What does it mean to be “depressed”?
Note: This is a guest blog by the awesome Jennifer Pastiloff
Are you depressed?
I feel like I am about to write copy for an anti-depressant commercial. Do you find yourself thinking sad thoughts? Trouble sleeping? Find you can’t focus? Find you feel like shit when you have no viable reason to, and in fact, anyone would think you insane for admitting it?
Depression confession from 10,000 feet: I have been struggling lately.
It’s like I am carrying a bunch of plastic (yes, plastic) shopping bags and they are digging into my arm and cutting off the circulation and then they all start to get twisted up. Has that ever happened to you? (I know, most of you don’t use plastic, but you can imagine right?) There’s a lot of heavy things in the plastic bags and finding a way to carry them all with the skinny handles is nearly impossible and a more than a little frustrating. Its like at once I am carrying the plastic bags and I am the plastic bag hanging on to an arm for dear life.
So put them down for a moment. There in the parking lot. Since I am the plastic bag and also carrying it (stay with me on this metaphor for a moment) I am at once free and yet utterly alone, there in a parking lot.
And its a little overwhelming.
That’s what I have done. Or what I want to do. Trying to put down some of my load. In a parking lot. In a blog post. Anywhere really.
I suffer from depression. Or I have suffered. Which is it? Past tense? Present?
Let me be frank: I am slipping a little lately. So is it present tense? Maybe. Do I acknowledge it and then shift my thoughts, creating new mantras such as I am happy! I am free of depression! Or do I sit quietly on this airplane and contemplate it?
What does that even mean, depressed? Is it something I have been told (yes!) or something I know deep in the labyrinth of my body, in my DNA (also yes!)?
Noun: A complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way; a maze.
An intricate and confusing arrangement.
(Sounds like the human mind, no?)
From the time I can remember I have felt a certain sadness that I could never explain to anyone, a dead part inside of me that made pretend I was sick and stay home from school (even in kindergarten) so I could eat cream cheese and olive sandwiches and watch tv with my mom. During college, I would leave NYU during the weekends to go back to Cherry Hill, NJ, a one and a half hour ride on the Peter Pan Bus, so I could be at home, safe from the slick world of New York City and all the food choices. And from feeling anything except hunger. Perhaps that is how I fell in love with anorexia, it allowed me to stop feeling such a nothingness. I replaced nothingness with anxiety and hunger but I no longer felt depressed, per se.
The point is, here I am on a plane flying to Miami. My life is great. I have nothing to complain about. I am happily married. I am successful. I am healthy. So, what is it?
What is this demon?
This is what happens. I sit down and I can’t get up. I am superglued to my chair and I cannot go anywhere, I cannot do anything until the minutes turn into days and the days into years. Since I can remember dreaming I have had various forms of the very cliche tidal wave dream. So I sit in my chair, superglued there like that and the tidal wave swallows me. 13 years of my life passed in this salt water until I was spit back onto the shore and discovered my calling to which I responded as if it was literally calling me on my iPhone. Yes, I hear you, my dharma! I’m here. I’ve emerged from the depths of Hell and I am here to inspire and write and teach yoga and travel and be happy.
Except the thing is sometimes I feel like a liar.
Sometimes it’s like the anatomy of the impossible and I find myself on a chair, superglued there, glassy eyes, a deep nothingness setting in like it’s missed me and had to be close to my heart again.
What it feels like is that my insides are collapsing upon themselves boneless as wool. The outside of me is pushing its way in. The outside of everything is pushing its way in. The noise, the cars, the people, the fears, the future, the past.
What do you have to be blue about? a friend asked me on the phone a couple weeks ago.
Nothing. Not a damn thing. My life is amazing.
So what is wrong with my mind? Is it broken? Is there a hole somewhere? Can I fix it with yoga or prayer or rewiring my thoughts or wine or laughter or sleep or sex?
I try all. Trust me. I sleep like a dog in summer. I drink wine. I do yoga. I teach yoga! I am mindful of my thoughts (most days.)
It’s not enough. I must dig deeper.
What is triggering me? What situations am I putting myself in? Who am I surrounding myself with? What am I allowing myself to think and say after the words I am?
I must get a hammer and chisel away at the bone until I find the piece I am looking for. It is that part of me that sometimes goes missing. The stray piece that feels like smiling isn’t a chore, the piece that wants to answer the phone and talk, the piece that gets up off the chair and does things out in the world, things with other people even.
I am not saying it will ever go away 100% or that I even want it to. Claire Danes character on Homeland (my obsession) got her brain zapped. She literally got electric shock so she could deal with being bipolar. (No, I would never do that and no I am not bi-polar.)
This rogue part of me is where art is born and where I write. But enough is enough. I am driving the boat. Me! Not my so-called depression. Not my sadness. Not my mood. Not my apathy. Not my ego.
Aphrodite and the other Greek gods were not the only ones who had split personalities. We all do! (Or at least I do.)
Here is the truth: There are two of me. (Possibly three or four.) As it was with others before us.
The battle in me looms like an uncertain diagnosis, luckily I am armored with my bow and quiver. Some days I sway, these passions of the heart- so fickle, so tenuous. These feelings of sadness, of emptiness will be taken down by me and my bow and arrow.
Until then, I will leave you with this.
Today I feel good. Right now I feel good. My life is amazing and I am happy.
Right now, in this moment, there is no missing part of me.
There is nothing missing.