Depression, Identity & Loved Ones
Read part 1 here. It was going to be a single post but I what ended up to be the final paragraph of part 1 seemed like a stronger note to end on rather than have it in the middle. My own opinion of my own writing (on the final of three days it took to write) is that part 1 reads better overall.
Connecting the second of two posts that I wrote about suicide last year.
Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, my niece
Oh look, two famous people died of suicide and now it’s part of the public discussion again. I lost someone too. Here…
The piece entitled “Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, my niece” began as a Facebook update. In both the Facebook post and the resulting Medium story I shared,
Instead of offering me condolences I’d rather people discuss suicide and educate themselves about suicide and depression.
And suicide was part of the discussion for a while. More mental health organizations have been established, for which I’m grateful. It’s unrealistic to talk about mental health every day and keep it in the forefront of the conversation when there’s so much happening in the world that requires attention, but I would like to see more frequent reminders about what depression is and isn’t.
I’d like to see people connect more with one other. We spend so much time using our smartphones at the expense of human interaction. Even when we’re with our friends we’re often looking down on our mobile devices. I want more people to understand depression in the modern context and for them to learn more, dispelling the old notions with newer research.
In that same Facebook update & Medium post I wrote,
Instead of offering condolences, make a difference. If someone you know commits suicide, don’t be angry, be compassionate. Remember their light. Remember their goodness. Acknowledge their pain.
I remember her light.
And if someone who’s suicidal doesn’t want your help, know you did what you could and hope that they find peace either living or not.
Peace — isn’t that what we all want somehow?
Understanding depression as a collection of symptoms
Depression — a term I’m sometimes hesitant to use because it’s a collection often misunderstood symptoms — can be fatal. We need to keep ourselves healthy. We need to know that inflammation — of the gut, body, brain, etc. — leads to depressive symptoms that we can often eliminate on our own if we learn about our bodies and accept the cause of those symptoms.
Beyond “depression” itself and into overall wellness, we need to recognize that specific aches and pains ARE symptoms with meaning. For example, frequent headaches aren’t “normal”. They might signify a health issue.
Regarding depression, people who say, “It’s my brain chemistry so there’s nothing I can do.” are misinformed based on old, prevailing beliefs, and they’re missing out on opportunities to help themselves because they don’t know what they don’t know. This belief system isn’t their fault. None of it is.
The same can be said about the “It’s my genetics” excuse. Assigning cause toward brain chemistry or genetics takes power away from the individual. Considering what’s “off” and addressing it empowers. That is if we recognize what’s off.
Self-identity in depression
This gets away from the idea of the post, but I felt the need to address it anyway:
Sometimes, we spend some much time in a particular state that we get used to it and forget that we could be in a more positive state. We don’t notice the pain, but the absence of it.
There are also people who are so used to defining themselves based on a label or illness that a part of them wants to stay that way because they fear that if they change, their identity will change.
As a teenager, I knew a boy who was a fan of the “tortured” authors with addiction issues such as Hemingway, Burroughs and Kerouac. He presented himself as being like them. Some might consider that fleeting teen angst, but when I reencountered him in his 30s, that part of him seemed to remain embedded. He was still that angsty teenager, albeit with a few more years of experience in this world. “Tortured, depressed artist” appeared to be the brand that he created for himself and kept. He didn’t reinvent himself. A part of him — or all of him — wanted to stay in pain. If you believe in past lives, you might theorize that his soul was trying to make up for something in a previous life. Or a therapist might question whether, in this life, he was trying to make up for some childhood trauma.
I was an angsty teen. I played Joni Mitchell’s Blue CD on repeat. When I read Macbeth in high school, my teen self was particularly fond of the soliloquy
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
I laugh at that now. I also have come to cringe at that passage because a local condo developer is using the first two lines in a TV commercial.
There often are approaches to relief that people are unaware of. It’s not always a nutritional deficiency or a hormonal imbalance, but it might be and factors such as those — and many others — need to be considered and addressed. Little changes can be life-changing.
I want to reiterate that everyone’s experience is unique. Every experience is valid. The ultimate goal is to be healthy and to find relief, wherever and however, you find it. Accept that some pain is part of life, but no human needs to live in constant pain. We don’t need to suffer. We choose how we live in this world.
What I’ve written here represents my own thoughts, feelings and opinions. While editing (both parts), I removed as many “I think” and “I believe” statements as possible to make my writing read more confident, but at the same time I acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers, only my own worldview based on what I’ve experienced and learned. Yours might be different, and that’s okay.