out so openly and it feels nice and comforting to know you’re not alone in this type of situations.
I’ve been four years dealing with heavy anxiety and and feel like I’m always on the fringe of entering a serious depression, but I’m never fully into that state. I am mentally and physically fighting against it. I tried medication for three months and felt horrified as I knew my problem was still there, but i was just being numbed out, with less capacity to deal with it. For me, one of the things that has worked out best is doing sport. I’ve never been much of a sports guy, but started running some time ago and it has really helped me to put things in perspective. It’s not a definitive cure but it sure does help me much of the time. It feels nice to get out into the city and feel surrounded by people without having the responsibility to deal with them. Also I think that by running you practice discipline in focusing on the thoughts that may help you and you learn to pay less attention to mental chatter. And also there’s the neurochemistry implied, when i finish a long run I really feel better due to the hormones segregated and so.
I don’t know if this might help anyone, but for me it has improved some aspects of my condition. I hope everyone dealing with depression has the strength to keep on fighting it. Best wishes Almie!

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Claudio August 25, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Thank you for sharing this with us, I also suffer depression and social anxiety and it really sucks, but like you said is very important to have someone who can hear you and understand what you’re going through. luckily my family has been my support all this time. And if I can give an advice to someone who is going through this, don’t be afraid to ask for help, I know is hard, but it can save you. you are not alone :)
(i’m sorry for my english, it’s not my native language)

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Brandie September 1, 2014 at 11:41 pm

When your inner battles have been brushed aside for so many years, it often becomes easier to wear the mask in public then actually reach out and hope someone will understand what you’re saying. Many people that know me wouldn’t ever guess the struggles I go through daily because of my social anxiety and depression. Thank you putting out the words i’ve been searching for to describe it.

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BH September 9, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Hey Almie, sorry to hear you have so much turmoil between the ears. You come across so charming, upbeat and confident, I was surprised to learn you you are struggling to manage your marbles. I think it’s common with creative and dynamic people. Here are some ideas, hope they’ll help: 1) Ask your doc about different meds 2) Try yoga 3) Do activities that reduce stress, like exercise 4) Get thirty minutes of sun a day and/or take a vitamin D supplement 5) Set aside some time every day to nurture yourself in some way 6) Learn to meditate 7) Make the rest of the year all about taking care of you, not worrying about career, money, relationships, etc. 8) Get a guy you like and trust to throw you an occasional bang, no strings attached, no drama, no obsessing.

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