To continue on my journey of discussing depression from my last point, which you should read first here, it seems like a fitting time to talk about what I think depression is. What is it that I feel, how do I characterize it, and then ultimately, how do I live with it.
A crumbling wall
Everyone that describes depression always seems to mention the same thing: You smile on the outside, but cry on the inside. You laugh with friends, while you’re secretly screaming for help. Basically, you’re hiding your true self behind a wall to give the impression that you’re doing fine, that you yourself are “normal”. When wondering why someone would do this, think about it this way: Who likes a Debbie Downer? Seriously, who really likes Debbie? She’s always crying, always worrying, etc. We don’t need that in our lives, our happiness can’t bare it.
For me, it’s a bit like that, but it’s also a bit of an identity crisis of sorts. I’m known for the happy-go-lucky type. I’m easy to talk to, listen to everyone weep out their sorrows, and I rarely ask anyone for anything. A girl once said to me, and I answered it horribly (tbh), that I never seem to talk about my bad days or complain. I responded that I enjoy hearing her drama as it seems more real, to me, it seems genuine whereas I feel like mine is “all in my head” (god, I hate that description!). As an aside, don’t every label what a person talks about, especially a girl you like, as drama. It’s not a good noun.
However, I truely believe that I have problems that are purely fictional and cosmetic. They don’t even compare to those that are struggling financially, medically, or all of the above. I don’t care enough about my job to come home from a bad day and bring it with me, because at the end of the day, I’m only there to pay my bills, and that’s all it is to me. I wish I could be emotionally attached to have a bad day affect me…i’d feel normal. Nope, not me though, instead I get worked up over stupid things. Things that truly don’t matter.
Even worse, I am completely closed off from letting others see my emotions. So much so that when a stranger sees something positive in me, they can just destroy whatever wall I put up. To give a life experience as an example, I recently had to go through an evaluation with a doctor. This doctor was only there to see how my treatment has helped, but I didn’t know him, didn’t know his intentions, hell, I couldn’t even desribe what he looked like. White. Male. Maybe 40? That’s about it, he remains a blob in my memory.
The evaluation lasted a mere 40minutes, and I went in not wanting to talk. I refuse to discuss more than I need to. “How do you feel” is answered with an “Okay”, “Anything new going on in your life?” answered with a “No”. Complete separation of emotions, a fortress of mixed steel and concrete protecting myself from expressing anything to this stranger. Outsider. 180lbs of Judgement who probably lives a happy life, just staring at me while jotting into his notes. Who are you to even think you can get anything out of me.
It kept up this way for most of the meeting, but he did get some responses from me. Responses that I would talk to anyone about. “Tell me about your time in Germany” is answered in a heart beat. Beautiful people, awesome food, miles upon miles of history waiting to be seen. In Germany, I lived like a kid, 19years old, partying it up in a different club any night of the week, Germany is f&%king AWESOME! “Okay, what can you tell me about the Army?” Again, simple questions, not about me with no reservations upon who I’d tell this to. The Army was the greatest thing that happened to me, I own my house thanks to the Army, have my degree thanks to the GI Bill. The Army took me from a town and county which is facing an opioid crisis, where within a year of graduating people from my class had already perished, and it brought me to Germany. They taught me how to be greater than I ever thought possible, to find my limits and exceed them. The Army was life-changing for me.
Perhaps you can see the same thing he saw. Perhaps you see the same crumbling wall that is up in front of me, you don’t even need to be a psychologist to analyze it. He sure wasn’t one. With a simple few sentences though, he brought me to tears. He tore my wall down, watched it crumble, and watched me pathetically try to hold bricks up infront of my face and call it a castle. What could he have possibly said that broke me? Here’s a bit of paraphrasing:
“Tim, you came into this meeting pretty hostile and completely closed off.
However, you’re actually a very interesting guy.”
“What? I’m not closed off. You don’t even know me” is what started to fill my mind.
“Your answers showed that you weren’t comfortable being here and didn’t want to talk at all, but if you bring up Germany or the Army, there’s a different light about you. A smile can even be seen span from ear to ear as you light up. You even said a few jokes, laughed at your own memories, hell even I laughed at some. But you’re hiding yourself from others, when it’s obvious you want to talk, you have alot to say, but you just don’t talk on your own. Have you thought about seeing someone, just someone to talk to. Not the VA, they’re obviously not seeming to be helpful for you, but someone.”
While writing the words probably doesn’t do the moment justice, I was in tears for some reason at this point. Interesting? Funny? This person doesn’t even know me and has more nice things to say about me, than even I do. I’ve lived behind my walls for so long in self-loathing that ‘interesting’ and ‘funny’ are the last words I’d describe myself. Especially with more colorful descriptors like “worthless”, “failure”, “piece of shit”, “f*%king retarded”. Who is the person he’s been sitting with…and how I can I meet him?
Depression is loneliness
Living behind walls tends to set yourself up for a life of being alone. I use to relate highly to those “Forever Alone” memes, almost like they hit me on a spiritual level. Growing up, finding love was a joke to think about. When you get your inspiration for what “love” is from songs from the Backstreet Boys, and confuse any smile a person sends you as an attraction, you’re going to fail. I remember for years living in the “friend zone”, where any woman who found themselves as my friend, I’d turn the emotions up to 15 and see something that was never there.
One perfect example that a friend explained to me, when I couldn’t understand why I seemed to find my closest friends becoming more distant from me: “Because you keep asking for more than they can give, be happy with what you have, and don’t overthink the rest.” I can only say that I experience happiness with those friends after that when I learned that simple lesson. When I stopped trying to force love, I ended up finding greater friendships, greater bonds, and eventually, found love. It definitely took awhile, but I first experienced true love from an unexpected source, and it developed naturally, slowly, and was powerful.
However, the Army would both prove to be a double-edge sword for me, and I’d have to relearn it all again. What the “friend-zone” is, what not “asking for more than they can give” feels like, how to let love find a way. But enough of gushy things….depression.
Depression is not trusting others
When you can’t chase after your friends for love, and cupid hasn’t struck you and a stranger with an arrow that causes fireworks at first sight, it’s hard to think about where love will come from next. Add in some sprinkles of being closed off from people and being emotionally detached, where do you find the next one?
I work in a pre-dominantly male establishment, I’m also an outlier in the age brackets by being one of the youngest. Cute girl at the gym, meet creepy guy that walks up to talk. Go to the club/bar, you hate the music, and don’t dance. Hobbies? “I work alot and play on the computer”. These are not very good traits to have when you’re a bachelor who’s ‘single ready to mingle’.
Even if you do meet someone. Even if a girl walked up to you and wanted to hold a conversation with you. “Why is she here? Why is she approaching me? What does she want?” These are not great thoughts to have to yourself when you meet someone. People don’t always have an agenda, people aren’t coming up to you out of pity or as a sly trick to deceive you. However, they may hurt you. They may take your feelings, take your love, twist it up into a knot, and sh!t all over it. You can’t trust them, you can only trust yourself, because you are the only person who’s always been there.
It seems illogical, and it seems stupid, but that’s the way the mind sometimes works. And that is the mind of a person “forever alone”, because no one can hurt you when you’re all alone.
Depression is forgiving, but never forgetting
Life would be a hell of a lot easier if I could forget events, a lot like I forgot that doctor from earlier. If events could eventually turn into a blob, let their impact mean something, but let the rest turn to gray, life could be great!
When I describe my sleep problems to people, I explain it by using the movie The Matrix as an imagery. In the 2nd movie, you see the main character Neo finally meet the character named The Architect who is the creator of the Matrix. The walls in the room where the two meet is filled of TV screens. On the screens, they are shown as just images of Neo, all possible outcomes of time depicting how he will act and respond at the given moment. As the scene continues, the screens fill of different clips of humanity, of acts within the first two movies, of life. That’s kind of how my mind works.
Late at night, as I’m waiting for either the Doxepin, Melatonin, zZz-Quil, alcohol, (whatever), to work its magic, that’s my brain at work. Screens filled with memories, mostly stupid things, but the screens are also on channel scan. Get a short little glimpse of a memory…bam!…the screen changed to a new one. And what’s worse, you can’t change it. So many times I’ll sit there, clinching my eye-lids, trying with all my might to remove the thought. The time I described mislabeled a med-wife as a ‘birth mother’ (confusing the whole situation). The time I tried acting like an idiot in grade-school and jumped over a chair….landed on the chair and bruised my face. The times I was almost arrested while drinking underage, and still continuing to do so later. It’s all there, in full HD color, just travelling through.
When you can’t sleep for days and weeks, and all you have to think about at night is yourself at your worst times, it’s hard to be happy that the night has come. It’s also almost impossible to think positively of yourself. I never dwell on the great, nice things I’ve done for people. The “that-a-boys” I’ve received, it’s always the embarrassments. The let-downs. The shame. Every night. Every day. Always.
Memories can be fictional
What could be worse then dwelling on memories of the past, day in and day out? Try dwelling on memories that never happened. My brain is filled with events, conversations, life changes that never actually occurred. I can easily sit down, as a sane and logical person, and map out the true timeline of my life based off of real memories. However, I can also tell you a slew of memories that I never had occur.
Does anyone remember the second apartment I got in between moving out of my actual second apartment? You know, the apartment I moved my things into, while my ex stayed in our apartment until she finally got her things and moved out. I was only there for a few months and then finally moved into my townhome in Paoli. It was a cozy 1 bedroom apartment with Westover Companies (the same landlords I always used) and I moved there because both our names were on the old lease. I couldn’t kick out my ex, so I chose the responsible thing and moved there temporarily. That was why I worked all of that overtime at 1&1 and why I kinda fell off the face of the earth. It sounds perfectly logical and if you never knew me and I told that to you, you’d probably believe those events.
It’s not true though. The memory of that apartment isn’t real, the memory of how I felt moving out and in to someplace else isn’t real. Hell, the timeline doesn’t even make sense compared to the actual events. The day my ex and I broke up, she broke up. Neither of us will ever forget that day, but yet there’s a piece of memory in my head where I can describe down to as fine of detail about what “actually” happened. Some can call it a coping mechanism, but if that’s true, I’ve coped with a lot of stuff in my life.
The memory of the German girl I hung out with all the time after my breakup with my ex, all of my Army buddies know the only girl I knew out there was my best friend and she was a soldier too. The time I crashed my thunderbird and broke my arm…that car lived solidly until the big hurricanes while I was deployed. And I never broke a bone in my life.
The fake memories can even be menacing. I have very distinct memories of horrible, unspeakable things I’ve done and said, and to this day don’t even know if they’re true. How do you approach people after years of when you think you did something, and ask if its true. If it isn’t, you’re a crazy person (and look it too), if it is, you’re a monster.
Imagine that for a minute, that you remember as a kid burning someone’s house down. You remember being caught, but oddly you don’t remember how everything went down afterwards. However, you also remember seeing that house still standing and never remember anyone ever talking to you about it. Do you now, filled with regret for the idiocy of whom your were as a child, apologize to that person? You’d feel great right? How about when you find out it was just a figment of your imagination. It never happened. You made it up in your head, and haunted yourself all of these years. Does that make you feel better? Or do you question more things then? If that’s not real, what else isn’t real? If it is real, then now what, can you live with yourself? What rabbit hole do you jump through?
For the record, I have never burnt down anyone’s house. And I have no memory, fictional or not, of ever burning down a house. No houses were harmed in my tenure.
Lonliness + Fake Memories = Self-Loathing = Depression
If you can’t trust people, and you can’t trust your memories, can you trust yourself? Better yet, if you don’t like people because of how you think about strangers, and you don’t like your own memories because you don’t know real from fake, can you love yourself? It’s a tough world to live in when you’re your own public enemy number one. I sure wasn’t a choir boy growing up, but from what I know to be true and others have told me about myself, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I definitely shouldn’t be so hard on my own self worth.
I’ve been a great friend to a lot of people, loved people with all that I have, excelled at my job, pushed myself to greater limits, I have been successful. The last thing that I should say about myself is how much I hate me. However, I know I’ve been a shitty friend to some, tipped the scale with some that I’ve loved, coward out of hardships, and have failed miserably at best in a lot of things. When you lay those both out, negativity will always weigh heavier than positivity every-time.
That’s my problem though, I dwell one my shortcomings and kick dust on my excellance. While I think I’m an okay person, I don’t particularly like everything about who I’ve become. When I was a kid in school, I wrote a letter and on the envelope said “Do not open until 2013”. I found the envelope this year and read it. In it, I described the person I saw for myself: “Drive a nice car, own a house, run a successful business, married, and adopted 3 children”.
Sounds a bit strange right, and some could say I’m on my way, but when you compare yourself against the image of yourself, you will almost always fail. I failed in college the first time through, ended up being kicked out. The love of my life while in the Army I distanced myself with a life of drinking, smoking, and partying. Hell, one of the only fights we had was where she actually saw more in me than I saw in myself. She wanted me to pursue my education, work towards my degree, and ultimately reach my potential. I on the other hand, wanted nothing of it, “school ain’t cool” type of mentality. It wouldn’t be until later that I realized how wrong I was.
And now look at me, I have plenty of memories, lived the dream while the dream was real, and for what? An empty house, list of exes bearing the same name of previous lovers, working hours on end for money to buy my own materialistic form of
happiness a quick fix. Money doesn’t seem to buy happiness and it sure doesn’t buy love. It hasn’t made me a better friend that replies to text messages, a friend that doesn’t back out of a fun night at the last possible second. It’s changed nothing.
I have the house, I have the job, I have the money….I have nothing. Yea Tim, you’re great, you’re awesome. You’re nothing. You’ve wasted away your time and energy, lost the happiness that you found, and can now reap the rewards of it all.
That is depression. That is my depression.