When depression deprives you of sadness

For the past couple of years, I haven’t cried very much. This is notable only in that before the past couple of years, I was a big crier. Good things, bad things. When I was seven I cried of happiness at my parents’ wedding. Everyone was like, what? Aren’t you seven?

I would hear some bad news and I would even WANT to cry and I’d be trying to squeeze it out of my eyes and nothing happened. I just felt the little tug in my cheeks and that’s it. I noticed the change over time and eventually I just decided, you know what, it’s probably because of testosterone! I looked it up and a few other trans men have expressed the same thing. So that must be it!

Well, since the second week of January, my grandma died, a family friend died in a fire, and today happened (the anniversary of my good friend killing himself). These are all very sad things. And you know what? I have cried. A lot. I watched that episode of Friends where Ross becomes a father and I teared up. That hasn’t happened in YEARS.

What has changed since the second week of January? I started taking my new medication.

It makes me wonder, you know, if I couldn’t cry just because I was so depressed.

I have noted to several people that I’m feeling sadness for the first time in my life without feeling depression. Whenever something bad happened BEFORE, I would just internalize it and consider it a reason to die or at LEAST a reason to hide in my bed all day. But my grandma died and I saw my grandfather crying (which by the way is the greatest heartbreak–they were together for 70 years) and I wasn’t even thinking of myself. I was finally, at long last, able to give and feel freely.

So many people who’ve never had depression just kind of think of depression as being sad all the time. This could not be further from the truth. It is an emptiness. Sure, a symptom of mild depression is crying spells, but that is definitely not the only experience. Depression is calling in to work because even going pee sounds impossible. Depression is not drinking water because you hope you’ll die from dehydration. On the other hand, sadness is expression–it’s life.

Depression is ceasing. Sadness is spilling. 

I feel so lucky I’ve found the medicine I did. It sucks it took two decades but it’s worth it now, to feel for others and give and give as much as I can.

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Here’s the thing about realizing you’re a selfish prick

You can only go up from here.

You can only go up from here.

I wrote my last post with a great weight of sadness. No, not depression–just sadness. It’s just that I don’t want to be self-serving. I want to give and give.

Perhaps coming from selfish origin, this came up when I was considering killing myself: when I die, I want people to think of me as a giver, as a selfless human, as someone who loved his friends and family and lover with the deepest, admirable amount.

As we know, anyone who kills themselves is not thought of as “selfless.” I don’t like it when people judge victims of depression and call them “selfish” and spit at their name. I don’t find that particularly helpful for anybody. But truly, the act of ending your own life because of your own pain–while being aware of the harm it would cause to others–is ultimately not particularly selfless. I think we can agree on that.

But still. When you spend hours each day imagining your eulogy, you give yourself some thought. What note does your life-tune end on?

I want to be better. And the good news is, in a lot of ways, I can only go up from here. I for sure have a few redeeming qualities, but let’s not get too distracted. I want to put others before myself. I want to care for others. I want to do so without concentration or effort–that it just OCCURS to me to love beyond my own sphere.

I just watched a show called The Good Place. I don’t really watch anything at all, so this is notable. I watched the whole first season (are there other seasons? idk). It’s about a woman who is a real asshole her whole life but somehow ends up in The Good Place (“heaven”) when she dies. She is very confused the whole show and considers herself a mistake, but doesn’t want to go to The Bad Place so she attempts to do a bunch of good deeds to make the cut, basically. Well, without giving away the ending too much, the “points” she’s trying to win are ineffective when her INTENTIONS are self-serving.

In other words, when she only held the door open for her neighborhood’s residents when it somehow benefited her in the end, it didn’t really count in the universe’s judgment.

I bring this up because I don’t really have any post-life intentions in mind. The imagining of my funeral is just a tool. I’m not really like, “I’ll only get into heaven if I do good things,” I’m just like, I want to give back. I want to change my heart to look to help others instead of just trying to barely survive. I think that’s a lot more doable now that I’m not desperate for life. Now that it’s possible, let’s move forward.

Yesterday I felt pretty sad, but feeling sorry for myself is ultimately pretty unhelpful. So I wrote a concise version of my to-dos at the end of that post from yesterday on a small whiteboard in my bedroom. I can’t really enter the room without looking at it. I hope it serves as a reminder, even for a short time, that I have a lot of work to do so let’s get to it, huh?

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What they don’t tell you about depression recovery

Being wildly depressed and actively suicidal for such a long period of time as I had leaves the road behind you smoldering.

Anyone I’ve interacted with in that time and was honest with about how poorly I was doing has been affected by me and my actions. Anyone I’d leaned on for support or desperately clung to has taken on some of my burden. The aftermath is war-torn.

Some of my friends are no longer my friends. Relationships have been severely damaged. People are tired of me. Some people aren’t, and some people don’t really seem to bothered. But I feel like almost everyone I care for deeply has grown tired of me.

I think of all the desperate calls for help I’ve left on my shapchat story or all the people I’ve canceled on our plans with. I think of how as far as give-and-take goes, all I could do was TAKE TAKE TAKE because I had nothing to give to anyone. The exchange was all one-sided.

What they don’t tell you about depression recovery is that if you were bad at existing with depression (even if it wasn’t entirely in your control), you have to now live with your actions and you don’t even have the convenience of killing yourself. Now it’s like, how many times can I apologize to the people I love before it sounds like a tired buzz? How many people do I just cut ties with because the damage is so severe it just doesn’t matter? How many realizations do I have to go through about the next three months and yet ALSO try to practice enough self care to not hate myself in the process?

For the first time in over a decade, suicide is not an option. It’s a victory. But now I miss it because it’s easier than dealing with all the unsightly holes in my personality.

It sounds selfish and that’s the root of it all. Depression has made me selfish. It’s made me self-serving. And yes I’m self-aware more than most people I know, but that means NOTHING if I can’t/don’t change anything or make significant progress in doing so.

This is what I’ve been struggling with today. Before I’d stay in my bed all day because I didn’t want to live. Now I’ve stayed in bed all day because I don’t want to live with myself. I feel like the worst person who’s existed. That can’t be true, because I’m not Trump (#BriefComicRelief), but it’s a really hard thing to justify why I’m not dead in the first place. This recovery so far has only manifested in literal survival. “Tip of the iceberg” comes to mind. I thought the entire battle was just overcoming my drive to end myself, but I think that was actually only 8% of the problem.

If you’re reading this and you agree with me, even if it’s just a small part of you, I beg that you have patience with me. I don’t even know where to fucking start.

Here are some action items, though, because I have to turn this post around somehow:

  • Delete my snapchat (which only serves the purpose of self-torture)
  • Stop engaging in political discussions for now (I find them draining and also they make me very angry and I don’t like who I am when I’m angry) (I realize not everyone has this luxury to stop engaging and I’m sorry for that, but I need to step back)
  • Give everyone in my life some healing space (this must be done without bitterness for it to work)
  • Give more of my text-replies a full 60 seconds before I respond (I’ve done a lot of responding fully informed by my immediate reaction-feeling and not very much on anything else)
  • Feel a little more grateful, a little less sorry (I’ve started doing this some more already, but thanking people for their patience instead of apologizing for my existence is probably a better way to go about it)
  • Initiate contact with people with the focus on them, now that I don’t need to come with desperation and crisis (thanks Lamictal)
  • Offer favors outside of myself (trying to push some good into the world to counteract the black hole sponge effect)
  • Gently ask for what I need instead of demanding it (when suicide is always on the line, people felt pressure to cave into my needs)
  • Forgive myself (this is going to be the hardest one, as I feel like I’ve ruined everything with everyone)

If I dare ask for one more thing from anyone who’s listening and cares, it’s that you understand I was ill. And now I’m getting better. And I want to do better and be better and be as good of a person in your life as you were for me.

Being unwilling to kill myself is not enough to be truly living. Now the real work begins.

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