5 Things I Learned Avoiding My Depression (That Might Help)
I have a decent-sized burn scar on the back of my hand that's been there for about ten years now. It's long and thin and puffy and looks for all the world like a makeup effect in a movie. It was caused by a frying pan. Not an accident, mind you, I didn't get all carried away making hash browns. I put a pan on the stove, cranked it up until it was as hot as it could get, then pressed my hand against the edge and held it there to see how long I could stand the pain. I lasted about a minute which is a hell of a long time to have a scalding hot piece of metal on your flesh.
The burn was a third-degree one, and got really gross as it healed. I did it for two reasons: to see how long I could convince my body to resist the urge to pull away and to get some idea of what it might be like if I were to die in a fire. I figured if I was going to go out, I should go out the most painful way I could imagine. I'd never get to do something like it again.
But in the middle of all of that, I never really recognized what was going on with my moods, my brain, my actions. It's only when I look back now that I can see the really fucked-up state I was in. And I think it's a lot more common than people realize: the idea that sometimes you're just not ready to get help, even if you do know you're chin deep in the shit. Right or wrong, what I learned was ...
All The Resources In The World Are Useless If You Decide You Don't Need Them
Now that you are totally freaked out, let me start by saying I'm much better now. Other than being flabbergasted by rampant douchebaggery out in the world and sometimes eating too many hot wings which makes me feel like that frying pan is searing its way out the ol' backdoor, I'm good with life and it's good with me. Sure, sometimes I'll go out in the yard at night and piss on some weeds but I don't think that's a mental health issue. That's freedom.
And the brown stuff is complete anarchy.
Ten years ago, give or take, I was in one of those dark places you find yourself in from time to time. Looking back now I can say pretty confidently I must have been depressed. Clinically. Who else scars themselves for kicks besides the odd Batman villain? I'd come to a realization; I had pretty much wasted my life up until that point. I was financially in the toilet, I was in a relationship with a wicked garbage person that I had to end, and most people I knew were pretty keen on avoiding me. If Scarlett Johansson's Ghost In The Machine could become a person in all its unlovable glory, it would have been me.
You probably have seen more than your share of PSAs and helpful social media posts about depression -- who to call, help you can get, and so on. But most of those things avoid the separate issue of you not wanting any of it. I didn't want anyone's help. I didn't even think at the time I was depressed and whatever was going on I sure as shit didn't need to talk about it with a stranger, a friend, or a self-help book. Mostly I wanted sweet, room-temperature beers I couldn't be arsed to put in the fridge. I didn't know if I needed help and was pretty convinced I could manage on my own. And I can't help but think I probably wasn't the only person in this situation.
My "therapist" certainly agreed with me.
There are very few instances in your life when you can get something if you actively don't want to seek it out. This is acknowledged a lot more readily with addiction -- you need to hit "rock bottom" or whatever and accept you're ready for help. That's true for depression as well. And if you're not there yet, you're flying solo in an airplane built from shit and darkness -- so like ... Spirit Air.
The Tiniest Things Can Be A Life Saver
For my part, I had no idea what the hell I wanted out of life. So I played World Of Warcraft. And I can honestly say World Of Warcraft gave me a reason to live, even if just for a little while. You may think a computer game in which I spent the better part of my days as a Night Elf Warrior running around a desert for hours on end mining something called Thorium sounds dumb, but it gave me something to do beyond gloomy masturbation and scowling at the cat, which sometimes occurred simultaneously. And more than that it gave me something social to do. I had people to shoot the shit with who had no expectations of me other than needing me to be ready to go to Zul'Gurub if we had a raid party ready. I could turn them off on a whim and deal with a fake reality on my terms, any time I wanted. It gave me these tiny little moments of joy, the feeling of accomplishment and purpose as I devoted hours trying to get a Qiraji bug mount or mass slaughter Murloc villagers.
I think anyone feeling like shit needs a World Of Warcraft. Or basket weaving, or fidget spinners, or writing jokes for Mike Huckabee. Something you can detach yourself from and just do. Something to take the focus off of what's wrong and put it on anything else.
You can find yourself at a crossroads when you're depressed. Do I go forward or do I go nowhere? And again, this isn't about other people or getting help, this is just finding your own comfort zone.
Fixing Yourself Takes Time ... KNOW It
It's not wrong to not be ready to fix a problem. Don't misunderstand me here -- it can be dangerous, depending on the circumstances and severity of your mental state. What I'm saying is that not being ready to fix a problem is a common reaction, and nobody ever addresses it. If your Fleshlight breaks, you don't need a repair person in within the hour to get right on it with his ass crack hanging low and lazy in your wank parlor looking like one of those fuzzy caterpillars caught in a panini. Lots of things can hold you back. So if you're not ready to fix yourself, what's the next step? How the hell do you cope?
Building a coffee table?
I was pretty heavily entrenched in a very frustrating and futile cycle of realizing I wasn't doing any good for myself but also not having any desire to look beyond myself for answers. I've always been rather stubborn when it comes to seeking help. It's not so much a fear of being perceived as weak, it's simply a sense of disappointment in myself for not being able to accomplish something without assistance, and also the sneaking suspicion that if I ask someone for help they're going to be super nice and obliging ... and we'll get a lot of great things accomplished until one day they show up in my clothes with my haircut and disembowel me on the toilet. I'm not letting that happen again.
That state of mind is an unexpected source of pressure, and if you let it, it can suplex your ass into bed and hold you there until your back fuses to the sheets. The key is knowing that change takes time. Fixes take time. If you let yourself believe that the cure-all to your ails is simply asking for help and then letting that person press the "fix me" button, you're going to fall deeper into depression when that doesn't happen. And if you decide to not ask for help and simply let the situation play itself out ... same problem. When it doesn't happen overnight, you feel like you've failed.
Simply knowing that fixing yourself is going to be a long process can do wonders for your mental state. It's not a failure -- it's normal. The best shits I've ever taken didn't just blast out of my asshole. They took time. Grunting. Crying.
You're Going To Have Lots Of Questions And No Answers (And That's Fine)
Despair is a bizarre feeling to deal with because the very implication of feeling it is that all hope is lost. There isn't a little despair, or manageable despair, or hunger, itching, hope, and a dash of despair. Despair is the closed-fist-around-a-roll-of-quarters punch directly to the balls of feelings. And the weirdest shit can bring it on. I have no doubt very serious issues like war and disease and abuse lead to terrible despair. My despair was self-wrought. The despair of dumbfuckery. I had taken stock of myself and my choices and was disgusted. I had squandered years of education, I had burned bridges with friends and family, and I had saddled myself to the girlfriend equivalent of the sound you make when you take a bite of something and then realize just afterwards that it's rotten, and it's in your mouth, and the rotty, gross, ass juice is leaking out all around your tongue.
I could have drank myself into a stupor to make the despair a low simmering sort of tickle in the back of my brain, but I didn't have the finances to sustain that. I could have set myself ablaze to go out in the most memorable way I could think of but honestly, as much as I thought about it, I was scared as hell at the prospect as well. I'd literally sat down and thought about how it would probably feel when my eyes started burning. The flesh of the hand is one thing, but my eyes? Would they pop? Would they shrivel like fish eyes when you cook them? I didn't really want to find out.
Is this the point where there's an easy fill-in-the-blank answer for fixing your life? Should you get help? Try to reconnect with friends and family and start a Pitch Perfect 2 fan club exclusively for fans of the movie Pitch Perfect 2 but NOT Pitch Perfect 1? Honestly, I don't know. I didn't know. And there's a huge part of me that thinks I shouldn't have, and there's comfort in accepting that idea.
There's a fundamental drive in life, in all things at all times, to know. Philosophy, one of the most ancient and respected-so-long-as-you-don't-get-a-degree-in-it fields, is entirely the pursuit of knowledge. Who let the dogs out? Why do fools fall in love? What is love (baby don't hurt me)? Our lives are questions seeking answers. But sometimes we don't know the answer or even the whole question. And that has to be OK. It had to be OK for me and if you're pretty sure you're feeling a certain way but aren't ready to make any move on that feeling it has to be OK for you. A truly smart person knows that they don't know everything. And will never know anything. Like, why is Boss Baby getting a sequel? No one can answer that. And that's fine.
This is fine.
There's immense pressure, even if it's well meaning, to go out and do. To do literally almost anything. From those PSAs I mentioned that tell you it gets better or someone cares or you're not alone, there's a pressure on you to agree with it and make that first step. And while that is a good thing for everyone who's ready, maybe some people aren't there yet, and again, that's the part nobody ever talks about.
But this is why people agree, universally, that the most effective thing you can do is talk to someone. Even if they don't have the answers, simply discussing the questions that are haunting your depressed brain can be a huge step in the right direction. You're not ready to sit down with a counselor? Fine. Talk to a friend. You don't have a friend? Fine. Plop your ass down next to the homeless guy outside of the grocery store, toss him a buck and start rambling. You'll be amazed how much it helps to just say that shit out loud, even if the ear you're unloading on belongs to your dog.
You Shouldn't "Should" Yourself
I gave myself one rule for writing this and it was to not "should" anyone. I don't want to tell you what you should do because I am barely qualified to tell people that they should avoid falling space debris. The point of this was that I couldn't even tell myself what I should do. But the insight I can offer is that no one needs to should themselves either. "I should drop out of school and rot away in a cave" has all the merit of "I should eat asparagus for every meal so my pee never loses that musk and I'm able to leave scent trails I can follow to navigate new neighborhoods." Yes, obviously those are both the best ideas I've ever actually written down, but I'm not bound to do them. You're not locked in by legal authority to feel like shit forever, or to eat those three cans of ravioli and spend the night weeping in three-days-past-their-prime underpants, a thing I never do.
I sob in a three-piece suit, like a classy person.
The world doesn't give us shoulds. Not really. For a while it seemed to me the world was saying I had an OK run as a child. I used to get good grades and people told me I was smart and I could be anything and I guess it had a change of heart later and thought "Oh, fuck that" and sent me down a new path towards slack-ass nothing in a pit of sour smells and dim lighting. But that wasn't the world. If the world had a consciousness, if the universe really was an entity, why the fuck would it even care what I did with myself? Imagine literally having the weight of existence on you and deciding you needed to alter reality to just shit on the fortunes of one random person out of billions. Is the universe a sociopath? Is it running for office in Montana? Where does it find the time?
So no, the universe and life weren't out to get me. I was just in a sucky place. We're all in sucky places sometimes. That's objective reality. If every day for a year you wake up with a still-steaming cat turd on your chest, and you don't even own a cat, you better believe that's super unlucky, and also maybe cause for buying a security camera, but it's not some esoteric message from a cosmic intelligence that high fives its buddies after you trip and fall in front of everyone. It's evidence you have a cat burglar. That's a little cat turd humor for you; tell your dad.
I have something very different for you to tell your mom.
If you're depressed, or think you are, or just feel like something's not the way it should be even if you don't know why, then fear not. A lot of us have been there, a lot more will be there. That's pretty much human nature. And you're damn right it sucks, and it'll suck until it stops sucking. And I'm not telling you what you should do, because I can't. I'll tell you I hope you ride it out until you're ready to take a step towards getting better. I hope you remember when things were better, and understand things can be better again. I hope you realize I have so many more dick jokes to make that you clearly need to read. I have hope, and I hope you do too. Put that shit on a Hallmark card.
For more check out 5 Facts Everyone Gets Wrong About Depression and Robin Williams And Why Funny People Kill Themselves.
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