I thought I was exempt.
I never thought all the posts and tweets would ring true of me. I didn’t know the warning signs or ways to avoid it, but I was still certain I would be an exception. I was aware of people who were diagnosed with clinical depression or who were living with emotional depression, but I was always outside of it… until November.
It was the week of Thanksgiving 2016, a normal Monday, when I sat down to do a final check of the posts that were scheduled to go live on my blogs, newsletters, IG and Twitter accounts that week. After checking those tasks off the list, I was ready to move on to the next task, but as I tried to start, there was nothing. Not that there was nothing to do, there was plenty to be done, there was just nothing within me. I still don’t have the words to explain how it felt, and that may be because what I felt, was nothingness. Every ounce of desire to write, encourage, teach, talk, or work was gone.
I thought, maybe I need to eat or maybe I didn’t get enough sleep, and when those two physiological level of needs were met and nothing improved, I assumed it was a case of sudden writer’s block. So I closed my laptop, cleaned, and watched a movie, certain that Tuesday and Wednesday would be enough time for me to redeem my unproductive Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday brought much of the same, so since if was a short work week anyway, I chalked up Thanksgiving week as a loss. By Sunday night, I knew that barring a miracle, the upcoming week was not going to go well. When Monday arrived, not only was I unable to sit down and start working, I had little desire, and barely enough strength, to sit up.
All I could do, was be.
Anger is familiar. It’s my go-to emotion when I don’t understand things. After a year plus of counseling, the anger is now easily identifiable, but it’s still comforting like an old friend.
I was angry that ‘it’ (it didn’t have a name yet) was happening and that I didn’t know what ‘it’ was and why ‘it’ had chosen me. The gall. I was angry at myself for not knowing how to get from under the weight of it and not knowing how to change the unbearable sadness to happiness. I was angry that I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain that it was heavier and deeper than sadness and angry because I hadn’t yet realized ‘it’ isn’t cured by reminding oneself they have ‘nothing to be sad about’. I was angry that I couldn’t fix it, that I couldn’t fix me- “What kind of weak person can’t fix themselves?” was my internal dialogue. I was angry that I didn’t have anyone who could not only handle hearing about it, but who could try and help me deal with and get out of it. I was angry because it was just another thing I had to hide and pretend didn’t exist and I was angry that it happened at such an inconvenient time. I was furious that no matter how much I indulged, no playlist, audiobook, TED talk, YouTube video, or Netflix movie made it go away.
Within a couple of days I went from anger to acceptance and I told God that as much as I wished He’d “take this from me”, I was willing to live in this as long as I needed. I just asked that it be worthwhile, that when it ended, I would learn from it and be able to help others through the same.
As silly as it sounds, I kinda think I brought it on myself. I think it was due me for putting online the challenge of living transparently. There I was, all… “Let’s start a movement!”, then bam. Silence. Darkness. A few weeks prior to ‘D’ day, I posted a video on YouTube called Dear Creators where I challenged YouTubers to be more transparent. I changed Launch’s Twitter banner to read, “Transparent Living: Telling your truth, not your business” and made that the unofficial slogan of the Launch website. Here I was spearheading the charge for transparency and encouraging others to create, share, and speak their truth, and I was invisible.
How lame. How disappointing. What if Malcolm X or MLK Jr. would’ve been all, “Let’s do something!” and then disappeared? Great things don’t happen when you proclaim change and then take no action toward said change. Change requires action, but, I physically could not.
I wanted people to unmask and not hide what was really going on with them and it wasn’t that I didn’t want to share, there was nothing to share. How do you actually spell, ‘ehh’ because that’s all an honest blog post would have said. How many synonyms for ‘numb’ are worth tweeting? I had no words to offer the world. Darkness and weight don’t have a vocabulary, the silence is part of the punishment. When you rely on written word to express yourself, and understand the world around you, and those whom inhabit it, and the words are taken from you, you have nothing.
I flew to the East Coast to spend the holidays with my family and published nothing for months. I wrote little more than 1-3 line memos in my phone and screenshot more quotes and posts about depression than anyone should. I allowed myself to wake when I wanted and nap when I wanted, I hung out with those in my tribe who fill me and didn’t talk to, or do anything I knew would drain me. I did what I wanted, (for the most part) and I did so without guilt or speaking harshly to myself. I ate healthy foods during the day and lulled myself to sleep with sugary snacks at night (I do not recommend). I was in survival mode.
When 2017 rolled in, I decided to live in truth. I started saying “no” more, and fake smiling, less. I use my genuine, albeit flat, monotoned voice instead of an inauthentic, higher octave for the comfort of others. I have not replied to texts or answered calls when I haven’t felt like it, and I’ve not shouldered the issues of others, as per my old usual.
Most importantly, I realized (and accepted) that I was depressed.
I don’t remember the moment or post that lead me to properly ascribing everything I was feeling to depression. All I know is I was never more thankful for social media and all the people who courageously used it, who risked vulnerability, and who vocalized their feelings and thoughts about their depression. The more I read the more I understood and the less alone I felt. I knew that clinical depression, (right or wrong) was said to be caused by a chemical imbalance and people took medicine to manage it. I also knew it wasn’t something that could be fixed by ‘doing something fun’ or telling people to ‘choose happiness’.
Emotional depression however, I knew very little about. Having lived with it for months now, I can tell you it’s feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It’s being simultaneously aware of everything and wanting to take part in life, yet feeling nothing; it was numbness and craving emotion. I wanted to write, produce, contribute, and create but had no ability to do so. I had to make myself get out of the bed so I didn’t (emotionally) die in it. Throughout the day I’d promise myself that the weight and darkness would soon be over, though I had no clue whether it ever would.
Depression saved my life.
It has been a slow lifting of the fog, one I’m grateful for. It didn’t automatically get better when I changed zip codes, but it began to lighten as I poured out what little I had, into those I love (maybe because my mind focused more on them than it did on me).
It was winter, but I found the sunshine.
I moved my body and fed it more micronutrients.
I paused the people and situations that drained me.
I allowed myself to have days of mundanity.
I didn’t beat myself up or punish myself for not writing or hustling (In fact, I completely let go of the hustle propaganda.).
I cried and prayed.
I tried to make the 21st of Jan, Feb, and March the end point, tried to wrap the depression up nicely on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd month anniversary of its arrival, but things you don’t control don’t work that way. I began to see the light again on April 3rd, I remember feeling it, and now, mid-May, here I am, physically and mentally able to begin again.
I don’t know what happens next.
This is new to me, so as much as I hope it’s a one-and-done situation, I don’t know if it’s something I’ll slip back into. I’m grateful for the depression and I’m glad to be on the other side of it. I’m appreciative of the time I was sustained and allowed to simply exist without producing. It’s been 168 days between my last post and this one; that’s 5 months and 17 days of my life.