How Depressing!

One of my favorite blogs is Hyperbole and a Half. And when I say “favorite” I mean “I’m not allowed to read it without adult supervision because the last time I spent time on the site I literally could not stop laughing, and had to take myself physically away from the computer and sit in another room, and tears were running down my face as I kept thinking about her dog and re-exploding into laughter, and The Boy was seriously concerned for my sanity.” This is basically what happens when I read this woman’s stuff. I die, but in a very good way where my abs get a workout from too much laughing and not enough breathing.

You’re probably sensing a “but” in here, but it’s a very complicated “but”.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

much like most other butts

So here’s the thing: Allie wrote this really wonderful piece about depression, both explaining how debilitating it is while also making it funny and relatable, and I know several people who have specifically called it out as a great way to verbalize what you’re going through to people who haven’t ever dealt with depression. These are all good things. Exceptionally good things. I am the first person to advocate for greater understanding and reduced stigma surrounding mental illness, because nothing sucks worse than trying to drag your brain out of whatever it’s going through while also being unable to tell coworkers/friends/passers-by on the street why you’ve chosen not to bathe in two weeks and refuse to take off your bathrobe.

oh man... those DO look awful comfortable...

So I’m like 98% an ENORMOUS fan of this blog entry. I want to cheer and scream, “You go girl,” and then apologize for being so white and promise it’ll never happen again.

My only issue is the ending. Now, I’m not doubting that she didn’t have a revelation and suddenly feel like she could conquer the world. And I do fully understand that any story needs an ending, and that her ending is both satisfying and funny, and that she did not write this as any sort of advocate for depression, or even to be particularly serious on the subject. As always, she made me laugh way too much, and that’s never ever a bad thing.

It’s just that… dang. Depression and I have shared one brain since I was little. I’ve been through more therapists and on more meds than I’d care to discuss, and have lost jobs & destroyed relationships because of it. I consider myself to be fairly highly functional at this point in my life – hell, I’ve got an apartment, two cats, a fiancee, and a relatively successful freelancing business – but it’s still something I wake up with every day, and work on every day. That’s something that some people don’t always understand, and my issue with Allie’s blog entry.

Depression isn’t like the flu. You don’t suffer through it then come out on the other side completely better. You (hopefully) figure out the tools that work best for you to manage it, to keep it under control, maybe even to the point where it becomes routine and you don’t have to work so hard at it, but it will in fact always be there, kind of like teenage acne. You might find the best soap in the world and use it every day and everyone around you hates you because they think you have glowing skin, but you know that if you stopped using it for even a single day the next morning you’d wake up with a cesspool of a face that you couldn’t show in public, and that it would take you weeks of extra washing to recover your once-glowing-skin.

Wow, that metaphor actually kind of worked. I wasn’t really sure where I was going with it.

and now I have to distract you from what I'm saying with this excellent old-timey ad for soap

Here’s my point: maybe Allie isn’t intending her story to mean that one day she just “got over” her depression. Also she does point out in the beginning that she just woke up with it one morning, so she could have all sorts of other mitigating circumstances/diagnoses going on, and it’s terribly unfair of me to judge her in any context at all, much less anonymously online. I’m just troubled that she does imply that in the end she was suddenly able to pick herself up by her bootstraps (or… bike chains?) and get all better. And for the vast majority of people that’s not the case – like I said, it’s a long, slow process of lots of hard work, and it never really completely ends.

I know that I’m probably taking this whole thing too seriously, and honestly when I read her blog post a while back initially it didn’t bug me at all. If anything, it made me smile, and encouraged me to see the light side of things. But it seems like most people I know are under the impression that you can sort of just “get over it” and move on with your life, and once I saw people passing this blog post around as an explanation of depression it worried me. What if you don’t just have a great, invincible conclusion? A lot of people already seem to have a set limit on just how long they’ll put up with you before you’re just being self-indulgent or lazy or something for not getting better, and I just… I worry that this reinforces that concept.

I’m weirdly torn up about this, because I realize she doesn’t actually say, “And then I got better,” and it’s meant to be a story arc and a funny one at that. And, as I may have mentioned, I have an enormous internet-crush on this woman and want to be friends with her and tell her that I love her daily and bake cookies for her. But (I like big but’s and I cannot lie) I feel like I have to at least put my response out there in the universe. Depression doesn’t get talked about enough, so even just adding extra words, however unread they will go, might at least help the cause.

…and with that I shall leave you with Sir Mix-A-Lot. Because this entire post has been way too serious:

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2 thoughts on “How Depressing!

  1. Excellent post…I too suffer from the recurring type of depression. I read Hyperbole and a Half’s post after yours and she had me laughing through my tears, but you are completely right, for some people the there is no clear “beginning” and “ending” to our depression. Thank you for expressing it so well.

  2. I read Allie’s post quite differently. This is what I read at the end:
    “And that’s how my depression got so horrible that it actually broke through to the other side and became a sort of fear-proof exoskeleton.”
    Honestly, I don’t think that’s better. At all. I do hope, I really really hope (especially since she hasn’t posted since) that she’s okay. And getting help.
    Hope you’re okay too.
    Thanks so much for sharing. : )

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