Something About Depression As I've Experienced It.
5th October 2019.
This post is sharing something about depression as I’ve experienced it. Please, please, please, please, please don’t comment to reassure me or tell me how great I am and how I don’t need to feel worthless – I’m not posting it for that reason. I’m posting it for other people who might have gone through the same stuff and also to give a perspective ‘from the inside’ for people who haven’t. In fact, thankfully, I haven’t felt this kind of depression for a while now, but I did live with it, very intensely for a couple of decades. It was simply that a conversation made me reflect on how it was when I was in this place. I hope it’s helpful to read some of these thoughts …
I was talking to a friend yesterday about depression – explaining my experience of it to her, because I realised that although she’d also experienced depression, she’d never had it in the way I have – she’s lived through a different version of it. That feeling of worthlessness … like you’re just a waste of space and a piece of shit. It may come from outer conditions, but it doesn’t feel like that … it feels like you’re utterly broken inside.
She was saying: ’What do you do to help? Should I say all the reasons why you’re not a piece of shit and how many people care for and love you and tell you about all you do for other people?’ It made me realise what the chasm is between someone who has, and someone who’s never experienced that kind of self-denigrating depression. Whenever I’ve been in that place, hearing those things would actually just make me feel worse.
Why? Maybe it’s something about: ‘Well I may have been those things at sometimes, but mostly I’m not and right now and for some time, I haven’t been. Thinking about those things just makes me feel how useless I am now … what a waste of space I am - now. The memory – the comparison between then and now just makes now even bleaker.’
You can say: ‘Well maybe reminding yourself of all those good things can help you see that it doesn’t last forever’ and I must say that at certain points and at certain times in my life, that has been a really helpful thing … remembering that it’s not all of me all of the time, but when you’re deep in it, there IS no perspective and calling on the idea of perspective simply doesn’t help … in fact, somehow it only deepens the feeling of how much of a piece of shit you are: now you’re also ‘failing’ at getting a ‘better perspective’ on things.
And for me, probably for a lot of other people, there is that feeling that what makes you even worse as a person, is that you ‘allow’ yourself to indulge in this feeling of worthlessness, especially when other people ‘are a lot worse off than you are’. (Another ‘helpful’ line that people offer that’s likely to have you reaching for the pills).
Actually, I think the only thing that’s ever helped me at those times is just to give up …. or maybe more, give in. Acceptance. Just acceptance that you feel that worthless and that you’re not able to function. Going to bed … watching shit on the net – giving up the struggle to be anything other than the piece of shit you feel you are. Because I guess that’s the thing about trying to help give someone perspective, is that it asks of the person an amount of effort and will to ‘do’ that they simply don’t have at that point … The ‘failure’ to achieve a better perspective is just another example of how worthless you are.
So, there’s maybe a power in just accepting it when someone you care for says they’re worthless. Not invalidating their viewpoint … you don’t have to agree with them, but you can acknowledge that their feeling is their feeling and it’s OK for them to feel what they do. It’s also interesting to reflect on how much of trying to reassure and ‘help to feel better’ someone who’s in that place, might actually be about making things more comfortable for the person doing the ‘reassuring’: it’s kind of scary to be in the presence of that kind of feeling of despair … maybe it’s infectious … I need to make it stop before it gets me too.
I think there’s a real power of just being willing to ‘be’ with a person who’s in that place and not trying to change them in any way. Paradoxically, I think when I’ve been at my lowest, people accepting me with all my feelings of worthlessness and self-denigration has been the only thing that has helped me get out of that place. It’s certainly not a quick fix, but it’s the quickest I know.