“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral's Kiss
I've been dealing with depression for the past nine years, and I've been thinking about the very circular nature of "negative" emotions.
The depression started when I burned out from my last job. I never was really allowed to be "down" after the job - the insurance company decided I was fine and I should go back to work. That started a meltdown and I was given a brief reprieve, but I never was allowed to just be and not worry about work and the stress of it all.
My burn out caused my depression - or did it? I wonder if in fact I was depressed before the burnout and that the cause was reversed. That's what I mean by the vicious circle of it all.
I'm touched deprived and affection deprived and lonely and I isolate myself. Then I'm isolated and I feel lonely, and being lonely I isolate more and so it goes... around and around and around, the one feeling feeding the situation and I gleefully hop onto my hamster wheel and get nowhere really fast.
It's not as simple as saying "snap out of it": there is no snapping out of depression and anxiety. People living with HIV are said to be 30% more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than the general population, and perhaps that's true, but does HIV cause the depression? More and more I know people who are not living with HIV that are experiencing greater levels of anxiety and depression. Money, work (or lack of), unstable housing, unhappy relationships (or no intimate connection) all these things contribute to feeling crappy about life, and "negative" people are not immune.
Positively "affirmating" myself won't do it either - the platitudes all sound lovely in theory, but they ring hollow to me for the most part. Sometimes having a really good long cry can alleviate some of the pain - it releases the emotions rather than bottling them up until the top pops off.
I read a lot of positive affirmations on Facebook and wonder if those people are trying to convince themselves of the thoughts as much as anyone else. How much do they hurt inside?
Sometimes I just pretend to be happy. There's a theory that if you pretend that you're happy for long enough it transforms the misery into joyful bliss, which I think is total bullshit. We have feelings that are not flat - we have downs as well as ups, that's the nature of all things, the Yin and Yang of life. A galaxy dies while another is born.
I am able to laugh - sometimes at myself. And I value the people in my life who can lift me out of my darkness with humour. It's a great gift to give someone that you can make them smile or laugh. It's an even greater gift if you can be with someone when they need to weep - to simply be present in their moment of gloom. Ignoring them only isolates them and reinforces our Western idea that we should always be "fine" and "happy". And so a lot of us pretend. It's easier than explaining. It's also very lonely.
Some days are better than others and sometimes clarity smashes through the closed off window blinds and I get a glimpse of what being content looks like. It's not a rosy sunlit morning most days, just the simple singing of a bird on a branch - she alone and I alone and somehow also one.