I’m climbing out from under the rock of another depressive episode. I currently have about a dozen things on my plate, things I have to do, major things, not minor things. Projects. Ponies, book edits, covers, formatting for print. Things that will take days each. And that’s on top of stuff like keeping my bathroom from looking like the guest toilet in R’lyeh and not burying myself under disposable dinnerware in my bedroom. It’s a neverending cycle, and no matter how I fight, I can’t keep up.
That’s one of the worst things about depression — or, I suppose, any other debilitating condition — you’re not just dealing with your own cycle of broken or not broken, you’re dealing with the everyday outside world, too, and its rhythms, imposed on you with no regard for your level of ability to cope with it. It keeps running. It leaves you to catch up.
Panic attacks suck.
At one point I had them daily, often multiple times, and for hours each time – but that was a long time ago. I’m much better now.
I want to talk for a minute about what that really means. What improvement really looks like. Because it doesn’t look like I thought it would, and I don’t see that talked about as much as I would like to.
So here are four vignettes from the last year or so, all of which I consider victories.
I’m at Planned Parenthood, and I am not holding my shit together. I’m not as triggered by exams as I used to be, so normally this annual bullshit is not a huge issue, but this time I have reason to believe it is going to be a lot worse, involving things that are, like, turbo triggering. Also, I still have a lot of lingering hostility over some bad shit that went down at a Planned Parenthood many years ago, so I don’t feel safe at their clinics. I wasn’t expecting it to be as bad as it is, but it’s so bad this time. I drop the pen three times signing in, my hands are shaking so badly.
Shunning, Shaming, Renaming is a moving piece by Rachel Cohen-Rottenburg about the power of reclaiming your identity while navigating disability and ostracism. I recommend you read it now.
There seems to be a desire on the part of abled people to try to balance the unpleasantness of disability with a belief that it somehow confers gifts equal or exceeding the burden of illness. There seems to be a tendency to conflate a person’s mental illness and their gifts, whatever those are, as though the former caused the latter, as though they were inseparable.
There’s also a tendency to say that adversity brings enlightenment – often true – and that therefore adversity is, in itself, a positive thing, even when that takes the form of being severely disabled. Even when that takes the form of being suicidal. People want to believe that misfortune bears gifts. Worse still is when these sentiments are expressed with envy.
I have a big problem with that.
I accomplished this in spite of depression.
The fact that I can bring beauty and goodness out of badness is something beautiful and good about me, not beautiful and good about badness. It is a skill I developed out of necessity – if I had not, I would get nothing out of it. If you must fight bears, it’s good to learn to use their hides and bones as armor and weapons. Better still is not having to fight bears. Continue reading