Yesterday’s post about depression got more hits than any post I have ever written in the 12 years I have been posting things on the internet. It also got more private emails, texts, and messages.
This, obviously, got my attention and I noticed a few things happening inside of me.
First I want to say: Wow. Wow about the compassion, the honesty, the sharing, the commonness, the gentleness, the concern, the empathy, the humor, the insight, the wisdom, the offers, the humanity, and the love.
I was moved to tears by a few people and had a few jaw-dropping moments of insight received. I also felt angry and simultaneously sad and frustrated. And that’s what I’d like to talk about today.
A number of people mentioned my bravery for talking about something as stigmatized as mental illness. My response: “huh?”
Then I remembered that depression is classified as a mental illness. Which is both hilariously stupid and also necessary. Necessary in that there are instances when a classification as a mental illness is necessary, especially when diagnosis can be life-saving.
With that said, I would like to address the hilariously stupid part.
In one of the private messages I received, a brilliant woman whom I respect said “I deserved to be depressed.” She had gone through so much, got hit on every level, all at the same time. What she was illuminating is how normal her depression was.
She wasn’t mentally ill – she was having a healthy response to life.
And that’s exactly how I feel about my own depression. What pisses me off is how long it took me to wake-up to it and, more importantly, why.
So I offer myself up for examination-as-example of a perfectly healthy, albeit a bit weird, individual to understand why it took me so damn long to wake-up.
I mention in my article “The mighty Sadee Whip got her ass kicked”. This is very revealing about the invulnerability of me. In examining this invulnerability I find a couple of things – one is the stoic proclivities and myths of my very Norwegian-immigrant family. This, in and of itself, is a biggie but not nearly so problematic save for how it is amplified, insidiously, by the societal myth of “normal” that makes everyone who isn’t very narrow and partially lebotic (my word for the metaphorically lebotomized) seem wrong.
It really pisses me off that those of us who feel, and are affected, by things as a result of our experience of connection and community (privately or publicly) are stigmatized with labels when we are hurt or otherwise affected (I mean joy here, too) by the behaviors of others.
The whole pathologizing and labeling is sooooo passé. One of the reasons I wrote the article about my experience with depression is that I know a huge amount of people are living with it but aren’t addressing it because they know they aren’t mentally ill, or fear the stigma, so wouldn’t think to explore it. It doesn’t even occur to people that the lack of motivation, ennui, sitting around, loss of fire, loss of interest, apathy, and physical pain might be clues to something deeper precisely because depression has been staked and claimed by a body of people who actually believe that the body and the mind are separate and that depression is a condition of the mind that is abnormal and provide isolated and often harmful treatment for it.
Ever since I was a kid I have been at the edge of the group waving my arms going “You think you’re weird? Watch this!” and then letting all my freak and imperfection and struggle proudly hang out for all to see. Why?
Because I totally believe in how normal I am and how normal it is to feel and be affected by life. And I cannot stand the pretending that it is otherwise. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.
So I leap. I present myself as Exhibit A – a human being who is being human and is still a strong, wonderful, healthy, loving person. Being affected by things doesn’t automatically equal broken or wrong. And it is vitally important that each one of us stand up to the big idiocracy that says it does.
We simply must, as a society, upgrade to at least get in the ballpark of what our science shows us: everything is connected.
As it stands, most people are living in information that is at least seventy years behind what we actually know. As such we are allowing outdated ideas like “Body-Mind-Spirit” to flourish and perpetuate a separation that only exists in our minds! (Yes, I meant that to be ironically brilliant)
2000 years ago a philosophical thread arose that suggested this separation. And it was enhanced by ideas that the “animal” or physical self is more base, less valuable, than the spiritual self. It was, in its day, remarkable. But then it took hold and has been added to and tweaked into an ideology that has diseased our sciences, our practices, and our cultural beliefs. We have made separation into an art form and segmented ourselves into little parts and pieces that are either broken or not.
And what we have historically done, and do, to the “broken” bits is nothing short of barbaric. I could now begin citing the number of physician caused deaths, the number of pharmaceutically caused deaths, the treatment of the mentally ill, the homeless, the poor, the uneducated, criminals – all results of a notion of separation and pathologizing that makes the idea of confronting one’s own “problems” terrifying.
I firmly and deeply believe in the brilliance of every individual person, irrespective of background, upbringing, finances, education, race, religion. I believe you can be what you choose. And I believe that citizenship is inseparable from the individual self – it’s not a choice, it’s a fact. We need others. We are affected by others. We affect others. We cannot do it on our own. And yet we are fully accountable for developing our independence but it must be in the context of our citizenship or we will make ourselves sick.
Our growth and development and well-being are inextricably entwined with, and dependent on, other people. To act any other way is the true sickness.
I know with absolute clarity that my depression is an extraordinarily healthy response to the circumstances of my life. I feel the amount of time it took for me to realize it is where the problem is. It infuriates me that every single day in countless ways the myth of independence-as-isolation is perpetuated and that we, you and me, buy into it with our fear and silence.
I’m not sick. I’m hurting. There is a huge difference. It’s a whole different Universe. And it’s the universe I choose to live in. And I will continue to send my radio waves over to the other universe where everyone is ashamed of being until the secret of connection and humanness is liberated, lived, and celebrated.
I love being alive. I love being a human. And my love of the experience of being alive allows me to embrace all my experiences as beautiful and meaningful and wonderful. I don’t reject any of it. I don’t agree with all of it and I change what I choose, but in my heart a deep joy abounds that simply and constantly cries “yes!”
Refuse to be labeled, stand up for yourself, live connection as a reality not as a concept, be where you really are and accept where you are as an act of mature consciousness rather than resignation. Don’t be ashamed to be. And don’t be afraid of yourself, warts and all. Being human is not nearly as big a deal as most people would have us believe. And it is a way bigger deal than most anyone knows.
I love you all.