I deal with chronic depression and anxiety. It’s a bitch.
Recently, I decided I wanted to paint what I think it feels like. This is really hard to do, because depression feels different to me all the time. Sometimes, it feels like a wet slug on the back of my neck. Sometimes it feels like an omnipresent banshee scratching at the windows. The anxiety part feels like a trillion eyes judging every step and breath I take. And when they are both working full-time, they can be a whirring sludge of tar and bone dust, or it can feel like dozens of butterflies woven into Chinese finger traps, tangling in my elbows and knees, hands, teeth and tongue. I wrote a post about it a while ago in an attempt to combat what I think are common misconceptions people have about the disease. You can read that if you want to.
I am having a lot of difficulty right now, largely because I’m piling some pretty righteous cabin fever right on top of it all, and last night, when I sat down to paint – I figured I’d finally give it a shot.
I don’t have much to say about how I painted this one, suffice it to say that I spent twice as long sketching as I did painting.
What I really do want to say is, while depression and anxiety can feel constant – they aren’t. Well, they are—but the symptoms aren’t. Depression is a perpetually temporary problem. There’s no way that makes sense unless it does.
When I’m wrapping myself up in icy blankets of depressive thoughts, it feels like that’s all I’ve ever felt. But the reality is, I am distracted by just straight up living for so many hours of the day that I don’t notice these feelings most of the time. The real bitch is that when I do feel it – that’s all I feel. And, the lies my depression scream tell me that’s all I’ve ever felt, and all I’ll ever feel again.
Somewhere in my brain, there’s a pinprick bright dot of an elf with his elbows clenched at his sides and his hands cupped around his mouth whispering “It’s all a lie. Don’t listen to it.” I know he’s there. I know he’s right. But he’s so damned quiet, and so whispery impotent. I want so badly for him to scream – but the cold breath of the banshee fogs the glass, and I can barely hear him over her wailing.
In spite of it, I clench my quadriceps and shove my heels into the carpet, squatting with that wet velvet blanket of depression draped on my shoulders, and trudge to the toilet.
That’s how it feels right now.
Painting this told me that living with depression takes a metric shit tonne of strength, and I should applaud myself for that. Unfortunately, I don’t feel strong. I know I am – I know with some wooly scientific certainty that I am strong because I continue, but it never feels as persuasive as the cold waves crashing on the jagged rocks in my brain.
I assume this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
I don’t really care.
I’m ok. I’m not in danger. I’m not suicidal. I’m not even all that sad to be honest – I’m just… I’m fucking tired.
I absolutely do not want anyone telling me it’ll be ok, that I’m talented, that I’m valuable, all that shit – I know. But if anyone responds to a post like this with words like that – they’ll backfire. Trust me – words and good intentions like that are a bitter opposite to medicine. When I’m being vulnerable like this, compliments fall like triggers of icy rain. It just feels like people are saying shit that they have to say because I’m fishing for compliments.
Trust me – that’s not that this is about.
This is about me trying to be available – transparent – vulnerable – public. Because I know there’s a loud zoo of people out there struggling with these same feelings. I don’t want to find a way to fix myself. I don’t want to feel better. I want to tell the ones who don’t deal with this that living through depression doesn’t take weakness – it takes a tendon-snapping muscle ripping perpetual surge of strength. And, more importantly, I want to tell all the others out there that they aren’t alone.
I’m a lightning bug in the grass – silently blinking,
I hear it too.
Here’s the painting.