Brace yourselves, I’m about to be very transparent. So transparent that I’m signing this post as Anonymous.
Two major events happened in my life this week. One was so silly and inconsequential that usually I would have smiled, clicked the blue thumbs-up, typed LOL and moved on.
But when it followed on the heels, literally within a 24-hour period, of the other major event, the second event was instantly elevated to status: significant.
Ok, enough of the dramatic buildup. On Monday, I was diagnosed Clinically Depressed. On Tuesday, my best friend posted a picture on Facebook.
The last year of my life has been a struggle. I’m really trying to avoid clichés and overused phrases in this post, I’m not sure what else to call it. I struggle to get out of bed every morning. I struggle with food. I struggle in the relationships that mean the most to me in the world. I struggle in my faith.
I’d like to say that I’m wrestling with those things. That sounds so much more proactive and positive. Wrestlers are champions and win gold medals in the Olympics; and the struggle bus is just aptly named. And I’m a struggler.
As a Creative, this puts me in good company, I suppose. Anyone ever see “Sunday in the Park with George”? If not, you should. Of course, Beethoven went deaf. That’s not quite the same as my Clinny D (Thanks, John Moe and my fellow THOWD-BALLS), but to Ludwig it had to have been devastating. Bach & Handel both went blind; Gershwin had a brain tumor. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of musicians that have chemical dependences (that’s a polite way to refer to the rampant alcohol and substance abusers). Debilitation comes in many forms.
Let me insert this here before I go further: Help is available. I waited longer than I should to seek treatment (mostly because I didn’t see it in myself). Don’t wait. Get help.
As I look back, I can clearly identify 3 things that kept me going. Or maybe they kept going and dragged me, kicking and screaming, along for the ride. Scratch that: Life moves onward and they slowly dragged my fetal-positioned self along quite silently.
First is my faith. I would consider myself a deeply religious person. And even though, as mentioned above, I have struggled in my faith recently, I have found peace and rest in it.
Second are those blasted relationships that I struggle with (please read that with the sarcasm I intended). I have an incredible support system. Of course, I have a few turkeys in my life too, but mostly I am surrounded with loving arms. Not all of us have that, but I do and I’m learning even more, every day, to trust them and to let them help me.
Thirdly, and the point of this post, I have the arts. Oops. Let me correctly capitalize that: I have The Arts.
In the past year I have cried more during music than ever in my life. But it made me feel alive, when at times I wasn’t sure I wanted to be. I experienced colors around me that I’d never taken notice of before. I explored new theatrical expressions that allowed me to be transparent and yet anonymous (sort of like writing this). I’ve discovered and rediscovered film and television that have stirred me with drama, suspense and humor. And I have to give a hat tip to The Hilarious World of Depression, an incredible podcast that has fed me even before I realized it was describing me.
And creating this today post has been cathartic beyond what I anticipated.
Back to my major events.
Yes, Clinical Depression. I’m not sure what to say about it. And in the category of things that shouldn’t be funny, but to me, it is: finding out I was depressed was depressing. I literally LOL’d that one a LOT! But I’m still moving forward. As a dear sweet saint once said (and has been echoed by Monty Python as well), “I ain’t dead yet”. Treatment has begun.
As for my friend’s social media post. It was so inconsequential, really. With his phone, he took a few shots of a collaboration of which I was a part. His post reflected his good humor and expressed the depth of our friendship. But as I viewed the photos, I realized I didn’t look depressed.
Two thoughts on that:
First, mental illness is real. It is not a punchline. And you can’t see it. And the award for Best Faker goes to…good grief, give me the damn Oscar already for my performances this past year!
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, those shots showed me a reality that is within my grasp. A future where arts collaborations bring healing to me and others. The Arts are powerful. They are therapeutic. And right now, they are part of my light in a very dark place.