Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Bravest Face

In the whole wide world there's no magical place
So you might as well rise put on your bravest face
Oh, you might as well rise put on your bravest face

~Rush, Bravest Face

I debated about this post.  A lot. You see…A lot of people are going to talk about Robin Williams this week.  A lot of folks are going to talk about Depression and Suicide this week.  But then I thought that not talking about Depression is one of the problems.  So this is me…sharing.  These are just my thoughts and they are longer than usual. YMMV.

This has been a rough year for death. We’ve lost family, had friends who have lost family members and dear friends; we lost a great author and friend in Aaron Allston and this week, we lost the comedic icon, Robin Williams to what appears to be suicide.

With death so prevalent this year, it would be easy to fall into a depression…but it’s times like these that I remind myself that “Depression Lies” and try to find ways to cope.

Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, talks about her struggle with Depression here. Jenny keeps the mantra “Depression Lies” to help her.  Wil Wheaton, King of the Geeks, talks about his own struggles with Depression here. Like Wil, I suffer from Depression and Anxiety; like Wil, I take medicine to keep those particular demons at bay.  

I know that there are folks that will read those words and have trouble believing them – believing that I suffer from Depression.  But that is because they only see “the bravest face.”  Those are the people that only know me through the internet or cons or even my writing.  They see the perennially happy, excitable, “Minnie Mouse on speed.”  But that is… for me… my bravest face.

But one of the things I found myself thinking about recently, in light of Robin’s passing, is how hard it is to talk about depression and anxiety. How even in this day and age where modern medicine can do wonders, we still keep our struggles silent. As a society, we don’t talk about mental illness – and it shows. I hear people talk about suicide and they say something like “didn’t he/she know…/how selfish/cowardly.” The thing is that, while a part of them may have known how much they were loved and appreciated, depression can twist the world around you.

So, like many people I respect and love, I’m going to try to talk about it. You’ve probably heard this before but here’s the thing: Jenny’s right…depression lies. It tells you that you aren’t good enough. That you will never succeed. And that you are alone. It tells you that you can’t do anything right. That you are a failure as a writer, a mom, a wife…a person.  But it’s not true. Depression lies.

It takes a lot to get past that… to hear the lies for what they are.  And find your truth… whether that is medication, counseling or whatever. Depression only goes away if we talk about it to someone and get it treated. And even then it doesn’t really go away… it just goes quiet.

But here’s the other side of that… depression also tells you that no one cares, that you are over reacting, that others have it worse and so we have to put on a brave face. Depression lies to the depressed about what others may think. Depression tells us:  he’s got enough on his plate, don’t worry him, or she’s dealing with her own issues, she doesn’t need yours on top of it. And I think that is the hardest thing to overcome.

Those of us that are depressed, struggle to find a way to talk about our depression so that it can be understood by those that don’t suffer and don’t understand it. But it’s hard, because depression lies.  It lies when it tells us that it’s all in our head. It lies when it tell us we can get better on our own.  It lies when it tells us that things will be okay if we’re not here.

The outside world doesn’t hear the lies. I think if they could, they might see how hard it is for someone who is depressed to reach out.

For me, depression always starts with the little things. Life gets busy and I don’t get to write anything for several weeks, then when I try to go back to writing, it’s a struggle to find the rhythm and so I walk away for a little longer. And then it’s a few more weeks and then months and then I wonder why I bother. Then it might be something related to work…a project didn’t go as well as I hoped. And so I feel like I didn’t do your best or that others are thinking poorly of me. And then it’s something else, maybe a fight with my child or spouse or a catty comment from a co-worker. And so I don’t do anything. I disconnect. I find that I am tired. So I watch TV or surf the internet. It’s a struggle to find the energy to do basic things like dishes or laundry. It’s tired… when I’m utterly exhausted and haven’t done anything. That’s how I know I’m facing my depression.

Anxiety is worse for me though than depression. It is like every thought, every “to-do,” every should-do, every want-to-do, every we need you to…comes crashing in around you at one time. It surrounds you like this big giant noisy bubble that you can’t get away from. Your mind jumps from thing to thing to thing and then back again and you find that you can’t concentrate on anything. You start to feel tense and your hands start to shake. You can’t breathe. You find yourself ready to curl up in a corner until things go away. You can’t do anything, so you don’t do anything. 

Medicine helps me. I have one pill I take daily that keeps the depression at bay. I have another pill that I take as needed for anxiety. But for me… it’s a gift when it comes to anxiety.  It takes all those “you need, I need, I should” moments and pushes them back. They’re still there but they are no longer right in front of my head. It gives me the time to breathe, focus and concentrate. It gives me the awareness that it’s Anxiety not me.  It gives me the distance I need to deal with the problems one at a time.

Music helps me too. Music is one of things that keeps me sane when my own demons start to crowd in. I keep an entire list of music quotes on my wall at work:
  • “I’ll be around, if you don’t push me down, I’ll be around, if you don’t let me down.” - Rush 
  • “I am made from the dust of the stars and the oceans flow in my veins.” - Rush 
  • “Hannah, you’re my inspiration, my fountain of youth.” - Styx 
  • "I’ll take the hit but not the fall” – Bon Jovi

I have an entire CD called Roll the Windows Down, Turn the CD up, Music to Scream by. It lives in my car and includes music like Queen’s “I want it All,” “Damn Yankees” by Damn Yankees, “Riding the Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon, and “Armegeddon It” by Def Leppard. It’s music I can listen to when I just need to get away for a few, to push the world away.  I can scream at the top of my lungs and no one thinks I’m crazy because all they hear is the music.

We game, too. Our regular D&D games are an absolute solace for me. I miss the release that comes from gaming when we go a several weeks without one. In gaming, for a few hours, I get to go be someone else and all the “should, woulds, needs,” go away. We relieve stress by killing the bad guys, sometimes even demons and devils – I admit to liking those sessions best.  Gaming also gives us a chance to connect with our friends. We catch up with each other’s lives.  Talk about things we are doing.  It helps to see people caring.

Mostly though, I rely on my family and friends. My husband’s hugs and his smile when I come home from work keep me going every day. The fact he brings me coke and advil when I wake up with a headache.  My daughter’s smiles and enthusiasm for everything! brings a smile to my own face. Many of my closest friends know that I struggle with depression and anxiety. Their encouragement when I think my writing sucks gives me hope. When they tag me on FB with a funny thought that reminds them of me. These are what keep me going.

Many of us that struggle with Depression and Anxiety have resources that we use, words or mantra’s that we keep in mind, songs that we listen to that pull us out.  But fighting mental illness is not easy; it’s not something people talk about.  So that’s why I’m talking about it today.  Maybe my little note will help one person understand that those of us who struggle with this aren’t being selfish or cowardly, but that sometimes we truly can’t hear or see the positive around us… because depression lies to us. And so we put on our bravest face and go out into the world and wonder how long it will be until we can’t.

If you are struggling with depression, please seek help.