Stopping the Shame of Depression
My first childhood memory is the family dog dying. I was about 3, standing by my mothers leg as my brother pulled the dog out the back door on a rug. My mother died when I was 15. My father had a stroke when I was 20, he died when I was 26. I came to sense my own mortality at an earlier age than my peers. Mostly this has helped me cherish life and desire to help others cherish life. There may have been mental illness in my family history but it remained undiagnosed or unspoken. My dad, a WWII vet, drank heavily and I remember my mom as a worrier. Both my biology and my reality have contributed to my depression.
I enjoy many types of music. In college I listened to many artists who sounded different from each other: the punk of Elvis Costello, the soft ballads of Art Garfunkel, the blues of Muddy Waters, the country twang of Hank Williams. One day my roommate said “ I get it! The music is all different but the lyrics are similar. Everyone you listen to is pathetic. Elvis Costello sang “ I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused.” Garfunkel sang, “in my little town, I never meant nothing, I was only my fathers son.” Muddy waters sang, I just can't be satisfied I just can't keep from crying.” Hank Williams wrote the saddest lyric in history.
“Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die
That means he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry”
I loved music that understood human suffering and transformed it into something beautiful.
Like Stevie Wonder, there was “joy inside my tears.”
My depression generally hides under a happy go lucky exterior. People are often surprised when I say I have suffered depression. My self-deprecating humor is a mask for my self-defecating thoughts.
I scold my self for not fixing the problems of the world. I think I am a hypocrite for presuming I can help people when I know that I am so flawed. Most days I respond to the reality of human suffering with empathy and compassion. I am able to find beauty in the tragic and mundane. But some days the weight of the world overwhelms me. I am unable to move. Everything is difficult. Answering email taking a shower or playing music is too hard. Then I start the self-recrimination. Why am I so lazy? Why can't I do something worthwhile? Why am I a failure? My belief in divine love seems like a sham because I am too tired to help anyone. Luckily my thoughts do not turn to suicide. When I am depressed I just want to hide.
Medication helps. It does not stop negative thoughts. I am fully aware of the tragedies of this world.
But medication stops the thoughts from spiraling downward until I feel that I am to blame for everything I cannot fix. It helps me to focus on the good I am able to do. If I am too physically or mentally exhausted I take a nap. I wake up and try again. I am able to forgive myself and move on.
We cannot wait for ourselves to be perfect to do good. We cannot wait until the world is perfect to love the world. Loving our neighbors as ourselves requires that we love our selves. If I hate my self, I have nothing but hatred to offer the world. Forgiveness breaks the delusion of all hate including self-hate. Asking for help with my depression is not a source of shame. It has helped me help the world.