A couple weekends back, I was at a wonderful event, which brought together people from different disciplines who wished to work together to tell the stories of immigration to Canada in order to inform public policy and to support advocacy efforts. It’s not surprising that this kind of event attracted really kind-hearted people; the kinds of people who would give up their weekend to devote their significant skills to the task of making their homeland more welcoming for newcomers. And yet, the generosity and kindness that these people showed me overwhelmed me to the point that, when I got home, I cried in my husband’s arms for an hour. My mind was telling me that the only reason these people would be so nice to me is if I were defrauding them. I was overcome by shame that these people would listen to me and validate my ideas when in fact I can contribute nothing of value. I felt so guilty that I was taking up space and filling it with my nothingness.
I’m not asking for your pity or your reassurance. In spite of how the above makes it seem, I am in fact a very confident and assertive person. This blog being case in point. But depression lies. It tells you that you don’t deserve to take up space, it tells you that you don’t deserve to be loved, it tells you that you have nothing to offer, it tells you that things can only get worse. The worst part is that, in those moments, I know I’m being irrational, but the pain and sadness is visceral such that it cannot be reasoned with. I could be the most rational person in the world, and still my depression could not be assuaged by you or even the little part in the back of my mind that keeps trying to remind me that I am awesome.
It’s like I’m gaslighting myself. Did I intervene in the group discussion because I wanted to be helpful, or did I do it to get attention and to seem smart? Was I invited to this event or did I impose myself on these people? Did I say something totally inane to that person, or did I intentionally crush their soul? I replay the moments in my mind, and I write conversations down in minute detail, and after a long productive day where I learned and contributed to a great product I collapse in bed and make a detailed list in my mind of everything I did wrong.
It’s not every day. It’s not every week. It’s not every month. But it effects my every action and interaction, because that kind of self-induced mental torture leaves scars. I think it has given me a thicker skin, because basically nobody can say worse things about me than I’ve thought about myself. I think it has made me a better communicator, because I’ve spent so much time obsessing over how the things I say might be interpreted. I think that it has likely cost me some friends, because I worry that if I text them or invite them to dinner that I will be bothering them. I think it contributed to my staying in abusive relationships, because I believed I deserved to be treated that way and that I couldn’t do better.
I have to give credit for the phrase “depression lies” to Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess). Her testimonials about her struggles with depression helped me to better understand myself, and to get through hard times. And using the phrase “depression lies” as a mantra has been immensely comforting. Sometimes I even write the words on my arm or leg so that I can feel them sink into me. They get me out of the vicious cycle of self-doubt and enable me to get on with the work that needs to be done. They permit me to trust the part of myself which still knows that I am well-intentioned, that I am a hard worker, and that I have accomplished some extraordinary things. They remind me that I am not my depression, and that my depression is an asshole.
Posted in: Progress