It’s been a few months since I last sat down to write. Partly, I felt over-exposed and raw following the election, and I craved some privacy for my thoughts – a room of their own, a secret garden, a place where they could be the thoughts I need them to be. On a micro level, it hurts to feel rejected (which is how I felt, in a way, following the election), even if it is by strangers who largely haven’t had the same opportunities in education and experience that you have. On a larger level, well … I think many of us needed to retreat. Tend to our wounds. Strategize. Bury the dead, or at least, the ex-communicated and un-followed on Facebook.
And of course, this being a blog about depression, I wasn’t writing because for much of the month of December, I was bogged down in a depression, forcing myself to go to work (a victory) and rushing home to crash on the couch, buried in my phone. I was itchy from the inside out that whole month, wanting to shed my skin, to be smaller, to not have to feel my soul, or consciousness, or whatever it is that pushes up against our bones and muscles and arteries and blood, whatever it is that makes us human, and flawed, and sacred. I didn’t necessarily not want to exist. I just didn’t want to exist in human form. I didn’t want to exist in my human form.
Sometimes I don’t want to write because I just don’t like myself.
And other times, life is busy. Life is always busy. Life is particularly busy, I would muse, when you are managing your mental health needs so that you can survive, and ultimately, thrive, or at least, be somewhere in line for the pursuit of happiness. And for me, managing means exercising regularly (endorphins), going to therapy and support groups (connection), watching what I eat and tracking my period (hormones, and ok, I don’t really watch what I eat, but wouldn’t it be great if I did?), and seeing the NP who prescribes my medication regularly to make sure the infiltrated chemicals are working correctly (chemistry/biology/serotonin/dopamine/executive functioning and lack thereof). Oh, and meditation (all of the above).
I don’t list the depression management to -dos to complain. I complain about so many things, but depression isn’t one of them. If anything, depression complains about me. And being forced to manage my depression – and being in a place, where, thank goddess, I can manage my depression, most of the time – is a good thing. It’s a great thing. Because it means I am functioning, and I have health.
I’ve been thinking a lot about anger and depression, and the idea that depression is anger turned inwards. I had heard this hypothesis when I was young, but wasn’t formally introduced to the idea until grad school, when I was assigned to read Teens Who Hurt by Kenneth Hardy, Ph.D., a social worker who specializes in racial trauma. In this book, if memory serves me, he presents three cases studies – two young men, one young woman – who are in therapeutic treatment for their rage as it relates to the racism and racial injustice they have experienced. The female client, however, does not demonstrate the aggression and violence that her male counterparts are punished for – she shows common signs of depression, and cuts herself, and engages in self-destructive behavior, such as drinking and drugging to excess. And this, Hardy suggests, is anger turned inward – which, for women, is more acceptable socially than raging against the machine, or your peers, or teachers, or whomever you imagine being crushed by a car, for example.
When I was younger and knew everything, I thought that simple explanations such as these were so trite, lacking depth and life. But now, I don’t know. Cliches start to make a lot more sense the more I wake up and trudge into the world. And this idea of depression being anger turned inwards is starting to make sense. I am incapacitated when depressed, fixated on my depression, and stuck. When I interact with other women who are angry or raging, they are incapacitated, fixated, stuck. The energy of anger stays stagnant, be it directed away from you or into your being. Of course, anger can be mobilizing and transformative and necessary for resistance and rising up. But in isolation, the anger that you have a relationship with, the anger that has to do with a challenge to your identity, or existence, is different. It’s not so easy to transcend when you think are alone in it. At least, I think that’s what Kenneth Hardy was saying.
And so – I have been wondering, and watching, and trying to notice when I get depressed. And sometimes it’s a crapshoot, which is what this blog is about. Sometimes, it makes total sense: look, a person made of orange-flavored hate is running our country. Sometimes, I’m just tired and assume that I am depressed because depression feels like utterly exhaustion. But also, sometimes, for me, being depressed is being so full of rage and righteousness and indignation and hurt that I want to completely destroy something or someone, and not being able to do this, because I will go to jail, but also not being able to express this, because it’s not nice.
And this all makes me feel so deeply for the men and women who are full of rage and show this through spurts of violence. With my anger turned inwards, I am viewed with compassion, sometimes ignorance, but mostly support. With outside anger, the depressed/oppressed/repressed are viewed with suspicion and fear and contempt. And what a shame that is, that this self-loathing is met with such disgust and retribution. Because I wouldn’t wish my self-loathing and shame when experiencing depression or rage at myself on anyone.
Instead, I retreat and disconnect. Others engage in violence and disconnect. And the source of our rage simmers and slithers away into the shadows, without a name.
Although, the times … they are a changin.