Currently, I’m working against a low level of anger and frustration–most of which is directed at myself because I haven’t been as productive as I’d hoped to be. I haven’t hit my stride yet. I haven’t been disciplined enough. When I notice that I’m directing my frustrations outward and turning into an unbearable asshole, I take a deep breath and finally recognize it as my trusty old friend: depression. Ah, Resistance at its finest.
Even though I can fake my way through an hour or two at a time, it can be hard to shake because it manifests in so many different ways. Sometimes the songbird just can’t bring itself to sing. I think I often find things to be critical of in order to protect myself, to put a shell around myself because vulnerability is hard (and there’s another reason why writing is freaking hard, because it’s sharing a part of yourself and inviting rejection and criticism).
I know that pouring into other people and getting out of my own head is a way to beat depression, but the ugly thing about depression is that it makes you feel like other people can’t/don’t benefit from your existence. Something (or a variety of things) in your experience has caused you to believe that your feelings, your efforts, your presence, whatever abilities you think you have, the things you put out into the world—none of it matters. You feel small. Inconsequential. Useless and unwanted.
In spite of carrying around that feeling all the time, it hurts to type it. And from the outside, to those who haven’t truly wrestled with actual depression, it must sound incredibly selfish. I can say with certainty that how it sounds could not be more different than how it feels. It’s not hunger for approval, it’s a deep need for meaning. (Any fellow INFJs out there can tell you how exhausting small talk can be, as there is a longing for substance and depth and connection.) And it’s not circumstantial. It doesn’t change with your environment and you can’t will yourself out of it. This isn’t a defeatist attitude, it’s an unwillingness to take the placebo (“just shake it off and get over it”) and prolong the real problem.
I think it was Charlotte Bronte who said that “a restless mind makes a ruffled pillow.” Depression keeps your mind always wandering, which is probably why the thing a depressed person wants the most is to just sleep. It steals restful sleep, and that leads to a whole host of other problems. It’s a seemingly endless cycle. And most people will either not notice or will just think you’re an unpleasant person. The depressive is generally not an unhappy person. Happiness is a state of a soul content with finding a balance of virtue and pleasure in life, not circumstances or merely a feeling. A melancholy exterior can misrepresent what’s going on inside. Sometimes you’re just exhausted and have to turn down some functions because you’re feeling everything.
I find beauty in a lot of things and am easily moved. I think that’s a common trait among creative types, that they see beauty in things that most others assume shouldn’t contain beauty, so they don’t look, and those who do see beauty in dark places seem melancholy or strange. With that comes very low lows—lows that people who live in the middle struggle to relate to. We notice everything, so maybe it’s frustrating when other people seem oblivious to the things that seem so evident to us. For me, that often results in frustration with other people. I have to check myself and remember not to hold everyone to my own standards, or hold it against them for not understanding what I’m feeling.
I have to also remind myself that life is worth living because it is so dynamic. I personally prefer to stay away from chemical antidepressants (*standard disclaimer that I am not a doctor and this is not a good choice for everyone) because I’ve never had any desire to live in the middle all the time. I’d rather know that lows are part of the game (as much is it sucks) if I can experience the highs and notice the little beauties that often get overlooked. I have to remind myself that this very trait means I have something to offer, a perspective that I take for granted. Contrast–darks against the light–breaks up the monotony and makes people take notice. No two people see the world the same, and even if others see your take on it as weird, maybe it’s the extremeness of it that illuminates something that no one else would have noticed. So hang in there; you will feel like singing again.