Thursday, June 7, 2012

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off.

After my last post (which got an amazing response, by the way, and I'm really grateful for all your kind words) someone asked me to write about how I deal with my depression.  I'm a little hesitant to do this for a few reasons:
1) I don't love giving advice.  I catch myself doing it, but I don't like it.  Unless someone specifically asks for my opinion I feel like it's not my place to assume I know better than they do what they should do – or that I know better about anything, really. 

2) I'm still a work in progress.  I've come leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, but I still have my ups and downs and I don't want to give the impression that I've got some kind of a miracle answer or that I've reached some great revelation of zen. 

3) Everyone is different.  What works for me may not work for you.  Every brain works differently, both chemically and psychologically, and the medications or devices that do great things for me might do terrible things to you. 
But bearing all that in mind, maybe I can still give some insight into what works for me and you can take it with a tablespoon of salt and adapt it to your own situation.   So here goes nothing...

You know that saying, "the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step?"  (Do you already regret reading this since I opened with a cliche?  Stay with me...)  What they don't tell you is that step is a huge and difficult one.  So get your comfy shoes on...

Step One:  Don't hide yourself in regret; just love yourself and you're set.

Sometimes that Lady Gaga really knows what she's talking about.

I spent a long time trying to be someone I wasn't.  I tried to be who I thought other people expected me to be.  I tried to be someone I thought other people would like or accept.  And I was miserable, and I wasn't gaining the approval for which I was tying myself in knots anyway.  I hated myself and I couldn't connect with anyone because I wasn't being honest with them or with myself.  In the process of trying to be more acceptable to others I had put myself on an island. 

In hindsight I really think all the progress I've made in the last couple of years tracks back to one thing:  accepting myself.  It wasn't until I was willing to deal with who I am instead of who I kept telling myself I should be that I was able to get anywhere.  Once I got there I became willing to fight for that person – the real person.  And that's when I started seeing changes. 

Now I'm not saying you need to go all Stuart Smalley and start spouting fortune cookie tropes.  Nor am I saying you should throw up your hands, say "this is how it is," and forsake the idea of progress.  We're all works in progress.  We can all be better, and we should always be striving to grow and learn and change.  What I am saying is that before I was able to get anywhere, I had to be able to look myself in the psyche and reconcile with what was there.  I had to look at who I was and be OK with it.

Because it's OK.  It really is. 

None of us are perfect, and we all have our bags of rocks we carry every day.  And it's OK. 

Think of it as raw materials:  this is the stuff you're working with.  Who you are now is the clay from which you can build anything you want.  And there's a world of possibilities in that.  But the key is to sculpt with the truth – learn to listen to yourself and care about your own point of view.  Decide you're worth fighting for (because you are). 

It's scary.  Not long ago I felt like I had a choice:  try to be who I really am and risk losing everyone I love, or keep trying to be who I thought they wanted me to be and risk eventually falling apart.  I chose to take a leap of faith and fight for me.  In some ways it paid off, in some ways it didn't.  But in the long run I think I'm in a much better place for it.  I have a stronger foundation on which to learn to stand.  I know that I can fight for myself.  I know that I want to.  And that's something I never thought I'd have. 

I can't tell you how to get there.  For me it took reaching a really low point from which I thought there might be no return before I started looking to claw my way out.  And then, gradually, I started wanting more than tolerance based on learned behavior.  I started wanting acceptance and love based on truth.  Eventually I wanted that enough to go after it.  It was a process, and it was a painful and scary one.  But it was well worth it. 

And that was step one. 

I don't know what your experience is.  I don't know if you're hiding the way that I was, or if you wear your heart on your sleeve.  What I do know is that before I was able to get anywhere in the battle with my brain I had to accept that it was a battle and I had to be willing to fight.  So if I would give any advice, it would be this:  take a long look at yourself.  It will hurt, but do it anyway.  Decide that you – the real you, beneath anything you put on to protect yourself or others – is OK.  Decide that you want to fight for it, build from it, improve upon it in ways that will fulfill and satisfy you.  Look at yourself and let go of all your "shoulds."  Accept what is.  And then decide where to go next. 

Post title stolen from my alter ego.


  1. Being able to love yourself sounds so easy to do, but it's also one of the hardest to do. I salute you for this post.

  2. This is an excellent post, identity crisis is a very serious thing which can make or break someone and to which happiness depends on. Glad you're figuring yourself out and keep it up.