My annoying sidekicks: Depression & Anxiety

The challenge, sometimes, of being a humor writer is that life is rarely hold-your-ribs funny. And sometimes even when things are going okay, your mind goes on the fritz, kind of like a temperamental refrigerator. Except instead of spoiled meat and brown vegetables, you have crying fits and suicidal thoughts.

 

I’ll try to make it funny, I promise. Here’s a picture of a kitten.
I’ll try to make it funny, I promise. Look, kittens!

 

Like, 80% of the time I feel fine. I’m outgoing, folksy, creative, funny and energetic. Maybe with a little dorky and awkward thrown in.

 

Define “a little”…

So it comes as quite an unpleasant surprise when my depression swoops down on me like the anti-Mary Poppins. Instead of a spoonful of sugar I get a headful of crazy. It’s the kind of thing people who have had no history of depression never understand.

I was diagnosed several years ago with depression. I am on medication. A year or so ago my doctor had to up my dosage because my mind started taking me to dark, terrible places that frightened me. I was afraid I would hurt myself. I started having crippling anxiety along with panic attacks.

 

Sorry. Here’s another kitten... in a box!
Sorry. Here’s another kitten… in a box!

 

The comedienne Maria Bamford  talks about her own anxiety and depression issues, which caused her to drop out of the public eye and put her career on hold. She asked the rhetorical question, “Would anyone tell a cancer patient to just “get over it?’” Depression and anxiety are real illnesses, caused by imbalanced neurotransmitters.  That’s right. I know science-y stuff.

 

I have a PhD in Wikipedia Studies.
I have a PhD in Wikipedia Studies.

I can’t control it any more than I could will myself to mend a broken leg. I take meds because I need them to function on a daily basis. Apparently this is very common amongst us “creative types.” Besides the usual artists and writers, great political leaders such as former Prime Minister Winston Churchill openly wrote about his depression, calling it “the black dog.” (Also check out 50 Famous Artists and Thinkers Who Have Struggled With Depression.)

So the thing that makes my brain the special lil’ guy we all know and love is also the thing that causes it turn against me. Living in my head is basically like being chained to a toddler 24/7. You never know what will set it off.

 

Pictured: my brain.
Pictured: my brain.

What is so, so frustrating about this is that it’s still not considered a valid reason to say, call in sick. How do you call in depressed? Literally everyone asks: “What’s wrong?” or “What happened?”

I WAS BORN WITH A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE, THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED. Now can I get back to hiding under my covers until the urge to fling myself out the window goes away? Thanks.

It’s bad enough that I feel “crazy” or “not normal.” The fact that I have to justify how my brain works makes it a million times worse.

 

Literally a million. I’ve done the math.
Literally a million. I’ve done the math.

Because then on top of the anxiety, the depression, the feeling of unworthiness… I feel guilty. And, not only that, but the general opinion (even from friends and family) is that depression is something to be ashamed of. Or, worse, that it’s not “real.” And then I feel alone on top of the top of… it sucks, is what I’m saying. Would I be embarrassed to call in sick because of bronchitis or something… else?

 

"You had your appendix removed? Big woop. Check out what they removed from my colon!"
“Why was I out yesterday? Check out what they removed from my colon!”

So why do I feel the need to make up some phantom illness when I feel this way? So it doesn’t affect my job? So people won’t look at me different? Why should I have to worry about this?

So many questions, it's formed into ONE GIANT QUESTION.
So many questions, it’s formed into ONE GIANT QUESTION.

The answer, of course, is that I shouldn’t. And I’ve decided that I won’t. I’m sick of being unable to talk about it. Also, I’m a really bad liar, you guys. Anytime I’ve had to “make up” an illness, it’s always something totally ridiculous.

 

I have… squishy eyeball disease?
I have… squishy eyeball disease?

I mean, look what hiding from mental illness has done to some truly talented people. We laughed at “train wrecks” like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, but it doesn’t seem so funny now, does it? Sorry, that went to a dark place again.

 

Awww… sleepy kitty!

So, no, I can’t “force myself” to feel better. If I make plans but then am hit with depression and/or anxiety, I’m not going to invent illnesses just so I don’t make people uncomfortable.

 

I’ve come down with oversized cartoon foot disease.
I’ve come down with oversized cartoon foot. But I’m surprisingly okay with it.

 

If I can deal with my depression, then people can deal with hearing about it. (Just to be clear, I’m not going to Ancient Mariner-er people to death about how the brain works, okay?) Nor will I go on and on about my symptoms, like that one old relative we all have who starts talking about her bowel movements as soon as there’s a lull in the conversation.

No, I will just be the eccentric, creative girl who has a deeper side she dared not reveal to the public… until now. Kind of like a funnier version of Sylvia Plath, only less suicide-y.

Too far, Jessie. Too far.
Tsk, tsk. Too far, Jessie. Too far.

10 thoughts on “My annoying sidekicks: Depression & Anxiety

  1. Bless you Jessie for posting this! I have never suffered from depression but someone close to me does and for the longest time I buried my head in apathy. Now that I’ve been educated and more people come forth I understand the horror of it. Here’s to one day finding that magic pill that cures it once and for all!

  2. I really get this. It is so true. I come from a long line of people with various mental illnesses and I swore I’d never lie about my problems. What a joke! Years later, I totally understand why it has to be done. A few years ago my mom had such a severe depressive episode that she had to be hospitalized for several weeks. Guess what? No one brought casseroles or offered to help with my kids. Well, a few VERY close friends did, but honestly I was shocked at how uncomfortable people looked when I was honest about her situation. So…after a few years of attempting honesty, I’m back to making up illnesses. It’s just easier. Sorry to be a downer, but it’s true. In all sincerity, anxiety and depression suck SO bad. I’ve been dealing with both lately and it’s just plain hard. I’m sorry, and I’m sending you lots of good energy. Hope you feel better soon!

    1. Thank you for your comment! And don’t apologize, it’s totally true! People still think depression and other mental illnesses are for “crazy people.” There’s definitely still a stigma! I don’t blame you for making up illnesses, that’s why I did it for so long. I’m actually working from home today because just writing this post triggered mega-anxiety. Good times. Thanks again for reading!

  3. Jessie,
    I’ve been following your blog for awhile and think you are so talented ! Thank you for being so honest and upfront about what most consider a delicate subject.
    Love reading your funny and serious entries.
    Well done!
    Gina 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing. This is a subject that everyone should understand. With the tragic loss of Robin Williams perhaps more people will come to understand the depth of this illness called depression. Besides, it doesn’t diminish your sense of humor (nor his) or your incredible writing skills. Love your blogs!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment–and the comparison to Robin Williams, however slight! It hurts my heart to think that someone as talented and well-loved as Robin Williams suffered so much that he felt the need to end it all. I hope this post helps others who are going through the same thing. Sometimes it helps just knowing you’re not alone. Thanks for reading!

  5. I think this is the first time I read your blog! Rather impressed with your writing style and use of visuals. Even if it is a normally dark subject. You really did inject a lil Jessie© humor into it.
    Might just peruse your other stories 😛
    Love ya sis. Never stop writing

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