Sometimes life gives you lemons. Then you make lemonade. Today, the lemonade is an act of sharing. Three of them.
Before you read the following paragraphs, do yourself a favour.
Read this comic strip now.
Read it? No? Then please read it. Otherwise this post will make no sense whatsoever.
1) I am recovering from the same specific form of depression as the comic’s author, Allie.
Retrospectively, I recognize I was depressed since 2007. I write “that specific form” because there are different forms of depression. Some friends whom I have talked to think about depression as “feeling negative or sad,” which seems to happen to other people they know. However Allie’s and mine is this “detached, meaningless fog” where feelings don’t exist, and where continuing to live seems a burdensome joke.
For the technical and gory details, look at this article from Wikipedia.
2) The honesty of your caring matters. Words don’t work as well as actions.
Some time ago I met an awesome someone who looked at me. That was sometime in 2011. As we learned to know each other, his own general, somewhat unfocused craving for attention became directed in my presence. His behaviour, and the way he looked at me conveyed he was genuinely and visibly interested in what I had to share with him and with the world in general. What made this person’s behaviour especially meaningful was a combination of two factors. First, he is superiorly smart, so his general opinion mattered to me. Second, he does not seem to care about a lot in general, so his caring about me was remarkable.
As cheesy as it may sound, he made me feel special. That was interesting, since I was not feeling anything else.
It worked because his attention was visible. So I could notice it–or at least couldn’t ignore it.
Much later, another friend greatly helped by making me regularly and actively part of his life, although we never really spoke about it with words. As the months went by, I came to realize: every time someone said to me “I care about you, so don’t kill yourself,” I felt nothing; it did not help. In contrast, each meaningful look, each free hug, each invitation for tea, beer or dinner, each invitation for playing together, each walk outside in knowing, friendly and peaceful silence, all these have helped me move forward and make me “warm inside” in beautiful ways. (To you all, so many thanks for this. You know who you are.)
3) The walk away from depression is intimately personal. Help is needed along the way too.
So I started feeling “special” and valuable at least to one person, but I did not know in which dimension. He never told me with words what his interest was. (For the record, I still do not know for sure how I am special to him, and I still wonder about that very hard, but that is a different story.)
In this story, this externally stimulated self-worth was undirected, unfocused. I was starting to care again about my well-being, and caring is feeling, so it must be good, right?
Unfortunately, as Allie explains in her comic, feelings do not come back all at once, symmetrically. For some time, I felt a lot of anguish.
At first, I became addicted to this person, because I could feel only in his presence: there was still fog and nothingness away from him. Of course I did not talk to him about it, so as to shield him from my turmoil.
Later in 2012, I also started to care about him and his well-being because he is also a great and interesting person. However, any time he was not around, my caring for him grew to giant proportions, filling all the emotional empty space created by my inability to feel anything else. It was like a giant, uncontrolled bubble of love.
Retrospectively, it was beautiful; but at the time it was pissing-in-my-pants scary: I knew this intensity was out of healthy bounds, and I was still lacking the emotional awareness of how my actions was affecting other people. I quickly became very afraid of my own behaviour: that I would act disproportionately, that he would start to perceive me as “creepy” or “desperate,” and that my other friends would feel neglected.
Eventually, I started to second-think all my actions, and I became clumsy in my interactions with everyone. Then the next two feelings emerged simultaneously sometime during last winter: I started to feel angry at myself for being clumsy, and I started to feel lonely because I could not share the experience with anyone. These two feelings grew too, sharing the big empty emotional space with the love bubble.
I was walking the exit path from depression loving someone else, angry at myself, and lonely.
Moreover, any time I would attempt to control these 3 feelings through relaxation and meditation, I reached states that were not easy to handle. Here is a diagram that summarizes this situation:
In her story, Allie reveals that she “rebooted” first with anger, then crying, then laughter at a grain of corn. Good for her. She does not say what she got afterwards. My package got love first, then anger, then loneliness.
Then I got stuck there for a while, bottling it up and not knowing where to go. It sucks less than depression, but it still sucks.
So if a friend tells you “I am recovering from depression,” don’t assume all is well and they are “fixed.” This is the moment where they need you the most.
The road away from depression is walked by growing back feelings, like a tree grows back leaves after the winter.
So as the story goes, during the last three months anger and loneliness have deflated, so there’s less negative “gray” areas to navigate away from. Instead, a slimy, green anxiety bubble has started to grow because of financial troubles, but I have good hope that I can deal with it.
Meanwhile, I have also started to re-grow a couple few other positive feelings next to the big, pink love bubble: a blue one for curiosity (my long-time and reliable friend, that one, glad to have it back), a purple one for pride (nice), a red one for lust (yay!), and a little white one of empathy (at last).
There’s no telling what will happen from there. What I know for sure, is that I am so indebted to these people who helped so far it’s embarrassing.