...and other really strong opinions.
I was hoping not to write this one, but here it is. I make no secret about the fact that I'm a person who lives with depression. I'm also a person who lives with hypothyroidism, but that's not as interesting. Recently, I've found myself struggling with it again for no reasons I can explain. And then I realized. I haven't taken any medication since February. Intentionally. I didn't just forget, I was "better" and wanted to try without for a while. But that's about the time I started to struggle, which once again brings me to the same conclusion. It's a stupid, stupid disease. But, it's a disease nonetheless, and it's a disease that I have, and pretending I don't have it is probably not going to help.
One of the problems we all face in living with depression is the stigma attached, and the fact that nut jobs like Tom Cruise are jumping on couches talking about how we can just think it through and wish it away. I wish very very often that this was true. But it's not true. It's just not.
So. In order to shed a little light on the situation, I'm going to walk you through it a little. Not so much just what it feels like. I do that in my book. And when it's finished and published, you can buy a copy and read it for yourself. Instead, I want to try to explain what goes through my head when my thoughts and feelings don't match. I'm going to explain it all in the first person, but I'm sure I could safely say "we" regarding all of it, as I am not alone in this.
When I'm having trouble with depression, I notice the feeling first. My heart races, and I feel tired, and I feel like I'm going to cry. Naturally, I then go on a mission to try to figure out what's wrong. On a good day, I'm able to explain to my body that nothing is wrong. Things are good. My life is good. It doesn't make the physical symptoms go away. Not at all. But I can tell myself that the physical symptoms I'm having, while real, are NOT connected to anything that's happening in my life.
However. I can only do this for so long. Eventually, my brain insists that we address these feelings. Sometimes it will remind me of past pain, etc. But more often, it will just start to make stuff up. My therapist once told me that depression is a liar. Since I'm aware of this, I can sometimes have the healthy side of my brain inform the less healthy side of my brain that those thoughts it's having are probably not true. For example. Yes. I'm going to be specific.
Ways in which depression has lied to me in the past week:
1- I must be a burden to my friends and family, as this is a stupid, possibly made-up disease, and it makes me a total bummer to be around, and that's why I spend so much time by myself.
2- I'm starting to look really old and maybe even putting on weight.
Now. Before you panic. I chose these two examples for their obvious absurdity. I have been to enough therapy sessions to know how to reason with these thoughts. I know, I promise, that they are not true.
But I guess that's my point. EVEN WITH all those years of therapy. And EVEN THOUGH I have totally supportive friends and family. And EVEN AS a person of relative intelligence who most often serves as a leader. Still. At 95 pounds I can decide I am gaining weight, (people who may not know me, I'm really short. 95 pounds, while thin, is an acceptably healthy weight for me.) and as someone who onstage plays characters at least fifteen years younger than my real age I can decide I am looking old, and as someone so lucky to have so many friends I can decide that these friendships are a facade and I'm actually alone.
Why? Because it's a real disease, and those are its symptoms. It's not about understanding. I understand. It's about chemistry.
So if you happen to see Tom Cruise, do what Matt Lauer should have done that morning on The Today Show. Punch him square in the face. You can tell him it's from me.